§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH),
in rising to move the following Resolution:—That the Committee of Supply have precedence this day of all other business; and that, for the remainder of the Session, including this day, Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motions on Tuesdays, Government Orders having priority; that Government Orders have priority on Wednesdays; and that the Standing Order of the 27th November 1882, relating to Notices on going into Committee of Supply on Monday and Thursday, be extended to Tuesday and Wednesday,said: Mr. Speaker, in the statement which it is now my duty to make, I wish, in the first place, to guard Her Majesty's Government against any possible misconception of their motives in making the proposal which I have put on the Notice Paper. Sir, I need not, I hope, dwell upon the rather remarkable assumption of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) that this proposal is intended as a kind of Vote of Confidence in Her Majesty's Government. I need not, I think, Sir, say it is nothing of the kind. It is merely the proposal which we venture to submit for the convenience of the House, and, as we believe, for the advantage of the country, in the arrangement and transaction of the remaining Business of the Session. Her Majesty's Government have not the 1835 least desire, in making this proposal, to deprive private Members of anything beyond that which they have in former years surrendered to the Government of the day under similar circumstances. Much less do we wish to do anything that would deprive this House of its complete liberty of action with regard to Her Majesty's Government. We do not desire for one moment, either in proposing this Motion, or by anything we may do if this Motion is adopted, to screen ourselves from any criticism of our policy, or of our actions, which may be offered from any responsible quarter of the House; and if there be any desire to make such criticism, it will certainly be our duty to provide the necessary opportunity for the purpose. What we desire to do is simply this—to ask the House to consider its position with respect to what may be called the necessary Business of the Session, and to make such arrangements as may best be made for winding up that Business at the earliest possible day. It will be universally admitted, I think, that it is desirable, in the interests of the country, of Parliament, and of the Government of the Queen, that an appeal to the new constituencies should be made as soon as may be; and, therefore, it necessarily follows that we should lose no time in completing the work of the present Session and of the present House of Commons. What is that work? In the judgment of Her Majesty's Government the main Business of the rest of the Session should be the Business of Supply and of Ways and Means. I hope that will be a proposition which will commend itself generally to the House, and I rather gather that it received the adhesion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) in the few words he addressed to the House yesterday. At the end of the first week in July, I do not think I need put forward any arguments in favour of the proposal that, as this Business has to be transacted, it would be better to utilize our time by transacting it, than by discussing abstract Resolutions, which, even if adopted, could not be carried into effect, and which certainly would not be binding on our Successors; or, by dealing with the Bills which now stand on the Order Book for Wednesdays, and which, even if fortunate enough to obtain a second reading, would certainly 1836 not be able to advance beyond that stage. I do not think that, in itself, the request which I make is in any way exceptional, if hon. Members will only consider what has been done in the last five years. The Business of Ways and Means is notoriously backward at the present time. I do not wish to go into the reasons for that fact; but it is a fact, and a fact of great importance, as the unsettlement of the financial arrangements of the year is certainly a matter of injury to the country. Supply, until last night, was quite as backward as at a similar date in 1883 or 1884. Last night, no doubt, the House was very generous to us, and considerable progress was made; but much remains to be done. I would like to state the proposals made by the late Government and adopted by the House in the last five years, with a view to the more rapid progress of Business at this period of the Session. I will say nothing as to the continued Morning Sittings in June and July, which were resorted to by the late Government, except to point out that the system of Morning Sittings is almost as effectual in practically depriving private Members of the opportunity of bringing forward their Motions as if the whole time of the House had been devoted to the Government Business. In 1880 the right hon. Gentleman opposite moved, on July 12, that Wednesdays should be devoted to Government Business, and that Tuesdays from July 20 should be devoted to Government Business. Those Motions were both adopted, and so were the others to which I will allude. In 1881, on June 28, the Government obtained the entire time of the House for the Irish Land Bill on all days it was set down, and in 1882 the same privilege was obtained for the Irish Arrears Bill from June 20, and on July 24 Government Orders were given precedence on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the rest of the Session. In 1883 the right hon. Gentleman obtained Tuesdays and Wednesdays from the 11th of July; and, in 1884, Tuesdays from the 4th of July, Wednesdays from the 15th of July, and on a later day the Standing Order with reference to Notices of Motion on going into Committee of Supply on Mondays and Thursdays, and which permits you, Sir, to leave the Chair without Question put, was ex- 1837 tended to Tuesdays. I confess that we have been anxious not to make any proposals with regard to Morning Sittings. It has no doubt been customary that proposals with regard to Morning Sittings should precede a Motion such as I am making to-day; but we have thought that not only would Morning Sittings be inconvenient to the House, but that they would practically fail to effect the object we have in view. It is also evident that without the extension of the Standing Orders with regard to Supply to Morning Sittings, the whole result of such a proposal would be that hon. Members would bring forward their Motions on going into Committee of Supply, instead of in the manner customary on Tuesdays. We have considered it insufficient on the present occasion to make any proposal with regard to Morning Sittings. We have instead asked the House to give us Tuesdays and Wednesdays to be devoted to the purposes which I have mentioned, under the belief that by so doing we shall be best promoting the convenience of the House and the rapid progress of the work which the House, I believe, is most anxious to get through. It is, no doubt, a fact that, in previous years, the Government of the day were not only anxious to promote their financial measures and Supply, but also to complete important measures of legislation. That is not the desire of Her Majesty's Government on the present occasion. We do not think that we can be fairly expected to make ourselves responsible for the more important measures which were proposed by our Predecessors in Office; and, even if we could, I would venture with all deference to the House to submit this consideration to hon. Members. The great measures relating to the reform of the House of Commons have now become law, and that is a fact which I think we must all feel has made a material difference in the position of the House. I do not think it would be satisfactory, or for the advantage of the country, that, under the circumstances in which we are now placed, the present House of Commons should undertake legislation upon any subjects, except those which are urgently necessary to be dealt with on this particular occasion, or are of a non-contentious nature. This is the principle governing the proposal which Her Majesty's Go- 1838 vernment now make to the House. I will venture to name a few of the measures coming under these heads, with which it is our intention to proceed. In the first place, of course, we have to proceed with the necessary financial Bills of the 3rear; then there is the Federal Council of Australia Bill, the East India Loan Bill, which passed through a stage last night, the Labourers (Ireland) Bill, the Educational Endowments (Ireland) Bill, the Parliamentary Elections (Returning Officers) Bill, the Summary Jurisdiction (Term of Imprisonment) Bill, and some other Bills, with which I need not weary the House, of a purely Departmental character. There is also a Bill of great importance now under consideration in "another place"—namely, the Secretary for Scotland Bill, which we hope to be able to pass into law; and there is a question relating to Ireland on which we are extremely anxious to place our proposals before Parliament in the hope that it may be possible to deal with them. That is the question of land purchase in Ireland. Of course, it is a matter of very great importance; but I would also add that it is a matter on which I believe the necessity for legislation has been unanimously admitted by all parties in Ireland. It is a subject on which legislation has been promised, I think twice by our Predecessors in Office, and last year a Resolution on the subject was unanimously agreed to, proposed by my noble Friend (Lord George Hamilton). Although it is a matter of great importance, yet we certainly are not at all clear that it will necessarily prove to be one of a contentious character. I well remember that when we were last in Office we were called upon to deal with an Irish question which then appeared at least as thorny and as difficult as the question of land purchase in Ireland. I refer to the subject of intermediate education. We were fortunate in proposing a measure which passed through Parliament with scarcely any opposition, and which I believe is now universally admitted to have been a satisfactory settlement of that most important subject. I do not, of course, know whether we shall be equally fortunate in our proposals with regard to land purchase; but what we are anxious to do is to place them fairly on the 1839 Table of this House and ask hon. Members to consider them. Then, of course, if we find that such opposition arises to them that they would fairly fall outside those two classes of measures with which I have stated it is alone our intention to deal, it will not be possible for us to proceed with them and pass them into law. I have referred to the subjects on which we should be glad to legislate. I should now like to refer to another question connected with Ireland on which we do not propose to legislate, as the House is already aware. I mean to the renewal of the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Act. Now, Sir, some weeks ago the right hon. Gentleman who was then Primo Minister informed Parliament that it was the intention of the Government to propose the renewal of certain valuable and equitable provisions of that Act. I do not know what those provisions were. We find no trace whatever that any Bill was prepared embodying them; but I do not say that in any way as a matter of complaint, because we do not propose to renew them ourselves. We do not propose, Sir, to renew any of the provisions of that Act, because we object to exceptional legislation of that character, unless such legislation in our minds is clearly necessary for the preservation of order. [Laughter, Hear, hear!"and "Oh, oh!"] I quite understand, from the way in which that observation was received, that there are several hon. Members opposite who share an opinion that was expressed some little time ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain)—namely, that "coercion with the Tories was a policy; with the Liberals only a hateful incident." Sir, I will venture to say that, in my humble judgment, if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham, in the study which he proposes to make of Irish questions, would devote a little time to researches into the history of Irish government, he would find that his idea on that subject is a complete delusion. He would find, no doubt, that it has sometimes been necessary for Conservative Administrations to introduce and carry exceptional legislation for Ireland; but I think he would find more occasions on which it has been necessary for Liberal Administrations to take that course; and he would also 1840 find, if he sought for the period during which Ireland had been most free from legislation of this character, or when such legislation had been most moderate, that those periods had occurred during the government of Ireland by the Conservative Party. [" Oh, oh!"] Now, I am very far from asserting for a moment that occasions may not arise in Ireland, or in any other country, where such a state of anarchy or social disorder may exist as existed in Ireland, unfortunately, at the end of 1880 and at the beginning of 1881, when very stringent measures of this sort may be required. But, Sir, what I would venture to say is this—that, even when required, such legislation is to some extent an evil in itself; for it undoubtedly fosters among the people who are subject to it a feeling of disaffection, which leads more than anything, perhaps, to disobedience of the law; and I am afraid it also, at any rate occasionally, induces the authorities not to exert that vigorous and vigilant administration of the ordinary law which, after all, can be the only permanent security for order and good government in Ireland. Sir, if this was true in the past, I will venture to say that it is doubly true now; and why it is doubly true now? Because Parliament has granted to Ireland complete political freedom in Parliamentary elections by the ballot and the extension of the franchise, and it is absolutely inconsistent with that complete political freedom to continue permanently the old-fashioned government of Ireland by a system of coercion. Sir, in our opinion there is but one question at issue. I do not suppose anybody would suggest that it was necessary or desirable to renew the whole of the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Act. The question solely is this—whether some of the milder provisions of that Act are or are not necessary for the maintenance of order in Ireland. Well, now, Sir, we have carefully considered that question; and, in our opinion, there is reason to believe that it will be possible to maintain law and order in Ireland by a firm and vigorous administration of the ordinary law without the re-enactment of those provisions to which I have referred. I would say that, as the House is aware, there has been a steady and gratifying diminution in agrarian crime. No doubt, agrarian 1841 crime has not reached, as yet, so low a point as we could wish it to stand at; but there is another fact, and it is this—that cases of serious agrarian crime are now very rare. There is also a matter which I feel justified in alluding to, although I do not wish to lay too much stress on it, and it is this—that I think the change of Government has not been unaccompanied with certain symptoms, pervading all classes in Ireland, of a better feeling to the Queen's Government than has recently existed. Well, then, Sir, there is another consideration which I hope may commend itself to hon. Members opposite. They have continuously put forward theories, the truth of which I do not at all now wish to discuss, on the effects of the extension of the franchise in pacifying Ireland. If there be any truth in those theories, we have good reason to expect that during the coming autumn the energies and the action of Irishmen may be turned from the evil of the past to action of a peaceful and political kind. I think it is not absolutely without some negative value that the Irish people should be free from the effect of irritating and angry discussions upon the renewal of those minor provisions of the Prevention of Crime Act—discussions which, perhaps, might do almost as much harm among the people of Ireland as the renewal of those provisions could possibly do good. Sir, I have merely to add that, considering the whole situation, Her Majesty's Government have felt that, consistently with their duty, they can rely on the ordinary law for the maintenance of order in Ireland; and they have not felt justified in proposing to this House measures which, unless their necessity were proved to the satisfaction of the House, would, I will venture to say, be odious to all Parties among us. I now turn to the question of some other Bills on the Order Book, which are of greater importance than the Bills with which I have already stated Her Majesty's Government intend to proceed. I will refer to four measures which were mentioned yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone). He alluded to the Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Bill, to the Intermediate' Education (Wales) Bill, to the Parliamentary Elections (Medical Relief) Bill, and to the Criminal Law Amendment Bill. 1842 With regard to the first of those measures, the Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Bill, I am afraid that I cannot hold out any expectation that we shall be able to proceed with it. I would remind the House that it is a Bill on a subject which was carefully inquired into by a Royal Commission; but that it is not based on the Report of that Commission, but on the views of Her Majesty's late Government. It certainly, I should suppose, is a Bill of a contentious character. Although the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Macfarlane) asked me a Question on the subject yesterday, I remember that he himself gave Notice of an Amendment to the second reading of the Bill which, if accepted, must have defeated the measure. It is a Bill which, I think, in the minds of those who represent the feeling of the crofters, and of the crofters themselves, cannot be looked upon as a permanent settlement of the question to which it relates. [Mr. MACFARLANE: Hear, hear!] I am glad to see that the hon. Member for Carlow approves that proposition, for I cannot think that it would be for the advantage of any Party or any class that our experience of land legislation in Ireland should be repeated in Scotland, and that we should pass now, as was passed by Parliament in 1870, with reference to Ireland, a Land Bill absolutely abortive as effecting any settlement of the question. Again, I find that, even in the opinion of the Members, or at least of one Member, of Her Majesty's late Government—and that a noble Lord especially connected with Scotland—this