§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)
Sir, last night the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister referred me to the ordinary channels of information for a full report of the statement made by him at a certain meeting held yesterday, and he also said in this House that he had stated that—No application would be made to the House to take further steps in the prosecution of the Government of Ireland Bill within the compass of the ordinary Session of Parliament.That was a rather mysterious answer, and on referring to the report this morning of the right hon. Gentleman's speech I find that the right hon. Gentleman himself explained that it was susceptible of two interpretations. One would be to keep the Bill alive for the purpose of proceeding in the autumn with the principal clauses in it; and the other would be to allow the Session to be wound up, and to summon Parliament again on an early day for a fresh Session, and in that fresh Session to reintroduce the Bill with the necessary Amendments. The right hon. Gentleman is reported to have gone on to say that he was "inclined to think that the latter would be the better course." My Question is, which of these two courses do Her Majesty's Government propose to adopt?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE) (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
Sir, the right hon. Gentleman has quoted from a report—which I have no doubt is either perfectly or substantially correct—of the words used by me yesterday, and he has also quoted with perfect accuracy the answer made by me to him yesterday in this House. I did point out yesterday at the Foreign Office that there were two methods by which effect might be given to what we might consider to be our duty in the prosecution of this great subject, consistently with the promise I made as a positive announcement, that we should not, after the second reading, 318 ask the House to take any further steps for the prosecution of the remaining stages of the Bill within the limits of an ordinary Session. One of these methods was reserving the consideration of the Bill in Committee in an Autumn Sitting; and the other method was to allow the Bill to lapse during the present Session and to advise Her Majesty to summon Parliament at a very early period for the purpose of the immediate reintroduction of the Bill. I also stated, and I think I had the authority of my Colleagues for doing so, that we were inclined to prefer the latter method. I do think that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) will feel that I ought not to be called upon at this moment to make a statement which might involve the Prorogation of Parliament and its reassembling in reply to a mere question in Parliament a more positive announcement than that I have now made. Reference must be made elsewhere before I proceed to give that authoritative information to the House; but there is nothing at all improper in asking for that information, and on an early day I may be in a position to give it.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
The answer of the right hon. Gentleman is so unsatisfactory that I feel bound to ask the leave of the House to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance—namely, the statements of Her Majesty's Government as to the future proceedings on the Government of Ireland Bill.
§ The pleasure of the House not having been signified—
§ MR. SPEAKER
The right hon. Gentleman proposes to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing "a definite matter of urgent public importance—namely, the statements of Her Majesty's Government as to the future proceedings on the Government of Ireland Bill." I have to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is supported by 40 Members?
§ And not less than 40 Members having accordingly risen in their places:—
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I may venture to remind the House that throughout the whole consideration of this important question of the future 319 Government of Ireland there is one thing which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) has put prominently in the foreground as the main justification of his proposals, and that is the extreme urgency of grappling with the question of the restoration of social order in Ireland. In his speech on the second reading of this Bill, the right hon. Gentleman stated that the change which he proposed in the Government of Ireland was "proposed by him in order to meet the first necessity of civilized society." The right hon. Gentleman said—Social order is not broken up in Ireland—it is undermined—it is sapped, and by general and universal confession it imperatively requires to be dealt with.That is the state of things, the urgency of which surely nothing can exceed, to remedy which the right hon. Gentleman has introduced the Government of Ireland Bill and the Land Purchase (Ireland) Bill. Now, Her Majesty's Government took their time—I do not say that they took too much time—in preparing the schemes which they have submitted to the House. The right hon. Gentleman framed a definite plan; he asked the House to come to close quarters with this great question. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] We criticized what we thought the fugitive vitality of this measure. To us it seemed to partake of something of the nature of a dissolving view. But these criticisms were met almost with ridicule by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He told the country that it had before it a Cabinet "determined in its purpose" and with an "intelligible plan," with the advantage as to aim and principle of "speaking with one voice." He and his Colleagues criticized—indeed, that was the main staple of their speeches on these Bills—the position of those hon. Members who sit on these Benches, of the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Hartington), and of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain). We were told that no one of us had any plan for dealing with the future of Ireland. But, Sir, Her Majesty's Government made it their boast that they had a plan, and that that plan held the field. Does it hold the field now? If so, why is it that it is either to be withdrawn altogether, or to be post- 320 poned till such an indefinite period that certainly the urgency of the restoration of social order cannot now be present to the minds of Her Majesty's Government? We are not to be asked, Sir, if I rightly interpret the answer which the right hon. Gentleman has made to me this evening, to vote on the second reading of a definite plan, but to give an indefinite vote on some principle of autonomy for Ireland which no one can explain or put into shape. When Mr. Butt proposed his schemes for Home Rule in Ireland, what was our invariable reply to them? "Give us a definite plan, and then we will tell you what we think about it." How did the right hon. Gentleman characterize Mr. Butt's proposals in 1874? He said—It is a dangerous and tricky system for Parliament to adopt—to encounter national dissatisfaction, with the assurance which may mean anything or nothing—which may perhaps con-conciliate the feelings of the people of Ireland for a moment and attract a passing breath of popularity, but which, when the day of trial comes, may be found entirely to fail. It is a method of proceeding which, whatever Party may be in power, or whatever measures may be adopted, I trust this House will never condescend to adopt."—(3 Hansard,  131.)That is the very method of proceeding to which he asks the House now to condescend. Why is this Bill to be practically withdrawn? Is it to be withdrawn, or only to be postponed? Has the right hon. Gentleman found it so impracticable that nobody will vote for it, and therefore he is compelled to deprive the vote on the second reading of any meaning? [Cries of"No!"] Then, why is it to be withdrawn or postponed? Why is the plan of the Government for dealing with this great question of urgency, this important question of social order in Ireland, to be put off for five months till October? What is that but to paralyze the forces of law and order in Ireland, to prolong the uncertainty as to the future, which, from whatever point of view you regard it, must be a great national evil—a peril to the whole social and economic fabric in that country? Why is the Bill to be remodelled? How is it to be remodelled? What have we got before us? I have heard of Governments which have proposed abstract Resolutions instead of Bills, and have been strongly censured by the right hon. Gentleman for so doing. But I never yet heard of 321 a Government which brought forward a Bill containing a definite scheme for a great Constitutional change—which boasted that that scheme held the field, and then proposed to withdraw it after getting the consent of the House to it as a mere abstract, indefinite Resolution. That is what I venture to call trifling with Parliament—it is trifling with one of the gravest Constitutional questions with which Parliament can be called on to deal; and, above all, it is trifling with the first duty of the Government—which is to maintain and restore social order in Ireland. Why is it done? Suppose the second reading of this Bill to be carried, what will it be? Why, it will be a "Continuance in Office Bill." This course is to be followed in order that Her Majesty's Government may sit on that Bench without the power of carrying out the policy they have proclaimed. That is a course which should be repudiated by this House, as, I believe, when it is understood, it will be repudiated by the country. That the House may be able to mark its sense of the policy which Her Majesty's Government have adopted, and to extract something like a real definition from the right hon. Gentleman as to what that policy is, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Sir Michael Hicks-Beach.)
