§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House, at the rising of the House this day, do adjourn till Monday next."—(Lord Richard Grosvenor.)
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, it now appeared likely that the House would adjourn over Christmas without being made in any degree acquainted with the course which the Government intended to take with regard to Egyptian finance. It was perfectly clear that if the condition of affairs was, 285 as the Prime Minister had stated, critical in-June or July, it was ten-fold more so at the present moment. The question was one of the greatest possible urgency; and he thought the House ought to be informed whether the Government proposed to adjourn over Christmas without knowing anything of the position in which the country was placed with reference to Egyptian finance and kindred matters?
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
said, he had heard the Motion that had just been made with very great regret, and he could not acquiesce in it without respectfully protesting against the course proposed. In the first place, it was a new attack on the rights of private Members. Indeed, if this were to be taken as a precedent, it would practically almost annihilate them. If the Government were to take private Members' nights when they wanted them, and to call on the House to adjourn when they did not, a private Member would, indeed, be fortunate whoever got a chance of bringing forward a Motion at all. In the present case the hardship was all the greater, because, at the urgent appeal of the right hon. Gentleman, they had forborne to press the question of proportional representation when the Franchise Bill was before the House. The right hon. Gentleman said, indeed, that the mode of voting was a question entirely separate and detached from the question of the franchise. But a large number of hon. Gentlemen were of the opposite opinion, and considered that the mode of voting was more germane to the franchise than to redistribution. At any rate, they would have been within their rights had they pressed it; but in response to the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman they had not done so; and what was their reward? Now, when the Franchise Bill was safe, and when they had secured an opportunity, the right hon. Gentleman proposed to adjourn just over the day, and thus deprive them of their chance. He said deprive, because on Friday they could have discussed the question on its own merits, which would have elicited the opinion of the House much more satisfactorily than could be done by an Amendment to a Government Bill. This would be so under almost any circumstances, but was peculiarly the case in the present instance. The Leaders of the two great 286 Parties were settling a Bill outside of this House and without its cognizance. He did not in any way complain of this; quite the contrary; but it certainly had its inconveniences. There were large sections of that House who were thus left unrepresented. Let them take, for instance, those Gentlemen, more than 200 in number, who were in favour of proportional representation. If a Bill were brought in which did not recognize their principle, it was quite clear that they would be placed at a disadvantage much greater than could be the case under ordinary circumstances. No one would say that this question was unimportant or unworthy the attention of Parliament. Far from that, it was, perhaps, the most vital question they had still to settle. It appealed to no Party, or, rather, it appealed to all. It secured to both sides what they most desired. On the one hand, it protected the minority; on the other, it secured the majority.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Baronet is not entitled to discuss the principle of his Motion on the question of the adjournment of the House.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
asked if he might point out to the House what the effect of the present system was.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
said, what he was endeavouring to do was to point out the importance of the Motion on the Paper for Friday next, and the effect of the present Motion in preventing its being discussed. He would, of course, bow to the ruling of the Chair, expressing, at the same time, his regret that Her Majesty's Government should have taken the course they had taken. If it was the general wish of the House that they should discuss the whole question when they had the Bill before them, he would not desire to oppose the Motion.
