We shall, of course, have to put that down to-night. We shall put down first the Queen's Message, and also a communication with respect to the Indian troops, and after that the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill. I have now to move—That the Order for resuming the Adjourned Debate on Egypt and the Soudan have precedence of other Orders of the Day.
§ MR. DEASY
said, that he wished to protest against the course which had been adopted by the Prime Minister in bringing the Motion for a second time before the House. He (Mr. Deasy) had, owing to his having been successful in the ballot, a question of the greatest importance down upon the Notice Paper for the evening. It was—That a Select Committee he appointed to inquire into the administration of the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Act.He and the other Irish Members of Parliament felt very strongly upon this matter that they had been unjustly treated. He had gained first place in the ballot, and was, therefore, entitled to bring forward the Motion which stood in his name; and, therefore, seeing that all the laws of the House were upon his side and that of the other Irish Members, he felt that they had abundant reason to complain of the manner in which they had been treated by the 1624 Government. By the Standing Orders Supply was directed to be put down as the first Order of the Day on Fridays; and he was the more anxious to bring forward his Motion, because as yet he had been unable to learn whether the Government intended to renew the Prevention of Crime Act or not. It was the gravity of the case which had induced him to put the Motion down for the first available evening, and his object was to obtain, if possible, from the Government an explanation of their intentions in regard to the renewal of the Act. He need scarcely say that had the Government given them the slightest intimation upon that day week of their intention to bring forward this Resolution, they would have chosen another day for the discussion of his most important Resolution. He did not intend at all to discuss the question of the administration of the Prevention of Crime Act in Ireland; for he was aware that such a course would be a breach of the Rules of the House. He would, however, ask the Prime Minister to afford them some facilities for the discussion of the subject. It seemed to him, however, that the Government did not wish any Irish question to be discussed in the House during the present Parliament; for if the Prime Minister would only carry a little further the course which he had adopted that week, it would be absolutely impossible for them to get any Irish question adequately considered before 12 o'clock, except upon the Estimates. It would be impossible, even after 12 o'clock, to bring these questions forward if the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General would pursue the course which he had adopted on the last day. Now, he would ask the Prime Minister whether it was his intention to give any opportunity for free debate to Irish questions? If it was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to disfranchise Ireland altogether, it would be as well for the Irish Members to remain at home, and not put themselves to the trouble and inconvenience of coming over to England at all. He did not propose to occupy the attention of the House any longer; he only intended, as had his hon. Friend, to make a strong protest against the Notice of Motion given by the right hon. Gentleman, because the Irish Members were aware that no 1625 prolonged discussion on their part upon this occasion would bring them anything nearer the discussion of the subject which they desired to bring before the House upon the administration of the Prevention of Crime Act in Ireland. He would, therefore, content himself with protesting against the Motion, and appealing to the Prime Minister to give them some assurance that he intended to give the Irish Members some fair play.
§ MR. PARNELL
I think that the request my hon. Friend (Mr. Deasy) has made is a very reasonable one, and should not be overlooked by the Government. I am sure that the Irish Members should not be denied by the present Government the opportunity, which they ask, of discussing the doings of the Irish Executive during the Recess in administering the very exceptional system of law which now prevails in Ireland. The question which I will put to the House and the Prime Minister is, whether private Members—and especially Irish Members—are to be deprived of the ordinary facilities which the Rules of the House give them for the purpose of discussing the grievances of their country as has been done to-night? If the matter is dealt with in this manner, this cause of disagreement will crop up in some irregular way; and the result will be that, instead of time being saved, it will be wasted. I should prefer to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman and to the House from another point of view. This is not the first time this Session that the Government have taken away the time which ought to be at the disposal of private Members; and it is feared that the Irish Members may have to face this Session with a probability of being completely shut out from all opportunity of discussing the acts of the Executive in Ireland. I would ask, is it fair to ask us to consent to that? It appears to me that it would come to that in the end, if we are to be deprived, by such a Motion as that now proposed, from the advantage which the chances of the ballot may have given us; and it would necessarily follow that Irish questions will be raised, either upon Motions for Adjournment, or on the consideration of the various items in the Estimates; so that, in addition to the doubtful position in which the House puts itself by refusing the 1626 immemorial privilege of discussing grievances on going into Supply, it will be found that no time has been gained in the long run. Taking it for granted that it is right to devote all the time at the disposal of the House, from day to day, to the prosecution of such Motions as that of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and taking it also for granted that it is just the Government should have all the time at the disposal of the House after that Motion, for the prosecution of one of the stages of the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill, I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman and the House that after the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill has passed through the Committee stage, in the necessary interval which must elapse before the Report stage, we might devote a night to such a discussion as that which the Irish Members desire to have—a discussion upon the acts of the Irish Executive. All legitimate objects for discussion are entitled to be brought before Parliament, and no more legitimate a one could be brought before it. You have an unprecedented system of law in Ireland at the present moment—a Coercion Act of the most extreme stringency—and it is most desirable that the House, for the sake of its reputation, should not lose its hold over the doings of the Irish Executive. On every ground, therefore, I submit that we are entitled to receive some of the Government time at the conclusion of the present pressure of Business, for the purpose of putting our views before the House.
I am not in a condition, at the present moment, to make any concession to the hon. Member (Mr. Deasy). I must, however, admit that the hon. Member has stated his case with moderation, and I think he is justified in taking up the position which he has taken up this evening, and in saying that he and his Friends should not be compelled to pass the Session over without being able to discuss the conduct of the Irish Executive in the administration of the Prevention of Crime Act. In making that admission, I cannot now go further in carrying out what would be desirable in the matter; but I have no doubt that he and his hon. Friends will exert themselves as regards the chances which they may 1627 have when we reach a certain stage of the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill. Undoubtedly, I shall not forget the position in which they have been placed; but it is now out of my power to give them the facility which they seek. Should it ultimately become so, however, I shall be glad to do so.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Ordered, That the Order for resuming the Adjourned Debate on Egypt and the Soudan have precedence of other Orders of the Day.