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I am struck, Sir, in the first instance, by the warmth with which the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) has found it necessary to address the House; but as I do not believe that the introduction of warmth into these debates in the slightest degree improves the prospect or diminishes the difficulty of dealing with very great questions of State policy, he will excuse me if I studiously avoid all imitation of him in that respect. I must admit there is nothing more easy, and to certain persons nothing is more attractive, than to point a speech by the imputation of offensive motives. The right hon. Gentleman, not satisfied with introducing this discussion, thinks fit to pronounce—and probably hon. Gentlemen behind him are ready to cheer when I refer to his announcement—that obviously the motives of the Government in the decision they are supposed to have arrived at is to insure their own con- 322 tinuance in Office. They prefer that to all the considerations connected with the great issue before them, and their minds, in fact, are of such a mean and degrading order that they can alone be acted upon, not by motives of honour and duty, but simply by those of selfishness and personal interest. Sir, I do not condescend to discuss that imputation. In my opinion, the dart aimed at our shield, being such a dart as that, is "Telum imbelle sine ictu." If we had not lived our lives in the face of the public, and if the public, or, at all events, as we think, the predominating portion of the nation that gives us its confidence, should for one moment suppose us to be capable of being influenced by such considerations, the mere denial of them would not prevail. I do not think I am bound to say—I hope it is not pride—but it is the experience of the generous confidence of my follow-countrymen, which makes me know that such a denial and such repudiation of such an imputation is totally unnecessary. I leave the right hon. Gentleman to the enjoyment in his own mind of his accusations. Then, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman says that I have treated this question from the first as one of the utmost urgency, and as a question of social order. It is true, Sir, we have so regarded it, and upon that ground we have urged and shall continue to urge it. But I must observe that social order has been acted upon by the course which the Government have already taken, by the pledges that they have given, and by the prospects of the solemn declaration which they intend to ask the House to make. Social order in Ireland is in about the same state as it was last autumn, when that was contemplated with such complacency by the Members of the late Government. [Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head; but if he will let me conclude my sentence I will say with such complacency that when they met Parliament they did not find themselves able to make any announcement on the subject to Parliament in the Speech from the Throne. Such was the condition of Ireland with regard to social order, and such is the condition of Ireland with regard to social order now. No acute crisis with regard to social order in Ireland has been reached, as it was about to be reached, 323 and infallibly, in my opinion, would have been reached, when the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues made their famous declaration of January 26. Were the people of Ireland to entertain a doubt as to the earnestness of the Government in the prosecution of this great and important task—were the people of Ireland to be disappointed in the expectations they entertain of the great and solemn declaration by Parliament in favour of their self-government as to Irish matters—then, indeed, we should arrive at a position of difficulty. But I rely upon the people of Ireland to know and to believe that so long as we are acting in good faith for the speediest possible prosecution of this subject, they will themselves rally round the constituted authorities of the country, and enable us still to plead their cause with those appeals to the generosity and prudence of Englishmen and Scotchmen which we have thus far been able to urge. With regard to how far we are to ask this House to press forward, from week to week, or even from month to month, a subject of this kind, it is necessary that the Executive Government should upon their responsibility exercise their own discretion, subject to the correction of the House. As the right hon. Gentleman has read what I stated yesterday, I may refer him to a portion he has not mentioned. We cannot arrive at the second reading of this Bill—probably, though, I have no right or authority to name a day for the division—I assume we cannot arrive at a division before June 1. We have to consider what demand we could fairly make upon the House with regard to the prosecution of its ulterior stages; and we have also to consider this important fact—that in perfectly good faith a large number of Members of this House, who are determined friends of the principles of the Bill, have said that they require more time for the consideration of its provisions. [Ironical cheers and laughter.] I speak in their hearing and without contradiction. I believe I am only giving utterance to a sentiment which is rather widely spread upon this side of the House; certainly it is a sentiment the utterance of which has reached me through a multitude of channels; and as the right hon. Gentleman has reminded me with perfect justice of the urgency which I have ascribed to this question, I must remind him of 324 the novelty which he and his Friends have ascribed to it, and of the unpreparedness of Parliament which they and even Gentlemen on this side of the House have constantly alleged for its consideration. But apart from that demand for time, I am bound to look at the nature and character of this Bill, which, although it is not a very bulky Bill, yet contains, in my opinion, a mass of matter, almost every line involving some new proposition—[Ironical cheers from the Opposition]—exactly so—which justifies, and even requires, very prolonged consideration on the part of this House. I may remind this House of what took place five years ago upon a Bill which, I think, difficult as it was and complicated as it was, did not require more consideration at the hands of this House than the present Bill. I mean the Irish Land Bill of 1881. Now, Sir, if my memory serves me right, the House spent more than 50 days of deliberation upon that Bill, and more than 30 days in Committee upon that Bill. I ask what would be our prospects, and how should we be treating the House, and how should we be treating the subject, even were we to endeavour to force forward this Bill at a time of the year when, with reasonable and proper discussion and deliberation, it could not be passed through its ordinary stages within the period which physical as well as social necessities impose upon this House as the annual limit of its arduous labours? Why, Sir, in a case of this kind it may be, and I believe distinctly that in this case it is, the best policy, with a view to expedition and despatch, with a view to attaining with the greatest speed the goal which we hope to reach—it is the best policy, I believe, not to make an untimely and unseasonable demand of that kind. Sir, we have had warnings upon that subject. This Bill has not only to be passed through the House of Commons, but it has to be dealt with in "another place." [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Hear, hear!] Yes, the noble Lord cheers me, and I daresay he is tolerably well aware of the point to which I am about to refer. We know perfectly well that every point that can be taken will be taken against this Bill, and, among others, that of its unseasonable prosecution. What happened to the Ballot Bill? The Ballot Bill was sent to the 325 House of Lords—a measure which we of the House of Commons could have supposed the House of Lords might have disposed of—and it did finally dispose of it—in a very few days; yet still, because we sent that Bill to the House of Lords within the first week or 10 days of August—I do not remember the exact day—advantage was taken of that fact to dismiss the Bill for a year. Sir, we do not wish to expose ourselves to risks of that kind. We do not wish to have collateral issues raised upon this Bill. We have raised one of the greatest issues ever submitted to Parliament and the country, and our desire is to keep that issue clear. We feel convinced that as long as we can keep it clear before the nation, and prevent it from being mixed up with other collateral issues, with plausible considerations derived from our mode of managing Business, derived from our unfortunate choice of times for submitting it to the one House or the other—as long as we can avoid this, we have before us a conflict in which we are prepared to go through to the end, and in which we are perfectly confident of the final issue. But, Sir, we will not adopt our rules of tactics from the suggestions of the Opposition. We will give reasonable consideration, as far as we can, to the demands of friends of the Bill. We are, in the conclusion we have arrived at, doing our best, judging for the best, according to our faculties and according to our means, as to the mode by which we should soonest reach the final consummation of this great question. Now, Sir, I might have said to the right hon. Gentleman that this was altogether a premature discussion. I should have thought the time to discuss our proceedings upon the second reading of the Bill was when the Bill had been read a second time; but I do not think fit to take any objection of that kind, because I know I should be open to the reproach, or at least the reproach would certainly be made, that I was endeavouring to evade the issue. But I tell the right hon. Gentleman that we are exercising our best judgment as to the most efficient and effectual means of prosecuting this great subject, and that in the exercise of that judgment we shall choose for ourselves our means and our times of action, and we shall not adopt advice with regard to them from those whom we know to be opposed to 326 the principle of our measure, and whom we know to be too ready—as we have had a proof to-night—of taking every collateral and secondary objection to the Bill. Another point has been raised by the right hon. Gentleman. He says we are going to give an indefinite vote. He says there is a promise—I do not know that he used the word—but he says this Bill is going to be remodelled. He did not read that in the report of my speech this morning. I think that happy word, as applied to the structure of the Bill, is a pure invention of the right hon. Gentleman. I am not aware that there is a shadow or a shred of authority for any such statement.