Nothing could be more legitimate than the appeal of my hon. Friend when he demands that he should have opportunities of discussing the important subject in which he takes so great an interest after the Redistribution of Seats Bill is before the House. In point of fact, if we were so disposed, we could not deprive him of those opportunities; but they are evidently both legitimate in themselves, 287 and we should not have any desire in any way to stint them. My hon. Friend has rather complained of the Government for making this Motion of Adjournment. Now, I agree with my hon. Friend that it would be a very great stretch of power on the part of the Administration if we were to endeavour, by the use of influence, to force a Motion of this kind upon the House. Bat that, as my hon. Friend, I am sure, knows, is not the case at all. "We have no such idea. Our idea has simply been to take the course which, although, unfortunately, it could not command the assent of all Members, yet should be, on the whole, agreeable to the general sentiment of the House; and I think we have interpreted the feeling of the House aright when we believed that it was the desire of the House, from the point that we have now reached, to await a time when we should have reasonable hope that the Redistribution Bill should be placed before the House. I cannot quite admit that private Members are so much to be condoled with on the present occasion; because, I may observe, that out of every six hours that the House has sat since we met on the 23rd of October, at least five of them have been occupied by private Members. Private Members had a full and clear fortnight on all subjects that they chose to introduce upon the Address. They foresaw, perhaps, that their chances would be narrow afterwards, and they took advantage, as they were entitled to do, of the opportunities then granted. But, undoubtedly, the time demanded by the Government during these present Sittings has not been exorbitant. With regard to my hon. Friend's argument, that this question might be advantageously discussed on Friday next, I cannot agree in the convenience of such a course; because the meaning of my hon. Friend would only be that the composition and structure of the Redistribution of Seats Bill were to be kept uncertain until after Friday. Otherwise, there would be no possible use in a discussion anterior to the introduction of the Bill. Now, I doubt very much if a large proportion of the 200—the army commanded by my hon. Friend, and of whom he is so worthy a Loader—would not revolt very seriously against the proposition that, for the sake of a discussion on Friday next, the Redistribu- 288 tion of Seats Bill is to be kept suspended —for, otherwise, there is no use in a discussion before it is introduced. It is true that there would be an advantage to those who hold strong opinions upon any one of the many points which may enter into the Redistribution Bill in having a full discussion of their views before that Bill was introduced; but, at the same time, that means that while all have rights and claims the granting of those rights would mean indefinite delay in the introduction of that Bill. With regard to the Question of the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill), I am afraid the only pledge which it is in my power to give is the pledge that we shall use every effort that we can to procure a speedy decision, and that when we have procured that decision, we shall lose no time in bringing the subject before the House of Commons. It will be for the House to consider when we come near the time—for we are not near that time yet; it seems pretty clear that we cannot have our Christmas holiday this week, or next week—but when we come nearer the time for adjourning over Christmas, then it will be for the Government, if they are in a position to do it, to give information to the House, or for the House to determine whether it shall regulate its Sittings or the period of its adjournment with reference to the possibility of getting such information. It would be premature for me to enter at present into the question. I can assure the noble Lord, because of the state of finance in Egypt, and because of our general duty on both the one ground and the other, not a moment will be lost in accelerating a decision so far as it rests with us.
§ MR. ONSLOW
said, he hoped the Government would give some information to the House with reference to the subjects to come before the proposed Conference on the affairs of Egypt. They desired to know whether it would be confined to the consideration of financial questions; or whether it would be competent for the Conference to discuss such questions as the Earl of North-brook's proposed abolition of the Egyptian Army?
was understood to say that there would not be a Conference, but a reference to the Powers.
§ MR. ONSLOW
observed that it would be practically the same thing. [Lord 289 EDMOND FITZMAURICE: No, no!"] He wished to ask another question with reference to the Redistribution Bill. According to the statement of the Prime Minister only two days would elapse between its introduction and the second reading. That he considered far too short an interval, which he thought should extend at least over 10 days, in order to give hon. Members and the country generally adequate opportunity for the consideration of this important subject.
§ MR. A. R. D. ELLIOT
