Order read, for resuming the Adjourned Debate on the Amendment proposed to the Main Question, as amended,
That, after a Question has been proposed, a Motion may be made, if the consent of the Chair has been previously obtained, 'That the Question be now put.' Such Motion shall be put forthwith, and decided without Amendment or Debate:
When the Motion 'That the Question be now put,' has been carried, and the Question consequent thereon has been decided, any further Motion may be made (the consent of the Chair having been previously obtained) which may be requisite to bring to a decision any Question already proposed from the Chair; and also if a Clause be then under consideration, a Motion may be made (with the consent of the Chair as aforesaid) That the Question, That the Clause stand part of, or be added to the Bill, be now put. Such Motions shall be put forthwith, and decided without Amendment or Debate:
Provided always, That Questions for the Closure of Debate shall not be decided in the affirmative, if a Division be taken, unless it shall appear by the numbers declared from the Chair, that such Motion was supported by more than Two Hundred Members, or was opposed by less than Forty Members, and supported by more than One Hundred Members."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)
And which Amendment was,
In line 1, by inserting after the word "proposed," the words "a Member rising in his place may claim to move, 'That the Question be now put,' and, unless it shall appear to the Chair that such Motion is an abuse of the Rules of the House, or an infringement of the rights of the minority, the Question, 'That the Question be now put,' shall be put forthwith, and decided without Amendment or Debate."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)
§ Debate resumed.
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. SPEAKER
I wish to point out that the Amendments on the Paper in the names of the hon. Member for North Donegal (Mr. O'Doherty) and of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) are out of Order. The Amendment before the House is—'That the Question be now put,' and, unless it shall appear to the Chair that such Motion is an abuse of the Rules of the House, or an infringement of the rights of the minority, the Question, 'That the Question be now put,' shall be put forthwith and decided without Amendment or Debate.
§ The Question I have to propose is, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
It would appear that hon. Gentlemen opposite are providing for a state of things when they themselves will be in the minority, by giving Mr. Speaker power to have regard to the rights of 1594 the minority. There is, however, a still more important matter which concerns the House at large. It is this. If the Government are serious in proposing this Rule, why do they not propose that it should be made a Standing Order? Before the House consents to pass the Rule, I think we ought to know that the Rule will be made permanent.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
Yes, it is proposed to make the Rule permanent.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The House is not now discussing the whole of the Rule, but only the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury on the Question, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I think it is an important matter for the House to know whether the Government, in introducing this Rule, propose to make it a Standing Order. But, passing from that, I will ask the Government, before the Amendment is inserted, to give us their definition of the value of these words, as compared with the words of the original Rule. I presume that they had fully considered the original Rule before it was submitted to the House. I presume they were suddenly seized with the idea that there might come a time when the Tory Party would find themselves in Opposition, and thereupon they decided upon requiring that the Chair should have regard to the rights of the minority. That is what the Tory Party gain by the change which has been made. I do not know, Sir, what it is exactly that you are expected to do. Are we to understand by the words "having regard to the rights of the minority," that they mean that when we elect a Speaker we are to have regard to the rights of the minority? Possibly, a Tory Speaker might take a broader view of the rights of the minority than a Speaker drawn from the Liberal side. In that respect, is it proposed to invest the Speaker with a partizan character? because every Speaker must take different views according to the Party with which he has been brought up. I cannot conceive anything worse than the change which the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman introduces into the Rule. Members sitting on these Benches come from Ireland. Now, nobody will suppose for a moment that the Speaker, who will 1595 never be an Irishman, will overtake the same idea we take of the importance of Irish measures. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, in common with the rest of the world, we will have regard for what we conceive to be the just measure of out-rights. The English Members, by inserting these words, will always, as they conceive, have ample protection against the application of the Rule, whereas the Irish Members will have no protection at all. Now, if the clôture is to be carried out, I want to see it carried out thoroughly; I want to see a clôture that will be used when we have a Home Rule Bill on the Table of this House, or on the question of the Disestablishment of the Church, or any other question that may excite the opposition of the Tory Party. At present, the bearing and point of the Resolution are simply in an anti-Irish direction. It is not a real Rule which is to apply to the House in common; but it has been given a partizan character, which ought never to have been imported into the Rule at all, and which it was altogether free from as it stood originally. I do not like the clôture at all; but if we are to have a clôture, let it be a real clôture, and not one which is to be used against the Irish Members only. We are now asked to legislate not as the Liberal Party desire to legislate—namely, against all minorities, but against a particular minority. I think it is a matter on which we have a reasonable ground of complaint, and I trust the matter will be taken up in this spirit by the Liberal Party. The Rule is proposed at this moment so that it may be applied to the discussion of a particular Bill in the distance; but the time may come when the Liberal Party are in power, and may ask to apply it to the question of the Disestablishment of the English Church. It is probable that we may then be called together to change the Rule once more, because it may not be applied to a Tory minority, on account of the Speaker having regard to the reasonable rights of the minority. A minority either has rights or it has not, and if it has rights it is entitled to exhaust those rights. You are determined to put down the liberty of speech and criticism. You say that free speech is a gross evil, and yet, at the same time, the Speaker is to have regard to the rights of the minority. As I have said, a minority 1596 either has rights or it has no rights, and this closure is not a Parliamentary closure, but an anti-Irish closure. The demand for the change of the Rule did not come from this side of the House, but from the hon. Baronet the Member for the Wells Division of Somersetshire (Sir Richard Paget). If we had conceived that it was necessary for our protection, we should have proposed it. But no such proposal came from us; we do act ask for it, and we shall oppose it. What I say is that the Tory Party have taken pretty good care to guard their own rights, and I would ask the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), whom I see in his place, if he really sees any useful object in carrying a clôture which shall be used against Radical measures only? The Tory Party are providing a shield and a buckler for themselves, which they may always be ready to avail themselves of when Radical measures are brought forward. Let us suppose that the Liberals are in power, with a Liberal Speaker in the Chair, and that some measure in regard to the House of Lords is brought on, and the Speaker refuses to have regard to what the Tory Party conceives to be the rights of the minority. There will inevitably spring up a question of debate as to the Speaker's interpretation of the Rule, and it will be made a matter of contention whether the Speaker has interpreted the Rule fairly. Surely that would be a most unfortunate state of things. I do not know that we Irish Members ought to care very much about it, because we shall not be here, or, if we are, we are not likely to take more than a humdrum interest in the debates of the House. But it is a very serious matter for the consideration of the Liberal Party. Personally I have always adhered to the Radical programme, and I am anxious that the Tory Party should not have the opportunity which this Rule will give them, of carrying on continual obstruction. There never was a Party guilty of grosser, more deliberate, and more persistent obstruction than the Tory Party in the past—as for instance, the Ballot Bill and the Redistribution Bill. Of course, I am speaking historically of obstruction, for I know it would not be Parliamentary to accuse anybody of obstruction in the present tense. And now, in addition to the ordinary amenities of the House, they 1597 are getting something they never had before, and the House is recognizing something that never existed before. There is no such thing as the rights of a minority; individually, Members have rights as such, but there is no such thing as the rights of the minority. How is the Speaker to know whether there is a minority or not? Is he to judge from the amount of obstruction offered? Now, for the first time we are engaged in giving a Parliamentary birth to the monstrous abortion—a Parliamentary minority. The Rule is simply intended as a protection to the Tory Party at the time they may be in Opposition, and I maintain that a Rule conceived in that sense is altogether an illusory Rule, framed in anything but a frank spirit, and altogether contrary in its application to the doctrine of the Liberal Party, that it should be applied equally to all Parties. The Government doubtless expect to find themselves in a minority very soon, and when that time arrives, with the assistance of their Liberal-Unionist Friends, they will have made a handsome provision for themselves as a minority. Seeing that the Amendment is a Tory offspring, its paternity alone renders me very suspicious of it, and, in the absence of any satisfactory explanation from the Government, I believe that in its working it will be found to be illusory, and in its ultimate effects, deplorable.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I am not surprised that the hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. T. M. Healy) objects to the insertion of these particular words in the Amendment. In his opposition in this matter, the hon. and learned Member and his Friends are only consistent, because they have uniformly opposed all the suggestions which have been made for the amendment of the Rules by the Government and their supporters. The hon. and learned Member asks, first of all, whether the Government are prepared to make this Rule a Standing Order of the House? At present I can only say that I am in the habit of proceeding step by step; but if the House adopts the Rule I shall be in a position to propose to make it a Standing Order as soon as I can. The hon. and learned Member severely criticized the motives which have induced the Government to propose this Amendment. I am afraid that the attitude of 1598 suspicion assumed by the hon. and learned Gentleman towards the Government is not likely to be removed by any observations which I can make. I will only say, for my own part, that in proposing the Amendment I have honestly endeavoured to meet a suggestion which I understood was generally acceptable, and not in order to expose the Irish Party to any peculiar, special, or personal penalties whatever. Having attempted to the best of my ability to satisfy what I felt to be a general feeling on both sides of the House, I cannot of course claim to have satisfied the House as a whole. I distinctly repudiate and disavow the intention which the hon. and learned Gentleman has attributed to the Government. My desire is to secure the just rights of the minority in all circumstances, and not to exclude any minority whatever. I think I shall best consult the feeling of the House, and shall not be wanting in respect for hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite, if I decline to debate over again a question which was exhaustively discussed on Thursday last. We then debated, at considerable length, whether the words objected to by the hon. and learned Member should stand part of the Resolution, and they were affirmed by a large majority of the House. I think, therefore, that I shall best consult the progress of Business by refraining from entering again into the argument previously used in support of the alteration.
MR. PAENELL (Cork)
I understand, Mr. Speaker, that you have ruled my Amendments to be out of Order. May I ask, Sir, respectfully, for the ground upon which you have so ruled?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The ground upon which I have ruled them out of Order is that they would stultify the action of the House. The House has refused to sanction the principle that debate shall precede the Motion for Closure. Therefore the Question, "That the Question be now put forthwith" means that it be put immediately, and, when that has been decided in the affirmative to allow debate to arise on putting the Main Question would be but a stultification of the House.
§ MR. PARNELL
I would respectfully submit that the House has not yet decided the question as to whether there shall be a debate on the question of clôture in any of the Divisions which 1599 have been taken up to the present time. The House has refused to allow a debate upon the Original Question to be continued after a Motion for Closure has been made; but it has not yet decided the question whether there shall be a debate on the Motion for Closure itself. That is the question I sought to deal with in my first Amendment. Then, in regard to my second Amendment, it bears upon an entirely different question. It seeks to provide that there shall be a Division on the question of closure, because the rule, as it now stands, leaves the question as to whether there shall be a Division or not entirely open; and I submit that we ought to ask the House for guarantees that there shall be a Division on the question, and that the closure of debate shall not be decided by the operation of a subsequent Rule to be moved by the right hon. Gentleman, providing that a Division may be dispensed with altogether at the option of the Speaker. This is of importance as a point of Order, because there is a question of numbers that enters into the Rule, and I fail to see how the Speaker is to decide as to numbers if he is to refrain from taking a Division. My second Amendment, it will be seen, has no reference whatever to any question that has hitherto been discussed or decided by the House up to the present moment. In reference to my third Amendment, to leave out the words "Amendment or," that has no reference to the continuance of debate, but of the right I claim of moving a formal Amendment to the Motion for the adoption of the closure. I would, therefore, respectfully submit that my three Amendments are in Order.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have examined the question very carefully, and, putting the three Amendments of the hon. Member together, the sentence would not run as English. The Rule, if the Amendments were adopted, would read—The Question, 'That the Question be now put, shall be put if debate arises after period not exceeding one hour, decided, unless negatived or agreed to, after a Division without Debate.That would not be a sensible reading at all, and I think the sentence does not run as English. The hon. Gentleman asks that the House, having previously refused to sanction debate, should then afford an opportunity for the discussion of a Motion that the Question be now 1600 put. It would be an absurdity to allow the Question to be further debated, whether the Question can be now put, and, therefore, I have no hesitation in ruling that the Amendments of the hon. Member, both individually and collectively, are out of Order.
§ MR. PARNELL
I submit respectfully to your ruling; but I hope I may be allowed to point out that it has been the custom of the House to frame Amendments to a clause as it stands, and not with regard to the manner in which it may be altered hereafter.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Under no possible circumstances could the Amendment of the hon. Member be made compatible with the Amendment of the First Lord of the Treasury. The hon. Member would be in Order in omitting line 1 to line 2 inclusive; but it would be impossible to bring the Amendments on that paper in harmony with the question now before the House.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
May I ask a question? Am I to understand that you are now ruling that it will be impossible for any Member to move Amendments in the clause of any Bill—?
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I have simply ruled on the question before the House, which is—"That these words be there inserted."
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I take it that the question now before the House is that the Question be forthwith put?
§ MR. SPEAKER
No. The Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury is now before the House, and the question is, "that those words," meaning the whole of the Amendment, "be there inserted."
