Order road, for resuming the Adjourned Debate on the Amendment proposed to the Main Question, as amended.
That, after a Question has been proposed, 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 he 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 assent of the Chair as aforesaid not having been withheld) 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 9, to leave out after the word "Chair," to the word "such," in line 11.—[Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words 'and also if a Clause be then under consideration' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
I desire to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton), proposing to leave out the words—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;the object professed to be aimed at being to secure that substantial Amendments in Committee of the Whole House may not be shut out by the application of the closure. The principle for which the Irish Nationalist Party are contending 41 in supporting the Amendment is that we refuse to trust either the Chair or a majority of the House when the passions of the House are excited. The right to move Amendments was not taken away from the Irish Members even in those days when the Irish minority was much smaller than it is now—in those days when it consisted of only 26 or 27 Members, when great urgency was pleaded, and when a state of semi-revolution prevailed in Ireland. It was not even taken away from the Irish Opposition by the Liberal Party at the time when they were introducing their first two Coercion Acts. Those Coercion Acts were carried, and admittedly carried, under Rules of Urgency which are different from the proposed clôture or any Rules that have ever been proposed in this House. Under the Rules of Urgency, it was left to us to do what we shall be prevented from doing by the Rule now proposed, and that, notwithstanding that the former Rules were much more stringent than anything that has been since suggested. It was left to us to put Amendments on the Paper, and to have them formally put from the Chair and decided by a Division. That right is now to be taken away, and it will not, under the proposed Rule, be in the power of a Member to move an Amendment himself or to have a decision formally pronounced upon it. Now what does this mean? Why, the Chairman of Committees, who will be an ordinary Member of the House and a political partisan, will not be likely to refuse a Minister permission to move the clôture; and we shall have questions put, without a word of argument or explanation, which will prevent the putting of a single one of any of the Amendments to a clause of a Bill. The Rule, as it stands, means the transfer from the Members of the House of Commons to the Loader of the House, for the time being, the functions of proposing and passing any Bill he chooses to bring forward without alteration. We cannot trust to the sense of fairness of a Conservative Administration when dealing with an Irish question. In the case of an English Bill, hon. Members would understand the merits of an Amendment, and would be influenced by that understanding as to whether or not they would allow the Amendment to be squashed. On the eve of a Coercion 42 Bill, it is positively indecent—nay, more, it is an outrage—for the Government, with an eye to that Coercion Bill only, to ask the House of Commons to pass a Rule containing such a provision as this. The Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) will not help minorities in the slightest degree. It leaves the position of the minority unaltered; nay, it leaves the position of the minority worse—in fact, infinitely worse—because it enables the majority to save an Amendment from the operation of the Rule, while it leaves the minority exactly as it is now. I think I have shown that the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale does not meet the question from the point of view of the protection of the minority. It may meet the question from the point of view of the majority, but it does not touch the question which we have raised by our Amendment. I am surprised that a better production than this miserable Amendment has not been forthcoming; at all events, it does not meet the objection which we urged to the operation of the Rule. In these circumstances, I cannot advise my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast to withdraw the Amendment he has moved. I would urge my hon. Friend still to persevere with his Amendment, and to go to a Division upon it. It will also be the duty of the Irish Members to move an Amendment to that of the noble Lord, when, in its turn, it comes to be proposed, with the object of providing that it should be a satisfactory compromise with reference to the question as a whole; so that the minority shall not be left in the naked and defenceless condition now proposed. Even at the cost of incurring the charge of reiteration, I cannot help repeating that the Rule, as it stands, is more stringent and more oppressive that the Rule of Urgency under which Amendments were ordered to be put at a certain hour without de-bate, and divided upon by the House.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I think we have some reason to complain, in reference to this matter, of the conduct of the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale. The noble Lord was Chairman of the Committee which considered the Rules of Procedure, and he, in conjunction with the Government, has proposed, for the first time in the history 43 of the House, that Amendments put upon the Paper should be disposed of, not according to their merits, but with reference to previous Amendments, with which they have nothing whatever to do and with winch they can have no possible connection. I think it rather too bad that a proposal so extraordinary in its nature as that should have been placed on the Paper by the Government, and that a strong Committee of 40 or 50 Members which sat on the question of Procedure—one of the largest Committees which ever sat—should have been befooled and had its time wasted, under the Presidency of the noble Lord, when the main Rule to which I and my hon. Friends take exception was never brought under its consideration at all. I think that to have asked four Irish Members to sit on that Committee and waste their time in attendance on it for months, under the delusion that they were co-operating with the noble Lord, who is really the Prime Minister of England at this moment, is not in accordance with that fair treatment which the Irish Party have a right to expect. I should like to call the attention of the House to the exact effect of