wished to say a few words in support of what fell from his hon. Friend (Sir John Lubbock). He did not do so, however, on the somewhat limited ground of defence of the system of proportional representation; but he did so on the broader ground of the rights of private Members. The position in which they were was this— that in consequence of the relations of amity which had lately been established between the two Front Benches, what would happen in this case was different from what had happened in almost every case that was brought before the House. Therefore, when this great measure of redistribution came before the House, the two Front Benches being allied, independent Members would be simply wasting their breath if they addressed the House in support of their particular views. It had hitherto been the safeguard of the independence of this House that there was a disagreement between the two Front Benches. Hitherto both Front Benches had heard discussions, and ultimately the House came to a conclusion; but the whole of that was reversed on the present occasion. The Government had taken into their council, for better or worse, a distinguished statesman, not even a Member of this House, not a Member of the Liberal Party, but the Leader of the Tory majority—he might almost say the master of the Tory Party in "another place." That noble Marquess had been taken, apparently, more or less—and he thought he might say more rather than less—into the councils of the Government. That was a state of things which brought about a very novel experience; and he put his Question to the Prime Minister that evening with the view of eliciting whether any Member could discuss his Question, when alone discussion could be of use, before the Bill agreed 290 to by both Parties was laid on the Table. There were many matters upon which hon. Members' opinions were divided, and not divided strictly on the lines of Party feeling. There was not only the question of proportional representation, but there were the questions of equal electoral districts, of single-Member constituencies, of grouping of boroughs, and the representation of University seats. There was a multitude of other questions of such importance that one would have thought they would be discussed in Parliament before virtually a decision was come to; but when the Redistribution Bill was laid on the Table of the House virtually a decision would have been come to upon those important matters. He hoped, however, that that would not be so. He hoped and trusted that something might be said before the adjournment that would give them some security that independent action on matters of this character would be preserved. He thought some declaration of that sort from the Government was very much to be desired before they adjourned. He had the greatest confidence in the Head of the Government, and the Cabinet with which he was associated; but he was bound to say he had very much less confidence in them when he found them combining with the Marquess of Salisbury. They had been told again and again during the late Vacation that the Marquess of Salisbury was not to be trusted. They had, indeed, been told a great deal more than that. The Home Secretary, he thought, in an elaborate speech, compared the Marquess of Salisbury to Strafford. Well, Strafford was now in their midst. He had been taken into the councils of the Government; and he it was who was equally being consulted as to what were the important and main provisions of the Redistribution Bill. He (Mr. Elliot) looked upon that state of things, he was bound to say, with great suspicion. The Marquess of Salisbury was entitled to wield great power; but his place was in the House of Lords, in which it was his privilege or his duty to criticize, and to criticize as sharply as he could, the recommendations and actions of Her Majesty's Government. But if the Leader of the Tory majority was to be consulted by the Liberal Government of the day before this Bill was brought into the House of Commons, he 291 could not help thinking a very different state of things was being brought about. He had the greatest respect for the ability and courage of the Marquess of Salisbury; but all he could say, to use common language, was, what business had the Marquess of Salisbury to settle the main features of a Bill which was to be brought before the House of Commons? That was a condition of things upon which he should like some light to be thrown. He should far rather have preferred that the old course had been followed—that the Redistribution Bill, as to which it seemed that Parties were, after all, not likely to have much difference about, should have been laid on the Table of the House of Commons when they had got rid of the Franchise Bill, and that, without being hampered with the restrictions, each Party should have been left free to take its own course. After all, the Liberal Party were in a majority in the House of Commons; and he did not like to see the Liberal majority throwing away its advantages in councils where eminent statesmen met together, where their proceedings were unknown, and where, at all events, they lost the advantages which they possessed in that House. He hoped, before they adjourned that evening, that they would have some assurance from Her Majesty's Government that the freedom of the House would be preserved—not merely that the two Front Benches were in a condition of friendship and amity towards each other. He knew that what he was saying now was, to a certain extent, unpalatable to the distinguished men on the two Front Benches; but, after all, those Benches, important as they were, were not all the House; and he was surprised to find that the arrangement that had been made had as yet drawn forth very little comment from those who heard the speeches made in the country during the Recess. He did not think that the Gentlemen to whom he alluded were at all wanting in strength of language when they addressed meetings in the country; but what he should like to see was a little more strenuousness in supporting in that House what they had said outside. If the Marquess of Salisbury was everything that he had been said to be outside, he (Mr. Elliot), for one, was not satisfied that the noble Marquess was a fit person to be consulted as to the pro- 292 visions of the Redistribution Bill. He hoped before they adjourned some satisfaction would be given them as to the questions he had raised.
