HC Deb 24 February 1885 vol 294 cc1179-85

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Notices of Motions be postponed until after the Order of the Day for resuming the Adjourned Debate on Egypt and the Soudan."—(Mr. Gladstone.)


who had a Notice on the Paper to call attention to the case of District Inspector Murphy, said, that he rose for the purpose of opposing the Motion which had been made by the Prime Minister. He should not have taken this course if there had been the slightest probability of his being able, as a private Member, to have called, attention to the subject standing in his name upon any other occasion, as the Government had appropriated all the days of private Members for an indefinite period. He could quite understand the impatience with which English Members might regard the introduction of merely Irish questions at a time like that; but they should remember the position which the Irish Members occupied in that House. They had no other means of calling to account the men ruling their country, who were invested with absolutely arbitrary powers; and it should also be remembered that the Irish Members were not at all interested in the solemn sham fight going on between the rival English political Parties. There were two reasons why the Motion which stood in his name should not be pushed aside by the carrying of the Resolution before the matter had been adequately discussed and disposed of. The matter was one which could brook no delay, for although it might appear to some Members that the subject was an insignificant one, still it should be distinctly understood that this view would not be taken by those who represented the Irish Executive. It related to the dismissal from the Irish Constabulary of an officer who, after 18 years' meritorious service, had been removed from the Force without pension in the most arbitrary and unjust manner, and, as he (Mr. Redmond) believed he would be able to show, most illegally.


Order, order! I must remind the hon. Member that the Rule of Relevancy strictly applies to this debate. The hon. Member would not be in order in going into the details of the case he has referred to upon the Motion now before the House.


said, he was most anxious to observe the ruling of the Chair. He had no intention of going into the details of the case; but he believed he was entitled, as a matter of argument, to show that his Motion was one of such importance that it would not brook delay, and ought not to be overridden by the proposal which the Prime Minister had just made. If he were right in that view, he would continue his remarks, bearing in mind most strictly the ruling of the Chair. His Motion dealt not only with the unjust and illegal dismissal of an officer, but with the conduct of the Executive Government.


Order, order! That would be entirely out of Order. The question of the dismissal of this officer is not the point now before the House, and cannot be discussed.


continued. He was most anxious to observe the ruling of the Chair, and he was only proceeding to show the relevancy of the subject. But if the right hon. Gentleman decided against him, of course he would submit to his ruling. His argument was that the Motion which appeared on the Paper in his name was one which called to account the conduct of certain leading Irish officials, who had unjustly and illegally dismissed a man from the Royal Irish Constabulary simply on the ground of revenge.


I must again call the hon. Member to Order. I have already twice pointed out to the hon. Member that the way in which he is discussing this subject is not in Order, and I beg that he will observe the ruling of the Chair.


reminded the Speaker that he had said he was anxious to observe the ruling of the Chair. [Laughter.] That statement might afford some amusement to certain hon. Members, but, nevertheless, it was true. The relative importance of the debate upon the Vote of Censure, and the Motion which stood in his name on the Paper, was such that Irish Members were justified in opposing the proposal of the Prime Minister by every means in their power. He believed that he was entitled to ask the Government to afford him some facilities for the consideration of his Motion. He should be satisfied if the Prime Minister would undertake to give him an opportunity for bringing the matter forward within the next three or four weeks. The discussion need not be a long one. The Solicitor General for Ireland had blocked the Notice so that the Motion could not be discussed that evening after 12.30. This looked as if the hon. and learned Gentleman was deliberately trying to suppress the discussion in the interest of his Colleagues in Dublin Castle.


said, he was quite willing to give way should any Members of the Government be desirous of answering the appeal of his hon. Friend. He did not want to occupy the time of the House; but as nobody had risen he would make a few observations in support of the objection made by his hon. Friend. It must have struck every hon. Member that this was the second occasion during the present Session that the Prime Minister had stood up and asked the House to deprive Irish Members of their privileges, and of the advantages which they had obtained from the ballot. He would point out that the Government had already monopolized the whole of the time of the House, to the prejudice of the Irish Members, who were extremely anxious to discuss various questions which vitally affected the interests of their constituents. The debate on the Vote of Censure might without any disadvantage be postponed until after the discussion of the Motion of his hon. Friend, or even for three or four weeks. All the speeches on the Motion of the Leader of the Opposition, up to the present, had been extremely dull. He should have been glad, if possible, to make an exception in favour of the Prime Minister; but in justice he felt reluctantly compelled to include the right hon. Gentleman in the description. The debate excited no interest either in the House or out of it. As far as he could see, both sides of the House seemed to look upon the result of the debate as a foregone conclusion. The Government would not go out, and the Tories would not take their places if they did go out; and the discussion was, therefore, a most unwarrantable waste of time. His hon. Friend the Member for New Boss (Mr. John Redmond) had a distinct cause of complaint against the hon. and learned Solicitor General for Ireland (Mr. Walker) for the block he had placed against the Motion, because otherwise the Motion itself might have been discussed at a later hour. The action of the hon. and learned Gentleman showed him to be more Viceregal than the Viceroy himself.