the Amendment if it is adopted by the House. I hold in my hand the Amendments that were proposed to a single clause—the 7th, now 18th—of the Irish Land Act. It was the Fair Rent Clause, and I would ask the House if it can guess how many Amendments were put down to that clause. There were no less than 132; so that, if this Amendment is adopted, the Government, to use the happy phrase of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), will be able to "squash" 132 Amendments at one blow. These Amendments, be it remembered, were not the entire Amendments put down to a Bill, but to a single clause of a Bill, and they wound up with a proposal by the present Chief Secretary for Ireland to omit the clause altogether. The right hon. Gentleman will have an ample opportunity of explaining his action in the matter later on. I ask the House, would it have been decent when there was an important Bill of that character before the House—so important that hon. Members had considered it not only reasonable but necessary to put down 132 Amendments to a single clause—would it have been decent or proper to have swept away the 44 whole of those Amendments by applying the clôture? I am afraid that there are very few Members outside the Government on the opposite of the House, except, perhaps, the right hon. Member for North Hants (Mr. Sclater-Booth), the right hon. Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), and one or two Gentlemen who have had experience in the Chair—with those exceptions, I do not believe there is a single Member opposite who understands the Rule. If there is, I challenge him to get up and explain what its effect will be. It seems to me that the Government do not really intend to make this Exile, except so far as a Coercion Act is concerned, part of the permanent legislation of the House, for, in spite of our taunts and entreaties, they have given no indication of their intention to make the proposal a Standing Order of the House. It is evidently framed with an eye to a Coercion Bill, and a Coercion Bill alone. We have repeatedly asked the First Lord of the Treasury if he intends the Rule as a serious proposal, and if he did, then to put it down as a Standing Order. We remember very well what Lord Salisbury said last year in regard to the government of Ireland—namely, that it must be governed for 20 years by a drastic system of coercion. As an illustration of the manner in which the Bill may work, let me cite what occurred some years ago in reference to a measure which had no immediate connection with Ireland. I see the Chairman of Committees in his place, and I should like to ask him, in reference to the illustration I am about to give, in what way the minority would have been protected on that occasion, if this Rule had been in existence? The Bill to which I refer was the Prison Discipline Bill of Mr. Forster, and my hon. Friend the Member for Cork moved numerous Amendments to the clauses of that Bill. The House at that time was impatient, and if the Irish Members had not possessed the right—which then existed—of debating the Amendments, there can be no doubt, having regard to the spirit which prevailed at that time, it would have been very difficult to have obtained the least consideration for prisoners. In a future Bill of a similar nature, it may be proposed to give the prisoners hard labour and solitary confinement, and the Irish Members, in 45 order to mitigate the lot of these men, might submit various propositions, such as heating the prisoners' cells. If this Rule is passed, the Chairman would be able to step in and say that Amendments proposed with a view of alleviating the condition of the prisoners were frivolous, on the ground that they might be dealt with by the existing Prison Rules, and the Government would be able to weather the Cape of Good Hope by applying the clôture to some previous Amendment, thereby preventing all subsequent Amendments from being considered. We have heard a great deal from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire as to his horror of closure; but has any hon. Member ever discussed in the country the proposal of applying closure to the Amendments that have been proposed? The strangling of children in their birth is a well-known operation; but to strangle them in the womb is very different. The clôture, as proposed by the Government, was intended to kill the child while young; but now it is proposed to kill it off before it can make its appearance, by machinery that was never even dreamt of by the noble Lord the Member for Paddington Lord Randolph Churchill). May I ask what is the intention of Members of the Liberal Party in consenting to act as bonnets for the Government? Are they not able to realize that Amendments before they have been proposed are to be killed still-born by this newly invented machine, which is not the closure, but something which has never hitherto been defined, oven in the copious vocabulary of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire. Having taken the whole day on Wednesday to knock into the heads of the Government some idea of our views, and having been met by them with a non possumus, it is remarkable that the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale should have been so struck with the justice of the view taken by the Irish Members as to rise at the end of the Sitting and say that something ought to be done to meet our objections. And now we see that the something he proposes to meet our objections is the Amendment we now see on the Paper. As long as the clôture does not exist, in spite of the protests of the hon. Member for Peckham or Camberwell 46 (Mr. Baumann)—or some classic region of that description—whose young and ingenuous mind desired to have the New Rule enforced on Tuesday without further discussion, I think there is something of value in what the Irish Members said after all. After four hours' discussion, we did contrive to penetrate the intelligence of the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale, and induce him to consider the reasonableness of our objections. Unfortunately, the proposal which the noble Lord makes is, in our opinion, more unreasonable and much more mischievous than the original proposal of the Government. What the noble Lord proposes is, "That certain words of the clause defined in the Motion stand part of the Clause." That, as it appears to me, would leave the matter in a worse position than before.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. and learned Member is not entitled to discuss the words of another Amendment.