§ MR. MARRIOTT
said, before the Motion for Adjournment was put, he should like to express an opinion, which he thought was shared by many people both in and out of that House—namely, the bad effect the non-production of the Earl of Northbrook's Report would have in Egypt and on the Continent generally. When the Earl of Northbrook was in Egypt, the people there believed —he (Mr. Marriott) knew it to be a fact, it was published in the papers, and it was generally reported—that he had come out there to show how the indemnities for the Alexandria bombardment could be paid. Those people were now naturally very anxious about the matter; but the Prime Minister said the Report was not given because he was consulting foreign nations on the subject. He (Mr. Marriott) could only say that the 3,275 people, heads of families, who had had their property destroyed, and had been practically ruined, after waiting nearly three years, would have good reason to complain if they had to wait still longer. He, therefore, hoped that the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would, before the adjournment took place, give some indication as to when the Earl of Northbrook's Report was to be laid upon the Table.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE,
replying to the hon. and learned Member for Brighton (Mr. Marriott), said, one of the most important and essential portions of the proposals of Her Majesty's Government at the Conference was the payment of the Alexandria indemnities; and if the proposals of Her Majesty's Government had been accepted those indemnities would have been settled. Of course, the settlement of those indemnities was a portion of any proposal as to the finances of Egypt; and he could assure the hon. and learned Member that the importance of the subject had not escaped the notice of Her Majesty's Government. With regard to the remarks of the hon. and learned Member for Roxburghshire (Mr. Elliot), who had mentioned a series of subjects as to which he hoped the freedom of Parliament would not be lost through the communications which were taking place at the present time, he (Sir Charles W. 293 Dilke) would not go through the whole list, but would take one example which he thought his hon. and learned Friend would admit to be a fair one—one in which his hon. and learned Friend was deeply interested, as also were the other Scotch Members—the subject of grouping of burghs in Scotland. It could not be for one moment supposed that the freedom of Parliament on such a subject could be lost through what had taken place. That was clearly a matter which must be open to the House, not only to discuss, but to decide upon. The hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow) protested against taking the second reading of the Redistribution Bill two days after it was introduced. The hon. Member assumed that there would be a long debate on the Question of the second reading, and wished more time to be given; but he (Sir Charles W. Dilke) need hardly point out that the whole question of the merits of the Bill could be raised again on the Motion that the Speaker leave the Chair; and, in all probability, a very considerable time would elapse between the second reading and the Committee stage, during which hon. Members and the country could make up their minds as to the course they would take in the debate on the Question that the Speaker leave the Chair. With regard to the second reading, that did not seem to him a matter on which there was a very great difference of opinion. Everybody in the House and in the country admitted that it was necessary that redistribution should be at once dealt with by Parliament; and the Question of the second reading of the Redistribution Bill was hardly so important as subsequent discussions which would arise in Committee of the Whole House. The Government themselves made the suggestion to the House that the second reading stage should be passed on rapidly with a view to the general convenience of the House. Hon. Members had been called together at this time at some inconvenience to themselves, and would be anxious, no doubt, many of them, to get back to the country. There was no great probability, he should think, of a Division against the second reading of the Bill on the merits as to whether there should or should not be a Redistribution Bill; and no doubt the House would gradually thin, and Members would go away. That was the reason why they 294 thought it desirable to make rapid progress with the early stages of the Bill, and until further evidence reached the Government of a contrary feeling on the part of the House than had reached them, they should consider it was for the general convenience of the House that the early stages of the Bill should be rapidly passed.
§ MR. WOODALL
I am not at all disposed to deny that the proposal of the Prime Minister, for the Adjournment of the House for the remainder of the week, is consistent with the general convenience of hon. Members; but, inasmuch as I have obtained a very favourable place on the Paper for tomorrow, for the second reading of the Women's Suffrage Bill, and as I shall be deprived by this arrangement of the opportunity of taking the opinion of the House upon the measure of which I am in charge, it will hardly be expected that I am prepared to receive the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman with perfect equanimity. Very recently, in reply to a Question from an hon. Gentleman opposite, the Prime Minister was good enough to say that I had manifested my sincerity upon this question by having pressed forward on a former occasion the right of women householders to vote, even to the inconvenience of the Government and of the Liberal Party. I have no desire, now, to put either the one or the other to further inconvenience, by pressing my claim to bring forward the measure tomorrow. The Franchise Bill may now be supposed to be resting in tranquil security in "another place;" and we have been assured, under the most promising circumstances, that we shall have an early opportunity of discussing the Bill for the Redistribution of Seats. It does, however, appear to me to be extremely important that, before a complete and comprehensive scheme of Reform in connection with the Representation of the People is concluded, we should have, at any rate, an opportunity of discussing the important question of Women's Suffrage—the charge of which has been entrusted to me. It may, of course, be possible that when the question shall have been debated, the provision which I am anxious