§ MR. DILLON
Then I take it that the whole of the Amendment of the First Lord of the Treasury is now before the House, and it is an Amendment which has undoubtedly been framed with a view of directing the whole force of these Rules against the Irish Party. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to get up in this House and deny it. We cannot look into the minds of men and tell what their hopes may be; but we are perfectly competent to understand what are likely to be the effects of any particular Rule or Amendment, and to ascertain whether the opinions we express are shared by the public who take an interest in these proceedings. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House 1601 said that he had no intention of drawing any distinction between minorities and minorities. All I can say is that, if the right hon. Gentleman had no intention, his followers have had a very decided intention on the subject. They evidently did not like the Rule as it at first stood. I do not wonder much at that. They desired to frame such a Rule as would enable them to repeat in this House the proceedings which went on long before the Irish Party was formed here—in the days when a right hon. Gentleman, afterwards Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. James Lowther), and the right hon. and learned Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) led a forlorn hope in this House, whose tactics put those of the Irish Obstructionists to shame. The Tory Party now want to have the power of doing the same thing when they again find themselves in Opposition. I have witnessed the way in which the Tories, when seated on the Opposition Benches, wasted hour after hour in a manner that must have excited the admiration of every Irish Member, and now they fancy, if they can pass this Amendment, that they will be able to secure in future protection for themselves. It is all very well to tell us that we shall be secured in the protection of the Chair. That will depend upon who is in the Chair, and without intending to cast any reflection upon any occupant of the Chair in this House, I say that I, as an Irish Member, utterly decline, as far as I am capable, willingly to submit the rights of the Irish minority to the mercy or discretion of the occupant of the Chair for the time being. We know perfectly well that we have not the same hold on whoever may be the occupant of the Chair as the Conservative Members may have. Their position in England is of a totally different character from ours. [Cries of "Hear, hear!" from the Ministerial Benches.] Yes; "Hear, hear," hon. Members say. I know it is different, and that is the reason they fully calculate on being allowed, when in Opposition, to carry on such operations as distinguished the Fourth Party in previous years, and which received the protection of the Chair, when they only numbered three. We, although we number 85, for pursuing the same course would be promptly put down. Certainly it would be an amusing spectacle to see five-sixths of the Representatives of a 1602 country silenced by the Chair, in order to remove an obstacle in the path of the Government; but it is a spectacle we cannot be expected to submit to tamely when we see persons under the protection of the Chair who have not one-tenth of the interest we have, permitted to waste the time of the House for the simple purpose of assisting themselves to climb into Office. I have seen four hon. Gentlemen on that Bench holding the majority for hours at bay. If we attempt to resist the passing of bad laws in this House, we shall run the risk of being put down by the Chair; whereas other Members will be permitted to act as they please, because they are scions of the aristocracy—sons of Dukes, or sons of Prime Ministers. I should like to see the Chair put down the son of a noble Lord who is at the head of the Government. He would be allowed to lead any forlorn hope and to keep the whole Liberal Party at bay as long as he chose to do so, while the Representatives of the entire Irish people would be promptly silenced. We know that we shall be able to obtain very little of the protection of the Chair, and that we shall have to trust to ourselves for what protection we can get. We are convinced, however, that it will be ample enough for our purposes. At the same time, we have learned by painful experience not to part with a single right as long as we can stick to it. These debates have now gone on for a considerable length, and we are told that the House and the country are tired of the prolonged discussion; so am I, and so I dare say are most of the Members of this House; but they would be more tired still if they could realize that we are engaged in an absolutely worthless and profitless labour. It is not the first time that the House has been engaged in framing a Resolution of this nature, and this is one of the reasons why I intend to struggle against the Amendment, and to oppose the Rule as far as I am able to do so. In my opinion, these Rules will be worth no more when they are passed than the paper on which they are printed, and in discussing the Amendment we are simply wasting the time of the House without advancing, by a single inch, on the road you desire to travel. The blame of waste of time must be entirely on the heads of those who, by such Amendments as these and 1603 by suet Rules, are under the delusion that they can put down 85 Members who are commissioned to speak for an entire people. By the Rule, if this Amendment had not been put in it, you might have been able to put down real Obstruction; but by the insertion of the Amendment the Government have made it manifest that they have no intention of putting down Obstruction in the House. What they really desire is to put down the honest attempts of men who have a people at their back—the Irish Party—whom they conceive to be an obstacle in their path. Therefore, this Amendment is simply intended to protect the real Obstructionists of the Business of the House. Although we are opposed in principle to this Rule, and opposed to it on the ground that it is entirely unnecessary, because the obstruction and delay caused by the action of the Irish Members in this House would cease if you did justice to Ireland and allowed us to have our way—[Laughter from the Ministerial Benches.]—Yes; I repeat, if you allowed us to have our way; and I will say more, that we will have our way in the end. I say that if you will only do justice to Ireland, and will allow—what you will have to do in the long run—namely, the right, to the Representatives of Ireland, of legislating for their own country—you would need no such Rules and no such waste of time. I am opposed in principle to the whole of these Rules; because you are simply trying to deal not with a disease itself, but with the symptoms of a disease, and you know very well that you cannot cure a disease by endeavouring to combat the symptoms. As the Rule originally stood, it was an honest Rule which might, in the hands of a strong and determined Leader of the House, be employed for a useful purpose; but, as it now stands, it is thoroughly dishonest, and may be used to put down an honest attempt to alter or oppose a bad law, and in all probability will never be used when most needed and most required. The House has been reminded of the determined stand which, some years ago, was taken against the continuance of the practice of flogging in the Army. The opponents were few in number but they were persistent in their opposition, and in the end they prevailed. If this Rule had been in existence, flogging in the Army 1604 might still be practised. What I complain of is, that hereafter this Rule may be put in force, to put down all discussions upon important questions of that nature, while we may have a repetition of what we have repeatedly seen before, when three officers, who had no Army behind them, were able to obtain the protection of the Chair and keep the entire House at bay.
§ MR. BAUMANN (Camberwell, Peckham)
Now that the question of the intervention of the Chair in the application of the closure has been disposed of, there is no capital or essential difference between the existing Rule of Closure and the new Rule which has been proposed by the Government, and I think that the discussion of the subject has proceeded far enough. The principle of closure without the intervention of the Chair was decided by the House four years ago; and four nights ago—on Friday last—it was decided that the sanction of the Chair should be required. Those two important principles having been disposed of, I really fail to see how any subsequent Amendments to the proposed Rule can escape the charge—I suppose I must not say of Obstruction—but, at any rate, of superfluity. I would, therefore, venture to appeal to hon. Members opposite to assist the Government in bringing this discussion to a close as soon as possible, in order that we may be allowed to get at the real Business of the Session. I make this appeal not on behalf of my own Party alone, but for the credit and reputation of the House in which all Parties are equally interested. We know very well that hon. Members from Ireland sit here for the purpose of proving that the government of Ireland by England is impossible, and it is our business, not only to deprecate but to defeat that policy. We have defeated it already—[Cries of "Question!"]
§ MR. BAUMANN
My only desire was to assist the Government in the passing of this Rule, so that we may get at the real Business of the Session. Of course, I am aware of the great difficulties of getting at the real Business of the Session as long as there are Members in this House like the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere).
§ M. BAUMANN
Perhaps I may be allowed then to ask the House to terminate this discussion. Hon. Members sitting on this side of the House have been accused of having exhibited impatience at the prolongation of the debate. The impatience we feel, and which we may have occasionally exhibited, is, I believe, but a very mild reflection of the impatience which is felt in the country. I hope that before the Sitting closes, the debate will have been brought to an end by the application of the existing clôture.
§ MR. W. H. JAMES (Gateshead)
The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Baumann) has expressed an anxiety to bring the debate to a close; but I am afraid that if we act with undue haste in this matter the hon. Member himself and his Friends, at no very distant date, will be ready to believe that, in order to prevent a few hours weariness, they may have entailed on themselves a good many hours of repentance. This is a case in which the Government are undoubtedly anxious to escape from all responsibility. They do not find themselves in a particularly comfortable position, and in order to evade the responsibility which directly belongs to them, they are, by this Amendment, attempting to throw it upon the Chair. The Chair already possesses very large powers, and we have seen them properly and discreetly exercised. Let me illustrate that, by putting what may be, perhaps, regarded as an extreme case. Not long ago, Sir, you ruled that we might not discuss a Motion if that Motion in any way anticipates another Motion on the same question put down for a future day. Then, what is to happen in the event of some hon. Member on the first day of the Session putting down a Motion that he intends to call attention to the state of the Army, the state of the Navy, the state of the Civil Services, and the state of the nation generally? It appears to me that under your ruling, if such a Motion were placed on the Paper, it would shut out all discussion on any subject whatever. At the same time, I am of opinion that even if you carry this Rule, a much smaller minority than that of the Irish Members will be able indefinitely to postpone and put off discussion, and to 1606 prevent a conclusion from being arrived at upon any particular Bill. Therefore, from whatever point of view I look at the Amendment, I cannot see that its operation will result in any good; it will not prevent Obstruction if hon. Members are determined to resort to it, nor will it be a protection; but, on the contrary, there will be great peril and danger attached to it. It will expose the internal mind of the Chair, and render it open to the influence of external circumstances. I find that there is no harder task than to ascertain the individual mind of my own constituents. How much more difficult then must it be for the Chair to ascertain all the circumstances that may lead to opposition to a Bill, and still less to know all the circumstances outside which may influence large minorities. There may be a very large minority indeed outside this House, although supported here by something less than a score of hon. Members. What the Government have done is to infringe the rights and privileges of private Members, and to add to the perils and dangers surrounding the authority of the Chair.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury will be very grateful to the hon. Member for the Peckham Division of Camberwell (Mr. Baumann), who protested against the time wasted in this discussion, and then proceeded to prolong it by a number of very useless remarks. I feel bound to protest against the Resolution as it now stands; and when the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House says that its object is not to put down the Irish minority, he makes a larger draft upon my credulity than I am prepared to give him. I frankly avow that I am myself in favour of clôture, and of a strong and drastic clôture. The noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) is the living embodiment of the argument in favour of such a clôture. The Obstruction carried on by the noble Lord and other Members associated with him will have suggested to any rational mind the necessity for some remedy for the protection of the majority and the dignity of this Assembly. But does that Rule proposed by the right hon. Gentleman provide for such a contingency in the future? Every Member who goes 1607 into the Lobby against the Resolution will vote in favour of a real clôture, because they will vote against a sham clôture. This Rule, as it has been amended by the right hon. Gentleman, is for the purpose of protecting Obstruction instead of putting down Obstruction as it has been practised by the Tory Party. The right hon. Gentleman says that the Amendment is proposed as a concession; to whom has he made a concession? There were several Amendments proposed from these Benches, not a single one of which has been accepted; and the only Amendments accepted by the Government have been those suggested by the right hon. Member for North Hants (Mr. Sclater-Booth) and the hon. Baronet the Member for the Wells Division of Somersetshire (Sir Richard Paget)—in other words, the Amendments proposed by the Tory Members of this House. To say that the Amendment is the result of concessions to all parts of the House, when the Amendments from every side except the Tory Party have been rejected, is the greatest abuse of language that any Leader of this House has ever been guilty of. The hon. Member for the Peckham Division of Camberwell told us that a real Rule of clôture already exists. Then what an abuse of the Forms of the House and a waste of time it is to pass a Rule which leaves us in exactly the same position we now occupy. If the statement of the hon. Member is correct, why should we have been for weeks pottering and tinkering at the Rules? There can be no wonder if the constituencies cry out against this nerveless and flabby legislation. We strongly protest against the intervention of the Chair, not to put down Obstruction, but to maintain the dignity of the Chair. If the Rule is passed, the Obstruction of the Fourth Party of the dim and distant future will be just as much safeguarded as if it had never been passed at all. Under the existing Rule the closure may be passed without debate, and it may be carried without a Division. If the present Rule is carried, it will be in the power of the Chair to call on Members to rise in their places, and it will, therefore, be in the power of the Speaker at once to apply the closure. Accordingly, the closure may be carried, not only without debate, but without Division. 1608 But while the Rule will have this evil effect, I do not believe that it will protect the House from Obstruction. The First Lord of the Treasury has denied that it is to be used against the Irish Members at once; but I think the right hon. Gentleman has admitted that the main object in passing it now is to carry a measure of coercion for Ireland. It is an abuse of language, therefore, to tell us that the closure is not really directed against the Irish minority, and seeing that it is intended for Party purposes, I call upon every Liberal and Radical Member to combine with the Irish Members in resisting it.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
The Government have for some time been complaining of their inability to get on with the Business of the country, and when they get this weapon we shall see how much more successful they will be in pressing forward legislation than they have been in the past. I do not think the Rule will be of the slightest use to them in helping on their policy, or in forwarding the Business of the country. At first we had a positive proposal, requiring, very properly, the intervention of the Chair; but that proposal did not commend itself to some of the Members of the Tory Party, and some of them suggested an Amendment, which the Leader of the House has accepted with a slight alteration, changing it from the positive to the negative. Instead of the previous consent of the Chair being necessary, it is now provided that it shall not be withheld. The effect will be that it will be used by Members of the Party in power, not Members of the Government, but some Members of no consideration, who will endeavour to obtain Parliamentary notoriety by constantly getting up and moving "That the Question be now put." Let me remind the House that all reforms at first have had but few supporters, and that the tendency of this Rule will be to stifle all minorities. If the Rule had been enforced years ago, flogging in the Army would still have been a domestic institution. Its only effect now will be to introduce the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees into the arena of Party politics, which, I believe, will be a loss to the House at large, never to be compensated by any immediate cessation of Obstruction or by any advantage the 1609 Government may obtain by securing the immediate closure of a debate. I shall vote against the Amendment, because I believe that it is badly conceived, badly drafted, and because I believe it will totally fail in effecting the object the Government have in view.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
I should like the House to understand what the meaning of the Amendment really is. It relates to a Rule which allows no debate, and which is aimed at one class of Members only. I can understand you. Sir, having your mind made up and being satisfied that the clôture should not be applied, and in that case the person moving the clôture would be very easily disposed of. I can, also, understand your mind being made up that the closure ought to be applied; but I contemplate cases in which you desire to give a fair and impartial decision where there is doubt in your mind; and I ask what provision there is here to give you that information and leading which you will desire to have? I say that the House ought to reject this Amendment, because it dispenses with all those things which should make the decision of the Chair a fair and just one, and with which the conscience and mind of the House would thoroughly coincide. It is for that reason that we propose an Amendment to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. It is proposed that the moment a Question is put from the Chair an hon. Member may rise and move "That the Question be now put;" but the proposal goes further—it says that when a Member has moved no other Member can rise and remonstrate. Under those circumstances, hon. Members will have no opportunity of knowing when the Question is coming on, and you, Sir, will get no information as to the state of Parties at the time. I can understand that there will be many cases in which the Chairman could give no decision; for instance, in Committee on a Bill in which there are a large number of clauses; and I say, if the spirit of the Amendment we propose is not met by the Government, we shall be frequently landed in a position which will cause the House to regret that it gave this power without at the same time making provision that the mind of the Speaker or Chairman of Committees should be enlightened on the state of the mind of 1610 the minority. The Speaker or Chairman must first discover that there is a minority; secondly, he must discover what are the rights of the minority, and that, too, without the minority being heard. It is unreasonable to ask that we should put that duty on you; and, therefore, I appeal to the House to reject the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman which, so far as I can see, is infinitely worse than the original proposal of the Government, because the presumption in that is against closure of debate, whereas the Amendment contains a presumption in favour of it.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) has on several occasions met us with the argument that hon. Members on this side of the House are uniformly opposed to the closure; but certainly, if that is so, it does not affect the present argument against closure. The Government, however, have distinctly declined to receive or pay any attention to the arguments which have been urged against the Rule being allowed to retain its present form. I am opposed to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman because it does not give any opportunity for adequate debate, and because it does not give any definition of the rights of minorities. It would, in my opinion, as has been suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt), be better and more straightforward to accept the closure pure and simple by a bare majority than with this Amendment, framed on lines which are known only to Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench, and of which we take the liberty of doubting the genuineness and sincerity. The right hon. Gentleman is apparently indignant that hon. Members on these Benches should entertain any suspicion of the bona fides of the Government with regard to this Amendment; but we have nothing to do with good intentions here; we take the words as we find them before us; and we find the Amendment is proposed with a view to protect those who do not require protection, whereas to those who do require it it affords no protection whatever. A large minority can take care of itself; but a small minority fighting against odds and opposed by a large majority would have little opportunity of making their voice heard if this 1611 Amendment is passed. The Amendment does not make provision either to protect the rights of minorities or that proper debate should be had. For these reasons I oppose the Amendment of the First Lord of the Treasury; and I believe if there were a large body of independent Conservatives in the House—as there were in former times—that they would hesitate very long before they supported an Amendment like this, which utterly fails to cope with the question, and which experience will show to be most unsatisfactory.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR) (Tipperary, S.