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The noble Lord says "reconstructed" was the word. It is quite true that the word "reconstructed" was used. [Opposition cheers and laughter.] What confidence these Gentlemen who use those means of opposition must have in the rectitude of their own cause and in the far-seeing character of their own statesmanship! The word "reconstructed" was used. Does the noble Lord dare to say it was used with respect to the Bill? [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Yes.] Never! never! It was used with respect to one particular clause of the Bill. This grand attack, founded upon the fact that our Bill was to be remodelled, fails. What a woeful collapse! It is not the Bill that is to be remodelled, it appears, after all. I give the right hon. Gentleman some credit for it, because he had not the patience to read through the report he saw in the papers. He was wearied to death in reading the speech made by me. But the noble Lord spoke boldly, as if he had read it, and now it comes out that he read it wrong. He quotes it wrong, and then, having alleged the remodelling of the Bill, he is obliged to fall back upon the reconstruction of a clause. It was on one clause alone. I am not quite sure, but I think I remember another clause, and possibly other passages of the Bill. I am not quite sure that there are not some other passages of the Bill which would fall under my description with regard to reconstruction. But the whole of those, as I stated yesterday in the most distinct terms, are exclusively upon one point of the Bill. I certainly did 327 not exclude Gentlemen from the advantage of any Amendment, compatible with the scope and purpose of the Bill, which we might be able to avail ourselves of if the advantage of time were secured. But the point to which alone reconstruction was to apply was so much of the Bill as touches the future relation of the Representatives of Ireland, whether Peers or Commoners, to the Imperial Parliament. I believe that was made perfectly and absolutely clear. I am a little surprised that the acute intellects on the opposite side of the House should have found themselves puzzled with this portion of the alphabet of the subject. Then the right hon. Gentleman quotes words against me that apply to an abstract Resolution, and he says we are to ask the House to vote for something which is of the nature of an abstract Resolution—something or other about autonomy in Ireland which nobody can understand and nobody can define. At any rate, we have been able to define the subject of this autonomy in Ireland sufficiently to arouse the very determined and, perhaps, a little embittered hostility of hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House. I do not understand why they should complain so much of the absence of definition. Unhappily, many of those on this side of the House have likewise found our description of the Bill sufficiently definite to array them in a most deliberate and determined opposition—a most important section of the Liberal Party, which I am afraid we have no hope of mollifying or converting. But, Sir, our definitions, as I have often said, may have varied in terms, though I believe they have never varied in substance. If I had been aware of the right hon. Gentleman's intention, I would, for greater accuracy, have brought down the note I made of the very words which I used yesterday in regard to the principal purpose and scope of this Bill, which principal purpose and scope I stated yesterday, and I state again, that no consideration will induce us to vary or depart from by one hair's-breadth. The purpose is to obtain from Parliament, if we are able, the establishment of a Legislative Body in Ireland for the effectual management and control of Irish, as distinct from Imperial, affairs. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman says we are going to ask for an abstract Resolu- 328 tion. Now, Sir, we are going to ask for the very thing that has always been put by me in contrast to an abstract Resolution—that is to say, for a Vote having reference to a Bill before Parliament. It is perfectly true that on the second reading of a Bill you do not affirm all the provisions, or even the most important provisions, of the Bill. A very lax doctrine has, as I showed yesterday, prevailed on the other side of the House with regard to that subject. Lord Beaconsfield, with respect to a measure of the utmost importance, said, in assenting to the second reading of the measure—it was the Land Act of 1870—that he affirmed nothing; but that there ought to be a change in the Land Laws. That is a very lax doctrine indeed, and is something like reducing the second reading of a Bill to the passing of an abstract Resolution. But, Sir, we have not stood upon that. We have said that the second reading of the Bill is a solemn pledge from Parliament to the people of the three countries, and most of all the people of Ireland, to the effect that a certain thing of vital consequence ought to be done, and that Parliament intends to do it, and to do it at the earliest moment which the circumstances in which it stands will permit. What is the charge of the right hon. Gentleman? I have not endeavoured to reduce the meaning of a vote on the second reading below that which, according to all sound and established Parliamentary doctrines, it is known to bear. On the contrary, I have stated as strongly as possible that we conceive that nothing can be more distinct and definite, either as to substance or as to time, than the promise and engagement which this House and those voting for the second reading will give by that vote—first of all, that they think that a Parliament for the management of Irish affairs—or as a Legislative Body as we have called it—ought to be established; and, secondly, that it is their duty and their intention, at the first available moment, to set about establishing it. Now, Sir, that is the position of the Government; and if the right hon. Gentleman tells me that we ought to sit through July and August—we met early in January—September and October for that purpose, I do not believe that such a demand can be fairly made upon a Legislative Body. There are limits; 329 happily, these limits are prescribed. There never has been a Legislative Chamber in the world which worked so hard as the House of Commons. But we must observe some limits in the demands which we make upon it, and to endeavour to make a partial progress, and then to be compelled to come to an exhausted House and to say that, after all, we find we cannot reach the third reading of the Bill, or, worse still, to send it to "another place" with the advantage to its opponents of the pretext of time—no, Sir; that is a mode of generalship upon which we do not intend to act. If we have judged wrongly in this matter the House will correct us. I do not believe we have judged wrongly; I do not believe the House thinks we have judged wrongly; and I believe this—if we had judged wrongly, if we had made some great error of tactic in the management and prosecution of this Bill, if we had been chargeable with some grievous fault, the right hon. Gentleman would not have found it at all necessary to interpose to-day with a Motion for Adjournment, but would probably have sat with folded arms, delighted to see how we walked into some one of the many snares set for us. Sir, the right hon. Gentleman says, in order to mark his sense of our proceedings, that he will move the adjournment of the House. Well, he has moved it. I am very glad he has, and, in order to mark our sense of the proceedings, we will negative the adjournment. These proceedings are entirely within precedent, and we ask the House to approve what, according to all sound Parliamentary doctrine, is its known and usual method of action; and if we can form any judgment under the most solemn responsibility as to the best method of going forward to attain the great end before us, we believe that we have chosen that method, and that our having chosen it is in truth the reason why the right hon. Gentleman has found it necessary to assail us.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) has, I think, altogether misapprehended, and, for aught I know, not unintentionally misapprehended, the purpose of the inquiry of my right hon. Friend (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), and the purpose of the Motion which he has made this evening. What my right hon. Friend wished to 330 inquire about was not the motives of the Government or the policy of the Government with regard to this particular Bill in the past. What he inquired about, and had a right to inquire about—and even the Prime Minister will admit that he occupies a responsible position—was the nature of the procedure which the Government proposed to adopt with regard to the future proceedings on the Bill. That, every hon. Member will admit, is a legitimate subject for inquiry. The First Lord of the Treasury stated that there was nothing unprecedented in the action of the Government, and that it was well within precedent. I defy the Prime Minister, with all his Parliamentary knowledge and experience, to show to the House a single precedent for the course which he apparently intends to adopt. Can the right hon. Gentleman point to any measure of first-class importance—any measure of overwhelming importance such as this—being introduced by a Government, and then an offer being made to the House—"If you will vote for the second reading of this Bill we will withdraw the Bill, and you shall never hear of the Bill again." It is quite true this is accompanied by another indication—that Parliament may be called together in the autumn or winter. "Winter" is the word in the Prime Minister's speech. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no!] I read his speech with great care, and the words were—"I do not think the winter should come upon us——"
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