Bill is not entirely satisfactory. I observed the other day, in a speech of Lord Rosebery's, that that noble Lord stated that if an improved system of local government had existed in Scotland, a more satisfactory Crofters' Bill might have been passed than was now before us. Then, again, the Bill relates to the interests of a large class of persons who do not possess the franchise, but who will have the opportunity to exercise it at the next Election. For all these reasons, and the Bill being, as I believe, of a very contentious character, I do not think it would be advisable that it should be proceeded with at the present moment. Now, Sir, I turn to the question of Welsh intermediate education. I do not feel able to go, even if I were quite in Order in doing so, into 1843 the merits of that Bill. No doubt, it is a subject that has been much under the consideration of the people of Wales. No doubt, legislation with regard to it is much desired; but I observe that that legislation, although the late Government was strongly supported by the people of Wales, has been postponed for many years, and that this Bill has only, in fact, become a prominent measure in the House of Commons just when the late Government have left Office. I think, as far as I can learn, it is so full of disputed matter, that it would not be possible to pass it in the present Session. But I have to add that we appreciate to the fullest extent the importance of the question, and we shall devote our best attention to it during the autumn, and if it should be our lot, as it very likely will be, to occupy these Benches in the next Session of Parliament, we shall endeavour to deal with it. The other two subjects to which the right hon. Gentleman referred are the Parliamentary Elections (Medical Relief) Bill of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings) and the Criminal Law Amendment Bill. As regards the first, I stated yesterday, in reply to a Question from the hon. Member, that we were of opinion that this matter should be dealt with. I do not think that the hon. Member fully understood the purport of that reply. When I said that, in our opinion, the matter should be dealt with, I meant that it should be dealt with in the sense in which he desired, and it should be dealt with soon; because it would not be reasonable to deal with it in a way which would not allow of the franchise being exercised in the coming Election by those who would be admitted to it under such a Bill. What I would venture to say to the House on this subject is, that we will undertake, if the House gives us the control of its time for which we ask, that means shall be found to enable the House to express its judgment on the question, our view of the matter being that which I have stated. There then remains, Sir, the Criminal Law Amendment Bill. This is a Bill which occupies a very remarkable position. It is the result of a very important inquiry into a very painful and difficult subject. It has been passed twice, if not three times, by the other House of the Legis- 1844 lature. It has been to some extent debated in this House, and I must say that there are certainly some provisions in this Bill which appear to Her Majesty's Government to be of very great importance and to be provisions which should, if possible, pass into law. I do not, in saying that, intend my remarks to apply to the whole Bill. There are parts of it which I do not think it would be possible to include in an Act of Parliament that could be passed this Session; but what we should like to do would be to confer fully and frankly on the matter with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), who has taken so much interest in it; and we should feel it our duty, if the House should give us the facilities for which we ask, to find any-reasonable time for the consideration of the subject. I think it will be admitted that the catalogue of legislation which I have gone through, as that of measures with which Her Majesty's Government ought to proceed, is at least a modest one. Therefore, I shall make no apology for asking private Members who have introduced Bills to sacrifice their chances of passing those Bills into law. The very number of private Members' Bills now standing in the Order Book would, in any case, preclude the vast majority from any chance of becoming law, whether the House accepted our Motion or not. But I should like to say one word with regard to those hon. Members who have given Notices of Motion for the days which we hope to be able to appropriate to Government Business. First of all, I would venture to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Hubbard) for the readiness with which he waived his right to bring forward this evening a Motion on a subject of importance, in order to afford us an opportunity to make progress with Supply. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld) has obtained the first place in the list of Motions for Tuesday next for the discussion of a very important matter, in which, as the House is well aware, he has long taken a deep and a self-sacrificing interest. I would venture to hope that the right hon. Gentleman would be willing to waive his right, on condition that he should be afforded the opportunity of the discussion he desires to raise on the 1845 Votes which still remain to be passed in Committee of Supply. I understand his desire is rather to elicit an expression of opinion, than actually to obtain a vote of the House on a Motion which, even he carried it, could not result in any legislation during the present Session. Sir, I have now only to thank the House for the patience with which it has listened to me, and to ask its favourable consideration for the Motion which I have placed on the Paper. It is, I will venture to repeat, a Motion which we believe to be for the convenience and in the interest of the House of Commons. If the House should agree to it, we should hope to be able to wind up the Session in a very moderate time, thus affording a longer interval for that rest which all of us require, though I fear a great many of us will not be able to obtain, before the time arrives when Her Majesty will be able to resort to the counsel and support of a new House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Committee of Supply have precedence this day of all other business; and that, for the remainder of the Session, including this day, Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motions on Tuesdays, Government Orders having priority; that Government Orders have priority on Wednesdays; and that the Standing Order of the 27th November 1882, relating to Notices on going into Committee of Supply on Monday and Thursday, be extended to Tuesday and Wednesday."—(Sir Michael Hicks Beach.")
I purposely ask, without delay, for the indulgence of the House; because, while the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) has brought before us matters of rather a wide scope, and certainly of very great importance, Notice has been given of an Amendment, of which I may say that it threatens or promises to open to us a still wider field of discussion. But the two things are quite distinct, and I am bound to state at the outset that I am not able to support the Amendment of my hon. Friend (Sir Wilfrid Lawson). Whatever proceeds from him is well worthy of our attention; and I take the opportunity of offering to him—I will venture to say in the name of the House—our very sincere congratulations on the restoration of health which has happily 1846 been attained by so patriotic, so consistent, and so able a Member of this House. But, Sir, it would not, I think, be consistent on the part of a House of Commons, which, by a majority, arrived at a vote which, in regular Parliamentary course, led to the resignation of the late Government—it would hardly be consistent in the House of Commons which arrived at that vote, and which deliberately facilitated the arrangements for the formation of a new Government of opposite politics, at the first moment when that new Government has been formed and comes forward, and before it has done either good or evil, that it should interfere for the purpose of preventing its action by procuring its dismissal from Office. I think, Sir, there can be no lengthened discussion required upon a proposition of that kind at the present moment. I now come to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and I will distinguish broadly between the prefatory portion of his speech which related to the general grounds of his Motion and the character of his Motion, and, on the other hand, to the particular reference which he made to certain subjects of importance, some of which I shall have to notice, and to a number of which I shall have to make certain additions. With regard to the general statement of the right hon. Gentleman and the Motion ho has made, I think we have very little to object to. It is true that we have made particular demands for Morning Sittings during the continuance of the late Government. It is also true, as the right hon. Gentleman fairly admitted, that we have done that with reference to the special urgency and importance of very large measures of legislation; but as no such argument can be used in support of the Motion he now makes, he does not think it his duty to ask for Morning Sittings on the same ground as that on which we asked for them; he bases the request on a different ground. His ground is that, in all the circumstances of the case, the Government having just assumed Office, and having in view a Dissolution, which the present Government, in my opinion quite rightly, desire to bring about at as early a period as the action of the law will admit, the Government, in that position, think that their prime duty is to what is called wind up the Business of the Session; and such winding-up of 1847 the Business of the Session is a proposition in respect of which they are entitled to claim the sympathy and assistance of the House. In that proposition, so stated, I concur; I only attach to it the condition which the right hon. Gentleman has, in a very great degree, fulfilled in his speech to-night—namely, that he should fully inform the House, and should satisfy the House, as regards the particular course which the Government propose to take with respect to immediate and pending subjects of legislation. In expressing my disposition, therefore, to support the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, I only make this general proviso at present-—that I pay regard to the words in which the right hon. Gentleman signifies that he would feel himself under an obligation to the House to facilitate discussion where it might reasonably be asked for, either in the way of Question, of Censure, or of Inquiry, as to the conduct of the Government in its Executive capacity; and, taking notice of those words, I think they meet the justice of the case, and I have no difficulty, therefore, in giving a cordial assent to the Motion he makes. Then I come to the question of legislation, as it was touched upon in his speech, only for the purpose of saying again that I am of opinion that he is justified in thinking that it is his duty and the duty of the Government to confine itself, under present circumstances, to such legislation as falls under one of two categories—either the category of being urgent, or the category of being non-contentious. But before I go into particulars on the position of that subject I wish to say a few words—and I think it will be felt that this Motion also affords a proper opportunity for saying them—I wish to say a few words upon the part which Her Majesty's Government will have to play, both during the next few weeks and during the autumn, in the direction of the foreign policy of the country; and I refer to this for no contentious purpose, but rather under an impulse of public duty, and a desire to find that there need not be at the present time cause for raising contentious discussions between us; while, on the other hand, it is a duty incumbent on the late Government, where they believe the present Government are engaged in the pursuit, or have reason to hope that they are engaged in the pur- 1848 suit, of important national objects—it is their duty to afford them such support as they can in the prosecution of such purpose. I may do this in a form which I hope will not be thought irregular, by referring to words which I believe to have been used by high authority, not within the walls of this House, but yet on the part of Her Majesty's Government. The first question which naturally challenges attention is the question of the Afghan Frontier, It has, I think, been said that the British Government has promised to secure the Pass of Zulfikar to the Ameer of Afghanistan. I am not quite sure to what words reference is made in that statement. I do not say that it is incorrect, and I am not at all disposed to quarrel with the spirit in which the words are used in making it. The main promise which I think has been made by the British Government to the Ameer of Afghanistan has been that they would, to the best of their ability, deal for him in settling the question of the Frontier as they would deal for themselves, and that they would consider his interests to be their interests—to do, in fact, the best that they could for the country and to act in that spirit. That being so, another very important declaration has been made, that the Pass of Zulfikar has been promised to the Ameer of Afghanistan by the Russian Government. Now, that is a most important statement, and I am bound to say that in my judgment, in the main and in its substance, that statement is correct. It is of very great importance, and if I repeat it I do not repeat it as an assumption, or as a matter of no consequence. If that promise has been made, at any rate, those of us who have dealt with the Russian Government deemed it our duty to deal with it on the same principle as applied to the dealing with all other regular established Governments. We therefore feel the utmost confidence that the promise will be fulfilled. It was not an unconditional engagement. It was a distinct promise on the one hand, that Penjdeh might, without injury- to the interests of the Ameer of Afghanistan, be allowed to remain on the Russian side of the border, and if that were so, the Pass of Zulfikar should be, in the Russian view, a consideration to be weighed against Penjdeh, and should be secured to the Ameer. Now, in all the reasonable 1849 efforts which Her Majesty's Government may make to bring about a settlement of this question upon terms such as have been indicated, such as, I think, have appeared to justify the expedience of a speedy and satisfactory conclusion—in all such efforts I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will receive the best support of those who have recently quitted Office and now sit on this side of the House. It has also been said, and it is a proposition of great importance, that the main matter is the defence of the Indian Frontier. I will not pretend to understand precisely some of the language in which comments appear to have been made upon that proposition, but with the proposition itself I thoroughly agree. There can be no doubt that we are engaged in a very considerable difficulty in relation to a country, the independence of which in the main we recognize; for it is only a friendly and defensive intervention that we have contemplated at any time in Afghanistan. Of course, in this I speak of the late Government. We are in a very difficult position in negotiating for the external frontier of such a country, and with a Power that is negotiating not for an ally, but for itself. And, no doubt, it is right to bear in view the great and main interests we have in this matter, after fulfilling honourably every engagement that we have made with the Ameer of Afghanistan. The main interest we have in this matter is the security of India and the defence of the Indian Frontier, which can never be regarded in this House as anything but a primary interest and an imperative and paramount duty, both on the part of the Indian Government and of the Legislature and Government of this country. Reference has also been very naturally made to that difficult and perplexed Egyptian Question, in regard to which two propositions have been laid down the justice and equity of which I should be the first to assert. The one is, that the present Government ought, as I should say, sedulously, even, to avoid committing itself too pointedly at the present moment, but that the present Government should be allowed time for obtaining the fullest and best advice in regard to a question so full of complications. That is a full and perfectly equitable demand to which I, for one, at once assent. It has also been said—and I hope that it having been said from 1850 that quarter may commend it to the judgment of Members of this House who may heretofore have doubted it—that, so far as Egypt Proper is concerned, finance is really a question of the first importance, and until that is settled nothing can be done. It is to be borne in mind that delays have occurred in regard to the settlement of general questions connected with the occupation of Egypt which have been most reluctantly submitted to by Her Majesty's Government. They were ready 18 months ago with their full plans for dealing with Egypt both as to finance and as to occupation; but delays of which I do not seek to discuss or investigate the causes have brought us to this point—that although, in the main, we have arrived at an Agreement with the Powers of Europe which is absolutely binding and which suffices for the settlement of the whole question of finance, yet some of the executive provisions necessary to give full effect to that Agreement have not been completed in all the countries, and at once coming down to the present moment, the finances of Egypt cannot be said to be absolutely settled, although the essential engagements which involve the settlement of that question have been agreed to and signed by united Europe. Sir, with regard to this important subject, an expression has been used as to which, I think, there has been some misapprehension—that, in the case of the Soudan, we had to deal with a triumphant enemy, or, at least, an enemy that believed himself to be triumphant. I am not at all convinced that, even in the limited application of it, that is a proposition to which we need subscribe. The rumours which appear in the papers upon this subject, when they refer to movements of wild tribes, and persons seeking for ascendancy among those tribes, at great distances beyond the sphere within which regular and authentic intelligence habitually circulates, ought to be received with considerable distrust. When I look at the result of all these