Sir, I can scarcely think that the Government at all understood the scope of this Amendment when they proposed to attach it to the original Rule; but, at any rate, I am convinced that in framing it they have been very unfortunate because it deprives you, Sir, of that discretionary power which the original Rule placed in your hands. If we compare the Rule as it originally stood with the amended Rule proposed to be substituted for it, we shall find that your liberty and discretion with regard to the closure is entirely destroyed. We say that according to the original Rule you would have to be consulted before the closure could come into operation, but that under the Rule as it is proposed to be amended by the Government you will be dragged into the question—so to speak—with your hands tied. With regard to the discussion which has taken place upon these Rules, it is to be deplored that the Chair has been brought into the matter at all; but I am of opinion that, if the Chair is to be brought in, it is preferable that the Speaker should be allowed a full and free deliberation before being called upon to exercise this stringent Rule of closure. It is, therefore, the opinion of many hon. Members that the Rule originally proposed left you more liberty than would result under the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. This, Sir, is the great disadvantage of bringing the Chair into action after the Motion for the closure rather than before it, and it constitutes a very wide consideration which ought to be taken into account by the Government and the First Lord of the Treasury before pressing this Amendment to a Division. I am convinced that by adopting this proposal he would consult not only the interests of free debate in the future, but the 1612 wishes of this House at the present moment, and of a great many hon. Members who will follow him into the Lobby out of attachment to their Party. I am sure that there must be many hon. Members on both sides of the House who, through the exigencies and constraints of Party, will be found going into the Lobby to support this Amendment against their convictions which they would be otherwise glad to exercise in favour of the rights of minorities and the general freedom of debate. I have stated my belief that the Government and the First Lord of the Treasury can scarcely have any idea of the scope of the Amendment which they propose, and I am surprised that the First Lord of the Treasury should stick so tenaciously to this proposal. For these reasons I ask the Government and the First Lord of the Treasury, in whose name this Amendment stands, either to alter the wording of the Amendment or to withdraw it altogether, and put forward such a Motion for closure as will secure the willing acceptance of the hon. Members of this House. If we are to have the yoke, let it be placed upon us with our own consent and in accordance with our own judgment.
§ MR. E. HARRINGTON) (Kerry, W.
Sir, it has only been within the last few days that the words "rights of minorities" have been introduced. The Rule says that a Member rising in his place may claim to move—That the Question be now put, and unless it shall appear to the Chair that such Motion is an abuse of the Rules of the House, or an infringement of the rights of the minority, the Question, 'That the Question be now put,' shall be put forthwith and decided without Amendment or debate.But I ask, what is the minority? That is a question open to a good deal of doubt. There will, for instance, be doubt and difficulty upon that point even if an hon. Member changed his usual seat and sat in any other place in the House. I believe that many hon. Members would argue this point when the hon. Member making a Motion was not in his place. We are met here with a whole series of alterations, and because we want to understand where we are putting our foot we are found fault with by the right hon. Gentleman. The First Lord of the Treasury did not attempt to-night to explain what would be the practical working of this Rule, but he met the appeal 1613 of one hon. Gentleman who tried to push it to its legitimate issue by deprecating any further debate. I assert not only that these words are not in the best form that could be adopted in this House, but that they do not embody the sense which the right hon. Gentleman himself intended to put into the Rule. The Rule says "unless it appear to the Chair that such Motion is an abuse of the Rules of the House." How can you lay down a Rule which is to give power to a Member of the House to rise in his place and claim that the Question be now put, and yet contemplate that his doing so is an abuse of the Rules of the House? I say, Sir, that it is the privilege of any hon. Member, and that it can never appear to the Chair that he is abusing the rights of the House by doing so. I will not repeat the objections which have been urged to the use of the words "rights of the minority;" but I think it would be well that there should be some explanation from the Treasury Bench as to the meaning of the term "minority." I think it is altogether abrogating the rights of hon. Members, and of occasional minorities in this House to retain this expression. There has been no Constitutional or Parliamentary recognition of the term, and if you adopt the language of this Amendment I cannot but feel that it will result in serious danger and difficulty. If I could speak as an Englishman I should say that Party Government and Party feeling is carried too far in this House for purposes of general legislation on the needs of the country, and I contend that this Rule is setting a premium on that Party feeling, because it only recognizes the interests of the Government of the day, and the "minority." I shall be borne out by many hon. Members when I say that there has alway been in this House a Party which owed no specific allegiance to the Government, and who do not follow any particular leader. But there have been not one but several minorities, who have by dint of perseverance and by the latitude allowed by the Forms of the House, succeeded in impressing their views not alone upon the House itself, but upon the country. These in the future will disappear. I believe that the tendency of the Rule, and especially the words we are asked to insert in it, is in that direction. Speaking from the Irish point of view, of 1614 course, we are forced naturally into tentative opposition to every one of these Rules, because we look upon them as directed against ourselves and our country. We look on them as an expedient of the Government for occupying that time which should be devoted by this House in solving the problem as to how you are to reach practical legislation for the good of Ireland. I would certainly say that the Conservative Party seem to me to be only just occupying this ground and withdrawing inch by inch from a position which they know to be untenable. The proceed with these Rules because they have nothing else on which they can agree with those who permit them to remain in power. I wish the House to understand that there should be some means by which irresponsible Members should be prevented from rising in their place and interrupting a debate most useful in itself, with the Motion "That the Question be now put." There are many questions during the discussion of which no one but a few specialists are left in the House. Let us take for instance a debate relating to Scotch or Irish affairs. It may happen under the circumstances I have described, that a Member who has not been present, and who does not feel the weight of the grievance brought before the House, may come in and move "That the Question be now put." I do object, Sir, that it should be within the privilege of such a Member coming into this House without, perhaps, having heard one word of the debate, without having looked into the merits of the question, and merely because he felt in the mood at the moment to jump up and move "That the Question be now put." In my opinion the original Rule is better than the Amendment proposed by the First Lord of the Treasury, because the Rule provides that the consent of the Speaker should be previously obtained. I think it only reasonable to expect that before a Member could rise and interrupt an important debate, there should be some form by which that Motion of his should be tested before it is sprung on the Speaker, and before the Speaker declares either that it is an infringement of the rights of minorities or an abuse of the Rules of the House. Finally, Sir, I venture to express the opinion that if in place of going into this destructive legislation the House would 1615 apply itself to its broader and better functions, there would be a far nobler record of the Session.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 160; Noes 70: Majority 90.—(Div. List, No. 47.)
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
Sir, I rise to propose the omission of the words—When the Motion, 'That the Question be now put,' has been carried, and the Question consequent thereon has teen decided, any further Motion may he made (the consent of the Chair having been previously obtained) which may be requisite to bring to a decision any Question already proposed from the Chair.I have placed this Amendment on the Paper in order to save the rights of hon. Members with regard to debate upon a Main Question, and also to save the rights of hon. Members with regard to the moving of subsequent Amendments. Supposing that under the first paragraph of the Rule a Motion has been made, and the consent of the Chair has not been withheld, "That the Question be now put," and the Question is to be decided without Amendment or debate, and that Question happens to be an Amendment to the Main Question;—under the second paragraph of the Rule it is provided that a similar Motion may be made in the same way as the first Motion with regard to the Main Question, and that the debate on the Main Question may also be brought to an end in the same fashion. Let me take the case where I or any other hon. Member desire to move;—under the Rule as it stands not only would debate on the Main Question be brought to an end, but no opportunity would be afforded of moving any second or third Amendment. I think this is the time to ask the right hon. Gentleman what provision he proposes to introduce into this clause to fulfil his pledge with regard to saving the rights of hon. Members, who put down Amendments in Committee of Supply, and also to clauses of Bills. We have had a debate on the question with regard to Committee of Supply, and during that debate the right hon. Gentleman promised that he would consider how he could meet the wishes which many hon. Members of this House had expressed, that there should be some safeguard inserted in the Rule which would preserve to the Members of the Committee the right of moving several separate reduc- 1616 tions of a Vote. It is manifest, as the Rule now stands, that no such safeguard exists. I cannot accept the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman has put down as a satisfactory fulfilment of his pledge, and I must ask him to fulfil it in a more satisfactory way, that is, to agree to the insertion of a more real safeguard. At present we have no safeguard whatever. Therefore, we are entitled to ask for some real and tangible safeguard for the purpose of insuring that there shall be this full and free discussion which the right hon. Gentleman has declared so repeatedly it is his intention to afford to the House. The words "That the Question be now put forthwith, and decided without Amendment or debate," bring into force the summary process of the Rule as provided by the first paragraph against the original Question or the secondary Question, either on a Motion in Committee of Supply or in the discussion of the clauses of a Bill. In the first place, it provides that the Rule may be brought into force against all Amendments in Committee of Supply, and in either case it provides for stopping debate on the Main Question. You will find that by this Rule the Chair would have to deal even with a Question which has not been proposed at all. As I understand the matter, the Question, "That the Clause be added to the Bill," is not put until all the Amendments have been disposed of. The Chairman of Committee calls the clause by number; he then calls on hon. Members who have Amendments on the Paper to move their Amendments, one at a time, and it is not until those Amendments have been put, that he comes to the separate Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." Now in this Rule it is provided that the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" shall be now put; that is to say, that a Question which has never been put from the Chair at all, or an Amendment which has never been discussed, shall be put before Amendments are moved by any Members of the House. These are important considerations, and I mention them in order to show how necessary it is that some safeguard should be inserted. What you propose to give to any Minister of the Crown in the second part of this Rule is the right of saying what Amendments shall be put in Committee of Supply, or what reductions shall be 1617 moved, and in Committee upon a Bill what Amendments shall be moved to clauses. This practically puts it in the power of a Minister to pass a Bill en bloc through, the House without any discussion whatever upon any of its clauses. The question under discussion now is a very difficult one, and requires more explicit safeguards than the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) has hitherto suggested. I want to know in what way the right hon. Gentleman proposes to guard the freedom or liberty of debate in Committee of the Whole House, when the Chairman is in the Chair, and when, above all things, it is necessary there should be some safeguard other than that which has been proposed by the Government? Let me turn to the question of the necessity for some additional safeguards in Committee of the Whole House, other than that which exists. Now, Sir, there is a wide difference in the position of the Speaker of the House of Commons and in the position of the Chairman of Ways and Means. The Speaker is usually selected for his impartiality and his great knowledge of the Business of the House. He is not a partizan. In the words of the celebrated Speaker, Speaker Lenthall, he is a servant of the House; he is not its master, or the master's mate; he takes his directions from the House, and he is the guardian of its Order. He takes no part in our debates; but he can give a casting vote when Parties are evenly divided; but this vote he never thinks of recording. The position of the Chairman of Committees is an entirely different one. Of course, Mr. Speaker, when I refer, on the one hand, to the Speaker, and, on the other hand, to the Chairman of Committees, I do not speak in eulogy of the one and in disparagement of the other. I do not speak of yourself, or of the present Chairman of Committees; I simply wish to compare the position and functions of the two Offices, and the character of the men who usually hold them, without reference to individuals. The Chairman of Committees is always an intensely Party man. He does not partake in any sense of the nature of the Speaker, nor does his Office partake of the nature of the Office of the Speaker. He himself, as a matter of common custom, frequently joins in debate on disputed questions, and takes the side of 1618 his Party when the Speaker is in the Chair—when he is not acting as Chairman of Committees. The Speaker never does this; when his functions cease for the moment—when, for instance, the House is in Committee—the Speaker is not present in the House. He does not address the House, or take any part in the Divisions of the House. The Chairman, on the contrary, is entitled to speak on all questions, and frequently does speak. He has not the experience or knowledge of the Rules of the House that the Speaker has, and, consequently, a minority may be justly pardoned if they fear entrusting themselves, during proceedings in Committee on Bills, and during proceedings in Committee of Supply—to which this Amendment I move more particularly applies—to the power of such an official, without some checks and safeguards other than those which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has introduced into his Rule so far. Moreover, the Chairman of Committees is liable to have his place taken at a moment's notice, without debate or Division, by anybody at all whom the Government choose to put in the Chair. We have all witnessed, in recent years, the summary fashion in which, when the Chairman of Committees has been tired out with a prolonged discussion, and has needed rest, or for any other purpose of his own, has been obliged to leave the Chair, his Successor is inducted. No Motion is made, no Division takes place; in fact, the selection of a Deputy for the Chairman of Committees is the most summary and drastic process known. The substitute for the Chairman of Committees may be anybody at all; he may be wanting in all those qualities which our present Chairman of Committees undoubtedly has; he may be wanting in all the qualities which enable him to respect the rights of minorities, which the present Chairman of Committees possesses in such a remarkable degree; and we may have some Government partizan, some nobody, thrust into the Chair, without it being possible to protest, or to take any action against such substitution. And it is possible that, under such circumstances, such a partizan Chairman, such a Member of the House, may be carried away by his partizan feelings and by his passions of the moment, and very probably will be 1619 carried away, into inflicting grave injury upon the rights of the minority. See where your safeguards come in. The original Rule stands, "If the consent of the Chair has been previously obtained." Now it stands, "The assent of the Chair, as aforesaid, not haying been withheld." A still more slender safeguard than that which originally obtained in the Rule. We Irish Members cannot divest ourselves, in the consideration of this question, from the fact that this Rule is being carried expressly for the purpose of hurrying through a Coercion Bill; and that whatever protection an ordinary minority may have from injustice, such protection will be entirely wanting in regard to us, when the excitement and feelings of the House mounts, and everybody—or, at least, all the English Members of the majority—believe it is necessary to do something desperate, quick, and speedy, in order that the State may be saved. We have had to encounter this on several occasions. We had an example of the arbitrary action of a regular Chairman