The hon. and learned Member below the Gangway is a little premature. I was going to readon, but was interrupted by the inopportune applauses. "I do not think the winter should come upon us and find us enjoying ourselves in the country." What does that mean but a Winter Session? Obviously it means this—that the autumn may come upon us and find us enjoying ourselves. But to comeback to what I was saying, which was this—that the statement of the Prime Minister has been coupled with the indication that Parliament may be called together in the winter to consider a Bill which may be the same as this, or may not be the same as this Bill. [Mr. GLADSTONE: I did not say that.] It may be, or may not be, the same Bill; but about 331 it the Prime Minister has used these words—The proposal," alluding to some changes which he had been indicating, "the proposal will entail some further change in the construction of the clause, and the practical effect will be that it will certainly be necessary to reconstruct these clauses of the Bill.Thus, there were several clauses, particularly the 24th, and, in a secondary degree, the 39th. Very well; how did the Attorney General treat the proposal the other day for the reconstruction of the 24th clause? He treated it as a matter affecting the whole Bill; and more than that, the right hon. Gentleman knows that if the proposed reconstruction of the 24th clause did not affect the construction of the whole Bill, he would not have got one single one of those who agree with the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) to support him on the second reading. The right hon. Gentleman is speaking with two voices altogether in this matter; and the House must really, in common fairness, allow the Party on this side to protest against a procedure of that kind. He has indicated to the Irish Members that the Bill will be practically the same; but he holds out the hope of the withdrawal and re-introduction of the Bill in the winter. [Cries of "No!" and "Autumn!"] We are getting some information. The two voices are a voice to the Irish Members that the Bill is not to be reconstructed, and a voice to hon. Members below the Gangway that the Bill is to be reconstructed. Without doubt, the tactics of the right hon. Gentleman are of this nature, and it is for this reason that we complain that they are tactics directed to this purpose—namely, to confuse the House of Commons, to lead the House of Commons on step by step, though, at the same time, not showing to the House of Commons whither it is being led. At any rate, that is a perfectly legitimate construction. Now, mark; my right hon. Friend (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) asks of the Prime Minister—"Which of the two alternatives does the Government propose to adopt—the adjournment of the Bill to the autumn, or the Prorogation of Parliament early in July, and the introduction of a new Bill in the autumn?" That is a perfectly legitimate subject of inquiry. It is a vital point—obviously vital with 332 the second reading. If the Bill is to be adjourned and proceeded with in the autumn as we leave it now, obviously hon. Members who wish to reconstruct it will have their facilities for so doing enormously limited. Their chances will be exceedingly poor; in fact, to those who have any experience, whatever the advantages the Government possess in Committee after the second reading, it will be apparent that their chances will be practically nil. I can quite understand that many of those who sympathize with this Bill would vote for the second reading if that course were to be adopted, but might seriously question the propriety of assenting to the second reading now if the other course is to be adopted. The other course is the Prorogation of Parliament, and the introduction of a totally new Bill in the autumn. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No.] Well, totally new in so far as the stages of the Bill are concerned. In the latter case, there is all the difference in the world, and everybody would start perfectly free. It would be open to hon. Members to take no part in any further debate on this subject, to take no part in any division, and to come back to the House of Commons perfectly free to take whatever part they liked with regard to the new Bill in the autumn. But that course is not open to hon. Members if the proceeding of an Adjournment of the Session is to be followed. Now, was there anything unreasonable in my right hon. Friend putting that question to the Government before we are asked to take one of the most solemn decisions which the House of Commons can possibly take? Does the right hon. Gentleman say that the Leader of the Opposition has not a right to know—before he advises those who place confidence in him what course they are to take—what are the future intentions of the Government with regard to this great measure? How can hon. Gentlemen opposite complain of our making such an inquiry? How can they complain when, in order to protest against the refusal of information, my right hon. Friend moves the Adjournment of the House? Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister made one or two remarks of a general character on which really I must be allowed for a moment to comment. He talked about the impossibility of proceeding with this Bill after a second reading this Session. 333 Why? If the right hon. Gentleman will present to the House of Commons a fair issue, if he will stick to his guns, from one day to another, if he will proceed with his legislation in the traditional Parliamentary manner, he will find no obstruction from this side of the House—nothing but fair Parliamentary opposition. But when all the traditional Parliamentary procedure is abandoned, when we are being jockeyed, when the House of Commons is not allowed to come to a clear issue, then it is that we may, in the defence of the ordinary rights of a minority, be forced to have recourse to all the proceedings which a minority can command. But the right hon. Gentleman says that he has no time. Why has he no time? To whom is it principally due that this debate has been so protracted? Who refused to take it de die in diem—absolutely refused? Who interposed every obstacle which Parliamentary experience and ingenuity could suggest? Why, Sir, if it had not been for the obstacles interposed by the Prime Minister himself, we might have divided on this Bill a week ago. And what is the remedy? "The question," says the Prime Minister,is very urgent. I still hold to that doctrine of extreme urgency; but we have no time to deal with it this summer, and we will, therefore, put off further dealing with it till the end of the year.[Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no!] Really, the Prime Minister seems very captious about dates. Well, they will put off dealing with the Bill, then, until some period or other in the future marked out for us by those "limitations which are imposed by the revolutions of the heavenly bodies." Certainly nothing could be more indefinite than that phrase. The Prime Minister complained of want of time, and he says—We will not send it up to the House of Lords in August, because the House of Lords will seek refuge in the excuse that they cannot consider the measure in the time at their disposal.Sir, I dare say the Prime Minister is far better acquainted with Peers than I am. He has made a great many, and therefore he would have more right to pronounce upon the probable views of the House of Lords than I have; but I think it is perfectly certain that, whatever course the House of Lords may take 334 with regard to this Bill, it will not be based upon any such frivolous excuse as that; and if the Prime Minister likes to proceed with this Bill, and send it up to the House of Lords in the month of August, I am perfectly convinced that he need not have the smallest fear whatever that the question of time will be in any degree raised. I have not a doubt about it that the consideration by the House of Lords of this Bill will be serious, solemn, immediate, and final. But the Prime Minister said it is altogether premature to discuss the proceedings of the Government on the second reading. [Cheers from below the Gangway.] That is cheered by hon. Members below the Gangway. The Prime Minister said that we ought to have discussed them after the second reading. That would have been altogether too late. This consideration the Prime Minister does not seem to have thought of. But who has set us the example of discussing the proceedings of the Government on the second reading? Why, the First Lord of the Treasury himself. What did he do? He summoned a meeting of his supporters at the Foreign Office. Mark, that was not a private meeting, but a meeting of an essentially public character. [Cries of "No, no!"] I call a meeting—a meeting of a public character when you have an official reporter present, who supplies an authentic report of what passed to the public Press; and if that is not a public meeting, really I do not know what is a public meeting. And at this public meeting the Prime Minister announced to a certain number of his supporters a definite line of policy with much deliberation and detail; but he absolutely refuses to give that information in an official manner to the House of Commons. Now, again, I ask the First Lord of the Treasury, can he point to any analogous proceeding by a Prime Minister with regard to a first-class measure in the whole course of his long experience? I venture to say he cannot. I do think I should not have complained if Parliament had been immediately put in possession of the same information that his supporters were put in possession of; what I do complain of, and what I think is altogether insulting to the House of Commons, is this—that certain information with regard to the future conduct of this measure is given 335 to a certain group of the House of Commons, and is refused to the whole body of the House of Commons. At the present moment, though the Prime Minister knows that numbers of votes may depend upon whether he makes a definite statement or not, he absolutely refuses, under the most frivolous and ridiculous pretext, to tell the House whether he intends to adjourn the Bill to the autumn, or whether he intends to prorogue Parliament very soon and introduce a new Bill in the winter. And that is what we complain of, and have a right to complain of. That is what we wish to draw the attention of the country to. You say you want to go to the country. If you want to go to the country to get the opinion of the country on this measure you need not take more than five or six weeks about it. Nothing would be easier. You can proceed to divide on the second reading, and if you are not satisfied with the result of the division dissolve Parliament. The Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bryce), in the speech which has been so much praised, began by saying how anxious the Government was to fly to the opinion of the country, and this was received with the loudest possible cheers below the Gangway on both sides. Why do not the Government go to the country? Because all these proceedings are designed in order to keep the question away from the country, and in order to prevent the country giving an opinion upon it. ["No, no!"] Some hon. Members opposite are supposed to be shaky in their independence about this Bill. Why? What has been the great bribe offered by the Prime Minister—a bribe as great as any offered at the time of the Act of Union?—"If you vote for the second reading of a Bill which you do not approve of in your hearts, and which you disbelieve in, I promise you that, at any rate, for another eight, nine, or 12 months you shall not be sent back to your constituencies." This is the noble policy of the right hon. Gentleman, and these are the noble motives by which he appeals on behalf of the Government to the Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland—"Vote for anything you like; you are committed to nothing."