engagements that have taken place in the Soudan, which may from some points of view be sincerely deplored but which, at any rate, have maintained in a remarkable degree the honour of the British arms, I do not believe that the Arab tribes of the Soudan are so wanting in perception as not to be aware of the nature of the enemy 1851 with whom they would have to come in conflict if they adopt an aggressive policy, and, therefore, I doubt whether even the Mahdi himself is to be assumed to believe that he is at this moment triumphant. I put that as an argument on the grounds of public policy, and by no means as a matter of political controversy, or as implying any reproach on the noble Person who used the expression which I have ventured to qualify and comment upon. As far as I am able to see, no intention has been formed by the present Government, since their accession to Office, which would lead them into necessary conflict with the views which the late Government have been endeavouring to act upon in the Soudan. I have seen an expression to the effect that it remains a matter to be considered how much of the Soudan ought to remain under the actual Government of Egypt; but even that expression, which I read with some question as to its exact meaning, does not come into conflict with what has been asserted and acted upon steadily by Her Majesty's late Government since they announced their intention to that effeet to the House—namely, that the British military power shall be withdrawn from the region of the Soudan. With respect to any departure from that intention, it would no doubt raise a most serious question. I do not say that Her Majesty's Government has committed itself on the subject. Were I to go back to former times, I might suppose that the intention of altering or reversing the policy of the withdrawal of British arms from the Soudan might have been acted upon; but I note with satisfaction that no such intention has been declared, and that the outside of what has been declared has been to raise the mere question of how much of the Soudan ought to continue under the actual or direct Government of Egypt. I think when the affairs of Egypt come to be considered, and what will be its responsibility within the limits of Egypt itself, and on the frontier of Egypt, whenever it may become responsible for the frontier of Egypt, I suspect it will not be found very difficult to arrive at what I consider a right decision as to how much of the Soudan ought to be left to the actual or direct Government of Egypt. I am therefore glad to think that we can give our best wishes to Her Majesty's Government 1852 with respect to the prosecution of objects which are certainly of the deepest importance to the well-being of this country. I do not now go into the question connected with the occupation of Egypt itself, as distinguished from the question of the Soudan, although I must say that all experience shows me more and more how necessary it is for the interests of the country that, when once this great and insurmountable impediment of financial difficulties has been put out of the way, a decisive and early determination should be arrived at by the Government and Parliament of this country with respect to the occupation of Egypt itself, not in order to make sacrifices of British interests to other Powers, and certainly not without a due regard to the arrangements to be made for the security and practical independence of Egypt hereafter, but for the purpose of placing this country in a position of real independence of every Foreign Power, and relieving it from sources of embarrassment which have been, as will be understood by those who have practically to deal with them, and will be found to be, of a most serious character as long as the present state of things exists. Before I rose in my place it was with the hope that I should not introduce into this debate matters of a contentious or polemical character, and so far as I have gone—while indicating opinions of my own without endeavouring to force them prematurely on the Government, and giving them time for consideration, with the advice of the best authorities, as to the course they would have to pursue—I hope that I have, down to the present moment, fulfilled that intention, and have not raised any matters of contentious or angry controversy. I was desirous of going on as far as I could without the smallest deviation from that course of proceeding, and of making the full concession which I have made to the right hon. Gentleman as to the general spirit of the proposition which he has laid before us, and of the explanation with which he has accompanied that proposition. I am sorry, I own, that at a single point of his statement, the right hon. Gentleman deviated from the line of his general remarks, and somewhat impaired the spirit of his speech. It was at the point where he touched the important 1853 subject of special legislation for Ireland, and contested the proposition, which he perhaps truly ascribed to my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. Chamberlain), that with the Tories coercion was a policy, with the Whigs or Liberals it was an incident. I was sorry that anything of the kind should have been mentioned, and I cannot believe that Whigs, Tories, or Liberals have been properly introduced into this question. We shall have time enough when we join issue on practical matters to enter into questions raised by the right hon. Gentleman; but, after that, I must, in no controversial spirit, say a word upon this subject. I am far from thinking or asserting that no errors have been committed by Liberal Governments as regards the proposal of coercive measures for Ireland. I shall not hesitate to join in the freest discussion, neither shall I deprecate the heaviest censure, of their conduct in that respect; but I think that historical justice compels us to admit that in the case of the severest proposals which have been made by Liberal Governments for the introduction of repressive measures for Ireland, in the interest, or supposed interest, of public order, there has always been a disposition, so far as I know, to couple with those measures remedial propositions, with the object of conciliating the people of Ireland and of laying more solid foundations of concord between the two countries. I think that the very first important legislative measure which it was my fate to hear discussed in the House of Commons was that severe Coercion Act of 1833 proposed by the Government of Lord Grey—that historical and, perhaps, I ought to say, illustrious Government, fresh from the great struggle and the great triumph of the Reform Bill, all full of Liberal sympathies and desires with Ireland, but thinking, and consciously thinking, themselves bound by the necessities of public order to make stringent proposals for restrictive measures in Ireland. But immediately after that coercive measure was proposed and carried into law, a Bill was introduced, upon which we now look back as a Bill of very moderate dimensions—what was then called the Church Temporalities Act—but which I can assure hon. Gentlemen opposite was opposed by those who preceded them, and was denounced 1854 as the destruction of the Constitution, as the dismemberment of the Empire, and as involving the most subversive consequences. Then, at the risk of detaining the House, I will remind it that when we found it our duty to take the reins of power, our first act was deliberately to waive any application to this House for the enactment of coercive legislation for Ireland. And though I am sorry that this question has been touched, I must ask the right hon. Gentleman himself what kind of assistance we received from him and his Friends, who are now Her Majesty's Government, in that attempt? I think he will find it very difficult to say. I do not know that there has been a more famous historical document placed before the eyes of the people of this country, for many years, than the letter of the Earl of Beaconsfield to the Duke of Marlborough at the time of the General Election in 1880. What picture did that letter give of the position of Ireland, of the intentions of its popular Leaders, and of the necessities laid on the Government of this country for dealing strongly with them? I do not know any document more important; I do not know any document that I have seen so frequently alluded to with triumph—aye, and with exultation—by hon. Gentleman that side of the House, as the true setting forth of what ought to be the Irish policy for the guidance of the Government of this country. I may say we thought it our duty—whether rightly or wrongly is an historical question fairly open to discussion—we thought it our duty to recommend the introduction of a severe measure in the Session of 1881 for serious restriction of personal liberty in Ireland; but whether that measure was, as I have said, right or wrong, at any rate it was accompanied with a measure to which the character of remedial could hardly be denied. And here I must say that the right hon. Gentleman surprised me when he said that the Land Act of 1870 was an abortive measure. I never heard a more strange expression used in this House. How was it an abortive measure? If the right hon. Gentleman had said it proved an insufficient measure, that would be a very different affair; but I do not hesitate to say, and I believe I cannot be contradicted, that the immediate effects of the Land Act 1855 of 1870—effects which lasted for a period of not less than seven years after the passing of the Act, before the failure of the crops and all the difficulties connected with the last years of the Administration of Lord Beaconsfield and the first years of our Government—were in a high degree satisfactory, and were welcomed as satisfactory in a high degree by the people of Ireland. But when we proposed to make this coercive proposal, it is something to be placed on record that we acted as the Predecessors of our Party traditionally acted—we endeavoured to introduce at the same time what we believed, and still believe, to be a remedial measure of the utmost importance for the advancement, the comfort, and the happiness of the people of Ireland, and for laying the foundations of a better feeling between Ireland and this country. Unfortunately, this topic, which to my regret has been opened, suggests to me many reflections. We introduced, as I have said, a Coercion Bill for the suspension of habeas corpus, and we also introduced a Remedial Bill—the amendment of the Land Law. Were these two Bills similarly treated? I remember the enthusiastic support given by hon. Gentlemen opposite to the Bill for the suspension of habeas corpus. I remember a pretty pointed and prolonged opposition, certainly not unattended with the most vehement denunciations, of the Bill for the reform of the Land Laws and in restraint of the power of the landlords. But, Sir, I will now leave this subject, which I am sorry has been introduced, and turn to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, in which he has said, with what I must admit to be excellent sense, a great deal upon the subject of special legislation. No doubt, special legislation is, in itself, an evil. It is a thing which every Government, either on accession to Office, or at any other time, ought to feel the desire to get itself rid of if it possibly can. The right hon. Gentleman has said, and said truly, that we do not, in this case, propose to get rid of special legislation. He says that he does not know of what we were to propose, and that he found no Bill prepared upon the subject. Well, I must say that I have known a great many changes of Government and transfers of important questions from the hands of one responsible Executive to the hands 1856 of another; but where those questions have been of a contentious character, I am not aware that I ever recollect the handing over of Bills which were in preparation, or which had been prepared, to the Successors in Office of the existing Government. I stated in this House that, in our opinion, there were certain provisions of the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Act which were valuable and equitable. I will not now enter in detail upon those provisions; I will only mention one by way of illustration, and that is the provision which may be described as the provision for prior inquisition. That provision is the law of Scotland at the present moment, and has been from time immemorial; and I believe I am correct in saying that, for England also, it was proposed by that very eminent lawyer, Sir John Holker, to insert that provision into the great measure which he prepared for reducing to order the mass of our Criminal Law. There is nothing very violent or special in such legislation as that. Without going into further detail, what I would say is this—the provisions of the Act fall into two classes. One of them consists of a set of clauses which, more or less, narrow personal liberty. The others are clauses which do not narrow personal liberty, which do not alter in substance the Criminal Law, but which may be described as rendering its procedure more certain and effectual. That was the distinction which we proposed to draw. On that ground I always protested against those who sought to put into my mouth—and I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) is one of them—the avowal that we had intended to introduce a Coercion Bill. We believed that the remedial part of that Act was perfectly separate from the coercive part; and it was the remedial part of it which, under conditions I will not now describe, would have had a most important effect. That was what we had in view, and not the renewal in any shape of the coercive provisions of the law. But, however, we now have a Government bolder than we were, and a Government the Leader of which in this House does not scruple to avow that it is within his knowledge and belief that he will receive assistance in the government of Ireland from an important following, in consequence of the improved feeling that I suppose he 1857 has reason to believe, although not known to us, exists—that he will receive assistance which we should not have received. I think, Sir, that is highly probable, and I shall not found on that probability any of the offensive imputations, any of the sweeping and outrageous charges and condemnations, which have at times been frequent in the mouths of others. The Government are responsible for the peace and order of Ireland, and, looking forward to the coming winter, they have made up their minds that they can be responsible for it without any special legislation whatever. It is obvious that, in saying that, they incur a great responsibility. There can be no doubt that, after all that has occurred since 1880, after the views they expressed in 1880 about the suffering of such legislation to drop, and after the experience of the great anti-rent conspiracy since 1880, they do incur a great responsibility; but, although they incur that responsibility, it is not our business to wish that they may fail in their bold undertaking. A bold undertaking it is; but they are the Ministers of the Crown, and it is their business as such not to plead Parliamentary difficulty—not to plead being in a minority—not to plead anything except their absolute duty; and if they conceive that with the present ordinary law properly administered they can protect life and property, I say that, whether I myself, with my Colleagues, might be as bold or not, whether we might have been able to reckon with the same assistance or not, I bid them God speed in their career. There is nothing which, at any time, I have more desired than to see Ireland free from special legislation in any form whatever. The Government are the proper judges, in the first instance, whether this can be prudently attempted. They say that it can. With all my heart I wish that they may prove to be in the right. I pass from that subject with one other observation. The question of special legislation for Ireland is a question of very great importance; but when we have got rid of special legislation in the sense of coercion or repression, or of the improvement of procedure, or anything else—when we have got rid of all special legislation, there comes the question what legislation Ireland requires, not merely negative but 1858 also positive in form; and for my own part I must say that, important as this question of special legislation is, it is not, according to my convictions, the main question for Ireland. The people of Ireland have not enjoyed local self-government in the same degree as England and Scotland—whose enjoyment of local self-government, I am bound to say, is, in my judgment, very imperfect and requires to be largely extended—the people of Ireland have not enjoyed even that limited measure of local self-government, and the application of local self-government in a complete sense and upon a large scale is, in my judgment, the primary want of Ireland, without which no mere cessation of repressive legislation can help the country far onward on the road towards political peace and happiness and union with, this country. That, in my opinion, is the main question for Ireland, and here I am led to notice a subject with which the right hon. Gentleman dealt, and with regard to which I will endeavour to give him such limited assistance as is in my power. I mean the question of land purchase. The right hon. Gentleman is very desirous of dealing with that question; but he feels, and he justly feels, that his prospect of dealing with it in a legislative sense during present Session depends upon his being able to keep it out of that category of contention which would be, at the present moment, to such a Bill political death. I may tell him that which appeared to us necessary on this subject, and it will enable him to judge how far—in relation, at least, to us—he may be able to keep his Bill from assuming a contentious character. It appeared to us that, as regarded the clause which related to land purchase and its just extension to a state of efficiency, there was no great difficult)' in the way: but when we came to consider the financial questions connected with the wide operation of a Land Purchase Bill, the dangers which would arise out of any plan which goes to make the State upon a largo scale the immediate or virtual creditor of the people of Ireland became apparent, and the greatest difficulties arose. In my own opinion, and I think also in that of my Colleagues, to a large extent the ultimate solution of the difficulties of the situation is to be found in the question of 1859 good and adequate local institutions. Consequently, the plan which we contemplated was this—we contemplated clauses which, as far as the terms of the transactions are concerned, might have been permanent in their operations; but we intended lo ask Parliament to provide a sum of money adequate only to carry the Bill into operation for its first year, so as not to raise any large political question in connection with the creditorship of the Imperial Exchequer in our relations with the people of Ireland. We should have done that, believing that this question of local institutions for Ireland is the great, and immediate necessity of Irish legislation, and believing that the next Session of Parliament cannot fail, humanly speaking, to afford a proper and even necessary opportunity of dealing with that subject, as it would afford the only solution of the financial difficulties of the case. Our object would have been to place Parliament in a position to resume, with a free hand, the consideration of the case in the view of such institutions as it might propose for Ireland, and thereby to bring about what would be an extensive operation of the Land Purchase Clauses in Ireland, and, at the same time, to provide against the very serious danger which any needless tampering with that question as regards the Imperial Exchequer might involve. We should have left it to the next Parliament to consider how far the local institutions might be made available for providing security in connection with the pecuniary supply which it would be requisite to propose. The right hon. Gentleman will now be able to judge whether we can march together or not in the endeavour to deal with this question; and I must say I would not have gone so far—I would not have given this explanation—had I believed that I was proposing anything from which it would be incumbent upon the right hon. Gentleman to dissent. The right hon. Gentleman has mentioned various other Bills, and upon these I can touch very shortly indeed. The right hon. Gentleman has also spoken of the Intermediate Education (Wales) Bill; and, upon the whole, I must in fairness accept the plea he has made. I do not believe, though I greatly regret it, that the Government can be expected, under the circumstances, to go forward with that Bill at the present moment. 