to introduce may be negatived; but, on the other hand, it may, as I hope, receive so large an amount of support that we may fairly 295 and reasonably allow the claim put forward by women—that they should be afforded the opportunity of exercising the franchise concurrently with the other electors of the Three Kingdoms. The Prime Minister, a few months ago, declared his desire that this question should be submitted to, and determined by, the House as an open question—that it should be submitted on its own merits to the free, impartial, and dispassionate judgment of Parliament. I sincerely desire that the opportunity may be found for enabling the House to address itself to a question of so much importance in the manner suggested by the Prime Minister. A Bill, which has been most carefully drawn, is now in the hands of hon. Members. It is supported by a large number of hon. Members sitting on that (the Opposition) side of the House; and I think I have a right to claim for those who sit on this side that they have loyally accepted the decision arrived at in June, as to the fitness of the opportunity then selected for bringing forward the question, and that they have refrained from impeding the progress of the Franchise Bill while it has been passing through this House. I hope that this mild protest against the decision to which the House is about to come will be received as an evidence of my desire to propitiate the general feeling of the House, and to facilitate the carrying out of the proposals of the Government; but with a distinct understanding that it is my intention to bring forward this measure under more convenient circumstances. I sincerely trust that an opportunity will be given for discussing the question at as early a period as may be practicable.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, the Government must have seen from what had passed how necessary it was that a few days' adjournment should take place. He thought the House must feel that the right hon. Baronet made out a very fair plea, asking the House to deal specially with the Redistribution Bill, so as to proceed in accordance with the policy already indicated. It did seem to him that the second reading of the Bill might be taken on the general ground that the Redistribution Bill was desired on both sides of the House, and that questions of detail could be far more conveniently discussed on the Motion that the Speaker leave the Chair. With 296 regard to the observations on Egypt, he was bound to say it would be little less than scandalous if Parliament was allowed to separate without seeing the Report of the Earl of Northbrook, and without any information as to the finance of Egypt, for which not only the House, but the country and the civilized world, were looking. The right hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) referred to the failure of the Conference; but why was it a failure? Why did Europe refuse to give the Government a mandate? He trusted that before Parliament separated some communication would be made on the subject.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, he thought the action of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Elliot) was thoroughly justified by what had since fallen from, the occupants of the Front Benches, who seemed to think that, an arrangement having been come to between those Benches, all opposition from below the Gangway on either side was to be deprecated. He rose to say a word on the subject, chiefly in order that the Prime Minister might not think that either inside or outside Parliament there were only a few who took the view of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Elliot). He was as much surprised as his hon. and learned Friend that there had been so few demonstrations of opinion with regard to the extraordinary compact or secret Treaty that had been entered into. He had looked in vain, however, for any protest from independent quarters of the House. Hon. Gentlemen from Ireland did not usually shrink from making a protest; but on this occasion they had been dumb. Then they used to have a small but very vigorous Party of independent Members opposite. That Party had perished through internal dissensions. They heard the other day the last shriek of liberty from the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst); and they could only conclude that the noble Lord the Leader of the Party (Lord Randolph Churchill) had gone over to the more respectable, but less independent, Bench adjoining. They were also disappointed with the quarter of the House in which he (Mr. Buchanan) sat. Those who generally took a lead in such matters were dumb. Ex-Ministers who generally sat there had not appeared, and the "corner" men were silent, so that it was left to his hon. and learned Friend, to whom 297 they were exceedingly indebted, to bring this subject forward. Those who shared the views of his hon. and learned Friend did not wish to minimize the great benefit of getting the Franchise Bill through before Christmas. They also recognized that no one could possibly have adequately judged the situation in the way the Prime Minister could; and, therefore, so far as the right hon. Gentleman's judgment went in dealing with facts unknown to the House generally, they cheerfully bowed to the decision arrived at. They did not, however, think this opportunity should pass without calling attention to the peculiar features of the arrangement. The Prime Minister said he could give no precedent for the action taken by Her Majesty's Government on this occasion. Of course, they could not expect the Prime Minister to join in their fears as to the consequences which might ensue if other Leaders in future should take a similar course. His hon. and learned Friend said he objected to this course of action because of want of precedent, and the disadvantageous position in which Members would be put in criticizing the details of the Bill. He was grateful for the statement of the President of the Local Government Board. So far as he understood the right hon. Gentleman, he meant to say the question of the grouping of burghs was not to be one of the matters which was to be decided by arrangement between the two Front Benches. That would be left entirely to the judgment of the House, and the House would be free to express its opinion and propose Amendments as if no such arrangement had been entered into—that was to say, if Amendments were moved, the Government would not be able to say this was a matter which had been arranged with the Opposition, and, therefore, they must consider it a vital question. That was good as far as it went; but what his hon. and learned Friend desired was that, as far as possible, specific questions involving principles should be left to the judgment of the House.