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
The Prime Minister surprises me. I did not think it possible to be surprised by the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister contend, from a Parliamentary point of view, that hon. Members, by voting for the second reading of the Bill, can be committed to the Bill if that Bill dies and is withdrawn?
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Never. Never was such a view held in Parliament before. I venture to say never, and that is why the Prime Minister holds out to hon. Members the bribe that if they will only vote for the principle of the Bill, which they disapprove of and which is going to be withdrawn, and possibly never heard of again, he will consent to give them a little longer lease of Parliamentary life, These are the manœuvres, Sir, which are being adopted by the Government to settle one of the gravest questions ever brought before Parliament—manœuvres which, of course, we must expect from an "old Parliamentary hand," but manœuvres which I certainly should not have expected from one who was brought up in such a school of statesmanship as the First Lord of the Treasury; manœuvres which, I feel certain, Lord. Grey never would have contemplated, which Lord Althorp never would have contemplated, which Sir Robert Peel never would have contemplated, and which, I believe, he himself, some years ago, would not have contemplated. The House has been very kind to allow me to make these remarks in defence of the course which has been taken by my right hon. Friend. I have heard many Motions for the Adjournment of the House moved, but none more defensible, none so defensible, as the present one. I say that the House cannot go to a division on the second reading of this Bill; it cannot properly, decently, or safely continue this debate, unless the Government will deal fully, fairly, and frankly with the House, and will say what course they will pursue after the second reading has been either agreed to or rejected. I hope that my right hon. Friend will not only take the sense of the House on this question; but I am sure, if it rested with me, and me alone, I would move Adjournment after Adjournment until I had forced 337 the Government by the sheer pressure of the minority, and by the public opinion excited out-of-doors, to desist from this policy of hocussing the House of Commons.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT) (Derby)
The noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) has given us a great deal of advice, and has addressed to us a good many taunts; but I can assure him that in the conduct of this measure we shall neither be guided by his advice nor influenced by his taunts. It seems to me that the extraordinary disappointment, irritation, and impatience betrayed by hon. Gentlemen opposite is a confirmation of the wisdom of the policy that the Government are pursuing. Now, I think before this grand parade it would have been well if right hon. Gentlemen opposite had made up their minds as to what was the meaning of the Motion they have submitted to the House. The noble Lord stated that the meaning of the Motion made by the right hon. Gentleman was not an inquiry into the motives of the Government. Well, that, I think, is strictly accurate, because the right hon. Gentleman made at the conclusion of his speech, not an inquiry as to the motives of the Government, but a statement on his part as to what those motives were to be. I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) has said as to the motives imputed to us by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach). The noble Lord, however, with his accustomed accuracy, has said that the Prime Minister affirmed that if the second reading of this Bill be granted we should never hear of the Bill again. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Withdrawn.] Well, then, the noble Lord is extremely inquisitive as to the subject of the time when we shall hear of it again. The noble Lord is a man of great eloquence and of distinguished talent; but I think there is one line in which he will never shine, and that is the line of a critic, because for a critic, at least, it is essential—although some seem to dispense with it—to appear to have read the documents which he pretends to criticize. I think that the House saw the futility of the quotation which the noble Lord made with reference to a Winter Session; but if he had read the speech of my right hon. Friend 338 he would have seen that it pointed to two courses. He asserted that one plan would be to do what was done in 1882, when we met in the Autumn, and that the other course would be to summon Parliament again at an early day for a fresh Session. The noble Lord said—"The summoning of Parliament at an early day may mean in the winter." On the contrary, everybody understood my right hon. Friend's intention. If the noble Lord does not understand, I have no hesitation in saying that an early day for a fresh Session meant not a meeting in the winter, but a day in the early autumn. Well, then, the noble Lord said that the object of these proceedings on the part of the Government is that the. House may be led without knowing where it is to be led to. But I do not think that the House is so absolutely unintelligent as the noble Lord seems to think. At all events, the Government have never concealed the goal to which they desire the House to be led. My right hon. Friend has stated over and over again that the goal to which the Government desires the House to be led—whether it be in the summer or early autumn—is a Legislative Body in Ireland for the conduct of Irish affairs. How, then, can it be said that the course of the Government conceals from the House the direction in which it is to be led? The noble Lord said that the Government attempted to "jockey" the House. I think that the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman opposite who was late Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Henry Chaplin) must have mistaken the day; they must have thought it the day on which the House took a holiday, and must have borrowed the language of the racecourse. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: I said "hocussing."] Well, then, hocussing was the word. I believe they are both words derived from the language and phraseology of certain Bohemian tribes who are often seen, I believe, on those Downs, and it is language more appropriate to those scenes than to the debates of the House of Commons. The noble Lord is a great authority in the House of Commons; but he is also undertaking to speak for the House of Lords. He has told us in the most distinct way what is the course which the other House of Legislature will take, and not only that, but also the grounds 339 upon which they will arrive at that decision, and that in whatever month the Bill goes to the House of Lords the House of Lords would give the final decision. I venture to think that the final decision of this question will never rest with the House of Lords at all. Then the noble Lord says that the object of this Motion is simply inquiry. We heard very little inquiry from the right hon. Gentleman. It is quite true that he referred to a point which the noble Lord seems to think was the whole object of the Motion—namely, to know whether the intention of the Government is to proceed by Adjournment or Prorogation, and as to the advice they shall tender to Her Majesty on the subject? On that subject there was no ambiguity in the language of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister either yesterday or to-day; but, really, it is a very astonishing thing that there should be two Gentlemen who are Privy Councillors, who have held Office under the Crown, who should imagine that it is possible for a Minister of the Crown to announce a decision on the subject either of Dissolution or of Prorogation without direct and distinct authority from the Crown. Really, I am astonished that it should be necessary to give the right hon. Gentlemen elementary lessons on the principles of the Constitution of this country. My right hon. Friend has said everything that it is possible or proper for him to say on such a subject as this, and no Motion for Adjournment ought to induce any Minister to say more on that subject than he has said. The noble Lord was very severe on the Party meeting at the Foreign Office. He says that Party meetings are never held of that character with reference to Bills which have been promised in Parliament, or which are in progress in Parliament.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
What I said was that information of so remarkable a character as appears to have been communicated at the Party meeting ought also to have been communicated immediately afterwards to the House of Commons if the meeting were of a public character.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I do not know what the noble Lord means by meetings of a public character. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] Really, I think that a little decency might be 340 observed, and that one might be allowed to conclude one's sentence. A meeting may be public in two senses. It may mean a meeting where everybody is admitted. That was not the character of the meeting at the Foreign Office at all. No, Sir; nobody was invited to that meeting who was irreconcilably hostile to the establishment of a Legislative Body in Ireland. That was the principle on which that meeting was founded. All friends to that principle and Members of the Party on this side of the House were invited to that meeting. The transactions of that meeting were allowed to be made public; and, according to my recollection, that is an extremely common thing in meetings of that character with reference to Bills in progress in Parliament, and with reference to the most important Bills. I can remember that in 1867 more than one meeting of that character was held by Mr. Disraeli and his Party with very important results on the conduct of the Bill then pending. [Lord RANDOLPH CHURCHILL: Private meetings.] They were no more private meetings than this was. The speeches at those meetings were reported, and the results were made public. That, at least, is my recollection of the matter. The noble Lord has again challenged our course with reference to this Bill. One would think he had never heard of the authors of the Ten Minutes' Bill, or of the authors of Resolutions which were withdrawn, and of new Bills introduced and withdrawn, when he said that no such modifications of such an important character had ever been made before. The noble Lord says that it is contrary to all Parliamentary doctrine to say that in voting for a Bill which disappears, but re-appears again in a future Session, you are committed to anything. The noble Lord lays that down as if it were a proposition not capable of being disputed; but I think his proposition must be considerably modified before it can be accepted. Let me give the noble Lord an example. We had of recent years Bills before us for household suffrage in the counties over and over again in former Parliaments. Does the noble Lord mean to say that a Member of this House who voted for the second reading of such Bills, to give the suffrage to the county householder on the same footing as it was given to the town householder, 341 were not committed to the principle of household suffrage in the counties, even although the Bill for which he voted disappeared? I think he will find few people to agree with him. I apprehend that the vote for the second reading was the affirmation of a principle which would endure to a future Session. What is the meaning, then, of this Motion? The right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) has said that he has brought forward this Motion for Adjournment—I think these were his words—"to mark the sense of the House of the conduct of the Government." [Sir MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH: Hear, hear!] Very well, we accept his Motion in that sense; that is, he has made this Motion for Adjournment to mark the sense of the House of the conduct of the Government. We invite the right hon. Gentleman to take an issue upon it.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
