§ Order for Committee read.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON (Essex, Epping)
I beg to propose that the Order be postponed until the 3rd of May.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House will, upon Monday, the 3rd day of May next, resolve itself into the said Committee."—(Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson.)
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
Mr. Speaker, Progress was reported upon this Bill about a week since, and it was then put down for last Thursday. A great many of my Colleagues, at considerable inconvenience to themselves, waited here till a very late hour in order to take part in the discussion of the Bill. Without any explanation, however, being vouchsafed to the Committee, so far as I am aware, by anyone, much less by the right hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), who has charge of the Bill, it was not taken on that evening, but was put down for this evening. And now, very much to my surprise, when it has been reached again this evening, and a considerable number of my Friends and Colleagues have remained here until this advanced hour—until half-past 2 o'olock—without any information or hint whatever, until a few minutes ago, that the Bill was not to be brought on to-night, we are again told that it is proposed that the Bill shall be postponed until the 3rd of May. Now, Sir, what day is the 3rd of May? It is the day upon which the House re-assembles after the Easter Recess. It is very significant that the very day on which the House adjourns for the holidays should have been chosen for this Bill, and then, when that did not for some 144 reason or other suit the promoters of the Bill, the very day on which the House re-assembles should have been chosen. I do not pretend to interpret the motives for these manœuvres; but they are certainly very extraordinary. I do not desire to go into the merits of this Bill—if I did, you would very properly rule me out of Order—but there is a clause in this Bill, and there is an Amendment on the Paper in reference to the Bill, in which the Irish Members are very much interested. I certainly do not think that we have been treated fairly, or candidly, first of all, in the proposition that was made to postpone the Bill until to-night, and now in the proposition to postpone it until the day after the holidays, a day on which it will be utterly impossible for my hon. Colleagues to be here to take part in the discussion, which concerns them very seriously. I do not mean to suggest that to-day was fixed with the idea that most of my hon. Friends would have returned to Ireland, or that the Motion now under consideration was also made with the idea that many of them would not have returned from Ireland. I certainly do not see why we should not go on with the Bill to-night; and if the right hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) refuses to go on with it now, I beg to move that instead of the 3rd of May, Friday, the 20th of August, be selected for the resumption of the Committee stage.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "Monday, the 3rd day of May next," in order to insert the words "Friday, the 20th day of Augustnext,"—(Mr. Parnell,)—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'Monday, the 3rd day of May next,' stand part of the Question."
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON (Essex, Epping)
I have, on more than one occasion lately, heard from the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) insinuations as to my motives in dealing with this question. Well, Sir, I leave the hon. Member and his insinuations on one side, and will merely say that a private Member is bound, when he is in charge of a Bill, to take every opportunity that presents itself of bringing his Bill forward. That has been the only reason which has led me to place the Bill down, 145 as the hon. Member has said, on two or three occasions. On those occasions, as on this, we have not been able to reach the Bill before a very considerable number of Members have been obliged to leave the House. To-night we have had a long and protracted discussion upon the Crofters Bill; and about half-an-hour ago it seemed to me that the hour was so late that I could hardly expect hon. Members to devote any considerable time to the discussion of the measure. Those hon. Gentlemen who are generally supposed to know what the wishes of Members of the House are told me it was too late to hope for any discussion of this question, and I at once sent to the hon. Member who, I believe, represents hon. Members below the Gangway, to say that the hour was too late, and I should not bring the Bill on. I gave him as early a notice of my intention as I gave anybody else. I decided to postpone the Bill solely in the belief that hon. Members were exhausted by the previous discussion, and that it was unreasonable to ask them to enter upon the consideration of a Bill of this kind. On my telling them that it was not my intention to bring on the Bill a number of Friends of mine left the House. Under the circumstances, I have done what I have done before, I have put it down for the first available day. It is the first time I have heard in this House that hon. Members are not expected to be present on all the days on which the House professes to meet. As I have done before, I wish to show now that I, as a private Member in charge of a Bill, am endeavouring to the best of my ability to bring that Bill before the House.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I cannot possibly see any reason why we should not proceed with, the Bill now. We have waited here all this evening solely for the purpose of going on with the Bill. We have, of course, taken part in the divisions with the Scotch Members, endeavouring, so far as we could, to improve the Bill brought in on the Crofter Question; but our main reason for staying here to-night was that we are opposed to the Bill of which the right hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) has charge, Now, Sir, I have no desire whatever to cast any imputations on the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet is anxious 146 to carry the Bill, and to carry it in the form which he thinks is most for the interest of his Party. He finds here tonight a considerable number of Irish Members ready to take part in the discussion of that portion of the Bill which concerns them. Perhaps he finds a fewer number of Members of his own Party present, and, accordingly, the right hon. Baronet proposes to defer the Bill to a time when the Irish Members cannot be here. It is all very well to say hon. Members are expected to be here on every day that the House sits. That, of course, is the theory; but there are days when it is convenient for hon. Members of one section of the House to be absent, and there are days when it is convenient for hon. Members of another section of the House to stay away. I put it to the fairness and justice of the House whether, when we have come to the Irish portion of the Bill, it is right for the right hon. Baronet to postpone the Bill from the night when there is a large attendance of Irish Members to a day when there must be a small attendance of such Members? It is contrary to all the good faith and fair dealing which hon. Members of different sections of the House must observe towards each other if the Business is to proceed smoothly. The right hon. Baronet has got his opportunity. He professes to be extremely anxious that this Bill should go forward, and his excuse for putting it down for the 3rd of May is that it is the duty of a private Member in charge of a Bill to press the Bill forward as best he can. Then let him press it forward now. I ask hon. Members on all sides of the House to support us in our attempt to defeat what my hon. Friend (Mr. Parnell) was perfectly justified in calling the manœuvring in connection with this Bill.
§ MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
I rise to Order. Is it right, Mr. Speaker, for an hon. Member to apply the term "manœuvring" to the action of another hon. Member of the House?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The word "manœuvring" is certainly not out of Order; but it would be out of Order to impute to an hon. Member any unfair motive.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I attribute no unfair motive. I impute to the right hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) a motive he has, in common with every strong Party man, of putting for- 147 ward a Bill in such a manner as would please himself, and would be hostile to those against it; and I say, in that sense, he is manœuvring most skilfully. Now, what are the two proposals before the House? The right hon. Baronet has his opportunity of hurrying forward the Bill by proceeding with it now; but he prefers to postpone it to a day which will be most inconvenient to those hon. Members who are most deeply interested. I think that, under these circumstances, we are entitled to ask the House to postpone the Bill until the 20th of August, when we may have a better chance of considering the measure.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY TO THE LORD LIEUTENANT OF IRELAND (Mr. JOHN MORLEY) (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
I cannot help sympathizing, to a certain extent, with hon. Gentlemen from Ireland in their desire to proceed with the discussion of this Bill, in which they are so much interested, to-night; but I think that we, who are not so interested as they are, and who have been working all night long, ought to be now relieved from further attendance. No one can really think the right hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) is guilty of any unworthy motive. But I may venture to suggest, as a compromise, that he should postpone the Bill until Thursday, May 6. If it is put forward to the 6th, probably hon. Members from Ireland will be in their places by that time, and will be able to take part in the discussion.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I regret to say that the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland will not meet our objection. Our position is a simple one. We might have blocked this Bill; but we did not wish to do so. We allowed it to come on, in the hope that the right hon. Baronet would meet us in regard to the time when it should be taken. It affects Ireland very largely, and we are surely entitled to a fair opportunity of discussing it. Now, Sir, observe what our position is. Many of us would have been able to have gone to Ireland on Saturday but for this Bill being down for tonight, and we have accordingly been kept in town waiting for it for three days. Well, we do not object to that; but now we are asked to come back here again, in order to discuss this Bill, a week before there is any other Irish 148 Business, or any necessity for us to come back. We have no other Business to call us here, and yet this Bill is put down. I do not wish to impute unworthy motive to the right hon. Baronet; but I do not know why he should make such a Motion as this, unless it is to get this Bill through. Of course, it may be a very worthy motive for the right hon. Baronet to desire, by any means whatever, to get his Bill through; but I only wish to point out that he is treating the Irish Members very unfairly in the matter. I would point out to him also that even the Government, when we have been opposing them very bitterly upon questions like the Irish Estimates, have endeavoured to meet our reasonable convenience. If any Member of the Irish Party said that it would be inconvenient to the Irish Party to take the Irish Estimates on any particular night, the Government have always been willing to put them down for some other day. I fail to see why it should be fair or reasonable for a private Member in this House to persue a course which, although he has an interest in the Bill, and however anxious he may be to get it through, is unfair to one class of Members, and is more arbitrary than the course pursued on similar occasions by the Government.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
I have no right to speak again; but if the House will allow me I wish to say, after what has fallen from the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John Morley), I shall be glad to put the Bill down for the Thursday or the Monday following the day on which the House reassembles.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
I allowed the Question to be negatived, in order to fulfil the understanding that I had with hon. Members; and I will now move to insert "the 10th of May."
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Amendment of the right hon. Baronet can only be inserted in the event of the proposition which I have now to put being negatived.
§ Question put, "That the words 'Friday, the 20th day of August next,' be there inserted."149
§ The House divided:—Ayes 80; Noes 77: Majority 3.—(Div. List, No. 86.)
§ Main Question, as amended, put.
§ Committee deferred till Friday 20th August.