of Committees in 1882, when he suspended 30 Irish Members, many of whom, it was proved, had not been in the House during that Sitting, and many others had taken no part in the debate whatever during the Sitting. We had a large number of Irish Members suspended from the service of the House by the Chairman of Committees under a Rule which provided that Members could only be suspended for habitual abuse of the Forms of the House, and unduly prolonging discussion. Manifestly those who had not been in the House, or who had taken no part in the debate, or had not made any Motion, could not be said to be abusing the Forms of the House. When this action of the Chairman was challenged, especially by the Tory Party, the Rule as to the suspension of Members had to be materially altered, so as to prevent anything of the kind occurring again. Now, I invite the House to agree with me that, as this unfair action has been taken in times past by a regular Chairman of Committees under another Rule, so there is no reason why equally unfair action, the power to use which is very much wider and more open in the case of the present Rule than it was in the case of the Suspension Rule to which I have just referred, should not be taken again, and that, therefore, we should provide against it while there is yet 1620 time. I submit there should be some precise words put into this Resolution, providing that the Chairman of Committees shall be prevented from taking this unfair action, if he be inclined to do so. Unless you adopt some check or safeguard of this kind, you will have no security that the Members of the minority will be able to exercise the legitimate, useful, and time-honoured effect upon the ultimate shape of Bills and Resolutions in this House which the minority have always exercised. While upon this point, I must ask the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House for some more explicit assurances than he has yet given us, as to whether, when this Rule is passed, he intends to propose that it shall be a Standing Order of the House? Is it the intention of the right hon. Gentleman, after the House has finished the consideration of this Rule, or after the House has finished the consideration of as many of these Rules as the House may decide to consider, to ask the House to resolve that as many of the Rules as shall have been considered shall be converted into Standing Orders? How does that question bear upon my present proposition? My present proposition is for further and special safeguards, more particularly in view of what we know the Government intend shortly to propose. I wish to point out that, if it be not the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to make this Rule a Standing Order, or any Rule that the House shall have considered, a Standing Order, I shall have an unanswerable claim on Liberal Members above and below the Gangway, not only to support this Amendment, but other Amendments which either I or my hon. Friends may move with the object of limiting the character of this Rule; because it will then be plain to Liberal Members that the Government have no wish that the useful weapon of the closure shall, in future, be capable of being put into operation by the Liberal Party against them. It will be clear that this Closure Rule question is simply brought forward for the purpose of putting down Irish debate on the Irish Coercion Bill. I beg, Mr. Speaker, to move the Amendment which stands in my name.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the first word "When," in line 5, to the word "Chair," in line 9, both inclusive.—(Mr. Parnell.)1621
That the words 'When the Motion 'That the Question be now put' has been carried, and the Question consequent thereon has been decided, any further Motion may be made, stand part of the Question.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
Sir, I can hardly complain of the continuous opposition of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) to the Rule as it is now proposed to the House. He is, no doubt, consistently hostile to the Rules of Procedure as they are proposed by the Government. He wishes to prevent them taking effect, to prevent them being efficient Rules for the conduct of the Business of the House as we conceive it to be our duty to conduct that Business. Therefore, he is perfectly consistent in endeavouring to make it impossible for us to press the Rules in the form in which we have submitted them. The hon. Member asks that we shall except from the operation of this Rule the Committee of Supply and the Committee stage of all Bills; in other words, he desires to except from the effect of the closure the Amendments which may follow upon the Question which may be immediately before the House. I wish to point out that if that course were adopted, if Amendments can be moved one after another, whether in Supply, or whether in Committee on a Bill, it would be perfectly hopeless to attempt to close debate, or to attempt to advance the Business of this House. It is obvious to anyone that, if the hon. Member himself, who is opposed to the course we are now pursuing, could move Amendment after Amendment without end and without check, and the closure was not to apply to those Amendments, or not to apply to a clause which was a subject of debate, all attempt at closing of the debate would be absolutely hopeless. The hon. Member asks me whether we have fulfilled the engagements I have made to the House to consider the question of the power of the Chair? I have fully considered the question, and I believe I have clothed the Chair with a power which will protect, in the very words the hon. Member used, the rights of the minority. The hon. Gentleman says that the minority may be pardoned if they distrust the Chair; but, Sir, they distrust the Minister who may have to move the application of the Rule. The 1622 Chairman has an authority and power which he exercises, not for the protection alone of the minority, not in defiance of the Minister or of the Member who may move the closure, but in discharge of his duty to the House with reference to the question which may be before the House, or to the Amendments which may be on the Paper. It would be inconceivable that the Chair would permit the closure to be applied, and a clause to be put, on which there were vital and substantial Amendments. It is quite plain that the Chair will distinguish between Amendments which are vital and Amendments which are only conceived for the purpose of obstructing Business. I may observe that the hon. Member said that if a measure is proposed for the consideration of the House on the ground that it is necessary that the State shall be saved, and a Minister rises in his place, and says that it is necessary that the closure should be applied, and that debate should terminate, the House would at once accept, and the Chairman would at once accept, such a proposal. Well, if we ever come to a question in which a Minister, sustained by a great majority, can satisfy that great majority of the House that it is necessary to propose measures of an important character for the safety of the State, I believe that, with or without Rules of this kind, the House would accept the statement of the Minister as correct, and take his word accompanied, as it would be, by evidence, and the House would give any power that might be necessary. That, I think, disposes at once of that part of the hon. Gentleman's argument. What a Minister would do under such circumstances would be to make his case clear, and if he did, the House and the Chair would support his demand with such authority as was necessary. I have said already, in answer to the hon. Member, that I believe that the safeguards we propose are adequate safeguards, and that in proposing thorn, I have completely redeemed the engagement I made to the House. But the hon. Gentleman has said that the Chairman is not to be regarded with the same respect as the Speaker. I deny that that is the view of the House.
§ MR. PARNELL
I did not use those words at all. I did not say that the Chairman was not to be regarded with the same respect as the Speaker; but what 1623 I did say was, that the Chairman was not in the same position as the Speaker. I simply spoke of the nature of the offices of the two Gentlemen.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I took down the words of the hon. Gentleman, besides which, I remember distinctly that he said, "the Chairman was an intensely Party man," and I am sure that those words would convey the impression to the House and to the country that the decisions of the Chairman are not entitled to the same respect which always accompanies your decisions, Mr. Speaker. I have sat for many years in this House; and, although I admit, out of the House, the Chairman may belong to one Party or another, as I have no doubt you, Sir, out of the House, belong to one Party or another, my conviction, and I believe that of hon. Gentlemen of both sides of the House, is that the conduct of the Chairmen of Committees of whom we have had experience has always been that of men who were absolutely impartial, and who discharged the duties to the satisfaction of the House and of the country. My experience is, that the Chairman may, very fitly and very properly, be entrusted with the power with which we now seek to clothe him. I believe that the Chairman, in the exercise of his power, will not only protect the interests of the minority of the House itself, but will maintain the dignity and order of the House. I do not believe that the additional responsibility which is now cast upon him will, in the least degree, affect the propriety of his conduct. The hon. Member has asked me whether it is my intention to make these Rules Standing Orders. I wish it to be understood that so soon as the Rules which we desire to pass, and which we believe must be passed, shall have been passed, I will take the earliest opportunity in my power of having them made Standing Orders of the House.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
It is not desirable or necessary that I should do so. I do not propose that when this particular Rule is passed that it shall be instantly made a Standing Order, because it would be obviously undesirable that we should make a Motion with regard to each particular Rule.
§ MR. PARNELL
Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to finish Procedure definitely before going on to any other Business?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I cannot undertake to do that; but I say, distinctly, that before we leave the question of the New Rules, the House will be invited to make them Standing Orders. I cannot undertake to say that, before we proceed to any other Business, the House will be invited to make them Standing Orders. I wish to be clear and distinct with the hon. Member. Times and seasons must be taken into account, and it may be necessary to interpose urgent Business before the whole of the Procedure Rules are passed, and in that case, it will not be my duty, nor is it my intention, to ask the House to make those Rules, which may have already been passed, Standing Orders. But before we have parted with the Rules, I intend to ask the House to make them Standing Orders. As to the question of casual Chairman, it is the intention of the Government to restrict the powers intended to be given under this Rule to the Chairman of Ways and Means.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House praised the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) for his consistency in opposing these Rules. It is rather singular that the right hon. Gentleman should do that, considering that these Rules are identical with those proposed in 1882, which he (Mr. W. H. Smith) and his Party vigorously opposed. What my hon. I Friend (Mr. Parnell) has asked to-night is whether the Government intend to make these Rules Standing Orders of the House. The right hon. Gentleman has replied—"Yes; when these Rules have been passed, I shall make a Motion that they become Standing Orders of the House." When pressed, the right hon. Gentleman admitted that if other Business intervened before all the Rules had been passed, he would not make the Motion. The effect of such a course would be that the Rules will remain Sessional Orders only. The meaning is clear to us. An Irish Coercion Bill is; I to be introduced. This First Rule will become a Sessional Order, and, under it, anything like free discussion upon 1625 the Coercion Bill will be stopped. When the Government have passed their Coercion Bill, they will allow the Clôture Rule to lapse, and thus prevent its being subsequently used against themselves. I was glad to get this acknowledgment from the right hon. Gentleman, because it clears the air, and lets us see exactly what the aim of this Rule is. Then, again, the remarks made by my hon. Friend (Mr. Parnell) regarding the action of the Chair, especially of the Chairman of Committees, has not, in the least degree, been answered by the Leader of the House. Let us consider what is the power given under this Rule. If an Amendment to a clause of a Bill is proposed in Committee, and if dilatory arguments are advanced in support of it, it is left to the Chair, upon being appealed to by any Member, to clôture all the following Amendments to the clause.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I must call the attention of the House to the fact that we are not now discussing the whole of the paragraph, but only the part from the word "when," in line 5, to the word "Chair," in line 9. The hon. Gentleman is now going into matter which refers to the second portion of the paragraph, with which we are not now dealing.
§ MR. MOLLOY
I am sorry if I have misunderstood the Amendment; but I can advance the arguments I desire to address to the House upon the second portion of the paragraph.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) said it is inconceivable that the Chair will permit the closure to be applied to a clause in regard to which vital Amendments stand on the Paper; and, in the opening part of his remarks, he said the conduct of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) was perfectly consistent, inasmuch as his desire—and the desire of his followers—is to prevent the working of this Rule altogether, and to frustrate the object of the Government in getting the Rule passed. That depends altogether upon what the object of the Government is. If the object of the Government is to further the Business of the House, and the legislation of the country, we certainly have no desire to oppose the Rule; but if their object is to rush through the House a Coercion Act for Ireland by the aid of the Rule, 1626 we certainly do desire to oppose it with all the power we have got. Then he said it would be manifestly absurd to make any limitation to meet the objections of the hon. Member for Cork, and added—"I think I have clothed the Chair with full power to protect the rights of the minority." He used the word "the," if he had said "a" I should have liked it better, because it would have looked that he wished to deal more fairly with the House. "The minority" conveys a very unfavourable impression to my mind. I did not like, moreover, the manner of the right hon. Gentleman when he spoke of the support which would be accorded to the Minister in introducing any Bill which that Minister thought necessary for the safety of the State; because I know that if a Minister with a majority behind him makes an appeal for the application of the clôture upon any Irish question he is certain to find his appeal responded to. Now, this Amendment chiefly refers to proceedings in Committee of Supply. Under the Rule, as it now stands, there is absolutely no check upon a desire which may be evinced by hon. Members to take Votes with a rush, except the discretion of the Chairman. It is open for a Minister to take Vote after Vote, without allowing any discussion at all. We are asked to trust to the protection of the Chairman of Committees. I am bound to confess that our experience teaches us to distrust Chairmen of Committees in times of excitement, when passions are aroused, as they undoubtedly will be again, probably before Easter. I have, unfortunately, personal experience of what Chairmen of Committees will do. I remember coming down to the House one day and finding that I had been suspended at 9 o'clock in the morning, when I was asleep in bed. I was accused of obstructing the Business of the House; but as a matter of fact, I had not been in the House for 12 hours. The difficulty we labour under is that our position in this House is entirely different from the position of an English Party. The majority of the Members of the House are Englishmen, and the matters which we consider vital are to them exceedingly trifling and uninteresting. English Members regard all our business as a nuisance. No doubt, in times past, it has been a nuisance, 1627 and it will be a nuisance for some time to come. It is our duty to struggle against a Rule which will inevitably lead to the suppression of the voice of Ireland in this House. We do not moan to have our voice suppressed; because we realize that it has only been by iteration, by wearisome and tiresome discussion, that we have succeeded in compelling attention in the House. If you had had, six years ago, the power to close our mouths, not one of the reforms we have obtained for Ireland would have been passed. If you had silenced us, it would have resulted in Fenianism, dynamite, or something else of the kind. ["Oh, oh!"] In saying that, I appeal to the history of Ireland. When I first came into this House, or took up Constitutional agitation, the difficulty was to get the people to come to the polls, because they saw no use in doing so. What we have done—whether you consider it an evil or not—is to win a hearing for Ireland. We have won the confidence of the Irish people in Parliamentary action, and we have won it by making ourselves a nuisance to you.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The remarks of the hon. Gentleman are not relevant to the Amendment before the House. That Amendment only relates to any further action in case the Motion for closure is carried.
§ MR. DILLON
The effect of the Rule is, that whenever the Committee of Supply get tired of discussing the details of the Estimates, it will be in the power of a Minister to rush all the remaining Estimates through Committee. What I wished to bring forward was that, whatever chance under this Rule English Estimates may have of being discussed, the Irish Estimates have no such chance at all; because, as a rule, they are wearisome to the majority of the House. I shall, therefore, support the Amendment of my hon. Friend (Mr. Parnell).