(Lancashire, Rossendale): Sir, I do not think that the Government or the House can be very much astonished or have any reason to complain that this Motion has been made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach). It is not necessary, I think, to discuss whether the Motion has been made with the view of enabling the House to "mark its sense of the conduct pursued by the Government;" but, at all events, it is a recognized and certainly not an inconvenient practice that an opportunity of this kind should be taken for the purpose of endeavouring to elicit and obtain some information from the Government as to the course they intend to take upon a matter of very great public importance. Now, Sir, no one can doubt that announcements of very great public importance, which may probably affect the conduct of hon. Members upon this measure and the fate of the Bill, were made in an unofficial form to hon. Members of this House yesterday; and it is very desirable that some information—or, if possible, further information—should be communicated to the whole House before it proceeds to the reconsideration of the Bill. We are already placed in a position of very considerable inconvenience and embarrassment. We have been debating the second reading of this Bill for more than a fortnight under one set of circumstances and under peculiar conditions, and we are now going to re- 342 sume the debate on the Bill, and to be asked to give a decision on the Bill under circumstances very different indeed, and a very large number of those who have already addressed the House have addressed it under circumstances altogether different from those now before them. I think the right hon. Gentleman asked a question which was a reasonable question, and which I should have expected my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) would have been able to answer more fully than either he or the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir William Harcourt) has done. The right hon. Gentleman only referred in his speech to the necessity which he and the Government felt of giving the House more time for the consideration of this measure after the second reading. But, as he pointed out yesterday and again to-day, there are two different ways in which that additional time may be given. Either the House might be asked to adjourn after a certain time, and to resume the consideration of this Bill in an Autumn Session, or else the House might be asked to wind up the present Business in order that there might be an early Prorogation, and that a new Bill—a new measure—should be produced in the autumn, which should go through a first reading, a second reading, and all the stages of a Bill. Now, Sir, surely when these two subjects of proceeding are under the consideration of the Government it is not unreasonable that the House should ask to know, before it gives a decision on the second reading, the main and leading principles contained in it. Which of these courses do the Government intend to adopt? The Government have spoken as if it involved only a difference of procedure; but I must say I entirely agree with what was said on the other side—that the difference appears to me to be absolutely vital. If we are going to continue the consideration of this Bill in an Autumn Session after a second reading, not only will our opportunities for asking for modifications and vital alterations in the Bill be very greatly curtailed, but also the individual freedom of action of Members will be limited; because they will have consented not merely to the principle—what is defined by my right hon. Friend as the principle—of the Bill, but they will have committed themselves to the main and lead- 343 ing principles contained in the Bill. On the other hand, if the Prorogation takes place and a new Bill is introduced, we shall all retain a very much greater degree of individual liberty. It will be open to us to discuss the Bill on its introduction and on the second reading; but now to say that we are going to take the second reading, and not to be told till after that whether we are to go on with the consideration of this Bill or a new Bill, appears to me to be asking the House to do that which is not reasonable.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I may point out that there are to be considerable modifications in this Bill. There is the one point of considerable importance upon which the discussion has most frequently turned—the exclusion of the Irish Members and the Irish Peers from this Parliament. We are told that modifications are going to be made in the two clauses which are directly concerned with the question, and we are told that other modifications may be necessary in other clauses of the Bill. In our opinion—though, perhaps, not in that of the Government—very frequently expressed, such alteration as my right hon. Friend intends to make in this respect, when it comes to be examined in detail, will be found to render alterations in almost every clause necessary. At all events, according to the arrangements of the right hon. Gentleman, there are to be modifications of the Bill introduced in the autumn; it will not be the same Bill as this Bill. If it were the same Bill it would not affect the point I put before the House. It would be a new Bill which the House would be able to deal with on the first and second reading; whereas, if we are to proceed with the consideration of this Bill, the only stages when we shall have it in our power will be the Committee, Report, and third reading. I say that the House has a right to know—
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
My right hon. Friend says we do know. Then, all that is required is for some Member of the Government to get up and state what it is that we do know. The House has a right to know which 344 of the two courses is to be adopted. [Mr. GLADSTONE here said something to the noble Marquess.] My right hon. Friend says that he did say it. I did not understand him to make any announcement that it was intended to adjourn the House after the second reading of the Bill, or to prorogue——
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
It is inconvenient to address the House and carry on a conversation as well. I am well aware that we cannot prorogue the House; but my right hon. Friend is not debarred from stating what is the advice the Government was prepared to give to the Queen.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
I beg my noble Friend's pardon. That is exactly what I did say. I beg leave to repeat that I did say that that was the advice which the Government would tender to the Queen. [Cries of "What advice?"] To take the course of Prorogation.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I stated the same thing in answer to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach). Before he made the Motion I stated that the proper course would be Prorogation; but that there were certain references which must be made elsewhere—I presumed he must know what that meant—before we could with propriety make an announcement to the House.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I think the last two statements made to the House show more than ever that the Motion for the Adjournment was not uncalled for, because I know now for the first time, and, I believe, the great majority of the House now know for the first time, that it is the intention of the Government—the present intention of the Government—to advise, not the Adjournment of the House, but the Prorogation after the second reading of this Bill. That raises a very important question which it seems to me the House would do very well to take a little time to consider before it goes to the second reading. The House is now going to be asked—after the statement of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer—to do that which I believe it never was asked to do before, and certainly, I may assert, never was asked to do before in the case of a Bill of any mi- 345 portance. It is going to be asked to give its assent to the second reading of a Bill, which Bill it knows it is not the intention of the Government to prosecute in the present Session of Parliament. Well, now, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman states what he and his Friends believe to be the principles to which hon. Members will commit themselves in voting for the second reading of the Bill. I venture to assert that it is beyond the power of the right hon. Gentleman to define for any hon. Member of this House what he will commit himself to, or will not commit himself to, in voting for the second reading. Every Member of this House will be the best judge for himself. Under ordinary circumstances, in voting for the second reading of the Bill, he knows that he is helping it forward in its main and most important stage. He knows that it is open to him to make such observations and to propose such alterations as he desires to make in Committee, and to vote against the Bill on the third reading. But what he is going to be asked to do now is to vote for the second reading of a Bill which he knows cannot, under any conceivable circumstances, be passed into law. What he will be voting upon, in my opinion, is not upon the principle of any measure, such as that defined by the right hon. Gentleman; but he will vote simply upon the question whether he desires to force the Government to dissolve Parliament or not. I venture to think my right hon. Friend, after all his Parliamentary experience, cannot produce any precedent for asking Parliament to proceed to a second reading of a Bill which is dead. And I must say it is a matter for the consideration of the House whether, when it is asked to continue solemnly to proceed with the discussion on the second reading of a measure such as this, it ought to give some attention to the extraordinary, and, as I believe, unprecedented position in which it is being placed. There is another point which it might be for the convenience of the House to consider for a moment, and endeavour to obtain some information. Nothing, or very little, has been heard about another measure which is before the House. Little has been heard of late about the Irish Land Purchase Bill. My right hon. Friend, in answer to a Question yesterday, referred an hon. Member to several passages in a speech 346 which he delivered on the introduction of that measure.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I rise to Order, Mr. Speaker. You are aware, Sir, that the House has been asked to adjourn for the discussion of a definite matter of urgent public importance—the declarations of the Government on the Government of Ireland Bill. I wish to ask, whether the noble Marquess can discuss another measure which is entirely outside of that, and if it is not out of Order?