1860 He has also spoken of the Crofters' Holdings (Scotland; Bill, and upon that I must say one word. He says it is a contentious Bill. Well, I do not know to what extent that is true. It is true there are those who would wish to go further; but I never heard that there were any who intended to oppose the late Government in going so far, or that they intended to reject the plan that we offered. On the other hand, I believe there are those who sit on the right bon. Gentleman's side of the House who have well considered this subject, and who, either being wholly, or to a very great extent, cognizant of the facts of the case, are disposed to accept the provisions of that Bill. But the Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Bill was not, on our part, a piece of amateur, or even mere volunteer, legislation. We took up the subject as a question of grave public urgency for the peace of the country; and the question arises whether this Bill be even in some respects contentious—although I am inclined to hope it may not be so; whether it be or be not urgent, we thought it was urgent, and it was represented so to us from every portion of the House when the subject was debated. There was not a single voice raised in any other sense. In my opinion, this question clearly comes under the same category as the question of replacing the Prevention of Crimes (Ireland) Act It was for the maintenance of the peace of the country that my right hon. Friends near me (Sir William Harcourt) and the late Lord Advocate devised this measure for the consideration of the late Government. The right hon. Gentleman will therefore forgive me for saying it is his duty to take into consideration whether he is prepared to be responsible for the peace of these districts, and for the regular working of the social machine without legislation in regard to the subject of the crofters. The right hon. Gentleman does not incur here a responsibility of the same kind as that he incurs in respect of the Prevention of Crime Act in Ireland. For without the provisions of the Act, if, in that case, it be found that public order is not compromised, and that the recovery of civil rights remains effectually secured, then the right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, will stand justified; but I am not so sure that he 1861 will stand justified in refraining from prosecuting a piece of remedial legislation, if it should unhappily prove that something is required to improve the condition of these crofters, not only on the general merits of the case, but even in order to maintain the primary conditions of peace and order in the land. I urge this the more because, in the case of the Irish Bill, the question was one of dropping a repressive measure. I certainly am desirous, as far as I can, without assuming undue responsibility, to give all the encouragement I can to the Government in dropping any repressive measure whatever; but this is a question of dropping a remedial measure, not only as in gent as the Irish legislation in the views of some might be, but beneficial in an eminent degree to the holders, the cultivators of the soil, and, therefore, having the very highest claims upon the consideration of the Government, even under present circumstances. I must, therefore, upon this one subject, reserve some discretion, I hope, to my Friends and myself. I hope we shall be allowed to consider this matter further; and I even hope that it will be considered further by Her Majesty's Government; and, if the necessity should arise, we should not scruple to ask for some opportunity of stating our views to the House. Undoubtedly we have always stood to this proposition—that not only was the measure we proposed a beneficial measure, but it was one eminently of an urgent character in the highest sense, in reference to the primary duty of the Government as to the maintenance of peace and order. On the other subjects I can speak with great satisfaction. The right hon. Gentleman has made two exceptions—the Parliamentary Elections (Medical Relief) Bill and the Criminal Law Amendment Bill—in a spirit as liberal as I could possibly have expected. There is just one other point, and one only, on which I find it necessary to say a word. It is not a Bill, but a Resolution. There now stands on the Notice Paper of this House a Resolution, I think, for this day week, relating to the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts. This Motion which we are now going to carry will displace the Resolution, and I am not going to ask for an exception on behalf of it. It is an abstract Resolution. It could not be acted upon in the 1862 present Session, and it would be unreasonable, I think, to ask the right hon. Gentleman that lie should waive the application of his Motion on account of the Resolution being on the Paper. But there is another side to the case, which I think lie will admit it is quite equitable to approach. There is, at the present moment, an intermediate provisional state of things adopted by the late Government upon grounds which we felt to be sufficient and intelligible—that is, the established state of things now—and if the right hon. Gentleman says, as I think ho will probably say, or the right him. Gentleman the Secretary of Slate for War (Mr. W. II. Smith) may say, that he cannot legislate upon this subject, that he must refer it to the consideration of Parliament in another Session, I conclude it would be a fair request to make to ask for an assurance that no substantial change—I do not speak of changes of detail—will be made in the state of things now provisionally established, which amounts in the main, and for most purposes, to a complete suspension of the operation of those Acts. That point I wish to press, and I think the suggestion I make is a fair one. Well, Sir, I have been obliged to detain the House for a considerable time; but I hope the explanation I have made will not be thought to have been made in a narrow and grudging spirit. I wish to fulfil literally the declarations made outside—that every reasonable assistance shall be given, so far as we are concerned, to Her Majesty's present Government in their efforts rapidly to wind up the Business of the Session, to discharge them from all unnecessary subjects, and, above all—and here I give a special promise for myself—to discharge them from all unnecessary speeches and debates. To that great end, either by persuasion, or, what is more important, by good example, I shall give my assistance. I now sit down, and, trusting them, in matters wherein Her Majesty's Government are going to act upon the principle of trust in the people and are going to maintain the undoubted interests of the Empire in a calm and wise, but at the same time perfectly firm spirit, I heartily wish them success in their endeavours.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL)
I think the House and the Government 1863 and my right hon. Friend will be of opinion that, after the valuable and exhaustive remarks of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, it would not be at all consistent with the high position which he occupies in the House if those remarks were not immediately acknowledged and commented upon respectfully by some Member of the present Administration. I am sure I am only speaking the sentiments of those who sit near me when I venture to thank the right hon. Gentleman for the considerate, and, indeed, I may say magnanimous, treatment which he has given to the proposal of my right hon. Friend. I will only say that, as far as the right hon. Gentleman was concerned, not one of us ever expected anything else; and although, owing to certain events which immediately followed the fall of the late Government, Lord Salisbury, with the full assent and approval of all his Colleagues, found it necessary to ask for some kind of guarantee against unnecessary disturbance, in the attitude which the right hon. Gentleman assumed in the negotiations which then took place, I do not think that any one of us was inclined for a moment to assert that his attitude was not perfectly Constitutional, and one which might not serve as a valuable precedent when the Government of this country changes for the future. Perhaps the House will allow me to make one or two brief remarks upon the observations which have fallen from the right hon. Gentleman. With regard to what fell from him as to the Frontier of Afghanistan, I understood the right hon. Gentleman to suggest some doubt as to the absolute and literal accuracy of the statement made in the House of Lords on Monday by Lord Salisbury—that the British Government had promised the Ameer security for the possession of the Pass of Zulfikar. Well, Sir, having seen all the transactions that have taken place, and having seen also the subsequent telegrams from the Viceroy of India, I am of opinion that that statement was literally and accurately true, and that the Ameer of Afghanistan placed himself entirely in our hands—that he offered to accept any Frontier which we might think advisable for his interests and security provided that we secured to him three places, one of which was the complete possession of the Pass of 1864 Zulfikar. And I can also say that Lord Dufferin considers himself absolutely bound to the Ameer on that point, and that, in so considering himself bound, he also considers that he has acted with the entire support, knowledge, and approval of the late Government. But, Sir, I wish particularly to acknowledge with much gratitude the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman confirming Lord Salisbury's statement that the Russian Government are under a promise to concede the Pass of Zulfikar to the Ameer. Such a declaration from the right hon. Gentleman cannot fail to have the most marked effect upon the negotiations which are now going on. I know no reason why those negotiations should not terminate in a manner satisfactory to the country; but they will, at any rate, have this advantage—that they will be supported by a practically united House of Commons. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman will understand that none of the Members of the Government think it necessary to withdraw in any way from the criticisms which they felt it their duty to make on the negotiations as conducted by the late Government up to the time they left Office. We certainly apprehend the nature and the drawbacks of the inheritance which we have received from the late Government in that part of the world. We shall try to the utmost of our power to bring it to as satisfactory a conclusion as is possible; and in this work undoubtedly the support of the right hon. Gentleman, which he has stated he is prepared to give us under certain circumstances, is literally invaluable. I am sure that the earnest words which fell from him with regard to the immense value of the security of our Indian Frontier will bring that fact home far more to the minds of the people of this country than anything that Her Majesty's present Ministers could say, and will do much to tranquillize the apprehensions and to rejoice the minds of our fellow-subjects in India. With regard to what fell from the right hon. Gentleman on the subject of Egypt, I do not propose to make more than a very brief remark. We took note of the words of wisdom which fell from the right hon. Gentleman; but one reason why I do not wish, on this occasion, to go into the question of 1865 Egypt is because I do not wish in any way to be the cause of any contention, and of course that remark would specially apply to anything that may be said about the Soudan. The right hon. Gentleman said he did not believe there was any intention on our part to come into sharp conflict with the views of the late Government with respect to their late Soudan policy. I do not wish that remark to pass without comment, because it might be taken that the present Government approved the evacuation of the Province of Dongola. That is going a great deal too far. It is not necessary to say positively whether we approve or disapprove of the evacuation; but this we may say—that it entails upon Egypt the loss of a fertile territory to which Egypt was undoubtedly entitled; that it reduces that fertile territory to a state of utter uncultivation; that almost the entire cultivating population is withdrawing northward with our army, and that which for many years has been a smiling and prosperous land is now totally devastated. I should be sorry if anyone were to think that the present Government approve of the evacuation of Dongola, especially when it is borne in mind that such evacuation was carried out in the teeth of the most remarkable opposition—in the teeth of the advice of Lord Wolseley, Sir Evelyn Baring, General Buller, and NubarPasha; and, that being so, I merely wish to guard the present Government from any responsibility for the evacuation of Dongola. No departure from the policy of the late Government, however, is possible, for when we came into Office the decision to evacuate Dongola had been carried out too far for U3 to alter it. Turning now to the question of Ireland, I was surprised to hoar the right hon. Gentleman charge my right hon. Friend with having made controversial remarks on this subject. I am sure my right hon. Friend would never have thought of making any observations in regard to Ireland of a controversial character if it had not been for the rather mocking interruption which greeted him when making a very serious and deliberate declaration of the policy of the Government in regard to Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman declared that when the Tory Party introduced coercion they trusted to it alone, and that when the Liberal Party introduced coercion it was 1866 always accompanied by a remedial measure. Well, supposing the Tory Party did so, which I do not admit, who was the Member of the Tory Party who in 1833 objected when the Church Temporalities Bill was introduced? Might I respectfully ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in those dawning days of a career which has proved so illustrious, he set a bright example to the Tory Party?
THE SEORETARY or STATE FOR INDIA
Whatever the age of the right hon. Gentleman may have been, I am sure that so remarkable is his genius now that it would not be extraordinary if at the age of 23 he had been able to set an example to the Tory Party. I desire to point out the difference between the position of Ireland in 1880, when the late Government decided to do without extraordinary powers, and the position of Ireland now. Lord Beaconsfield's letter has been the object of many a bitter sarcasm from hon. Gentlemen opposite; but, at the time it was written, Ireland was suffering from one of the severest famines that ever visited the country, and the people were tortured by starvation and want. Have you ever heard of any country suffering under calamities so widespread and grievous where you have not had a rapid increase of crime? Not only was there at the time a severe famine, but crime was actually increasing—and increasing largely; and it was under these circumstances that the late Government determined to rely on the ordinary law. What are the circumstances now? Since 1883 crime in Ireland has been steadily diminishing. There is no famine in any part of Ireland, and I am not aware that there is any abnormal distress. These are the very different circumstances, the essentially normal circumstances, under which the Tory Party consider it to be their absolute duty to endeavour, at any rate, to govern Ireland by the ordinary law. The right hon. Gentleman found fault with my right hon. Friend for having described the Land Act of 1870 as "abortive." But, having regard to the fact that the utmost the right hon. Gentleman could say for the Act of 1870 was that it had continued in opera- 1867 tion for seven years, I do not consider that the epithet was uncalled for. If I wanted to excite controversial feelings, I might refer to the bitterness with which the late Government and their supporters evidently regard the action of the Tory Party in resolving to attempt to govern Ireland without coercion. I might boldly say that I believe that if Lord Spencer had been given SO Coercion Acts he could not have governed Ireland successfully or peacefully for any length of time. I do not make that statement, but it is one which I might have made. I want to show my extraordinary moderation in refraining from making any Party attack. I desire to enter my caveat against the doctrine laid down by the right hon. Gentleman that the right of holding special previous inquiries before the arrest of a prisoner should be incorporated into the general law of the Kingdom.
