§ (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, Mr. Jackson.)
§ COMMITTEE. [Progress 24th March.]
§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House will, on Tuesday next, resolve itself into the said Committee."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I do think we have great reason to complain of the manner in which this Bill has been dealt with, though I do not know whether the Government or the Opposition are responsible for it. hon. Members, and myself amongst the number, have been kept hanging about the House for several nights expecting this Bill to be brought on—having, in fact, been told that it would be brought on. If I am not mistaken, the Government have consulted the convenience of one particular Member of the Opposition in this matter. I do not think, however, that they have any right to postpone a Bill, which it is generally understood is to be proceeded with, to suit the convenience of one Member, however distinguished that Member may be. We hear that the Motion to go into Committee upon this Bill is to be postponed until Tuesday. The proposal is most unreasonable, seeing that the Irish Members, who are deeply interested in the measure, have to start off to Ireland on Thursday, and have to be back in four days to pro- 604 ceed with the Crimes Bill. I call that nothing short of cruelty to animals. Why should not the Bill be taken tonight? We are ready to go on with it; it is not blocked; indeed, it has been in its present unblocked condition for over a month. Why should we be brought down here, night after night, merely for the convenience of a particular Gentleman who ought to be here to move the Amendments he has placed upon the Paper, if he has any desire to press those Amendments? I beg, Sir, to move, as an Amendment to the proposal before the House, to leave out the word "next" in order to insert the word "fortnight."
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "next," and insert the word "fortnight."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'next' stand part of the Question."
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR, IRELAND (Mr. HOLMES) (Dublin University)
I regret very much indeed that the arrangement which was made last night—namely, that this Bill should be proceeded with this evening, it has been found impossible to carry out. It has been intimated, through what I may call the ordinary channels of information in the House, that it is impossible to carry out that arrangement. The Government have undertaken not to pro-coed with it, and it would be a breach of faith, therefore, if they were to allow it to come on. But as the measure is one which must be proceeded with at the earliest possible moment, consistent with the pledges which have been given, it would be impossible to accede to the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. T. M. Healy).
§ SIR CHARLES RUSSELL (Hackney, S.)
This is a Bill in which the Irish Members have a particular interest, and it therefore seems to me only fair and reasonable that their convenience should be consulted in dealing with it. I presume the delay which the right hon. Gentleman opposite declares to be necessary is to suit the convenience of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler), who has put down on the Paper some very important Amendments. I would suggest to the Government, if they do not yield to the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T.M. Healy), and put off 605 the Committee stage for a fortnight, that they should, at all events, agree to some substantial delay in order to give the Irish Members a reasonable opportunity of attending in their places in order to take part in the discussion.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
That will not do at all. I ask leave to withdraw my Motion, in order to substitute Tuesday week for Tuesday fortnight. I think that is a most reasonable proposal, and I hope that the First Lord of the Treasury, who refuses to give us anything like a holiday this Easter, will, at any rate, allow us a decent interval, so that we may get back from Ireland in time to take part in the discussion of this Bill in Committee
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Make it Thursday week. The hon. and learned Member is almost certain to be in his place on that day.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I promised to be in Leicester next Thursday week. I was wrong when I proposed to make it a fortnight; I would move to substitute the word "week" for the word "fortnight."
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
I move to leave out the word "next," in order to insert "19th April." Some time ago, a number of Amendments which were put down against the Bill by hon. Members on this side of the House were withdrawn, in order to secure an early discussion of the measure. We have not, however, succeeded in securing that; and it is now proposed to take the Bill on a day which will be most inconvenient to all of us—on a day when few of us can be here. It will be in the highest degree detrimental to the administration of justice in Ireland if such questions as those involved in this Bill are discussed and decided by English Members in the absence of Irish Members. I think the Amendment I move should be carried without a Division. If the Bill is put down for Tuesday week we can go on with the con- 606 sideration of its clauses, and the Government can either discuss its details and pass it, or abandon it altogether.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "next," and insert the words "19th April."—(Mr. Chance.)
§ Question proposed, "That the word 'next' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
It is almost disgusting that we should have to make these appeals again and again on a question of obtaining merely a day or two. The Government know there will be very few Members from Ireland here on Thursday week. The right hon. Gentleman says I shall be in my place on that day. Well, if I had known that this Bill was likely to come on that day, I should not have made an arrangement to speak at a Radical meeting at Leicester; but, as it happens, I have made such an arrangement. There are other Members from Ireland who are also somewhat similarly situated, and I do say it is a most indecent thing to persist in ignoring our very reasonable desires in regard to such a measure as this. Many Irish Members will be absent on Thursday, and I would appeal to the First Lord of the Treasury to induce the right hon. and learned Gentleman sitting beside him (Mr. Holmes) to consent to the arrangement we propose. When we are asked to forego an Irish Parliament for the pleasure of sitting in this House, when we are asked to cross the Channel at least twice a-year, and to get sea-sick over the Act of Union, I think it is most unreasonable that our convenience should not be consulted with regard to the fixing of a day for the consideration of a Bill which only affects Ireland; and it is especially unreasonable when we consider that the Bill is, after all, only a minor Bill, and that the right hon. Gentleman is docking our holidays against our wishes. He expects Irish Members to come here and bow down to and oven love this House, and yet he will make us no concessions—not even the little one of putting down this Bill for a day when it will be convenient to us to discuss it. It is really surprising that the Government should refuse to yield anything to us in this matter.