§ MR. SPEAKER
Undoubtedly the terms of the Motion handed to me by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) were to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance—namely, the statement made by Her Majesty's Government with regard to the Government of Ireland Bill. Anything but a mere casual reference to any other Bill would be entirely out of Order.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I had not the slightest intention of discussing the Land Purchase Bill. The House will remember that my right hon. Friend in his first speech on the Government of Ireland Bill referred to two questions which, he said, in the view of the Government were inseparable—that is, the Irish Land Bill and the Irish Government measure—and that the only reason why he regretted they could not be dealt with in the same Bill was the enormous mass of material. I think we are entitled to ask whether, in the opinion of the Government, these questions are still inseparable? My right hon. Friend said yesterday that the position arrived at by the Government was simply this—to establish by vote on the second reading the principle of the Government of Ireland Bill; and I want to know whether my right hon. Friend adheres to his intention to ask the House not only to establish by this vote the principle of the Irish Government Bill, but also whether, before he advises the Prorogation, he intends to ask the House to affirm the principle of the Land Bill, which he told us was inseparably connected with this Bill?
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I rise to Order, Sir. I wish to ask whether the noble Marquess is in Order in asking, and whether the Prime Minister would be in Order in answering, a question with regard to the intentions of the 347 Government on the Land Purchase Bill on a Motion for the Adjournment definitely confined to the question of the Government of Ireland Bill?
§ MR. SPEAKER
If I had thought the noble Marquess had been out of Order in the course he has hitherto taken I should have interfered and called his attention to the matter.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I can assure the hon. Member that I have finished all I have to say. It will be for the consideration of the Prime Minister whether he will take this opportunity, or another which he may think more suitable, of giving information to the House on this subject, and which I am sure he will be anxious to give at the earliest opportunity. I do not think I need trouble the House any longer. My right hon. Friend has stated in the course of his speech that the declaration of the Government upon the Government of Ireland Bill has been found to be sufficiently definite to secure for that Bill the determined opposition not only of hon. Gentlemen opposite, but of a considerable number of hon. Gentlemen who sit on this side of the House. Well, Sir, it is not the declarations of the Government which have been found sufficiently definite, but it has been the Bill itself with which, up to this moment, we have had to deal. What we do question, and what seems to us a very important consideration now, is whether there is really going to be a definite issue raised upon which the House can decide. The Bill is about practically to be withdrawn from the cognizance of the House, and we are going to be asked to vote for the second reading of a Bill which we now know can never proceed to any further stage. The right hon. Gentleman has laid down something which he says will be affirmed by hon. Members who support the second reading of the Bill. But that is where we say the indefiniteness arises; that is what we say is an attempt to substitute in the place of a Bill, which hitherto we have had to deal with, something more indefinite than any abstract Resolution which has ever been brought before the House. I say that the House will be placed in a position of extreme difficulty and extreme embarrassment—and one in which I do not know any Government previous to this occasion has over placed the House of 348 Commons in—if it is asked to substitute for a definite vote on a definite issue, such as the second reading of a Bill, a vote on a declaration so vague and indefinite as that which is now practically before the House.
MR. T. P. O.'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
We on these Benches are not at all surprised that any action taken by the Tory Leader in this House in connection with the Government of Ireland Bill should have the hearty support and sympathy of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington). In fact, the scene we have witnessed tonight will not fail to be productive of instruction. The noble Marquess says the Bill is dead. The action of the noble Marquess and the action of the Leader of the Opposition (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) is the strongest proof that the Bill is far too much alive for them. Some of us may have had some doubts with regard to the tactical course adopted by the Prime Minister; but any doubt we may have had on a question of tactics must be, to a large extent, removed by the extraordinary ebullition of chagrin and disappointment which has been displayed by the noble Marquess and the Tory Party. We are asked to vote on the second reading of the Bill. The noble Marquess says that this is asking the House to adopt a course which is entirely unprecedented, and he wants to know what we are voting upon. The Prime Minister does not want, as I understand it, to base the second reading of the Bill on any purely tactical or technical purpose. But the House is asked to deal with the question of social order in Ireland, and to deal with it by voting the second reading of the Bill, promising to the people of Ireland self-government in their own affairs; and by voting for the principle of that Bill to send to the people of Ireland a message of peace and of love. The Prime Minister said that the state of social order in Ireland was exactly the same as when the late Government dropped the Coercion Act. With great respect, I venture to differ from the right hon. Gentleman. The state of social order in Ireland is in a much improved condition. The state of feeling is much improved; and, Sir, the state of feeling in England is much improved. I will tell you what the House will do when it votes for the second reading of the Bill; 349 it will obey the mandate of the democracy of England, speaking through Representatives with a unanimous voice. Did the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale receive a vote of confidence from his own constituency? Did any of the mutineers against the Prime Minister? [An hon. MEMBER: Yes.] Well, there may have been one or two; but then exceptions prove the rule. Did a single Representative of the masses of the people on that side of the House oppose the Government of Ireland Bill? Did the Labour Representatives, who speak with a special mandate from the toilers of England, rise and say a word of opposition against the Bill? [Mr. ARCH: Not one.] The Labour Representatives in the Liberal Party are unanimous in the support they give to the Bill; and, therefore, I am entitled to say that in voting for the second reading of the Bill the Liberal Representatives of England would obey the mandate of the British democracy, and give to the people of Ireland a message from the masses of the English people of peace and reconciliation between the two nations. That is the question we are going to decide by the second reading of the Bill. We may be prevented from doing so owing to this unholy alliance. The Whigs and the Tories—I will not mention any other—Party, although the House is aware that there is a Party from whom we have, perhaps, a better right to ask for information than from the Prime Minister representing the dominant classes in this country, who are desirous of maintaining the dominion of the dominant classes in Ireland. [Mr. HEALY: The Devonshire estates.] The noble Marquess said that the declaration which came from the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was a sufficient justification of the Motion for Adjournment. The declaration of the Prime Minister, given in the form of an interruption, was that the Government thought that the better course was to re-introduce the Bill with modifications in the autumn. But the right hon. Gentleman made that declaration before the Adjournment was moved. The right hon. Gentleman was asked by the Leader of the Opposition what course the Government themselves preferred to take; and the Prime Minister, in language as clear as ever was used in this House, declared that of the 350 two courses which most recommended themselves to the judgment of the Government, that of re-introducing the Bill in an Autumn Session was the most satisfactory. Because the Government, therefore, had given an explicit answer, the noble Marquess thinks that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) was justified in moving the Adjournment of the House. The reason for moving the Adjournment was not to get information; the real reason was similar to that of the newly-awakened virtue of the hon. Member for Burnley with regard to Secret Service. It was part of a scheme of persistent, of dishonest, of unscrupulous tactics.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Gentleman is out of Order in applying the word "dishonest" to an hon. Member. The hon. Member must withdraw that expression "dishonest."