I mentioned it as the suggestion of a high authority. I am myself no authority upon this fitter.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA
Well, I would certainty protest against any such provision. The right hon. Gentleman commented on my right hon. Friend's statement that he thought he saw certain indications in the state of Ireland which showed that the change of Government was not altogether unacceptable to the general population of that country. The right hon. Gentleman almost insinuated that that was due to some specific understanding or agreement with certain special parties in this House. For all I know, indeed I may say I do know, that statement refers to nothing more than to certain incidents which have recently taken place in Ireland—the tenor of the Irish Press; hut, more than that, to a remarkable incident which took place only the other day when Lord Carnarvon, after having been sworn in as Viceroy, rode to the Viceregal Lodge, and on the following day rode to the Westland Row Station in a manner totally unprecedented for four years in Ireland. During four years no Viceroy in Ireland had been able to move about without an escort. On this occasion dragoons and mounted police were conspicuous by their absence, and their absence did not seem to excite any dis- 1868 pleasure among the Irish people. I hope in the policy we have decided to pursue we shall receive the support and assistance of the Irish people. We know perfectly well what we have undertaken to do; it has been perhaps one of the most deliberate and carefully considered decisions any Government ever came to. We know well that it is our duty to protect life and property, not only in Ireland, but all over the United Kingdom. I again thank the right hon. Gentleman for the support he so generously promises, and for the good wishes he evidently desires to bestow upon us in our efforts; but if we fail, you may depend upon it we shall plead no excuse either as regards Parliamentary circumstances at the present moment, or as regards the fact that we are in a minority, we have come to this conclusion, to endeavour to govern Ireland by the ordinary law, because we believe it to be a Constitutional doctrine that special legislation must not be applied except in times of great emergency. We believe it was the duty of the Tory Party to adhere to that Constitutional doctrine. We believe that, taking all the circumstances of Ireland together at the present time, weighing the one against the other, the times are not exceptional; and, that being so, we decided for good or evil to abide by the ordinary law of the country. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Land Purchase Bill. His remarks on that subject will be most carefully considered, not only on account of their merit, but also on account of the quarter whence they come. If by any chance the Government can see an opportunity of making legislative proposals which secure the support of the light hon. Gentleman, and which are especially agreeable to the Representatives of Ireland in the direction indicated, we shall most eagerly avail ourselves of it. With regard to the Crofters' Bill I have only one remark to make. I wish to point out to the right hon. Gentleman for his consideration whether the Crofters' Bill is not eminently a question for the new Parliament. I suppose any Government legislation on the Crofters' Question at this time could not be final. Can you by any possibility attain finality on the question when the crofters themselves are not directly represented in this House? It is more than probable that 1869 in the now Parliament the crofters will I be strongly represented, and any proposals on this subject will be discussed by their Representatives and decided upon by them; and it is, therefore, clear that more of finality would surround such legislation than any attempt to deal with the question now. With reference to the Contagious Diseases Acts and the Resolution of the light hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Stansfeld), I imagine that no public object of any importance can be secured by setting aside a day for the discussion of the subject. The opinion of this Parliament on the question is known. It has been ascertained three or four times, and the question was one eminently fitted to be relegated to the consideration of a new Parliament. But I am authorized by the Secretary of State for War and by the First Lord of the Admiralty to say that there is no intention on the part of the present Government to interfere in any way with the provisional arrangements of the late Government, though we were no parties to those arrangements. I thank the House very much for the great indulgence it has extended to me on this, the first occasion I have addressed it from this position. In conclusion, I would say that I believe the policy of the Government as regards domestic legislation is to clear up and get out of the way of the new Parliament certain arrears of legislation upon which no great controversy arises, the settlement of which may confer great social and political boons upon the people of the country, and to reduce the great number of subjects which will have to be dealt with by the new Parliament. Their policy in foreign affairs will be, as far as they may and as far as they can, a policy animated by one object only, that they may by a firm, vigorous, intelligent, and consistent policy so extricate our country from the numerous foreign difficulties, anxieties, and complications which now beset us, as to bring about a state of foreign order and freedom from foreign alarms that the new Parliament from which we, as well as those on the opposite side of the House, hope great things for England, may be able to concentrate its attention on the political and social future of our people unembarrassed, unimpeded by any foreign danger.
§ MR. STANSFELD
said, he concurred in the claim which the Leader of the House had made in general terms with respect to the general Business of the House. Ho thought it was their duty towards the present Government to support them in the application which had been made for the time of the House. He thought it was for the public interest that the affairs of this Parliament should be brought to a conclusion without any unnecessary delay; but he wished to call the attention of the Government to his position with regard to the question of the Contagious Diseases Acts, and to its position in the House itself. He had a Notice referring to the question standing on the Paper for that day week. The agitation to which he had been a party, and which had been conducted with immense sacrifice of time and labour on the part of numerous men and women, had now lasted for 18 years. A Resolution had been carried by a large majority in the House practically condemning those Acts. Two-and-a-quarter years had elapsed since then, and no endeavour had been made by any hon. Member to procure the reversal of the Resolution. The late Government took the strong measure of suspending, to a great extent, the operation of the Acts in deference to the decision of the House of Commons. It could not be justified except on the grounds of the impossibility of legislating on the question during that time; and this was the ground taken by the late Prime Minister and his Colleagues. But the consequences of the action of the late Government had been, so far as he was concerned, to leave the Acts on the Statute Book fur the present Government, when it chose to do so, to re-enforce them. In the circumstances he felt he should be within his right if he endeavoured to ascertain the point of view of the Government before they wore all dismissed to a General Election. It was true that the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India concluded his speech with an expression of opinion; but that expression of opinion was unsatisfactory to himself, and also, he believed, to the bulk of hon. Members on that side of the House. The noble Lord told them that Her Majesty's present Advisers would not upset or interfere with the determination of the late Government to suspend to a large ex- 1871 tent the operation of the Contagious Diseases Acts; but he added that the present Government must not be held to approve that course. That was a statement with which he could not be satisfied; and he trusted, therefore, that someone sitting on the Treasury Bench would be able to inform the House that the present Government frankly accepted the conclusion arrived at by the late Government in reference to suspending the operation of the Acts.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WAR (Mr. W. H. SMITH)
said, he thought he should have no difficulty in satisfying the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Stansfeld) on the points to which he had drawn attention. The right hon. Gentleman had said that in deference to a Vote passed by the House in 1883 the late Government virtually suspended the action of the Acts of Parliament, and that that was a course much stronger than the introduction of a Bill to repeal those Acts. He entirely agreed with the right hon. Gentleman. It was a strong exercise of power on the part of the Government to suspend the operations of Acts of Parliament simply in deference to a Resolution passed by one House in circumstances of considerable emotion. The present Government must not be held to approve of the course adopted by the late Government; but he had no hesitation in giving an assurance that the course pursued during the present Session by the late Government would not be altered by the present Government. The late Government had not thought it their duty to folio y the procedure of last year, and had, in making their arrangements, omitted any provision for enforcing the Acts to which objection was taken, and it was certainly not the intention of the present Government to give life and vitality to those Acts. The right hon. Gentleman would understand, however, that while the present Government respected the status quo in -which they found themselves they could not say what legislation might become necessary in the next Session of Parliament.
§ MR. MACFARLANE
said, that he had never considered the Crofters' Bill which had been introduced as one entitled to be regarded as a final settlement of that question. He himself had put down an Amendment on the subject; 1872 but his right hon. Friend was mistaken in supposing that he did so in opposition to the Bill. His object was to improve the Bill, and not to destroy it—[a laugh]—and he could assure the right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench who had laughed at that statement that on the night on the second reading of the Crofters' Bill was to have been taken he had received an assurance that if he altered one word of his Amendment he would have received the whole support of the Conservative Party. He therefore regretted the decision of the present Government not to proceed with the Bill; for though he had not regarded the Bill as a very valuable one, he did look at it in this light—that if the present Government had brought it in as a skeleton Bill the Liberal Party in the House would have clothed it in Committee with flesh and blood, and made it a valuable measure. He was now going to make a practical proposal, for he looked upon the Crofters' Bill as lost. He believed that when the reformed House of Commons came back there would not be two or three Members representing crofter districts, but that nine-tenths of the whole representation of Scotland would be pledged on the question; for it was one which had been recognized as affecting the interests of towns quite as much as the country. Therefore it was that he did not deplore very grievously the loss of this Bill. He should say that the result of the unbiassed consideration by the people of the late Bill had been its rejection by them. There was in the Order Book a Bill, consisting of six lines, introduced by himself, for the purpose of suspending evictions in Scotland pending the settlement of this question. The Prime Minister had denied that the urgency of this Bill was a matter which affected the peace of the country; but experience had clearly shown that the sooner this question was settled the better, and that, in the meantime, the only way by which the peace of mind of the people could be assured was by suspending the power of eviction. It had been stated that the landlords did not want to evict. Well, if so, the suspension of this power could do them no harm, while it would reassure the minds of the people, for he could assure the right hon. Gentleman there was a great deal of alarm on that point, and the public opinion was so 1873 acute on the subject that if there should be anything in the shape of public eviction there would be an outbreak of the public. Such would certainly be the case if the landlords exercised to any extent the power of eviction which the present state of the law gave them. Therefore, he would appeal to the Government to have this small Bill of six lines passed into law during the present Session, and he would guarantee that they would have peace and quiet, and rest, and law and order throughout the Highlands.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE
desired to say a few words on the subject of the Telegraph Bill. From what had fallen from the noble Lord that evening he had gathered that it was the intention of the Government to drop that measure. The announcement that the Government did intend to drop that measure would cause surprise and regret throughout the country. For many months past the expectation had been held out that a considerable change would be effected in the telegraph rate during the late autumn; and he desired to bring under the attention of the Government the financial effects of dropping that measure. He could not help thinking that the Government had not sufficiently considered the fact that £500,000 had been spent upon new plant which would be necessary in case the cost of telegrams was lowered from 1s. to 6d. Moreover, a very large staff had been taken on at the Post Office with a view of introducing the new tariff during the coming autumn. Twelve hundred persons had been taken into the service of the Post Office within the last few months in view of the reduction of the tariff and the increased work which that would throw on the Department, and their salaries would amount to £61,000 per annum. Those persons, who were now learning their business, could not be utilized in any other way in the Post Office; and as they could not be dismissed the money expended upon their salaries would be altogether thrown away. The noble Lord had given two reasons for abandoning the Bill. In the first place he had misdescribed the Bill, because he had said it was a Bill for charging the addresses. That was a misdescription of the measure, which was a Bill for altering the tariff and for enabling a short telegram to be sent for 1874 6d. instead of for 1s. In order to confer this very great boon of 6d. telegrams upon the public it had been found necessary not to allow the addresses to be free. If free addresses were allowed it would involve a very great loss to the Revenue, which, taken together with the reduction of price, would amount to some £200,000 per annum. Among the other reasons which the noble Lord had given for abandoning the proposals contained in the Bill was that he had received information from the Department that if the change was carried out in the manner proposed by the Bill the increase of business which would result from it would occasion an expense of an additional £1,000,000 to the country in the course of the next three or four years. For his own part, he thought there must be a misunderstanding on this point, as he had received no information from the Department to that effect. He was under the full impression, in consequence of the information which he had received from the Department, that the £500,000, which had been asked for during the current year would amply suffice for purchasing the plant rendered necessary by the anticipated increase of business which would be caused by the reduction of the tariff. It had been calculated that that increase of business would amount to about 30 per cent on the present business; and he believed that the new plant which had been provided would be amply sufficient to meet that increase in the amount of business. Should there, however, be in successive years a still greater increase of business than that now anticipated, there would also be a corresponding increase in the profits of the Department, which would amply suffice to meet any additional charge for plant that might be rendered necessary by the increased business. If the Bill were to be now dropped all the expenditure which had already been incurred during the present year would be lost to the country. He suggested that the noble Lord should proceed with the Bill, and introduce in Committee any alternative tariff which ho might desire to propose; but he must say that he did not believe that within the financial limits which would be sanctioned by the Treasury the noble Lord could propose any other tariff than that set forth in the Bill. Should, however, the noble 1875 Lord think fit to propose any alternative tariff ho could promise him that it should receive his most favourable consideration. He was satisfied that there was a general desire on the part of the House that the Bill should become law, and that the reduction in the tariff to 6d. should be made as soon as possible. He thought it would be desirable that the Government should give one day to discuss this Bill in. Committee. He rather thought, however, that now the noble Lord was responsible for the Department, and had an opportunity of discussing the matter with the very able officers at its head, he had discovered that it would be impossible to comply with the rule that the Telegraphic Department should be a paying one and at the same time to propose any alternative tariff. There was only one other argument—namely, that in the General Election it would be a great boon if this reduced tariff should be brought into effect. There would then be a good opportunity of testing it, and he believed the system would be enormously availed of.
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Lord JOHN MANNERS)
said, that he wished to remove an erroneous impression from the mind of the right hon. Gentleman. He had no intention whatever of removing the Bill from the Orders. He proposed to let it remain on the Orders, so that the right hon. Gentleman could bring it forward if he could get an opportunity, and then the Government would state their views.