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, that he did not propose to intervene long between the Government and the revolt of the Scotch "rump." It was clear that when the Redistribution Bill was introduced into that House the Government would have to stand or fall by it—if they were defeated upon it they must 298 go out, or else they would break faith with the Leaders of the Opposition. With regard to the present position of Egyptian finance, the situation was grave enough; but the gravity of the situation had been greatly enhanced by the refusal of Her Majesty's Government to make any early statement to the House on the subject of the Earl of Northbrook's Report. Egypt had incurred a deficiency of £8,000,000, for which Her Majesty's Government were morally and practically responsible. As long ago as last July Her Majesty's Government had promised to make a statement upon the subject; but now they said that they were wholly unable to lay the Earl of Northbrook's Report before the House. He understood the truth to be that Ministers had practically rejected that Report, and that the Earl of Northbrook's Mission had consequently been added to the long list of failures in Egypt. The Government was now seeking to gain time. That was a state of things which that House had a right to resent; and it might lead them into a very dangerous and, possibly, very humiliating position in Egypt. Having, at the present moment, 16,000 troops making their way southward in Egypt, they might soon find themselves under notice to quit from the Powers. It would be a scandal if the Government were to allow that Sitting to be adjourned without their making some definite statement with regard to Egypt. The House ought to have an opportunity of discussing the representation of minorities by proportional voting before the second reading of the Redistribution Bill was entered upon. If hon. Members who were interested in proportional voting were in earnest, he would suggest to the hon. Baronet (Sir John Lubbock) to move, as an Amendment to the Prime Minister's Motion, that the House should only adjourn until Friday.
§ MR. ARTHUR ARNOLD
said, he had always felt that Her Majesty's Government would break faith with the House of Commons if they introduced their Bill for Redistribution before receiving a satisfactory pledge for the passing of the Franchise Bill. Until they arrived at that position he was not disposed to quarrel with the attitude they took up on the question. To turn to another matter, early in the evening he had put a Question to the Prime 299 Minister with regard to the peculiarity in the other House which allowed a Peer to become a permanent Civil servant without vacating his seat in the House of Lords; and it was obvious, from the right hon. Gentleman's reply, that he did not think the peculiarity could be defended. He (Mr. Arnold) now begged to give Notice that on the earliest possible day in the present Sitting, or the next Session of Parliament, he would move for a—Select Committee to inquire into the number of Peers in Parliament; their qualifications and privileges as such; into the Constitution of the House of Lords, its powers, privileges, and immunities; also into the manner in which conferences are held with that House and communications made between the Lords and Commons, and in which Private Bills are referred to separate Committees of the two Houses of Parliament.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
said, he did not think some of his hon. Friends made sufficient allowance for the position of the Government. What was their position last Monday when the Prime Minister made his memorable statement? There were only two courses open to the Prime Minister. The one was to fight the battle out with the House of Lords; and the other was to make some arrangement—he would not say compromise—by which the Franchise Bill would be carried. He honestly regretted that the Prime Minister had not elected to fight out the battle; because he believed that by so doing he was certain to have come off victorious, and would have done great good to the country and to himself. But the right hon. Gentleman decided not to take that course; and he (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) did not blame him for not doing so. Something had, however, to be done, and those who quarrelled with the Government did not seem to remember the proverb that "Necessity has no law." Necessity drove the Prime Minister to do what he had done; and the necessity, he regretted to say, was the House of Lords, which he hoped some day would be done away with. His hon. Friends, furthermore, did not always seem to remember the change that had come over the political situation. No doubt at the end of last Session the Government said they would not bring in a Redistribution Bill if it were in any way to imperil the Franchise Bill. The Government had stood to that 300 ground. They had not receded from it. The Government found that the whole political situation was changed. They had found that the Marquess of Salisbury had become a Radical. As soon as it was found that the Marquess of Salisbury and his Friends were talking about electoral districts and so forth, the Prime Minister saw at once there would be no danger—that the bringing in of the Redistribution Bill now, instead of endangering the Franchise Bill, was the very way to get it carried. He, for one, thought the Government had done the right thing in this matter. He did not want to use any hard word; but it was a little feminine to complain of the Redistribution Bill because it came from the Tories. He was glad to take a good Bill from anybody. He was delighted to find that the Tories wore becoming Radicals, and were going to give a Bill in accordance with the views of the Liberal Leaders. The Government were taking a wise course in moving the adjournment of the House. They could do no good sitting there that week. The Government, however, knew that they stood or fell by the scheme. If the Bill was one which was not acceptable to the Liberal Party below the Gangway, it would go hard with the Government. He imagined they were bound to bring in a Bill to satisfy their own side—it might satisfy the Tories as well; and if the Bill was a good one it would have the hearty support of the Radical Party.