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
The further one looks into these words the more extraordinary they appear to be. In the first part of the Resolution we have arranged that on certain conditions the Motion "That the Question be now put," may be made; but when the Rule proceeds further you find that a certain vagueness creeps into it, and it says that any further Motion may be made, under certain conditions, which may be requisite to bring to a decision any Question 1628 already proposed from the Chair. The original Question, which I will call X, has been proposed, Y is the first Amendment, and Z is an Amendment to that Amendment. Under the first part of the Rule, Z may be clôtured and decided in the negative without debate. Two Questions will then remain which have been put from the Chair—namely, X and Y, and it will be competent then for any hon. Member to move that X be forthwith put from the Chair. That seems to me a most extraordinary method of getting rid of Y. We have already decided to leave the rights of every individual Member of the House to the majority, under certain circumstances; but now it seems to me—if my interpretation of the Rules is correct—that we have gone a little further and have put the rights of every individual Member completely at the mercy of any other Member who may choose to move a rather foolish Amendment. An hon. Member may move a sensible and reasonable Amendment, Y, some other hon. Member may choose to move Z—an untenable alteration in it—the House may clôture that untenable alteration, then power will be left with the House to get rid of the sensible and reasonable question and put a stop to discussion. It may be said that this kind of thing will not be permitted by the Chair; but we have got to deal with the Resolution as it will stand on the Orders of the House. I trust that the Amendment will be accepted, or that a limitation will be put on the words "any further Motion," and that we shall receive some interpretation of the words "any Question already proposed."
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
The point raised by the hon. Member for Kilkenny (Mr. Chance), although it may at first appear obscure, is in reality a very simple one, and a very important one, although I do not know that the illustration, X, Y, Z, that he gave, was the best it would have been possible to offer. The Rule we are discussing, with the Amendment moved to it and the sub-Amendment to that Amendment, gives, however, a good illustration of what our position will be. We had the original Question including all the words of the Resolution. To that an Amendment was moved by the First Lord of the Treasury. That might have been an adverse Amendment, and, as a 1629 matter of course, in most cases an Amendment moved to a Question is an adverse Amendment. Well, to that Amendment of the First Lord of the Treasury a number of sub-Amendments were moved, and if this Rule we are now discussing were in force it would be competent for any Member to rise and invite the clôture on one of those sub-Amendments. The clôture being put in force on that Amendment, there would remain the original Question of the Rule itself and the Amendment standing in the name of the First Lord of the Treasury himself—to say nothing of the other sub-Amendments. Now, as this Rule is worded, it would be competent for any Member then to move that the clôture be applied to the Amendment or to the Rule itself, because the words of the Rule are—Any further Motion may be made (the consent of the Chair having been previously obtained) which may be requisite to bring to a decision any Question already proposed from the Chair,and it will be obvious that there are two Questions that have been proposed from the Chair. I imagine that the gentleman who drafted this Resolution did not realize the effect of the words he put into it. They will probably go a great deal farther than he contemplated, and, I take it, the Government will admit that they did not intend to propose what is involved in the Rule. I submit, therefore, that there is room for the amendment of the Rule in the way that it is proposed to amend it.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I think two or three practical difficulties arise from the wording of this Resolution as it stands on the Paper. If there are three Questions before the House the clôturing of the third will enable the clôture to be at once put on either the first or the second, and what we wish to secure is that there shall be a separate clôture in each case. I think that is only reasonable. The Budget may be under discussion, and a Conservative Member may get up and propose the abolition of, say, the carriage tax, and speak at inordinate length upon the subject, and the Government may clôture him. Well, the result will be that very important proposals affecting the tea duty or the whisky tax may be shut out by that proceeding. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman 1630 the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen),who is no doubt a great authority on these questions of taxation, shakes his head; but, it seems to me that under this Rule, when the clôture is put on one question, all the other questions will fall to the ground. Suppose you wish to go to war, and for that purpose desire to increase the tea tax from 6d. to 1s. The Leader of the Opposition may wish to resist that increase, and will wish to go round to the different sections of the House to see what support he can get. That will take some time; and, in the meantime, some hon. Member, hostile to the Government, or to some small extent friendly to them—and there is every shade of friendliness to the Government now—may invite his friends and enemies to help him in resisting the Amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, and someone may move that the duty on tea shall not be interfered with unless the tax is taken off armorial bearings, or something of that sort. That Motion he and his Friends may discuss until the clôture is applied, and the effect of that clôture will be to stop not only that Motion, but the more weighty Amendment as well. In that way a Government might avoid the discussion of a subject which, if properly debated, might lead to their being turned out of Office, and the Leader of the Opposition might be prevented from speaking on the principal Question. You may say that the Leader of the Government in this House would sooner cut off his right hand than refuse the Opposition an opportunity of challenging the conduct of the Executive, and no doubt that would have been his feeling in the old days; but I do not know how soon the courtesies of Party warfare may not be forgotten, or how long this old Parliamentary etiquette will last under the clôture. I see hon. Members on the Front Bench opposite smiling at that; but that is my opinion. Some Amendments moved in the House are sometimes of much greater importance than others. Often the weight of an Amendment is not thoroughly appreciated by the House or by the outside public. There is no one to judge of their comparative importance, so that an Amendment which seems of no importance, but which, if the hon. Member who desires to move it could show to be of the utmost importance if he 1631 were allowed to speak upon it, will be shut out by the application of the clôture upon another Amendment. There is no way to judge of the importance of an Amendment without bringing it before the House and then subjecting it to the test of the Press, and, finally, it need be, to the test of a General Election. If you pass the Rule in the form proposed by the Government, you will be shutting out the possibility, and I would even say the probability, of a certain number of questions being brought forward, and will be shutting out most important questions by clôturing minor debates. I look on all these Rules, but especially this one of the clôture, as having a general tendency to drive discussion on most subjects from the House of Commons to platforms outside. I look upon that as a very dangerous thing. I consider that the best possible way to deal with vital questions is to discuss them here, where there is likely to be less friction and less danger than outside. To my mind it would be much better for Parliament to make up its mind to sit another month every year than for the House of Commons to pass the Clôture Rule. I know it would be a terrible misfortune if any hon. Gentleman opposite had to sit here from the 12th of August to the 12th of September, because then he not only would lose the grouse shooting, but also some of the partridge shooting. But however much hon. Members may be inconvenienced, if you do not take that course, and adopt this Rule instead, you will run the risk of shutting out the discussion of important subjects in this House and the opening of other channels for their consideration. You will be stopping an outlet for the blowing off of steam, which must be blown off to relieve the pressure on the boiler. If the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not condescend to give my observations some consideration, I should be glad if he or the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) would say a few words as to the manner in which discussions on the Budget will be affected by this Closure Rule. The discussion of the Budget is very important, and is one of the Constitutional functions of hon. Members of this House. If it can be shown that this Rule would enable the Government to stop discussion on ques- 1632 tions affecting taxation, it seems to me the Government should not insist upon carrying the Resolution in its present form. The Government say—"You may trust to us and to Mr. Speaker." I have no doubt that you may be trusted, Sir; but I am now alluding to future Speakers. At present, the only protests against the payment of money which hon. Members are not inclined to listen to are those protests with regard to Votes for the Royal Family. There has always been a howl to prevent discussion when hon. Members venture upon these courses with which the House generally does not sympathize. But Votes are proposed at critical periods—on the eve of a great war money is asked for, and with this Rule at their command the Government may feel themselves safe in proposing almost anything. In my opinion, it would be most unfortunate if, with a prospect of war before us, the Government were able to choke discussion in the House of Commons under cover of this Resolution. As I understand it, on the Budget and all questions of taxation we shall be incurring a great danger by passing this Rule in its present form, because by the clôturing a comparatively trivial matter you would be able to shut out very important questions; and although you might be very likely backed up by public opinion in London, you may afterwards find yourself in great danger amongst the constituencies.
MR. STAVELEY HILL (Stafford shire, Kingswinford)
I agree with a great deal which has been said by the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Nolan) who has just spoken, and I think that this feature of the clôture will very greatly endanger free debate in this House. It means that as soon as one part of a clause of a Bill has had the clôture applied to it the whole of the rest of the clause may be put from the Chair. There was a time in the drafting of our old Acts of Parliament when that process would have been innocent enough—when each clause represented in itself some particular vital enactment. But at the present time clauses are drawn in a different way. Clauses are now drawn in a number of sub-sections—
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. and learned Gentleman is now dealing with that part of the Resolution which refers to the consideration of a clause. The 1633 hon. and learned Member will see that that subject is in the second portion of the paragraph, and is not included in the subject under consideration.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
I bow to your ruling, Sir; but I thought the argument I was using would apply to both proceedings. I will restrict myself to the first portion. I was suggesting that as clauses are now drawn they fall into half-a-dozen, or sometimes as many as a dozen or20 various sub-sections, all hinging on the first part of the clause.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Question before the House is to leave out the words—That the words 'When the Motion, "That the Question be now put," has been carried, and the Question consequent thereon has been decided, any further Motion may be made.'That is all which would be excluded by the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). The rest of the paragraph of the Resolution refers to "the clause" which is now the subject of the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
Then, Sir, I will reserve what I have to say until we come to the latter part of the Resolution.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite have appealed to me to say a word or two upon this subject; but, as a matter of fact, I adverted to it in one of the earlier discussions upon this Rule. I pointed out that theoretically the power taken in this Rule is certainly very great. The point, therefore, is whether the advantages of adopting this Rule are greater than the difficulties in which, the House is involved by defects of procedure. The hon. and gallant Member opposite (Colonel Nolan) addressed the House as if it were the desire of the Government or any section of the House to limit debate. It has been repeated over and over again, however, that neither the Government nor any section of the House wish to curtail legitimate debate. I am sure I express the feeling of the great majority in this House when I say that the best we expect from this Rule is that the knowledge of its existence may render it unnecessary ever to apply it. The hon. and gallant Member spoke of the courtesy of warfare. We should wish the courtesies of warfare not only to be 1634 continued as they are at present, but we should like to recur to the old practices of warfare, under which discussion was possible in this House. With regard to the special point raised by the hon. and gallant Member, and others who have spoken, they seemed to me to make some confusion between what is permitted and what is possible; and they have spoken as if it were the necessary consequence of the Rule that important Amendments will be ruled out by previous unimportant Amendments. The construction of the Rule would make that possible, so far as these two lines are concerned, if they are not read in the light of the context—of what has gone before. Notwithstanding the opposition of hon. Members below the Gangway opposite, the interposition of the Chair has been secured. Those hon. Members voted against us in regard to giving the minority these safeguards; but, fortunately, in the interests of the minority, these safeguards were inserted in the Rule. You will have, both, in the full House and in Committee, the security which has been already enacted—namely, that a Motion for closure cannot be put if it is an abuse of the Rules of the House, or an infringement of the rights of the minority—and all cases which have been suggested by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite would fall under one, or both, of these heads. If the majority acted as it is suggested they would act, their conduct would be an abuse of the Rules of the House, and an infringement of the rights of the minority; and unless, therefore, we assume that the Chair would disregard a distinct enactment of the House, we know that it would refuse its consent to any Motion of that kind. I apprehend that in all these most important questions of taxation, to which the hon. and gallant Member has referred, it would be perfectly out of the question that because some frivolous Amendment had been moved and disposed of in the discussion of a particular matter, therefore an important Amendment affecting the taxpayer should be burked, or that hon. Members who wish to speak on it should be silenced. I venture to think that such a thing is an impossibility, and could not occur. If it did, it would be an abuse of the Rules of the House, and a gross infringement of the rights of the 1635 minority. The Rule is drawn up in its present form in order that some power may be reserved to deal with absolutely frivolous Amendments. I have pointed out the safeguards that exist against the abuse of this power by the majority; but we must also have some protection against the abuse of the Rules of the House by the minority. It was pointed out at an earlier stage of this debate that unless some precaution of this kind were taken the clôture in Committee of Supply would be absolutely nugatory, because an endless number of Amendments might be moved, and the application of the clôture might be necessitated in such frequency as to render it impossible to come to a conclusion on the really important points of the debate. We have taken, and the House has assented to our taking, every possible security that could be taken against undue use of the Rule. We have done that in the face of considerable opposition, because we do attach the greatest importance to free discussion, and to the protection of the rights of every portion of this House. I would, further, point out one circumstance which hon. Members below the Gangway opposite have not alluded to; and it is this, that this clôture cannot be applied unless there are 200 Members in the House, which, again, is a considerable protection, because it shows that the Rule cannot be applied except on important occasions, and when there is a general gathering of the House. I can only repeat that it would be entirely contrary to the views of Her Majesty's Government—and, I believe, entirely contrary to the wishes of the majority of the House—if any of these Rules should tend to limit the free right of debate on matters of importance, and on matters which interest the House generally. And, further than that, I am quite ready to admit to hon. Members from Ireland that it would be a disaster if, under these Rules, they should not be able to debate with perfect freedom, and at reasonable length, all those matters which are of interest to Ireland, and which may be less interesting to England. Every part of this House would regret that the voice of Ireland should be silenced. We are all anxious to hear the voice of Ireland; but we have regretted that that voice has occasionally spoken at such inordinate length, and 1636 with such infinite repetition, that we have not been able to catch the kernel of the views expressed as well as we might have done if they had been presented to us in a more concentrated form. I hare been challenged to say a word or two on this matter; and I hope I have dealt frankly with hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite, as well as with the bulk of this House. I should regret if, in answer to their challenge, I had said that which would tend to prolong the debate. If I have, it will not be an encouragement to us to meet in future the challenges which are held out from time to time in that quarter.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) in the observations he has just addressed to the House has shown a lamentable ignorance of his own Rule. He has said that the Rule will not do any mischief because, in the first place, it will only be applied when there is a large gathering of Members, the presence of 200 being necessary before it can be enforced. The right hon. Gentleman is sadly in error. It does not require 200 Members to be present to rote for the closure. It could be voted by much fewer than 200, even 100 Members.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
That implies the presence of a minority of less than 40, which is a thing not likely to arise, looking at the constitution of Parties in the House.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
The right hon. Gentleman has been referring to what will be likely to take place at about 2 o'clock in the morning, when there are only a small number of Irish Members present. He looks upon this as an unjust power, but says it is necessary to place it in the power of the Chair, in order to prevent the proposing of unnecessary Amendments. That shows further ignorance of the Rules of the House, because there is already resident in the Chair power to deal with that kind of obstruction. Having admitted the injustice of the Rule, he says there is some safeguard in committing the exercise of that injustice to the Chair, because, otherwise, you will have endless Amendments proposed. But I remind him that if frivolous Amendments are proposed, there is already in existence power to deal with them. A 1637 Rule was passed years ago, in order to deal with persistent Obstruction—Standing Order No. 12. And how did that Standing Order operate? Why, in 1882, when many of my hon. Friends were at home and in bed, they were suspended under it. I was up all night on that occasion, and perhaps it was quite right to suspend me, but my hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary, now the Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon), and my hon. Friend the Member for Longford, now Member for Londonderry (Mr. Justin M'Carthy), who were at home in bed, were all suspended, showing that there was power in the Chair not only to silence Members but to abuse the Rules. It is not denied by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) that this is what may happen. You may have a Motion before the House—call it No. 1. To that there may be five Amendments. On the second of these the clôture may be moved and carried, and that operation will have an effect backwards, clôturing Nos. 3, 4, and 5, and an effect forwards, clôturing also the Main Question. Sir, a repeating rifle will be nothing to it. I put it to the House, is that a reasonable Rule for a body of sensible men to pass, especially when you consider that not only is there power resident in the Chair to prevent frivolous Amendments, but there is a surplus of power? I cannot conceive anything more absurd than the way this Rule will work. Under the Rules of urgency applied to Mr. Forster's Act it was possible for the Prime Minister to get up on the Tuesday and declare that on the Wednesday, if the Amendments were not disposed of at 3 o'clock, they should all be put and decided without debate; and then on the Wednesday if a Member happened to be speaking at 3 o'clock, the Speaker got up and decapitated him, and the Amendments at once went off like so many explosive crackers. But now you are adopting an even more absurd system. You propose, by lopping off a branch, to kill the tree—in the middle of a bunch of Amendments you stop one, and away go all the rest.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