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL
said, upon that point he must consult his Colleagues; but as ho had no wish that the Bill should be withdrawn, he should do all he could to give the right hon. Gentleman the opportunity he desired. He recognized the value of the suggestion that if he, in the short time now at their disposal, could not succeed in preparing a scheme that would be satisfactory to himself and the Treasury, they should then fall back on the tariff suggested by his right hon. Friend, and see whether that could not be adopted. But it had taken the late Government two years to prepare their tariff, now under discussion, and it was hardly to be expected that in about as many days 1876 he should be able to prepare an alternative one. He reminded hon. Members that he took objection formerly, not to the tariff, but to the abolition of free addresses. He had said that whatever was suggested the addresses should be free. He was still of that opinion, and that the abrogation of free addresses would be a very serious loss and inconvenient. The right hon. Gentleman had again spoken of the introduction of 6d. telegrams. But the Bill would do nothing of the kind. It would introduce an 8d., a 9d., or a 10d. telegram. No doubt that would be a very good and useful diminution; but he protested against it being spoken of as a Sixpenny Telegram Bill. As to the outlay, the right hon. Gentleman was aware that it was not the practice in the Office to prepare Estimates for three or four years in advance. When he came to inquire into the question on the basis of the increased business which the right hon. Gentleman himself anticipated, he found that it was calculated that at the end of three or four years an outlay of about £1,000,000 for underground wires and other matter would have to be incurred. That was the statement he had before him, and it came upon him with great surprise; but he never supposed or suggested that the right hon. Gentleman was in possession of those figures when he made his statement to the House. He thought it well, however, when the question arose as to proceeding with the Bill in the' present Parliament to state the facts to the House.
desired to refer to one or two observations of the noble Lord the Postmaster General. The noble Lord had told them that he did not mean to remove the Telegraph Bill from the Order Book, but that he left it open to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Beading (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) to take charge of it; although, at the same time, he would not afford him any facilities for doing so. Well, that was the precise course which the Government in "another place" had told them they intended to take with respect to the Secretary for Scotland Bill. Now, ho should say that that was a very bad course. As to the Scotch Secretary Bill, he thought the House ought to be told specifically whether the Bill was to be pressed by the Government, or was to be given up when 1877 they came forward to ask hon. Members to give up all their time to the Government.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH)
explained that the hon. Member was under a mistake as to the statement of Lord Salisbury. When the Secretary for Scotland Bill reached the House of Commons the Government would take it up, and in the other House the Government would afford it every facility.
said, that was so far satisfactory. As to the Telegraph Bill, he thought the proposals of the noble Lord and the ground for abandoning it were not adequate. It did appear to him a very questionable policy to render useless an annual income of £75,000 for the purpose of avoiding a future possible expenditure of £1,000,000 which, however, would only be required in the event of our developing an enormous, but a paying, increase of business in that Department. As to the Secretary for Scotland Bill, it would have been very advantageous to the House had they been told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer what the Government proposed to do with that measure. There was no use shutting one's eyes to the fact that there were two opinions with regard to one point in it—namely, whether the Minister for Scotland should have charge of the system of primary education in Scotland or not. He (Dr. Cameron) was under the impression that the difficulty in the Cabinet as to making up their minds on the subject was one of the objects which had actuated them in leaving charge of the Bill in the House of Lords to Lord Rosebery. Now that the Government meant to take it up in the House of Commons themselves, he (Or. Cameron) trusted they would tell the House whether they intended to deal with it in the manner it was supported by some of their (the Government's) Friends in that House and "elsewhere," or in the spirit advocated by others of their Party. Upon the information which the House should receive on this point would depend the fact whether the measure introduced by the Government would be regarded as of a contentious character or not. The right hon. Gentleman(Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) was aware, no doubt, that there was considerable difference of opinion as to whether the Secretary for 1878 Scotland should he intrusted with the charge of primary education; but Lord Rosebery supported that view in the other House of Parliament and in Scotland. The Bill had been introduced by the late Government in various shapes, and they were driven to accept it in its present form in consequence of their inability to make progress with it when education was left out of it altogether. Considerably less difficulty would be felt if the Bill were adopted by the Government in its present shape, pure and simple, than if they attempted to cut and carve it, or excise from it a provision which was regarded by a large section of the people of Scotland as its most valuable one. As respected the Crofters' Bill, the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone) had stated that he regarded it as necessary for the preservation of peace in Scotland. Well, some legislation on the subject he (Dr. Cameron) believed was necessary—absolutely necessary—for the preservation of the peace in the Highlands, unless they were to have constant recourse to military expeditions to that part of the country. But if anyone imagined that the Crofters' Bill introduced by the late Government would have been accepted as a final settlement of the question, the sooner such an idea was banished the better. He was not particularly sorry that the Bill should have been dropped, although if it had been persevered with he would have given it his hearty support. The fact of its having been dropped would create a terrible amount of indignation in the Highlands of Scotland, and would rouse that feeling to which expression had been already given in many places that the measure on the Table of the House was utterly inadequate for the purpose which it professed to accomplish, and that the next Parliament must deal with the matter in a much stronger fashion. He had no doubt that the effect would be to educate the candidates before the constituencies up to a robustness in dealing with land questions which was unknown to the present Parliament. Therefore he would say that his regret at the abandonment of this Bill was not altogether un-mingled with hope for the future. The measure was a small one, and would have been chiefly valuable because it would place on the Statute Book a certain great and valuable principle. It was 1879 gone, but at all events this remained of it—that the introduction of that principle on the Statute Book had been sanctioned by the great Liberal Party when in power, and that its introduction in a more practical, workable, and valuable form, and its being placed in the Statute Book in that form, could not, in his opinion, be much longer deferred. He trusted they might receive some further information and some assurance from the Government that should their Party remain in power after the next Election they would deal with the matter, and that in a spirit which would justify the words of a Member of the Government, that the Bill had been put aside not from any dislike of it, but from a desire to facilitate in some near time in the future the introduction of a Bill which would be really worthy of Parliament, and of the important question which it was designed to settle.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, that it was impossible to over-estimate the importance of doing something to settle the Crofter Question—an importance which had been added to by the agitation in the Highlands, and by the Report of the Royal Commission. Now, as far as he could gather, the present Government objected to going on with the measure on the ground that there was no finality about the Bill, and also because it should be dealt with by the next Parliament, when the crofters would be represented by their own Members. He admitted that the Bill was not one that could be regarded as final. There was certainly one important point that was not dealt with in the Bill—namely, the demand of the crofters for an extension of their holdings. But if the matter were put off till the next Parliament, and if the present Government found themselves in the majority, would they then be prepared to bring in a Crofters' Bill that would be final in that sense, and would contain a provision with that object in view? He hoped the Government would reconsider the matter, and that they might be able to make arrangements to go on with the Crofters' Bill. He also wished to know what course the Government intended to take in regard to the Burgh Police and Health (Scotland) Bill, which was now before a Select Committee of the House of Lords? He desired further to ask the Government 1880 whether they could state how they proposed to deal with the Scotch Universities Bill, a measure of very great importance? Certainly, many objections had been taken to the financial portion of that Bill, and there were also objections to other parts of the measure; but these might possibly be got over, and it would be very acceptable if the Government could see their way to forward that Bill with the necessary modifications and Amendments.
§ THE LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. DALRYMPLE)
said, he must demur to the expression the hon. Member who had just sat down had used as to the abandonment of the Crofters' Bill by Her Majesty's Government. That was not a correct description of what had occurred. The question had been of the adoption of the Bill of the late Government; but there was no abandonment. For his own part, he wished it could have been possible for the Government to have seen its way to take up this Bill, and he was yet in hopes that they might see a Bill dealing with this question under the discussion of the House this Session, as the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the late Government had stated that he intended to push forward the subject. Before passing to the other subjects mentioned, he would refer to the speech made by the hon. Member for Carlow (Mr. Macfarlane), who on this occasion posed as the friend of the Crofters' Bill. He (Mr. Dalrymple) held the hon. Member was chiefly responsible for the impression that the Crofters' Bill would be strongly opposed, not merely by the Amendment upon the Paper, but because of the tone ho had adopted all through in reference to the subject, which appeared to indicate that he would oppose the measure on the ground that it did not go far enough. That being so, it would not do for the hon. Member to profess regret at the fate of the Bill, when the hon. Member, as much as any man in the House, had been responsible for the delay in reference to legislation. His hon. Friend (Mr. Buchanan) had referred to the Burgh Police Bill. He was very glad that his hon. Friend was so much interested in the progress of that Bill; but he recollected that he was not as favourable to it last Session as he seemed to be now. That Bill was now before a Select Committee of the House of Lords, which had thought right to 1881 take evidence from some of the burghs interested. After that, the Bill, as he understood, would be turned out in some amended form; but whether it would be possible to proceed with it this Session or not he could not say. Although the Bill was of enormous proportions, he should be glad if it were possible to deal with it this Session, as there was much in it of extreme value to Scotland. He also believed that many of the objections raised to it last year had now been removed. A widespread interest, he knew, was also taken in the Scotch Universities Bill, and his right hon. Friend the Home Secretary would be extremely glad to have the opinion of the Scotch Members as to that measure; and if it was true, as he was inclined to believe, that the points of contention in regard to it had become few in number, he still entertained a hope that the Bill might pass this Session. That, however, would really depend on the attitude taken by the Scotch Members.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
said, he felt bound to vindicate the hon. Member for Carlow from the charge of throwing obstacles in the way of proper legislation in regard to the Scotch Crofters. The hon. Member had taken immense pains and trouble on that question for years past, his exertions having done more than those of any other man to bring about the appointment of the Royal Commission which had inquired into the subject.
§ MR. WOODALL
said, he must protest against the arrangement by which it was proposed to sacrifice the rights of private Members, especially in respect to the Wednesdays. He had had the good fortune to secure one of those days for bringing forward the subject of women's suffrage, which was no longer a Patty question; and ho appealed to the noble Lord the present Postmaster General, who had so consistently supported a measure for the removal of the disabilities of women householders, to assist him in obtaining an opportunity for the discussion of that important proposal. He hoped that before the close of the Session an opportunity would be afforded to the House of expressing its opinion on this important question. He admitted the force of what had been said by the Leader of the House, and that this subject was still one of a contentious character. If he could not secure next Wednesday week for a dis- 1882 cussion, he trusted that another opportunity would be found.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON,
in rising to move, as an Amendment—That this House, not having confidence in the present responsible advisers of Her Majeety, declines to entrust the Government with the disposal of the time of the House,said, that in no place were men more friendly and kindly disposed in giving up rights than in the House of Commons, and that disposition was shown by the attitude of the Liberal Party on this occasion. The late Prime Minister had said that it was not right to thwart the Government before they had done either good or evil. But he contended that it was an evil to be a Tory, and it was a great evil that a Tory Government should have the welfare of the country in their hands. Of course ho had, to use a vulgar expression, brought on this question "on his own hook." No one had incited him to do so, and he did not know whether anybody was going to support him, or 'even second him; but he trusted that an independent Liberal, one who really was a Representative of the people, would do so. He knew from the cheers behind him that the Irish Members were not going to support him. It was said that he ought to have waited till he knew what the policy of the new Government was to be. But he knew their policy perfectly well. He had watched them for five years, and he had read almost all their speeches. Everybody ought to know what their policy was. He was sure that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be surprised that he was the person to bring forward this Motion, for what was it that stirred the arm of the right hon. Gentleman when he overthrew the late Government? It was the beer interest and the Radical teetotaler. Now, the right hon. Gentleman met the Radical teetotaler face to face. He thought the House of Commons stood in a very peculiar position politically, for, contrary to all established maxims, the minority were in power, and the majority were in Opposition. His hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Courtney) had last winter preached a crusade in favour of the representation of minorities; but nobody would say that it was desirable the minority should rule. It was proper that the majority should rule; and as 1883 the majority were on the Liberal side of the House, he contended that the majority should be true to their Party and to their principles, and assume the Government of the country. He presumed the Tory Party were what they had always said they were. Ho had heard no Liberal speaker get up and say that it was the duty of Liberals to keep a Tory Administration in power; and therefore he had been obliged to look in the daily Press to see what the reasons were why a majority of Liberals were called upon to support a minority of Tories in power. He had not seen any arguments in favour of that proposition; but in Tie Daily News of that morning he saw a very strong argument against it. The Daily News said that the Tories had no moral right to be in power, and they scarcely had any technical right. If that were the case, surely he had the right to attack the Government. It was said the late Government had ridden for a fall. It certainly looked very like it. It was funny that one man should have caught a cold, that another should have lost the train, that a third should have got wet—outside, of course—and that a fourth did not know a division was going on. But there was no proof of actual collusion, though the removal of the late Government did remind him of the verdict which was once found by an intelligent Dorsetshire jury—"That the deceased died by the visitation of God under very suspicious circumstances." It was said the Tories came into Office because the Liberals were unable to form a Government. The recent negotiations between the late and the present Prime Minister showed that was not the reason. It would be much nearer the mark to say that the Tories took Office because they thought that if they did not the late Prime Minister might be prevailed upon to return. There were people who considered it only just that the Tories should stew in their own juice. That might be desirable, but he was afraid that they would stew somebody else. Other people contended that it was only fair the Tories should have a chance as well as the Liberals. That would be an excellent argument if politics were merely a game of cricket got up for the amusement of the public outside. But he took a more serious view of politics, of which, in his view, to use the 1884 words of Mr. Disraeli, the sole duty was to provide for the social welfare of the people. The two great curses of the country were lighting and drinking—fighting abroad and drinking at home. So far as he had read, the Tories would do little to counteract those tendencies; and, speaking politically and not personally, he feared that the Government would be a fighting and a drinking Administration. The country that had fighting abroad and drinking at home would never enjoy the blessings of prosperity. He hoped some independent Liberal would get up and explain why they ought to support the Government. He did not like the aspect of a case of harmony which the House presented at this time, and to his mind it indicated that there was something wrong. If the Tories had not changed their policy—and he did not think that they had in their hearts—then it was the duty of those who sat on the Opposition side of the House not to support them, but to oppose them, and to displace them at the earliest opportunity. There could be no appeal to the country until about the middle of November, and that was given as a reason why the Tory Government should not be disturbed. In his opinion, that was the very reason why they ought to disturb them, because alter the House rose in August hon. Members would have no control whatever over the Government, who would be able to do anything they liked. Knowing what the last Tory Government did, he was not disposed to leave them to themselves for three months. He might be told that he could do no good by pursuing that kind of argument, because there was no Government to take the place of the present Tory Government. He knew nothing about that; but he was quite sure that if they could turn out the present Government, Providence would provide a new one somewhere or other, and it would probably be a much better one than the last Liberal Government. For the majority to keep a Party in power from whom it professed to differ was a most undesirable, and, he might almost say, an unusual state of things, and went far towards making representative institutions a farce. He would not further detain the House, but would conclude by moving the Amendment which stood in his name.