§ MR. HOLMES
The House will remember that this Bill was introduced at the earliest possible moment of the 607 Session. It was necessary to push it on as rapidly as possible; but for some time a large number of Amendments were put down against it by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite.
§ MR. HOLMES
The Government have frequently endeavoured to bring it on. We wore anxious that it should be considered on Tuesday; but, finding that that would be inconvenient, we agreed to a postponement until Thursday. In view of the necessity for passing the Bill, it would be impossible for us to concede more than that, and I think that hon. Gentlemen opposite should agree to the proposal. I would ask leave to withdraw the original Motion, in order to move that Thursday be substituted for Tuesday.
§ MR. CHANCE
I have moved an Amendment to that original Motion, and I do not desire to withdraw it. I decline absolutely to do so.
MR. DEPUTY SPEAKER
The original Motion was that the House will, on Tuesday, April 12, resolve itself into the said Committee; since which it has been moved to substitute Tuesday, April 19.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
I trust the Government will accept the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for South Kilkenny. I was one of those who put down Notice of Amendment for the Instruction of the Committee on this Bill. I am sure it is only reasonable that we should have some time after the Easter Recess to enable Irish Members to got back from Ireland. The Government have had, practically speaking, all the Session to make progress with this measure. The measure is one in which we Irish Members thought that a variety of beneficial changes might be introduced into the Judicature Law of Ireland. We accordingly put down certain Instructions to the Committee. The Government stated to us that they would not accept those Amendments, and that if we persevered in discussing them they would be compelled to drop the Bill. We so far met the views of the Government as to withdraw our Amendments, showing by that that we had no desire to defeat or delay the measure. It is a longtime—several weeks—since we withdrew the Amendments. During the whole of that time 608 the Government made no effort whatever to make progress with the Bill; but now they come forward with an attempt to put it down for Tuesday—the day the House meets after the Recess—knowing perfectly well that very few of the Irish Members will be present on that day. The inconvenience of that course being pointed out to them, they are candid enough to admit it, and now they propose a compromise which would make the state of things infinitely worse than the original proposal—that is to say, they propose to take the Bill on Thursday week. The request we make is that the Bill should be postponed until Tuesday week, and that seems to us a most reasonable suggestion on our part; because we have already shown that we have a bonâ fide interest in having the Bill brought before us. I think that if the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General for Ireland has an interest in defeating this Bill—for the passage of which he is nominally responsible, but for which he has no real love—he could not do better than resist the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for South Kilkenny. I fancy that it is because he is anxious to see the Bill defeated that he adopts the stern and uncompromising attitude that he has done towards the Amendment of my hon. Friend.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
The Government, Sir, are displaying most unjustifiable obstinacy in this matter. What can it matter to them whether they take this comparatively small Billon Thursday in next week, or on Thursday in the week after? It is true that in the early part of the Session the Bill was opposed by blocks and Motions for Instructions to the Committee by the Irish Members; but it is also true that for the last six weeks there has been no block against the measure, and for the past four weeks no Motion for Instruction. The Government might have made progress with the Bill. ["No, no!"] They know the Irish Members were willing that they should proceed with it. It is admitted by the hon. and learned Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench (Sir Charles Russell) that Irish Members have a great interest in the Bill, and have a strong claim to be heard on it. It has been pointed out that many of these Gentlemen will be unable to be here on Tuesday next, having to cross 609 the sea, and having also to take long journeys overland. Many of them will not be here until they think it probable that the second reading of the Criminal Law Amendment Bill will be taken. That will not be on Tuesday in next week, nor for some time after. The probability is that unless the Amendment before the House is agreed to, there will be no adequate debate on the Bill, for there will certainly be no adequate expression of opinion on the part of those who represent the people who will be affected by the measure. The effect of refusing the Amendment of my hon. Friend will be that when the Bill comes on, not all, but some of the Irish Members will be in attendance, and we shall have a repetition of the conversation which has taken place to-night. The postponement of the Bill will be proposed, and discussed at some length, and the Government, after some attempts at resistance, will be in the long run compelled to accept such a Motion as that of my hon. Friend the Member for South Kilkenny. I submit that the judicious and sensible course would be not to wait until Tuesday or Thursday to make this arrangement, but to accept the Amendment at once.