It does not follow that if one Amendment is clôtured all 1638 the rest will fall. That will only happen when the Motion is made "That the Original Question be now put," and then only if decided in the affirmative.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I say that it may happen, and in view of the impetuous character of some noble Lords in this House, I confidently predict that it will happen. Give these hon. Members an inch and they will take an ell. The example of the mover of the first Clôture Motion will be followed, and the Amendments will be cut down in succession. In this way, as I say, you will reduce debate in this House to an absurdity. Then, here is a point hon. Members above the Gangway do not appear to be aware of. At an early period of the evening the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury made a remarkable confession in answer to a Question addressed to him. It is said that important urgent Business may be interpolated in these Procedure Rules, and the right hon. Gentleman was asked when he proposed to make this Clôture Resolution a Standing Order of the House? He replied that he should make the proposal whenever the discussion of the Rules was resumed. So that the Resolution, when passed, will be a Sessional Order. It will drop at the end of the Session, a Liberal Government, when they come into power, will not renew it, and hon. Gentlemen opposite hope that it will disappear altogether. The right hon. Gentleman said distinctly that the Government would not make this Rule a Standing Order. It is to be regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) was not in his place when that admission was made, or some Member who sat on the Committee when the Rules were being passed. The clôture was fought in that Committee and passed on by the right hon. Member for Derby, in the belief that it would be necessary for the conduct of Business in this House; but now we have it confessed that if the present Rule is carried, the Government will go on with the Coercion Bill, and the rest of the Rules will be left over to the future. If the closure is to be passed at all, let it be passed en permanence, and not to prevent all opposition to the Coercion Bill. I submit that these Rules have been drafted with carelessness. The Rules of 1639 1882 were carefully worded with regard to the power to be given to the Chairman of Ways and Means. A casual Chairman, by those Rules, was not to have the same power as was given to the Chairman of Ways and Means. It is clear that the House should not give this power of closing debate to the casual Chairman; and when we pressed that view on the First Lord of the Treasury, it will be remembered that he confessed that it was not intended that the casual Chairman should have this power, a fact which shows that the House would have made a great mistake if it had hurried forward this Rule and passed the whole of the Amendments in one night. When the Government make the admission that these Rules will work mischief, unless they are stringently guarded by the Chair, they concede our whole position. We say that whatever view is taken as between one English Party and another, you cannot take the same view of our questions as we ourselves take; and yet you say that the Speaker is to decide that the Motion for the closure is not an infringement of the rights of minorities, or an abuse of the Rules of the House. Under this Amendment, we shall have the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees applying their minds to all Amendments in a light which we do not share at all. Therefore, it is only reasonable that we should ask the House to say that no Amendment shall be clôtured or disposed of, unless under a system in which the clôture is applied to each particular Amendment.
§ MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
Sir, with regard to the raising of frivolous Amendments, which it is said that this Rule is intended to prevent, I think it has been shown that the Speaker and the Chairman of Ways and Means have ample powers at present for dealing with such Amendments, and that they have at times exercised that prerogative. We maintain that the proposal of the Government would make it quite possible to prevent debate on a series of Amendments such as those now standing in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell). It would be a great hardship on Members of this House to prevent them discussing reasonable and proper Amendments, such, for instance, as might be moved in Committee of Supply; but 1640 under the Rule any Member of the House could move that the clôture should be applied to that Amendment. I think that the House has something to complain of in the manner in which the pledge made by the Leader of the House some time ago has been redeemed. When we have asked him to redeem that pledge, we have always been met with the statement that the Government are not anxious to curtail reasonable, but unreasonable, debate, and that it is not anxious in the least to interfere with the rights of minorities, or with the rights of individuals; but if the right hon. Gentleman is so anxious to safeguard the rights of minorities or individuals, it is reasonable that we should expect that he would find words in the English language to enable him to put his wishes into proper form. The right hon. Gentleman says that we may depend that the right of minorities will not be infringed; but, even by his own admission, theoretically, the Rule is capable of being used very much to the detriment of minorities. We gather that the first use which will be made of the Rule will be to apply it to a Coercion Bill, and it will, therefore, be proper for us to offer every opposition to the Rule in its present form. With regard to the position of the Chairman of Committees, we maintain that he is appointed to the office because he is a strong Party man. He takes part in debates, and we say he cannot, therefore, take up the same unbiassed position with regard to the closure as the Speaker of the House. The Government should look forward to times when we may not go on peacefully in this House. We know that when the House is in a good humour its Rules are not likely to be abused; but that when Parties become excited, that those Rules will very likely be used with sternness. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary that, in framing these Rules, the Government should keep before their eyes what is likely to happen in times of excitement. For these reasons I urge upon the Government the acceptance of the Amendment of my hon. Friend.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
Sir, although I have not had the advantage of hearing the whole of the discussion which has taken place on this question, I have listened with attention to the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the 1641 right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. I understood the latter right hon. Gentleman to say, quite distinctly, that these Rules would be made Standing Orders; but it has now been suggested by some hon. Members that this is not the determination of the Government. I ask, therefore, if it is the intention of the Government to make each Rule, as it passes, Standing Orders, because, if it is not, then I must say that we are entering upon a course of considerable danger in adopting the closure for a moment, and not permanently, for the regulation of our proceedings. I feel as much as any hon. Gentleman that during this Session, we, on this side, whether above the Gangway or below it, may find ourselves in decided minorities with regard to some great question, and especially some connected with Ireland; and I shall not be surprised if, in the course of those debates, the closure is frequently proposed by some Member opposite, and that the Speaker or Chairman of Committees does not stop it. But it is some consolation that the time may come when questions will arise which are not palatable to hon. Gentlemen opposite, and that we shall have the power then of putting this power in force. I wish, therefore, to make the position quite clear, and to put an end to the strong impression that these Rules are not at once, and as each passes, to be converted into Standing Orders. My second point is this—I can quite understand that it will be proper to apply the closure to a good many Amendments on a particular question, those Amendments being ejusdem generis, and being practically disposed of by the adoption of one Motion; but I want to know whether this Rule, as it stands, does not go a good deal farther, and, if so, I think the House would be sorry to see the extreme power exercised which apparently may be given to certain words in the Rule. Suppose a Motion is under discussion, and there are on the Paper several bonâ fide Amendments, would it be possible that the closure should be so applied that it will shut out altogether all these Amendments? If that is possible, I appeal strongly to right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and to the whole House, as to whether it is not right to modify the Rule in this respect. Again, with respect to a Bill under consideration in Committee; suppose 1642 there are several Amendments to a clause, and the first is under discussion, I say it would be most impolitic, if we were to establish such a system, that an Amendment to another part of the same clause would be shut out.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the subject of Committees is not included in the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork.
§ MR. CHILDERS
I obey your direction, Sir, and I will briefly restate the two points on which I desire to have an answer from Her Majesty's Government. First, I ask for a distinct declaration as to whether, when this Rule is passed, it will be at once converted into a Standing Order without waiting for the adoption of the other Rules; and, secondly, for an answer to the appeal I have made to the right hon. Gentleman to introduce words which will prevent genuine Amendments from being shut out by the operation of the closure, after the first Amendment to a Motion has been put.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Sir, I can only speak again by the indulgence of the House. I think it is rather inconvenient for the right hon. Gentleman to return to the House and ask questions, every one of which has been answered in the reply given to the speech of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell). I stated distinctly to that hon. Member that it was the intention of Her Majesty's Government that the Rule now proposed should be made a Standing Order. I did not engage that this Rule by itself should be made a Standing Order. To make each Rule a Standing Order would subject the House in every case to a long debate, and possibly the Rule would be made a weapon for further obstruction; but I have undertaken in good faith to ask the House to make the Rules Standing Orders as soon as it is possible to do so. With regard to the second question of the right hon. Gentleman, I say distinctly that it is the intention of the Government to give the Chair complete authority under the Rule now proposed to exclude the Motion for closure as regard any subsequent substantial Amendment which remains to be considered. I think it impossible to define the matter more clearly. It must rest with the Chair to determine with regard to the Motion, whether it constitutes an abuse of the Rules of the House 1643 or an infringement of the rights of minorities. I have no desire whatever that any Member of the House should be precluded from the discussion of questions; and I think that anyone who sought to prevent the discussion of a substantive question, or to close debate when, from all the experience we have had in this House, debate must be entertained, would be absolutely unfit for the position which. I have the honour to occupy. On the other hand, Sir, it is impossible, if the regulation of the debate in this House by closure is to be exercised at all, to leave to hon. Members the right to discuss every Amendment which may be raised on a Vote in Supply at their own pleasure without the control and sanction of the Chair.
§ MR. PARNELL
Sir, I hope I shall be allowed to make an explanation in answer to the statement which the First Lord of the Treasury has just made. That statement does not free my mind from the apprehension which induced me, earlier in the evening, to ask the Question to which the right hon. Gentleman has adverted. The Question I asked was, whether it was the intention of the Government to move the House that these Rules, or such of them as may be passed, should be made Standing Orders after they have been passed, and before the Government proceeds to the consideration of other Business? The answer of the right hon. Gentleman was, that before the Government finally left the question of Procedure, it was their intention to move that such Rules as they considered it necessary to adopt should be made Standing Orders. But the right hon. Gentleman distinctly declined to pledge himself to refrain from interrupting the consideration of the Rules before the House after the First Rule has been passed, in the event of its being necessary to take up other urgent Business. Those were the words of the right hon. Gentleman, and they amount to this—that in the event of its being necessary to take up other urgent Business, after the passage of the First Rule the Government will take up the Business without making that Rule a Standing Order, with the intention of reverting, after the disposal of the other urgent Business, to the consideration of the remaining Rules. Well, Sir, I want to know if it is the intention of the Government, in the event of their thinking 1644 it necessary to proceed with their measure for strengthening the Criminal Law in Ireland after the First Rule is passed, and before the subsequent Rules have been disposed of, to make the Rule a Standing Order or not? Because, if they proceed to their measure for strengthening the Criminal Law—
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is taking considerable latitude in his remarks. No doubt, the First Lord of the Treasury will answer the question of the hon. Member.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Sir, the hon. Gentleman appeals to me to make this Rule a Standing Order. My reply is, that if, after the discussion of this Rule, and its adoption by the House as a Sessional Order, the House will accept it as a Standing Order without the delay attendant on debate, I will then move that it be made a Standing Order. I expressly guard myself against the delay which would take place from debate on the Motion that the Rule be made a Standing Order.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
Sir, I think the answer we have had from the right hon. Gentleman is one which perfectly justifies hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway in their apparent importunity. It is clear that if the Sessional Order is to be used for the purpose of passing the so-called reforms in Irish Criminal Procedure, by the time those reforms are passed, considerable changes may have taken place in the situation of affairs; and it may not be any long time before we are able to see whether we have been wise or not in allowing the Rule to pass as a Sessional Order. I am bound to say that, if there is a distinct understanding that the Sessional Order shall be made a Standing Order at once, before we proceed to the discussion of the Coercion Bill for Ireland, I do not see that this is other than a tolerably reasonable proposal. Upon that ground, we, at all events, shall offer no opposition to it.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
Sir, the Leader of the House says that he will move that this Rule be made a Standing Order, if the House agrees to its becoming one without debate. This means, practically, that he will not move that it be made a Standing Order unless the House gives that pledge. I want to know who can give that pledge? Any Member who chooses may afterwards 1645 get up and say that he is not bound by the pledge. Practically, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman says that he will not move the Rule as a Standing Order; but that he will, as soon as it is passed as a Sessional Order, pass a Coercion Bill for Ireland, and that, when the Bill is passed, it will remain to be decided whether he will make the Rule a Standing Order or not.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
The right hon. Gentleman says he will make this a Standing Order if the House guarantees that it shall be done without debate. We are not masters of the House; and we cannot say that there shall be no discussion. Then the right hon. Gentleman said it was probable that he would drop the other Rules of Procedure the moment he has passed the First Rule.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon; I said nothing of the sort. I said that it was possible that urgent Business might arise, and that it might be necessary to proceed with that Business before the whole of the Rules were passed. I referred especially to other than the First Rule.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
After that explanation, hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite ought to be a little abashed at the interruptions in which they have indulged. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) has said that urgency may make it necessary for him to interpose other Business.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I said it may be necessary to suspend the consideration of the Rules before all the Rules are got through. I referred to other Rules than the First.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I do not say the right hon. Gentleman does not in tend, some time or other, to proceed with the remaining Rules of Procedure. What I do say is, that the right hon. Gentleman contemplates the suspension of the consideration of some of the Rules of Procedure, on account of urgent Business that may arise. I venture to put my own interpretation upon these words. The right hon. Gentleman means to get his closure, and to use it in passing his Coercion Bill; and, when he has done that, we will never hear another word about any Rule of Procedure. I maintain that the right hon. Gentleman has been trifling with the House and the country, when he puts on the Table of the House a whole array of Rules of Procedure—
§ MR. SPEAKER
We are not now discussing the whole Rules of Procedure, and I must say the discussion on the incidental point has lasted long enough.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
After that warning from you, Mr. Speaker, to which I most gladly and willingly attend, I will proceed to the discussion of the Main Question, having said sufficient on the incidental question to show exactly how the right hon. Gentleman stands with the House. Now, I maintain that this Rule, as it stands, is a most serious abridgment of the liberties of the House. ["Oh! oh!"] I really must ask to be protected from the noble Lord the Member for the Darwen Division of Lancashire (Viscount Cranborne), who is indulging in very unseemly interruptions. Now, we have here the words "the Chair." The Chair may mean the Speaker, the Chairman of Ways and Means, or the Gentleman who is put into the Chair for the time being. Suppose the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) were put in the Chair—
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
The hon. Gentleman cannot have been in the House when I spoke upon this Amendment, otherwise he must have known I distinctly stated that it is intended to confine this power to the Chairman of Ways and Means.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
The right hon. Gentleman will facilitate the discussion if he will find out what a person is going to say, before he rises to interrupt him. I have not said anything about what the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman are. We must look to the words of the Rules, and not to the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman; and my contention is, that by the Rule, as it stands, this power will be given to any casual Chairman. It may happen that the Government will, on some occasion, select as a casual Chairman so impartial a man as the noble Viscount opposite (Viscount Cranborne). We have a right to demand that the Government will put in words that will save the House from this enormous and unprecedented interference with the liberties of the House. The right hon. Gentleman says we can trust the Chair. I will not mention names; but I have seen a Chairman of Committees carried away by the passion and clamour of the House. 1647 Last Thursday night a number of Gentlemen came down at 12 o'clock and endeavoured to howl down everybody who rose from these Benches, just as they are now vainly endeavouring to howl me down. Suppose we have a repetition of these scenes. Suppose that some night, after 12 o'clock, one of the relays of the Tory Members come down to the House, and, filled with political enthusiasm or any other sort of enthusiasm, persist in crying "Agreed!" and "Divide!" and in indulging in manifestations of extreme Party and personal opposition. I can imagine a weak Chairman, or even a weak Speaker, being carried away by the tempest of opposition, and consenting to the getting rid of half-a dozen Amendments to a large Vote in Supply, or to an important Bill before the House. I think that everybody who has any regard for the liberties of the House will strenuously and obstinately oppose this Rule.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 281; Noes 105: Majority 176.—(Div. List, No. 48.)