§ MR. HEALY
I rise to a point of Order. I wish to draw your attention, Sir, to the fact that on a former occasion, when a Motion was made by the late Government to take certain days, my hon. Friend the Member for Athlone (Mr. Sheil) objected to particular days being taken; and the rule was then laid down by the Chair that on the Motion to take days no Motion after the word "That" could be proposed. My hon. Friend was therefore ruled to be out of Order. The hon. Baronet the Member fur Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) now proposes to move a Vote of Want of Confidence on the proposal of the Government to appropriate certain days; and I myself cannot see on this occasion any distinct difference between the Motion submitted now and the Motion of my hon. Friend, which on the occasion I have referred to was ruled to be out of Order. I wish to ask, therefore, whether, according to the ruling of the Chair in the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Athlone (Mr. Sheil), who desired to exempt from the operation of the Resolution proposed by the late Government a Motion in reference to the Irish National Schoolmasters, the hon. Baronet is not out of Order in submitting the Amendment which he has just proposed?
§ MR SPEAKER
Before I reply to the question of the hon. Member a preliminary question arises—namely, whether the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson) has a Seconder?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Amendment of the hon. Baronet is not on the face of it an Amendment which may be called a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Government; but it indicates that in the opinion of the hon. Baronet the Government are not such as he can trust with the distribution of the Business of the House in the way they propose so far as the interests of private Members are concerned. There is nothing on the face of the Amendment, so far as I can see, which raises any difficulty, or anything to warrant me in debarring the hon. Baronet from moving it.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House not having confidence in the present responsible advisers of Her Majesty, de-
clines to entrust the Government with the disposal of the time of the House,"—(Sir Wilfrid Lawson,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
MR. JESSE COLLTNGS
said, he wished to express his acknowledgments to the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the position he had taken up with regard to the Medical Relief Bill. He also shared the feelings of the Radical section of the House is regard to statements made by the right hon. Baronet as to other questions. Two sections of the House must have had their feelings somewhat mixed during the delivery of the right hon. Baronet's speech. He referred to the old Conservative section and the old Whig Party. He fancied that these sections hardly know where they were, or whether they existed at all, when listening to the right hon. Baronet; and they must have been very much astonished, he would not say at the Radical state of things, but at the most revolutionary state of things which existed on the Treasury Bench. The Radical section of the Hous3 had cause for great thankfulness that the present occupants of the Ministerial Bench had cleared away very many of the difficulties which afflicted Members on the Opposition side of the House; and when the Liberal Government did come back to Office, it must be with a Radical policy, or not at all. He was a long way from being downcast at the existing state of things, because the Liberal Government would be able to come back with a lean slate with regard to many matters which had embarrassed them. All things worked together for the good of those who held sound Radical principles, and would persevere in them. If the state of things which had lasted for the past three weeks would teach anything to future Liberal Governments, it was this—that they must inside the House, as they would, no doubt, outside the House during the next few months, trust to their own real supporters, and not be led away by the loud claims and the fancy and fictitious strength which the so-called Whig Party had advanced. He was quite sure that a Whig policy could not be possible in the future. He 1887 had had a great deal of experience so far as the rural constituencies were concerned—
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must call the hon. Member to Order, and remind him that his remarks are not relevant to the subject of the Amendment.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, he begged to apologize to Mr. Mayor. [Laughter.] He assured Mr. Speaker that in this mistake he did not intend to be disrespectful. He would only add that he simply rose to express his acknowledgments to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the manner in which he had dealt with the question of medical relief and other matters, and to say that, as far as the Radical section of the House was concerned, they were not at all dismayed by the course which events had taken.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, he very much regretted that, in consequence of the observations which had fallen from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and his noble Friend the Secretary of State for India, it was absolutely impossible to allow the discussion to close without saying something on behalf of persons who, like himself, felt strongly that neither Party in that House had done its duty to Ireland in respect of the Crimes Prevention Act. Whatever might have been the statement made by the late Government before going out of Office, or which had been made to-night by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), all must come to the conclusion that the renewal of the Crimes Act had been practically abandoned by the late Government. If they had had any real intention to renew the Act, it was idle to suppose that they would have played with the subject as they had done during the Session. So much for the late Government. But what was the announcement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) that night on behalf of the present Government? Had he told the House that the Government had consulted, as they were bound to do, the leading authorities who were capable of giving them information and advice before they took upon themselves such a grave responsibility? Nothing of the kind. Neither from the statement made in that House that night, nor from the statement made "elsewhere," was it pos- 1888 sible to come to the conclusion that, in this most serious matter, they were acting upon the advice of persons competent to give it. Was this a question on which the Government were entitled to act upon their abstract judgment, or was the possession of Office for the last week or 10 days, during which the Chief Secretary had made two journeys to Ireland, staying in Dublin for a few hours on each occasion, enough to convince them that they could do without the Crimes Act? Or were they making one of those "leaps in the dark" for which Conservative Ministries had been too famous in times past? What had been the one cry heard in the House and out of the House, on every platform of the United Kingdom during the last few years by the Conservative Leaders, but a condemnation by them, in the most extreme terms, of the late Government for their conduct in 1880 in relying upon the ordinary law for the preservation of life and property in Ireland? The result of that reliance, as admitted by the late Government, was a disastrous failure. And now the House was told by the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Ministerial Bench that the present Government had taken the same course advisedly. Surely the same result would follow from that fatuous proceeding as followed from the action of the late Government. They ought to have considered, before adopting such a course, the lives that might be sacrificed, the property that might be destroyed, for which there was no ransom and no recompense. In Ireland, within the last six weeks, there had been the dreadful murder of Cash-man, near Millstreet, in the County Cork, and though the murder had been committed in broad daylight there had been no conviction for the crime. A week or so before The Freeman's Journal described a dastardly crime committed in the neighbourhood of Tullamore, when a party of men went to the house of a caretaker and fired revolvers at him. And so late as the 16th of June The Times contained an extreme case of Boycotting, and another attack by armed men near Killarney. What did the Chancellor of the Exchequer say when justifying the course of the Government? He said—"We object to such legislation unless we are assured that it is necessary for the protection of life and 1889 property." That was an abstract proposition which they all understood; but the policy of the Government ought to depend, not upon abstract propositions, but upon the history and experience of the last few years. It should be remembered that there was a considerable responsibility on the present Government for acting regardless of the views of their Predecessors, as there was on the late Government for having done the same. It was true that they had not now the powerful letter of Lord Beacons-field to the Duke of Marlborough; but they had the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, when Prime Minister, getting up in his place and telling the House that it was necessary to renew some of the valuable and equitable provisions of the Prevention of Crime Act. Could anyone doubt that that was a conclusion opposed to the wishes and the political prospects of the right hon. Gentleman, who would have been delighted if, as a responsible Minister, he could have informed the House, after an experience of five years in Ireland, that he had come to the conclusion that it would be safe, in the interests of law and order, to allow the Act to expire? Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer went on to say that the present Government relied upon the general feeling in Ireland, owing to the change of Government. Now, he had read, during the last month, many speeches of Irish Members; and he was bound to say that their maledictions and denunciations were most impartially applied to Whig and Tory alike, to the Government that was, and the Government that had been. Unless he was greatly mistaken, there was not the smallest ground for the assertion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that, because a Tory Government had come into power, there would be a greater disposition on the part of the disorderly classes in Ireland to respect life and property. The right hon. Gentleman would very soon find himself disabused. For a long time past the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India (Lord Randolph Churchill) had openly expressed the opinion that it was for the interests of the Conservative Party that coercion should be thrown overboard, and that a good system of local government should be given to Ireland in order to win the affections of the Nationalists.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOB INDIA (Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL)
The hon. Gentleman says that I have expressed these opinions openly. Will he oblige by quoting the particular passage in which I have done so?
§ MR. LEWIS
said, he did not bring passages with him; but if the noble Lord told them ho had never said anything of the sort he would apologize and withdraw. But the noble Lord knew perfectly well that he openly, in and out of the House, had advocated opinions as to Irish affairs directly opposite to those held by the majority of the Conservative Party. If the present Government were to be maintained in power by the repetition, even on a small scale, of the Kilmainham Treaty, he thought the Conservatives of the country would have preferred that the Conservative Party should not have entered into power at all. What was the position of those who maintained that the Crimes Act should not be allowed to expire? They said that the perpetrators of the Phoenix Park murders and of other atrocious crimes would never have been discovered had the Act not given magistrates the power to hold inquiries without having the prisoners before them. It was only by the operation of the clause conferring that power, and of some other clauses of the Act, that the administration of justice was rendered possible after the time when witnesses refused to give evidence and juries would not convict. The clauses to which he referred were not coercive; they were clauses requisite for the due administration of justice. If the abstention of the Government from renewing these clauses resulted in a repetition of the deplorable events which took place after the accession of the late Government to Office, Her Majesty's present Advisers would not be able to plead as an excuse that there was no time in which to pass a Bill this Session. They would not be able to do so because they had shown no desire at all to submit the matter to the House. They surrendered this legislation, in fact, because they thought that there was no necessity for it, and that they could rely on the ordinary law. No one would be more pleased than himself if the view of the Government should turn out to be right. No one would wish the Government more fervently "God speed." The Government did not say they were 1891 acting on the advice of those who were the permanent Irish officials, and who were best able to know the requirements of Ireland. On the contrary, it was a well-known fact that the advice of those officials was that the Prevention of Crime Act should be renewed. Supposing the Conservatives had still been in the cold shade of Opposition instead of occupying the distinguished Treasury Benches, and the late Government had proposed not to re-introduce a Crimes Bill or to renew the Crimes Act, what would have been said from the Front Conservative Bench? Why, the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) and his Colleagues would have been going from Dan to Beersheba condemning the conduct of the wicked Government of 1885. lie represented an independent constituency, which desired that on all such subjects he should act free from mere Party views. He know it was not a popular thing for a man to stand up when a new Ministry had come into power and stand aside from his own Party.