said, that if, as stated by the hon. Member who had just sat down, the debate on the Vote of Censure had to them been without spirit or animation, the hon. Member might still hope that thenceforth it would be both powerful and animated. Hon. Members could not suppose that the Government were so desperately enamoured of Votes of Censure upon themselves that they had an interested motive in proposing the Motion now before the House. It was in accordance with established rule and practice that a debate on a Motion of Censure should, if possible, be proceeded with without interruption to its close. He could assure the hon. Member that no one felt more than he (Mr. Gladstone) did the inconvenience to which he had been put. He was anxious to facilitate any arrangement which might be feasible to forward their views, although he could not agree with the hon. Member that in Ireland there was an absolute and arbitrary system of government. He fully agreed with him in the desire that Members from Ireland should have the fullest liberty of submitting anything which they thought partook of the nature of a grievance to the House. With regard to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, it had been observed that his hon. Friend the Chief Secretary was not in his place; but the reason was that he was unable to be in his place that evening, and that warranted the Solicitor General in taking the step which he had. The hon. Gentleman had given an assurance that this discussion would not occupy any great length of time. That being so, what he had to say to him was this—no opposition would be made to his bringing on his Motion on a future evening after the adjournment of the debate had been proposed. He need not, however, point out the great difficulty which there would be in that case in securing a House for any great length of time. It was not absolutely in the power of the Government to secure a House for the hon. Member, but he could assure him that no obstacle would be placed in his way.


said, that the right hon. Gentleman had quoted custom and usage in support of a Motion for proceeding with the discussion on the Vote of Censure; but he believed that he was entitled to say that custom and usage might be occasionally wisely departed from. The hon. Member for New Ross desired to bring forward a Motion relating to Ireland, and he believed that the Government would act wisely in allowing that debate to go on and be disposed of without further expenditure of time. He attached no importance to the absence of the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The Irish Members would be glad that evening to accept the Solicitor General for Ireland as a substitute for the right hon. Gentleman. The hon. and learned Gentleman had been so rigorous in his silence lately that they would all be glad to hear him. He objected to the manner in which the hon. Member for New Ross had been met by the Prime Minister. The proposal was by no means a fair one, and gave them no assurance of any certainty that they would be able to bring the case of District Inspector Murphy forward. The right hon. Gentleman had expressed a desire that Irish questions should be treated promptly and fully in that House. If he really felt such a desire, why, then, did he allow his legal subordinate, the Solicitor General, to block the Motion? In reference to the Soudan debate, he asked any impartial Member if the discussion had not run itself out? A duller, more pointless, more spiritless debate had not taken place in the course of the present Parliament. A stumbling attack on the Government had been followed by a bewildering defence; and if many more explanations should be made in the course of the debate similar to that which the Prime Minister had volunteered at the Table that evening, it would make confusion more confounded. The Leaders on both sides had spoken, and their followers were not likely to have anything new or wise to add. Everyone had made up his mind as to the division, and nothing hinged on the debate, for they all knew that the Government did not intend to go out, and that the Opposition did not want to go in. Nobody in the country was athirst for the matured wisdom of the right hon. Member for Ripon (Mr. Goschen); and, under all the circumstances, he would suggest to the House that their respective forces should be drawn off in this sham battle, and that they should take the vote at once; or, if it was inconvenient to do so now, let the debate be adjourned until a future day, when a division could be taken.


said, that the offer of the Prime Minister was altogether illusory, as there could be little hope that they would have another opportunity of bringing this Motion forward. It would be wiser for the Government to cut short the debate on the Vote of Censure rather than incur the charge of having suppressed the Motion of his hon. Friend; for that was really what their proceeding amounted to. If the Irish Members were denied the opportunity of challenging the conduct of the Irish Government in regard to District Inspector Murphy, the matter would be practically shelved for the Session. The case of the grievance of an ordinary individual might well wait; but Mr. Murphy had no remedy at law, and his livelihood and character—he might say his very life—depended on an appeal to Parliament for an inquiry. He urged, therefore, that his hon. Friend should be permitted to bring forward his Motion. Everybody was really pretty tired of this debate on the Vote of Censure. The Opposition did not want the Government out, and he was sure the Radicals did not. No interest whatever was taken in the matter except by the Members who had their speeches in type. He was sure that in justice to Mr. Murphy the Government should afford Irish Members an opportunity of clearing his character from the imputations made by what they could could not help regarding as a conspiracy against him. If the Government persisted by the mere force of a majority of that House in depriving them of that opportunity, all he could say was that a majority of the Irish people would know very well how to view the action of the Government, and would believe them responsible for this conspiracy.


thought that the Government were practically shelving the Motion of the hon. Member. Their action in this matter would be regarded by the Irish people as a sign that the Irish Executive were afraid to allow the case of Mr. Murphy to be investigated. The proposals of the right hon. Gentleman would not be received with any degree of satisfaction either by the Irish Members or the Irish people. The right hon. Gentleman and his followers must be aware that the Government of Dublin Castle was detested by the people of Ireland.