In line 7, to leave out the words "the consent of the Chair having been previously obtained," in order to insert the words "the assent of the Chair as aforesaid not having been withheld."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. PARNELL
Mr. Speaker, I wish to oppose the Amendment; but I understood the hon. Gentleman (Dr. Clark) had caught your eye.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Dr. Clark)
§ MR. SPEAKER
I consider that Motion an abuse of the Rules of the House, and I shall put the Question forthwith.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 94; Noes 292; Majority 198.—(Div. List, No. 49.)1648
§ DR. CLARK
Will you allow me, Sir, to make a personal explanation. I moved the adjournment of the debate as a protest against the course of conduct pursued by the Junior Lord of the Treasury (Sir Herbert Maxwell), in blocking Bills, and especially in blocking the Crofters' Act Amendment Bill. I thought that the course which this blocking Gentleman has been carrying on since the beginning of the Session was an abuse of the Forms of the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I may say it was because I was aware that that was the intention of the hon. Gentleman (Dr. Clark) in moving the adjournment of the debate that I thought the Motion was an abuse of the Rules of the House.
§ Original Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I should like to ask why the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) prefers the words he proposes to those already in the Rule? It seems to me there is no advantage to be gained by the substitution. At present the words of the Rule are, "the consent of the Chair having been previously obtained," and now the right hon. Gentleman suggests the words "the assent of the Chair as aforesaid not having been withheld." The one set of words requires from the Speaker a positive act; the other set of words means that the Speaker must withhold something. I do not think that the Speaker will ever have to put this particular branch of the Rule into operation; it will be altogether in the hands of the Chairman of Committees. Under the Amendment, the Chairman may sit still, while the clôture is applied; whereas, according to the Rule in its original shape, what I may call an affirmative assent of the Presiding Officer will be required. Under these circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman would do better to allow the Rule to stand as originally proposed.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
The House has already decided that the assent of the Chair shall be a negative, rather than an affirmative consent. The proposed words are consequential upon the Amendment adopted earlier in the evening.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
It seems to me that the consent of the Chair is a matter of great importance. I do not know anybody in this House, not even the present occupier of the Chair, whose opinions on matters of this kind are more authoritative than those of the late Speaker Brand. In the year 1881, when the Business was declared urgent, and Mr. Speaker was invited to frame Rules for the despatch of Business, he included, amongst those he drew up for an admittedly exceptional and transitory state of things, one Rule which was headed "Putting the Question." It was provided—That when it appears to the Speaker to be the general sense of the House that the debate should close, then that proposition shall be put from the Chair and be decided in the affirmative only by a majority of 3 to 1.Now, that is Speaker Brand's opinion of the position which the Speaker ought to occupy. Not only should the initiative rest with the Chair, but the action of the Speaker himself should be supported by a majority of at least three-fourths. The position of the Government is very different to the opinion of Speaker Brand. It seems to me a very reasonable and very moderate safeguard to ask for, that the consent of the Chair should have been formally and in set terms obtained previous to the Question being put. It is difficult to understand what is the object of the Government in attempting to limit these words, seeing that there is involved in the second portion of the Rule a summary closure of debate, such as has never been proposed in this House by any Committee—not by the Committee of 1848, of 1854, or of last Session, or by any Government that I have ever heard of. You will have such a closure of debate as will effectually silence men who have prepared themselves to speak upon a certain subject, and have been looking forward to an opportunity to address the House. These men may be especially qualified to debate a subject, but will be prevented from doing so, because other Members have incurred the displeasure of the House and have been clôtured. I do not see what the Government hare gained by refusing to include these words in the Rule; these words—namely, that it is proposed to strike out.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
I entirely dissent from the position of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, who holds that the words he proposes to insert are consequential. If he will look at the words of the Resolution as they originally stood, he will find that, according to the idea of the framer of the Rule, these words were not consequential. This is for a Motion separate and distinct from that for which the original consent was to be obtained. That first Motion we have disposed of, and I would strongly protest against the right hon. Gentleman attempting to make out that every fresh question that arises in the course of these debates has been already disposed of in previous debates. That is not showing the same fair play that he claimed for us, and for his own Party, in 1882, when the Tory Party occupied 17 nights in discussing a Clôture Resolution of not one-tenth part the stringency of the present Rule, and when they moved nearly 40 Amendments; whereas, up to the present moment, we have only moved some eight or nine. One Amendment which was moved in 1882, took three nights to discuss; whereas no Amendment that we have had before us in these debates has occupied more than a portion of a night. I protest, therefore, against the line the right hon. Gentleman has adopted on this and on other Amendments. I protest against his trying to shut us out from discussion in a way that he would not have allowed any political Party to do in 1882. Turn and twist this Amendment about as you like, and the more dangerous it looks, the more necessary it is to introduce some safeguard and regulation against abuse. The right hon. Gentleman does not propose to make it a Standing Order. He wants it for the passing of a Coercion Bill, and after that I suppose it will disappear with the Session. That is all very well. I can remember the clôture being passed in 1881, when the House agreed to Rules of urgency which provided a modified kind of clôture. I predicted then that the time would come when that incident would be taken advantage of by the Tory Party to pass a Rule for the application of the clôture pure and simple. That time has come; and now I predict again that the time will come when this Rule will be used with fatal effect against the Tory Party by the Liberal Party. 1651 Even if the Liberal Party has to propose it again as a Sessional Order, the Tory Party will be unable to maintain anything like a debate against it, after the language they have used in regard to it in the course of these discussions. I view the latter part of this Rule with the greatest alarm, as I believe it will be used as an engine of oppression against minorities, and that minorities will be unable to resist it. I believe it will do infinite harm and damage to freedom of debate in this House.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH (Hants, Basingstoke)
I would even now ask my hon. Friends whether they could not cure the mischief that is apprehended as likely to arise from the operation of the clôture upon a series of Amendments, by acceding to the present proposal. I regret that the affirmative action of the Speaker in dealing with this clôture has been changed into a veto. I foresee that it will never be exercised, as hon. Members will be careful not to come within the definition of abusing the Forms of the House. But I stated the other night, in reference to this subject, when discussing the Rule as a whole, that I could scarcely believe the intention was that, after the clôture had been applied to the first of a series of Amendments, we should be enabled to pass by all the other Amendments, and then go at once to the general proposition. There are three occasions of importance on which that may be done. The first is in connection with a series of Amendments in Committee of Supply. We have already discussed that. The matter has been pressed, and no concession has been made by the Government. The second is the question raised by the hon. Member opposite just now—namely, a series of Amendments on going into Committee of Supply. That question will be presently raised by the hon. and gallant Member for North Galway (Colonel Nolan), in an Amendment; and the third occasion, and the most important one, is a series of Amendments to a clause. I think it most extraordinary that a simple Motion of closure to one Amendment to a clause should enable us to pass by all the other Amendments, and come to the consideration of the Original Question. As I have stated, when the House is to rise at a fixed hour every night, there will be great pressure to use this clôture on 1652 every occasion that the House meets. I should be satisfied if the Amendment which I have coming on presently, in regard to Amendments of which Notice has been given to clauses of a Bill, is adopted. If the Government were now minded to allow the assent of the Speaker to apply to these subsequent proceedings, so that the clôture will not operate so as to pass by Amendments without the consent of the Chair, I shall be content. I do not wish to delay the House, or to argue the question prematurely; but I think if the Government would refrain from opposing this Amendment, and would allow the consent of the Chair to be given to the operation of the clôture under these circumstances, it would remove some of the objections which have been raised in regard to proceedings in Committee of Supply.
SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL&c.) (Kirkcaldy,
I would join in the appeal made by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down to the Government, to consider that the latter part of the Rule stands in a totally different position to the former part. It puts us in this position—that, at any moment, without notice, on any speech, any Member may rise and propose to clôture any clause. In the same way, with regard to the items of a Vote; when the discussion upon one of them is clôtured, it will be in the power of any Member to move to shut out discussion upon all the rest.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (Lord JOHN MANNERS) (Leicestershire, E.)
The proper time to discuss the point raised by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Sclater-Booth) will be when we come to his Amendment. Therefore, I hope I shall be allowed to pass by his contention, and to state that we regard the question, so far as it refers to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork, as being already settled by the Vote the House has given. Our view is that, on all these occasions, the minority will find protection in the necessity for the Speaker's consent being given to a proposal for the application of the clôture. I am surprised at the hon. Member for Cork opposing the present Amendment, because he has one on the Paper to precisely the same effect.
§ MR. PARNELL
May I explain that I put my Amendment down before the exceedingly mischievous addition pro- 1653 posed by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House appeared on the Paper? I proposed to leave the Rule without any restriction at all, under the belief that it would be a Rule equally fair to all Parties; but I have always opposed the restriction introduced into the Rule by the right hon. Gentleman, as being calculated only to serve his own Party, and to be of no use to us.
§ MR. CHANCE) (Kilkenny, S.
I must take exception to the statement of the noble Lord opposite (Lord John Manners), that we have already decided the question under consideration. We have only decided that part of the Rule which enables the clôture to be applied to one set of proceedings, and we have now come to deal with that part of the proposal which relates to a totally different set of proceedings. It seems to me that the proposal of the Government will be calculated to make hon. Members who have been successful in one Motion to apply the clôture push their victory to an illegitimate degree, especially when we remember that these proceedings will take place amidst considerable heat. I think, when it is a question of putting a stop to all subsequent discussion after the closure has been once adopted, the Chair ought to be put in a position of greater responsibility and power than the right hon. Gentleman proposes.
§ MR. CLANCY) (Dublin Co., N.