§ MR. LEWIS
said, that those who knew him knew that ho did not attempt to curry favour with any Party, and that what his constituents expected from him and received was 1he expression of honest opinion. Unfortunately, the small minority whom he represented had nothing to thank Her Majesty's Government for. He contended that, inasmuch as the late Prime Minister expressed the opinion, when sitting on the Front Treasury Bench, that it was necessary to renew the Crimes Act, the judgment of the House should have been sought on this important question. It was the duty of the Government to face any difficulty arising out of the situation, and to propose the necessary measures—it was all that they could do—for the protection of life and property in Ireland.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
remarked that misfortune made strange bedfellows. He certainly never thought that he should arrive at the same conclusion with the hon. Gentleman who spoke last; but he entirely agreed with him so far as to feel an entire want of confidence in Her Majesty's present Advisers. It was perfectly true they had arrived at that conclusion by different roads, for the hon. 1892 Gentleman opposite complained of (he abandonment of the Crimes Act, while he himself considered that the only bright spot in the present juncture was that they had both the present and the late Government insisting that they hated, abominated, and abhorred the hateful incidents of a Coercion Bill. He was very much surprised at the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, though he had observed that whenever a Ministry came into Office, the outgoing Ministry considered it a point of etiquette to praise and laud them as much as they could. He was surprised, too when the right hon. Gentleman had said that the House had decided against his Government. The House never decided anything of the sort, though there was a sort of snap division. Some Gentlemen on that occasion had headaches, some missed their trains, and one said he was wet; but it was only by a mere accident that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian found himself in a minority. The right hon. Gentleman had said they ought to act in a conciliatory spirit, because they had consented to the arrangement which had placed hon. Gentlemen opposite in power. But he really was not aware that the House had ever had the chance of expressing its opinion on the subject. The hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Law-son) had moved an Amendment which he considered an excellent one. He was a Radical, and believed it to be part of the duty of a Radical Member of the House to keep hon. Gentlemen opposite out of power when they were not in power, and to turn them out when they were is. Why should they have confidence in the present Government? The country had sent a Liberal majority to Parliament at the last Election because it had no confidence in the Gentlemen who formed the present Administration. They were in power for five or six years; but during that time they committed so many mistakes that they left the country in a pretty muddle. Cries of"Oh!"] That was the opinion of the country at the last Election, or how was it that hon. Gentlemen opposite found themselves then in a minority? Why should that opinion of the country be reversed? Hon. Gentlemen opposite had never lost an opportunity of bringing forward Votes of 1893 Want of Confidence in the late Ministry. What did they say of things abroad? They said a little while ago, when they heard that war was not going to break out with Russia, that it was terrible news; and the present Prime Minister spoke of Russia, a country with which this country ought to endeavour to live amicably, as either a bankrupt or a swindler. [Cries of "No!"] Well, of course he spoke of it as a commercial illustration. How, then, was it possible to have confidence in these Gentlemen FO far as foreign affairs were concerned? When the late Government proposed proper and legitimate taxes hon. Gentlemen opposite, without bringing forward any counter scheme, voted against those taxes. How, then, could they have confidence in their management of internal affairs? Let them look at the composition of the Cabinet. No doubt the individuals in it were able and wise; but no less than 13 Members of the Government were Peers, or the sons of Peers. Let it go out to the country that that was the outcome of their Tory Democracy—that a simple Committee of the aristocracy, representing a majority in the House of Lords and a minority in the House of Commons, were to be the Rulers and Governors of the country for goodness knew how many months. What had hon. Gentlemen done to inspire the House with confidence during the past crisis? The first tiling they did was to quarrel among themselves, and the next episode was to attack their own Leader, and drive him into the House of Lords. They next demanded specific guarantees from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian as a condition of their taking Office. Those guarantees were not given, and yet these hon. Gentlemen were on the Treasury Bench. It was perfectly true that while Parliament was sitting the House could exercise some sort of control over the Government. The Liberal majority in the House were a Committee of Public Safety, and it was their business to see that the Government did not carry out their own political views, but those of the majority. But the proposal made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer was that the Government should have facilities fur finishing off the Session as soon as possible; but on occasions like the present the Members of the House ought to sacrifice their pleasures and sit there 1894 until November. For what might nottake place during the four months between August and November? During that time the Ministers in power would be absolutely without control, and he would ask reasonable men whether they ought to leave such power in the hands of men in whom they had no confidence? He did not know if his hon. Friend intended to divide the House. [Sir WILFRID LAWSON: Certainly.] He was very glad to hear it, for he considered it, to be their bounden duty either at once to turn the present Government out, or at least not to give them facilities to finish the Session, and to make the interregnum as short as they possibly could, and to remain in the House as a Committee of Public Safety, and keep a watch over hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
said, that it was not his place to answer the speech of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). Still, he must congratulate him on his very appropriate comparison of the Opposition to a Committee of Public Safety. He rose, however, to express a free and independent opinion on the Irish policy of the Government. No one who knew him would, he thought, accuse him of having attempted to conceal his opinion of the late Government for having allowed Ireland to lapse into the state of anarchy into which it fell. He had expressed his opinion pretty freely at many meetings which he had attended in England. He was one of those who was the first to congratulate the Government, when at last they had the courage to grasp the nettle boldly; but he was never one of those who believed that Ireland could be kept in order for ever by means of drastic measures of coercion alone, or that coercion would be permanently necessary to secure peace and order in that country. He did not think he had made a single speech during the whole of the time when the matter was under discussion in which he did not express his confidence in the noble qualities of his countrymen, and his belief that after the time of excitement had passed away, and the wave of agitation had ebbed, they would be found to be as peaceable and law-abiding as any people in the United Kingdom. Whether that time had now come was, of course, a matter of opinion. He bad himself lived in one of the most disturbed districts in the 1895 country. During the whole of the disturbed time he and his family lived there in peace with their neighbours; they did not run away, and they had not been interfered with. They stayed at home, and spent money among the people, and he was prepared to do the same when Her Majesty's Government dropped the Coercion Act and resolved to govern the country by the ordinary law, though if anyone was to suffer in consequence he was the most likely man. He would go back, however, with an undiminished sense of security and a greater sense of enjoyment than before. He did not believe the Irish people thought the worse of him, though he did not much care whether they did or not, for having had the courage to speak out against them and their leaders when the country was in a state bordering on civil war, and he did not believe they would think the worse of him when he said he thought they might be trusted without a Coercion Act. He believed that the people were weary of outrages—that the leaders who led them on to crime had mostly left the country, and that those who remained were mistrusted, and that the people would be glad of the opportunity of living in obedience to the laws of humanity, reason, and religion. There was no doubt an undercurrent of conspiracy; but the returns of crime did not show any necessity for a drastic measure of coercion. Therefore it was that he thought the present a favourable opportunity of offering them the right of living as people ought to be allowed to live in a free country. If it should, unfortunately, be proved that he was wrong the Government could still return to the Coercion Act. Force was only necessary as a remedy where there was disease; and he did not believe in continually drenching a man who was in perfectly good health because the doctor happened to be called in.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY (Sir WILLIAM HART DYKE)
Sir, I hope I may be permitted to say a few words before the debate closes, and they will be only a few words; for although the debate has travelled over a great deal of ground it would be unbecoming in me to follow it closely. I think that for any man undertaking an Office as arduous as my own he could find no better tonic to brace his nerves than to 1896 listen to criticism such as I have heard from my hon. Friend behind me the Member for Derry (Mr. Lewis). He is, it seems, rather hard to please. He is satisfied with no Government—neither the past nor the present. He joins with myself and many others in dissatisfaction with the Irish policy of the late Government. At this hour I will not discuss that policy, except to say, as I have often said, that during the disastrous time which led to the Crimes Act which has been so much discussed to-night, I am of opinion, and many of my hon. Friends beside me are of opinion, that an efficient and energetic administration of the ordinary law might have prevented the necessity for that Act. With reference to the case as it now stands, my hon. Friend the Member for Derry has brought a serious charge against the present Government. He says that they propose to take the most serious step that any Executive could take without due consideration, or without having taken due steps to investigate the facts of the ease. My hon. Friend has alluded to some journey of mine to Dublin and back, and has announced to the House of Commons that this is the hurried and scamping way in which a new Government just returned to power deals with vast and difficult problems. I am afraid he is not quite accurate as to the facts. Yesterday week I left London for Dublin, returning from Dublin on the Friday night following; and, so far from the facts urged by my hon. Friend having any semblance of truth, I am bound to tell him from the time I left England on the Monday till the time I returned on the Friday the one thing uppermost in my thoughts, and in which my investigations were steadily pursued, was the endeavour to find out the position of Ireland exactly in regard to the state of crime, and the necessity or otherwise of renewing the Crimes Act. My hon. Friend forgets that there is, at all events, a vast amount of information for any willing man with reference to the state of affairs in Ireland. I have been in daily and constant communication with a much respected Member of this House who has gone to '' another place," the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, in regard to this and other matters. I also received intelligence from some of the ablest men in Ireland in reference to these matters; and it was 1897 after due consultation with them, and due investigation of the facts, that I, for one, came to the conclusion that it would be for the benefit of Ireland that the Crimes Act should not be renewed. My hon. Friend seems to think that we are not aware of the responsibility under which we find ourselves. I say most freely to the House that there is no man who feels the weight of responsibility more than I do. It is a great matter for any man to deal with; and with regard to Ireland, I feel that I have some special interest in the country, for it is now 30 years since I paid a visit to Ireland, and on all matters connected with Ireland I feel most strongly that if the great mass of the English people, and especially the middle classes of Englishmen, were more interested in Irish questions and took a deeper interest in the success and welfare of the country we should be able to deal with Ireland in a more practical, just, and successful manner. I do not intend to detain the House longer on this point; but there is one question referred to by the hon. Member for Derry to which I should like to allude. He compared the time when the late Government came into power in 1880 with the present time; but I contend that there is no strict comparison between 1880 and now as to the condition of Ireland. In 1880 there were, no doubt, signs of growing discontent and difficulties in Ireland. The letter of Lord Beaconsfield has been referred to; I pass it by; but I say that the state of affairs, so far as I have been able to learn them, during the past week or 10 days is entirely different from that time. Having taken the greatest pains to investigate the matter, I maintain that there is no parallel between the state of affairs now and the state of affairs in 1880. I will give a practical reason for not detaining the House longer. However anxious a man may be to fulfil the duties of the post which I have the honour to hold, he would show a want of common sense if he were to attempt to discuss the difficult and complex problems connected with the future government of Ireland. I yield to no man in this House in my honest desire and hope for a better future as to the condition of Ireland. So long as I hold this Office I shall consider it as of very little importance, almost as a drop in the ocean, what may 1898 happen to me or to my reputation, as to whether I am successful or not, compared with the vast and difficult problems to be solved as to the future condition and prosperity of that country.
§ SIR FARRER HERSCHELL
remarked that he and his hon. Friends who sat on that side of the House had been much gratified to hear the speech which had jus 'been delivered by the Chief Secretary for Ireland. It had long been insisted upon by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that when the late Government took over the administration of Irish affairs, after it had been exercised for five or six years by the Government of the Earl of Beaconsfield, it was in such a condition that it was absolutely criminal for the new Government, as one of their first acts, in 1880, not to have brought in a Coercion Bill for Ireland. Since 1880 there had been five years of Office by a Liberal Government; and according to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman opposite the condition of Ireland had been so completely changed, and was so different from what it was then, that it was now positively criminal for any Government to bring in a Coercion Bill. He wished to ask the House what could be more gratifying as a contrast between five years of Tory and five years of Liberal Government? What had been the cause of that difference? The Liberal Government had introduced, during the present Parliament, not only a Coercion Bill, but remedial measures, dealing with the improvement of land tenure in Ireland. The House had been told by hon. Gentlemen opposite that those measures were of no use for the pacification of Ireland. They wore told that, although they might bring in the best Land Bill which it was possible to construct, Ireland would be as rebellious as ever, and would require repressive legislation just as much as before. Now, however, they had the confession of those who had succeeded the Liberal Government, when they came into the calm sense of responsibility, and examined into the real condition of Ireland, how mistaken they had been. How often had they heard from Members of the Conservative Party, and especially from the present Lord Chancellor of Ireland, that coercion was absolutely necessary? And yet, now that a Conservative Government came to inquire into 1899 the real condition of Ireland, they said it was not the Prevention of Crime Act which had pacified Ireland, and that no coercion was necessary for the pacification of Ireland, but that the legislative measures which had been passed by the late Government had produced such a change in the condition of the country that no repressive legislation was now necessary. That change of view could not fail to be most gratifying to those who had always been of opinion that the best remedy for Irish wrongs was remedial legislation to remove those wrongs and to redress existing evils. Liberal Members were confirmed in their views by what had taken place that evening. They had learned that their contention was successful, and that the result of their legislation had been to render a Coercion Bill unnecessary. He would remind the House, however, that whenever Liberals pointed out that the Land Act had produced a pacifying effect they were told that the pacification was due, not to the Land Act, but to the Prevention of Crime Act. Whenever they pointed to remedial legislation as the real source of improvement in Ireland, they were told first of all by hon. Gentlemen opposite that the correctness of that contention might be doubted, and then they were told that it was not the remedial legislation, but if the Prevention of Crime Act ceased to be in force for one moment they would find out their error, and that remedial legislation would be found to have been of no use at all. They now had a recantation of that view, and it was fully admitted that remedial legislation had been-of much use after all. They welcomed hon. Members opposite as converts to 1he view that, after all, remedial legislation was the best means that could be devised for insuring the peace of Ireland.
§ SIR WHITTAKER ELLIS
said, ho felt bound to join issue with the hon. and learned Gentleman the late Solicitor General (Sir Farrer Herschell) in his contention that coercive measures had had nothing to do with the pacification of Ireland. It must not be forgotten that upon the accession of the late Ministry to power they declared that the warning they had received from their Predecessors was futile and unnecessary, and they proceeded at once to allow the existing Acts which had 1900 hitherto been of great service in controlling affairs in Ireland to lapse. But what ho wished to point out, and what he would ask the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just spoken with so much force to recollect, was this—that in the Guildhall of the City of London the Lord Chancellor declared that law and order were to be observed, and that the Government, of which he was a Member, at once refused to enforce law and order by means of the ordinary law, in consequence of which the subsequent confusion in that country was brought about. He maintained that the late Government had been guilty of dereliction of duty in not enforcing the ordinary law, and in allowing a state of anarchy and chaos to be produced. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, who had been a legal functionary of the late Government—[Cries of "Withdraw!"]—contended that it was the remedial legislation, and not coercion, which had produced a satisfactory state of affairs in Ireland. He hoped the remedial legislation would prove as effective as the hon. and learned Member seemed to anticipate; but it must not be forgotten that it was the Prevention of Crime Act which had brought about the existing state of quietude in Ireland. [A laugh] Hon. Members might laugh; but could they deny the fact? Was it not the fact that the quietude of Ireland at the present moment had been created by the measures of coercion which had been passed? He agreed in, and was prepared to accept from the Front Bench, the assurance that the worst thing which could be done for England and Ireland would be to re-enact the Coercion Bill. He had had occasion to speak many times on this question of Ireland, and hon. Members could not find a single instance in which he had not denounced that Coercion Bill. It was the most unjust and oppressive Bill ever enacted in that country. But what he maintained was that if the declaration of the Lord Chancellor on the part of the late Government had been carried out, the Common Law of Ireland would have been quite sufficient to maintain law and order. It must not be forgotten that at a time when Ireland was in a state of disorder the City of London stopped forward, and, with the assent and support of the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. Gladstone), took 1901 measures with regard 1o their own tenantry in the North of Ireland, which were so successful that it was declared that it was the Lord Mayor and Corporation of London who would in future govern Ireland, arid thereupon the late Government took measures for sweeping them away altogether. The hon, and learned Gentleman opposite said it was the remedial legislation of the late Government that had brought about the pacification of Ireland. Now, what was the result of that legislation? He had had a long experience of Ireland, and it had often been said if they only got rid of the middleman Ireland would be happy. The middleman had, indeed, been got rid of; but he had been recreated in another form by the granting of leases for an indefinite term of year, and they would find the middleman stronger than ever. That was a question which had yet to be considered. He unquestionably agreed, however, with the suggestion of the Front Bench, that the Prevention of Crime Act should not be re-enacted. On the whole, he was satisfied that the ordinary law was sufficient to maintain order in Ireland, and he was full of hope that the trust reposed in their Irish fellow-countrymen by the Government would be heartily responded to. Ho was satisfied that the Irish people would decline to raise a flag of violence when they knew that the English people were prepared to received them in a full spirit of friendliness and brotherhood. For those reasons, he was satisfied that it was not necessary to proceed with the Coercion Bill; but it would be a mistake if the Irish people were allowed to believe that the Government would not be prepared to carry out in that country, most thoroughly, the Common Law which ought to govern the Three Kingdoms.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 151; Noes 2: Majority 149.—(Div. List, No. 211.)
Main Question put, and agreed to.
Resolved, That the Committee of Supply have precedence this day of all other business; and that, for the remainder of the Session, including this day, Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motions on Tuesdays, Government Orders having priority; that Government Orders have priority on Wednesdays; and that the Standing Order of the 27th November 1882, relating to Notices on going into Committee of Supply on Monday and Thursday, he extended to Tuesday and Wednesday.