§ MR. MURPHY (Dublin, St. Patrick's)
I recollect that when this Bill was be-fore the House, shortly after it was first introduced, we were told by the late Chief Secretary for Ireland that if it did not pass before the Circuits went out it would be useless, and would be withdrawn. Well, Sir, the Circuits have not only gone out, but they have come back again, and the judicial business of the country has been perfectly well carried on without the Bill. I am sorry to see that the First Lord of the Treasury has left his place; because he, at all events, is occasionally squeezable on matters of this kind. It seems to me that the proposition to postpone the further stage of the Bill to next Tuesday week is a most reasonable one.
§ MR. PYNE (Waterford, W.)
As we have had so much Irish debate in this House of late—everything has been purely Irish—I would suggest to the Government that they should allow English Members an Easter holiday by not taking Irish business at Easter time.
§ COMMANDER BETHELL (York, E. R., Holderness)
I would venture to sug- 610 gest to the Government that they should make this, what seems to me, very small concession to the Irish Members. The Bill seems to have been put off from week to week, and it strikes me, as an outsider, that it would matter very little worse if it were put off for a short time longer.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 111; Noes 63: Majority 48.—(Div. List, No. 89.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ MR. SEXTON
The Division which has taken place will show the Government that we are entitled to ask for a little further time before the Bill is taken in Committee. A considerable number of my hon. Friends who are interested in the Bill, and are qualified by professional training to deal with it are absent, and I can assure the Government that if they persist in the idiotic cause they are now taking, that we shall make a determined stand against the Bill being taken under the circumstances. They can surely gain no time by putting down the Bill a few days earlier than we desire; and, on the other hand, I am satisfied that the most convenient course will be to accept our suggestion.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
We are compelled to take this Bill on the earliest possible day, for reasons which have been stated. I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no disposition to press this point against hon. Members below the Gangway, if we can possibly escape from the position in which we are placed; but we are under an obligation to the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Henry H. Fowler) to proceed with the Bill without delay. I am unable to give the hon. Gentleman the pledge which he desires, but if hon. Members below the Gangway will consent to the Bill being taken on Tuesday, I will consider, before the Easter adjournment, if it is possible to meet their wishes. [Mr. SEXTON was understood to signify dissent.] At present, the latest day is Thursday—unless some other arrangement is made by hon. Gentlemen opposite. The Bill would have been taken to-night, but for the absence of the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton, to whom we are pledged.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I wish to point out that one hon. Gentle- 611 man has withdrawn a Notice of Opposition to the Bill, on the understanding that it would not be gone on with. I must express my dissatisfaction at the position taken up by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury with regard to the Bill. Many hon. Members on these Benches, who are interested in the measure, have been waiting night after night for the Bill to come on. Their hope has been so deferred, that they have become heartily sick of the measure. We cannot but think that the Government intend to bring forward the Bill when we are not in our places to deal with it. In order that the may get an assurance that the Bill will be taken at a proper date, I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Dr. Tanner.)
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
I desire to say that i shall not be backward in taking part in the discussion of the Bill when the time arrives; unless, by the arrangement of the Government, I lose all chance of doing so. I am bound to say that the unyielding obstinacy of the Government is something on which they cannot be congratulated. I have observed that a great interest is taken in this measure by the leading Members of the Party to which I belong. If the discussion on the measure be token on the day set apart for it by the Government—that is to say, to-morrow week—it will be utterly impossible for me to indulge in the pleasure and profit I shall derive from listening to that discussion. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) and myself have made appointments which will prevent our being present on that day. I cannot understand the obstinacy shown by the Government in this matter, except on the ground that they wish to give another proof of the firm and resolute conduct they showed on entering Office. If that is so, I think that their conduct in a small matter of this kind is extremely ungraceful.
§ MR. CHANCE
The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has expressed a hope that if we make an arrangement to take the Bill on Tuesday, the Government will be able to fall in with our views. As it is not possible to 612 make that pledge, I support this Motion in behalf of hon. Members opposite as well as those on these Benches.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I appeal to the right hon. Gentlemen to say whether we are asking too much in this matter of the adjournment of the debate. [Cries of "Agreed!"] I think it is too bad of English Gentlemen to shout down the appeals which come from these Benches in reference to a small Irish Bill. If we cannot get two or three days for the purpose of discussing this Bill later on, what may we expect in a case of greater magnitude and importance? [Interruption.] It is lamentable that English Gentlemen are so bound by Party ties that they will not listen to a reasonable request which comes from this side of the House, and that is one of the reasons why we fight the Tory Party as much as we possibly can.
§ MR. HOLMES
I think, en consideration, hon. Members opposite will see that the proposal which my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith) has made is not an unreasonable one. He asks that the Bill may stand for Tuesday, and he says that he will take the proposal of hon. Members into consideration before the House meets on Thursday, with the view, if possible, of making an arrangement in accordance with their views. I point out to hon. Members that if the Motion for Adjournment were agreed to, the Question would come forward to-morrow, and nothing would be gained.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.