I think we should have a guarantee that the Speaker's intervention shall be well considered, and shall not be taken hastily. If the consent of the Speaker is to be previously obtained, time will be given to him to consider the matter, and to make up his mind whether intervention is called for or not. The danger at present is that he may be led into giving a decision which may be suspected of partiality. If the intervention of the Speaker is to be justified at all, it should be justified by impartiality and by the fact that we shall never get an unconsidered and hasty decision from him.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I observe that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) is giving little or no consideration to the representations made on this subject from these Benches. Surely, we may claim to lay our voice before the House, and to give 1654 to the Government any suggestions which we believe could be adopted with the greatest advantages. I must confess that I think, when an Amendment like this is under discussion, it is very strange that there are not some of the Conservative Members ready to follow the course of the right hon. Member (Mr. Sclater - Booth), in view of the grave dangers which are run by passing the Rule in a hurry and in passion. I maintain that I have correctly and accurately described the situation when I say that these Rules are being passed in a hurry and in passion, and that hon. Gentlemen opposite, in their design and wish to get a fleeting triumph over hon. Members on this side of the House, are forgetful of the dangers which may be incurred against the liberties of the House of Commons and by the Members of the Tory Party. I have very carefully read these Rules over and over again, and I must admit that the more I read them the more I feel convinced that the Rules are drawn out in a manner so clumsy, and the language is left so unguarded, as to lead to every kind of abuse of the liberty of speech. I hope that the greatest attention will be paid to the important appeal made by the right hon. Member (Mr. Sclater-Booth) to the right hon, Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, that the Government should seriously take into consideration some words that would prevent those great abuses of clôture by which the clôturing of one Amendment—the consent of the Chair having previously been obtained—would have the effect of clôturing every other Amendment on the Paper. We have already decided the question with regard to Votes in Committee of Supply; and, while I do not wish in the least to anticipate the discussion which will arise on this matter later on, I would suggest to the Government that what they ought to do is to announce to Members what is the principle of action on which they intend to proceed, in order that the course of Members may be clearer than it is at present. We ought to know, before we pass anything further, whether the Government will insist that the consent of the Chair, or rather the veto of the Chair, shall be rendered absolutely necessary with regard to each successive Amendment 1655 proposed to the House. I will recall to the recollection of the House the fact that when we have had Rules of Urgency passed, there was a very heated, vehement, and prolonged resistance; and this is what occurred in the case of the Coercion Bill of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). By these Urgency Rules it was possible to have all the Amendments upon the Paper taken at a certain hour in the evening; but then they were passed in circumstances which bore no parallel to the circumstances in which we are now, for the House of Commons was in a state of almost revolutionary fever. I call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury to the fact that, even in these Rules of Urgency to which I have referred, although no debate was allowed on the successive Amendments, each had to be divided upon. I candidly acknowledge, however, that that course led to some inconvenience, and yet I recognize the importance of the fact that we could have the Amendments divided upon. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury will give us, even in this Rule, the same safeguard that we had in the Rules of Urgency which I have mentioned. It appears to me, I must confess, very strange that, considering the abuse and clumsiness clustering in and about the Rule, that the Tories should sit down without complaint, while their Leader is forging such shackles for them.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I think, Sir, that the debate has been mainly with reference to the consideration of the clauses of the Bill in Committee, whereas the Amendment refers entirely to the former part of the Rule, which considers whether the Speaker is in the Chair, the latter part referring to subsequent proceedings. I should like to put to my hon. Friend the Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) an illustration of the mode in which this Rule would work if the alteration he suggests were made in it. I think the House has now decided that the power of the Chair shall be by way of veto, and not by way of consent; and I am of opinion that it would be wrong to have two ways of enforcing the clôture. The only 1656 time clôture was ever put in force was in a case to which this Rule exactly applies. The Question before the House was that the Orders of the Day and the Notices of Motion should be postponed until after the Motion in the name of the late Sir Stafford Northcote should be brought on. The Amendment was to insert the words "with the exception of" some other words in question. The Question was then put, "That those words should be inserted," and the House decided against it; but it would have been open to hon. Members to move that other Motions should be inserted, and inserted so as to completely nullify the putting the clôture in force. Clôture, without this clause being put in, I believe would not work at all. Yet while I quite reserve to myself the right to support the right hon. Member (Mr. Sclater-Booth), I would like to point out that there is a radical distinction between the Speaker being in the Chair, and the House being in Committee, either in Supply or on the clauses of a Bill. I would very much hope that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury would carefully consider the Amendment of the right hon. Member (Mr. Sclater-Booth); because I believe that it would remove a great deal of objection to the latter part of the Rule, if we had a guarantee that there would be no interference with the bonâ fide discussion on any matter. I will support the Amendment, because I think, in that way, the closure may be made effective.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 67; Noes 267: Majority 200.—(Div. List, No. 50.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words, 'the assent of the Chair as aforesaid not having been withheld,' be there inserted."
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I quite admit that we are now past the first portion of the Rule; but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury to make a Proviso, declaring whether casual Chairmen would be able to exercise the powers which the Rule would confer. Under the circumstances of the case, I think the Government are bound to give some guarantee of their intentions by accepting the exclusion of casual Chairmen, 1657 and providing that the word "Chair" should be removed and in its place inserted "Speaker or the Chairman of Ways and Means."
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I put down a Proviso of the character that is mentioned, and I will move it at a subsequent stage, the object of the Proviso being to restrict the powers of the Speaker and the Chairman of Ways and Means. The words which I shall propose are as follows:—"Provided that, in this Rule, the word 'Chair' shall include only the Speaker and the Chairman of Ways and Means."
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
The words proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury do not embody all that is necessary and satisfactory. What we want is that not only the casual Chairman, but that all the other officials shall be excluded. I do not wish the right hon. Gentleman to give us an undertaking just now, or make up his mind hastily; but will he consider this? I do not suppose the right hon. Gentleman has examined this Rule so carefully and anxiously as we have, and we say that his words have exactly the opposite object to that at which we aim; his words are for the exclusion of two officials, not for the exclusion of anybody else. We want to proceed by exclusion, not by inclusion. To the legal mind the words may carry a special significance; but speaking as a layman, and not taking a merely legal view of them, I say the words do not effect our object. Under the circumstances, I will now propose the Amendment of which my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Healy) gave Notice.
§ MR. SPEAKER
It will be extremely inconvenient to introduce the proposed words here, after the word "Chair," for this reason—the word "Chair" occurs previously without the qualification of these words. It would be far better to move the addition of the words by way of Proviso.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight)
It seems to me that the words proposed by my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. H. Smith) will meet the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite by the addition of the word "only" at the end.
§ MR. PARNELL
I think probably that would be sufficient; but what we propose to do now is to take a Division against inserting these words proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. In doing so, we revert to the original position of the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread). We take our stand on the principle we have maintained all through since 1882, when Closure Rules came first before the attention of the House of Commons, that if there is to be a Rule of Closure it shall be equally applied to all Parties.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 244; Noes 78: Majority 166.—(Div. List, No. 51.)
§ Main Question, as amended, again proposed.
§ MR. DILLWYN (Swansea, Town)
I rise to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether it is not time for us to go home? Putting my question into the form of a Motion, I move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Dillwyn.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I am very reluctant to put an early termination to the debate, in view of the amount of work we have got through. When we have done little work we should be prepared to sit a little longer. Seeing how little we have accomplished, I think a quarter-past 1 is an early hour. I think we might make a little more progress. We have had Divisions over and over again, and have arrived at a decision, and now that we have arrived at consequential Amendments, I think we might run rapidly through them, and adjourn at half-past 1.
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
I should like to point out that the next Amendment we have to deal with can scarcely be called a consequential Amendment. I refer to the most important point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for North Galway (Colonel Nolan). It cannot but give rise to a considerable amount of discussion of a technical kind, and, speaking for myself, and I may venture to do so for some other hon. Members, though the spirit may be wil- 1659 ling, the flesh is weak. I have no intention of taking part in any tactics of obstruction, and I will support any Ministry in getting on with Business; but at 20 minutes past 1 in the morning we ought to be allowed to go home, especially when we remember that we have to be here again at midday, only 10½ hours hence. I do not appeal to the hot blood of the Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite, but to the calm, good sense of the right hon. Gentleman, and beg him to listen to our appeal.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I can only speak again by the indulgence of the House, and merely wish to say that I do not think the discussion of the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for North Galway will occupy more than a few minutes. There is only one Motion to be put as an Amendment to going into Supply, and, consequently, there can be only one clôture, and it will be for the Chair to decide as to that Motion. This, by anticipation, I may say will be my answer to the Amendment.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
Whether it is the prosperity, the success he has met with in his position, the progress he has made with his New Rule, or what it is I do not know; but the right hon. Gentleman is getting very exorbitant in his demands upon the House on behalf of his New Rule. Speaking seriously, the right hon. Gentleman must admit that no Minister in charge of a Closure Resolution has ever made the progress he has during the last few nights. On the first few lines of the Resolution our progress was slow; but since then important questions of principle have been decided, and, as the right hon. Gentleman must see, the work remaining before us is materially lessened. There is no object to be gained in spurring a willing steed overmuch. The right hon. Gentleman may congratulate himself on having got through a very important part of his Resolution; and in view of the fact that we are now opening up the few remaining important points, in which some of his own supporters are interested, it is desirable that we should approach the subject on a fresh day with our minds uncontaminated by the strife that a very late Sitting always begets. It is surprising how the right hon. Gentleman has succeeded in carrying the House with him and his Motion. If anyone had told me a few weeks ago 1660 that after eight or nine nights' debate the House would have made such progress, I would not have believed him. I think, satisfied with his progress, the right hon. Gentleman might now allow us to go home.
§ THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Mr. COURTNEY) (Cornwall, Bodmin)
I am sure no one can enjoy very much sitting here any longer at this time of night. The right hon. Gentleman has made a suggestion as to the Amendment standing next on the Paper, and I confess that the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Nolan) seems to me so much waste of paper; but I am not going to argue it now. The next Amendment, as it seems to me, can be easily shown to leave the Rule exactly where it is.
§ MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
I really think we might be allowed now to adjourn; it is quite late enough.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
It is a little inconsistent that the right hon. Gentleman, who has among his Rules a proposition that the House should close its Sittings at half-past 12, should insist on having us sit here for any length of time. For those who live near the House, perhaps, it is not of much importance; but many of us live at a distance, and are put to considerable trouble and fatigue to get back here to-day at 12. We have made considerable progress to-night, though hon. Gentlemen who only entered the House since 9 o'clock could not judge of it. Those who have sat through these discussions know what a weary, fatiguing duty it is watching this Rule and the effect of Amendments. As a reasonable man—I am sure there is no more reasonable man than the right hon. Gentleman, or appearances are very much against him—I put it to him as a reasonable man, is it not better to adjourn before we get into a wrangle, have a Division, and waste our time? We are now in an equable condition of mind; but hon. Gentlemen opposite know what is the inevitable result of prolonging a contest on this point. We can now separate in good humour.
§ SIR ALGERNON BORTHWICK (Kensington, S.)
I simply rise to say I am extremely sorry to find the debate taking this conversational tone, and I would suggest that the House should address itself to Business.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 93; Noes 229: Majority 136.—(Div. List, No. 52.)
§ Main Question, as amended, again proposed.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
Sir, I take it that, after this Division, the Government will not persist in their demand to carry on the debate. I hope there will be no wrangle on this point, and I certainly have no intention of carrying on one; but I feel bound to point out that, as the House meets at 12 today, it is absolutely unreasonable to ask Members to come down here after only a few hours' rest. I, therefore, beg to move the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Healy.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
The hon. and learned Gentleman appeals to me not to continue a wrangle on this point. I wish to say there has been no wrangling on this side of the House, and all we have done has been to protest against a waste of the time of this House. In the position I occupy, I endeavour to do the best in my power to conduct the Business of this House to the advantage of the country; but when proceedings are taken which involve wilful, intentional, and persistent delay—
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to Order. I wish to ask if any Member has a right to say that proceedings which have been taken by Members on this side of the House have involved wilful and persistent delay?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The expression "proceedings involving wilful and intentional delay" is not un - Parliamentary.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I believe the words I used are fully justified and probably gloried in by Members of this House. I protest, in the interests of this House and of the country, against what is being done; but I am not prepared to go on wasting the time of the House and the health and strength of the Members and officers without arriving at any satisfactory result. I know it is in the power of hon. Gentlemen 1662 opposite, who number over 90, to prevent progress, and until the Rules are so altered as to place it out of their power, I recognize that fact and yield to their power, but not to their judgment; neither do I yield my own opinion. If the Motion for the adjournment of the House is withdrawn, I will move the Adjournment of the Debate.
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
Sir, may I claim one word in reply to what has fallen from the First Lord of the Treasury. I acted with the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) as Teller in the last Division, and I repudiate, in the fullest manner, the imputation that either of us was actuated by a desire to waste the time of the House. [Laughter.] I am greeted with laughter by hon. Members below the Gangway opposite, some of whom probably were not in the late Parliament; but, Sir, it does seem to me it comes with strange taste from Gentlemen sitting on the Front Government Bench to accuse us of wasting the time of the House. I do not happen to be green in this matter; but since I entered this House, I have never on any one occasion joined with any proceeding which could be decently charged as obstructive. But I have seen hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite take part in Obstruction on this very question of the clôture. In 1882, for 17 successive nights did I see right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite deliberately obstruct the Business of the House. I cannot accuse the First Lord of the Treasury of anything more than that he took advantage of the circumstances at the time, and if hon. Members from Ireland take advantage now of our natural objection to continue this debate to-night, in what do they differ from the First Lord of the Treasury? I think it is high time that this House should put the closure on the debate to-night. I hope we shall now go home, and I am not at all afraid of the construction the country will put on our action.
§ VISCOUNT LYMINGTON (Devon, South Molton)
Mr. Speaker; I wish, with the permission of the House, to say a few words. I have been here since half-past 9, and from what I have seen I am confident the country will well understand the difficulties by which the Government are confronted in their endeavours to carry on the Business of the House. I hope that the Government will 1663 take its stand to-night, and that my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury will say that he will not agree to the adjournment of the House, or of the debate, until we have reached that point in the Business for which he originally stipulated. For my part, I will support him.
MR. ILLINGWOETH (Bradford, W.)
I think the noble Lord who has just spoken altogether misunderstood the situation. He does not seem to have heard what the First Lord of the Treasury said. But, Mr. Speaker, I must confess that I am not prepared for the militant tone and frequent lectures indulged in by the right hon. Gentleman. Why should we be held chargeable with wasting time?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I rise, Sir, to Order. I wish to ask if it is in Order for the noble Viscount the Member for Darwen (Viscount Cranborne) to be continually interrupting the hon. Gentleman who is speaking?
§ MR. SPEAKER
No interruptions by the noble Viscount or of any hon. Gentleman reached my ears, or I should certainly take notice of them.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH
If the right hon. Gentleman had consented, without these comments, to move the adjournment of the debate, there would have been no necessity for the reply of the hon. Member for Sunderland. Why should I be chargeable with wishing to delay the Business of the House, because at half-past 1 the adjournment is moved? It was simply indecent for the right hon. Gentleman to make the charges he did as to the interruptions of the noble Viscount the Member for Darwen. I can only say he has youth on his side, and that renders his action tolerable. But we, in this House, believe there ought to be a limitation of the hours of labour of all people, and I do not see why Members of Parliament should be an exception to the rule. Why should we not go home till 2 o'clock, morning after morning, when it is held by the Government that it is necessary the debates should close at midnight. The Government are in possession of the whole of the time of the House; why should they work us like slaves? I wish to protest, in the most emphatic manner, against the tone of the right hon. Gentleman in charging hon. Mem- 1664 bers with a deliberate intention to obstruct the Business of the House.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Lancashire, N.E., Darwen)
Mr. Speaker, the hon. Member for West Bradford (Mr. Illingworth) has stated that I have youth on my side to make my conduct tolerable; I can only say, in reply, that he has not youth on his side, and his conduct is not tolerable.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Yes, Sir. If hon. Members opposite had allowed me to open my mouth, I should have said so before.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.