§ SIR DONALD CURRIE
wished to say a single word to prevent any misapprehension as to the views of the Scotch Members on this question. Ho gave his hearty support to the Government in the efforts they were now making to introduce a good Redistribution Bill; and he believed that their practical way of arriving at a solution of the difficulty would have the approval of the people of Scotland.
MR. ILLING WORTH
said, that whatever it was necessary to do with reference to the Redistribution Bill found its justification in what was stated by the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson). It was an acknowledgment of the supremacy of the House of Lords. He trusted, and indeed believed, that this was the last occasion on which a man occupying the position of the present Prime Minister would find it neces- 301 sary to pursue that course which he (Mr. Illingworth) admitted the right hon. Gentleman had been justified in adopting. He would go a step further, and say he did not believe that any other Prime Minister could possibly have taken the course which the right hon. Gentleman had taken at the stage which this controversy had reached without bringing home to his own Party a feeling of the deepest resentment on the part of the Liberals of this country. He admitted the country was justified in continuing its unbroken confidence in the present Prime Minister. It was true he could imagine that if the right hon. Gentleman had been a quarter of a century younger he would, like many men out-of-doors, have rather enjoyed a conflict than otherwise, and might have brought on the final conflict with the House of Lords, which would have put them either out of existence or into a very different position to that which they had occupied in the past. He was glad to say that some satisfaction had been given by the statement of the President of the Local Government Board upon the important question of grouping boroughs. He had been afraid, from qualifications and reservations made by him in speaking a week ago, that the right hon. Gentleman was lending some countenance to what all Liberals must regard as the heresy of severing the urban from the rural voters of the country. Nothing, in his judgment, would be more pernicious than that, besides recognizing a House controlled by land, property, and privilege, they should submit to so monstrous a demand as that the agricultural interest should be separated from the rest of the country, as though their interests were antagonistic. There were many important questions still unsettled on which they had not had full assurances from the Prime Minister. There was the very important question of the sub-division of seats. He confessed he would very much rather that the Prime Minister had taken his "cue" from the Liberal side of the House than from the other side, which, however, he was obliged to recognize on this occasion. There was, however, no misgiving on the part of the Radical Party as to the loyalty of the Prime Minister; and they believed that, in the unusual and extraordinary course he had taken, he was seeking to 302 realize for the country at a very early period, not only the Franchise Bill, which the country had approved, but also a Redistribution Bill, which would adequately represent the feelings of the country. He hoped and believed that was the last occasion on which the shaping of a great public measure when the Liberal Party was in power would be in any way committed to their opponents in the other House.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
held that the strong feeling which prevailed in the country against the House of Lords would be increased by the fact that the Prime Minister, backed though he was by a great popular majority, had been compelled to accept recommendations from the Marquess of Salisbury as a condition of the passage of the Franchise Bill. For his own part, when the Redistribution Bill was introduced, he should put everything that was good in it down to the Prime Minister, and everything that was bad in it to the Marquess of Salisbury. Consequently he, and probably other Gentlemen, would not adopt the same attitude in regard to the measure that they had taken up with regard to the Franchise Bill—the Bill, the whole Bill, and nothing but the Bill—but would express their opinions freely as to each particular clause in the Bill; and, whether they got majorities or not, they would move clauses to make the Bill more Radical than it was.