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Certainly, Sir; but I think you did not hear what I said. What I did say was not applied to any hon. Member, but applied to the political tactics pursued.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Dishonest tactics were attributed to an hon. Gentleman of this House, and that is the imputation of an improper motive. It is not a proper thing to accuse any Member of dishonest tactics, and I must call upon the hon. Member to withdraw the expression.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Certainly, Sir; I withdraw the expression without hesitation. I was about to ask what is the object, then, of moving the Adjournment of the House? It was not for the purpose of getting information; all the information had been given before the Adjournment was moved. The real reason was for the purpose of disturbing and distracting the public mind. The right hon. Gentleman had another object in view. He and the noble Marquess feared the re-union of the Liberal Party That is a perfectly intelligible object on the part of the Tory Leader, because a united Liberal Party is not a sight which can be pleasing to the Tory eye. Every Liberal Member, therefore, who joins in such tactics as these means, so far as he can, to prevent the re-union of the Liberal Party, and to prevent it sending a message of peace to Ireland. That has been the course adopted by the noble Marquess and the right hon. Member 351 for East Edinburgh (Mr. Goschen) all through. When I heard these right hon. Gentlemen speaking about the retention of the Irish Members, I thought it was the ardent expression of superabundant faith in the matter. Not at all; the reason why they called so much attention to the question of retaining the Irish Members at Westminster was because they knew that it was one of the few points on which different sections of the Liberal Party disagreed, and because they wanted to widen the chasm between the two sections of the Party in order that they might not become united. The people of England, Scotland, and Ireland outside the House are looking with very eager attention at what this House is doing. If it were only for the purpose of securing social order and peace in Ireland the House would be justified in carrying the second reading of the Bill. But I am sure the Liberal Party mean to do more than this—namely, to give a pledge and guarantee on the great question of leaving a people to select their own form of representative government, and that they are going to bestow on Ireland the right of governing her own affairs on her own soil.
§ MR. RAIKES (Cambridge University)
Though the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) may speak the mind of the Treasury Bench, I doubt whether, upon this question, he speaks the mind of the people of Ireland. There is reason to doubt whether the course proposed to be adopted—that of reading the Bill a second time and then withdrawing it—will be regarded as a message of peace from England to Ireland. I do not know whether that peculiar organ of Irish opinion, United Ireland, is to be regarded as a Ministerial organ; but it says that to read the Bill a second time and then withdraw it would be the most undesirable and fatal course which could be adopted, and that it would be better to defeat the Bill in the Lobby. I venture to think that when the hon. Member for Liverpool talks about a divided Liberal Party he should look at home and try to settle his own differences of opinion with the gentlemen who represent United Ireland. The Prime Minister has told us that this is a question which ought to have been raised, not upon the second reading, but after the second reading. It has already been pointed 352 out by my noble Friend below me (Lord Randolph Churchill) that it was the Prime Minister who raised this question first—not, indeed, in this House, and that is our principal grievance against him—but he did raise it in a manner which challenged the notice of the House at a meeting—not a public meeting, but at a meeting which is inaccurately described as a Party meeting—a meeting held at the Foreign Office, to which were admitted only Gentlemen who belong to one section of the Party, which was attended only by one-third of the Members of this House, and at which statements were made which it has been sedulously sought to conceal from two-thirds of the Members of the House so far as regards any utterance from the Treasury Bench. I cannot but think that the course taken by my right hon. Friend (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach.) in moving the Adjournment of the House has been amply justified by the incidents which have arisen in the course of the debate. The noble Lord opposite succeeded in making plain that which was previously clear only to the inner consciences of Ministers, and not to any Members on this side of the House—namely, what are the intentions of the Government with regard to this measure. We now learn—we have it on the authority of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, reinforced by that of the First Lord of the Treasury—that it is the intention of the Government to withdraw the Bill after it is read a second time, to prorogue Parliament, and to introduce another Bill in the course of the autumn. That is precisely the point as to which we sought information. When the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) speaks of reconstruction as applied only to Clause 24, and contrasts that with the reconstruction of the whole measure, he is exactly in the same position as if it had been proposed to withdraw the Franchise Bill and to reconstruct and remodel Clause 3, which was that giving the extension of the franchise. If anybody in a less distinguished position than the Prime Minister put forward the argument he attempted to hold it would be received with universal ridicule. If you reconstruct Clause 24 you transform the Bill. If the House is asked to vote for the Bill in order that it may be withdrawn, it is not even asked to affirm an abstract Resolution; 353 it is asked to go through an idle form simply and solely intended as an expression of unwillingness to reject a measure introduced by the Leader of the House.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS (Leicestershire, E.)
As the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) has spoken with extreme confidence as to the meaning of Her Majesty's Government in the answer they gave to my right hon. Friend (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach), I wonder whether there is any understanding between Her Majesty's Government and the hon. Member for Liverpool. I do not know whether there is any subterranean means of communication between him and the Government Bench. I do not know what it is to the hon. Member for Liverpool; but I can safely say this—that to the great body of the House the answer of the Prime Minister is enigmatical and unintelligible to the last degree. It was for that reason that my right hon. Friend proceeded to make the Motion for the Adjournment of the House, and I congratulate him upon the success of that Motion, because, undoubtedly, not to him, but to the noble Marquess who sits behind the Prime Minister (the Marquess of Hartington), two Cabinet Ministers vouchsafed the information which they had, in the first instance, denied to the House. Now, we know what advice Her Majesty's Government intend to offer to Her Majesty on this important subject. We know it now, and we know it for the first time; but when my right hon. Friend was driven to make this Motion in order to extract that information, he naturally availed himself of the opportunity to offer a distinct protest against the general course which the right hon. Gentleman announced to his followers at the Foreign Office. But we shall have, no doubt, on the resumed debate on the second reading an opportunity of expressing our views on that part of the subject. My right hon. Friend having now gained the information which he sought for, there can be no object in continuing the debate on the Motion he has made, and he would not put the House to the trouble of an unnecessary division.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ay 1; Noes 405: Majority 404.—(Div. List, No. 110.)354
The following is the entry in the Votes:—
Sir Michael Hicks Beach, Member for the Western Division of Bristol, rose in his place, and asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., the statements of Her Majesty's Government as to the future proceedings on the Government of Ireland Bill; but, the pleasure of the House not having been signified, Mr. Speaker called on those Members who supported that Motion to rise in their places, and, not less than 40 Members having accordingly risen in their places:—
Motion made, and Question put, "That this House do now adjourn:"—(Sir Michael Hicks-Beach:)—The House divided; Ay 1, Noes 405.