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I have no desire to discuss the words of the noble Lord's Amendment. It might be reasonable, in the case of a Coercion Bill, to discuss such an Amendment; but I maintain that to allow the Government to pick out particular Amendments, and apply the clôture to them, is a worse proposal than the original one of the Government. The least privilege which the smallest Member of the House should be allowed to enjoy is that he should have the power of placing Amendments on the Paper—practical Amendments—and to ask the judgment of the House upon them. Surely that is not too much for any hon. Member to ask. I say that, manage it as you like, whether by the intervention of the Chair, or by a Member rising in his place, you only allow particular Members to propose Amendments, such as the Prime Minister, or a Colonel of Volunteers—the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson) need not suppose that I allude to him, for I am not aware whether he is a Colonel of Volunteers, or Yeomanry, or Militia—but if the House will only allow such Members as I have mentioned to propose Amend- meats, and refuse the same privilege to other Members, a most unfortunate result will, in my opinion, be produced. It may or may not have been reasonable, in a moment of emergency, to pro- pose to kill off each Amendment by a 47 Division, and rather than have this Rule, I would prefer the liberty which existed under the Rules of Urgency. Let us have the power of taking the decision of the House upon Amendments, or otherwise there will be an end of the freedom of proposing Amendments. If you allow the Government to pick out particular Amendments, you will heavily handicap some hon. Members, and give a superabundance of favouritism to others. The proposal made by the noble Lord of putting power into the hands of the Chair to say such an Amendment is frivolous, while such other Amendments may be discussed, is one which is foreign, not only to the genius and traditions of this Assembly; but if you allow a proposal of that kind to exclude, by a side-wind, genuine Amendments submitted by other Members because you imagine it is desirable to bring a debate on some small matter to a close, you will do irreparable injury to the freedom of debate. As I have already said, I believe that the Government, having abstained from making this Rule a Standing Order, really intend that it should apply to the Coercion Bill for Ireland which they are about to introduce. They do not mean to embody it in the Rules as a general Rule, because they are fully aware that if they did so they would be cutting a rod with which to beat their own backs by-and-bye.
MR. STAVELEY HILL (Staffordshire, Kingswinford)
The hon. Member has done Members sitting on this side of the House scant justice when he stated that none of us have studied the Rule.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
It is not a few only who have taken the trouble to understand the Rule, or who agree with much that has fallen from the hon. Member. I have myself always been opposed to these Closure Rules. Such questions are not to be looked upon as Party questions; and when I have given way I have only done so in deference to the opinion of hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House who have considered that such Rules are necessary for the effective protection of orderly debate in this House. So far I have yielded; but here is a point at which I think I ought 48 to stop. I do not see why, when the clôture has been applied to the Amendments to one part of a clause, we should be compelled to swallow the rest of the clause without amendment. As Bills are now drafted they contain clauses, each of which may have six, eight, ten, and sometimes a score of sub-sections. Let me take the Army Discipline Act. In that Act we have enormous clauses full of sub-sections; and the same remark is applicable to many other Acts of Parliament. In the Naval Discipline Act all the punishments are contained in sub-sections. Suppose that the first sub-section had been the one which involved the infliction of corporal punishment. We might have had the debate ruled to be obstructive, and the closure might have been applied to it after it had reached a certain stage. It would, then, have been possible for the Government to have passed all the remaining 19 sub-sections without discussion. To such a closure I will never consent; and I think, if we pass it, we shall be giving up a very large slice of our liberty. Many hon. Members on this side of the House have carefully considered this Closure Rule. We are prepared to accept it where it is possible; but I do hope that the Government will find a way of putting in stronger words than any I sec at present to limit the actions of the Rule. If not, I hope that it will be resisted by the House.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH (Hants,) Basingstoke
I have endeavoured to frame words to provide that all Amendments should be disposed of in their turn, but not necessarily debated; but I am told by you, Sir, that if the Amendment of the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton), which is now before the House, is negatived, I shall be unable to move my Amendment, which will be ruled out. I have, therefore, nothing to fall back upon but the Amendment of the noble Marquess. I would ask the Government whether something more than the Amendment of the noble Marquess is not required to meet my views, and also the case which has been mentioned by the hon. Member who has just spoken? The Amendment of the noble Marquess seems to imply that a private Member should be invested with the functions of the Chairman of Committees for the time being, for it would be in his power to say what Amendment should 49 be put. He is to frame certain words to limit the extent to which the closure is to be applied; but that is essentially the function of the Chair, and by the Amendment we have already made the Speaker or the Chairman is to be limited, as regards his part in the matter, to a mere veto.
MR. SEXTOX (West Belfast)
Upon a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, may I ask if the right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that, if my Amendment is negatived, he will not be in a position to move the Amendment which he has placed on the Paper? The Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman comes after the word "consideration," which I propose to omit.
§ MR. SPEAKER
That is very true: but the Amendment of the hon. Member is to leave out the words—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.If the House negatives that Amendment, they will have affirmed that these words shall remain in the Rule; and the next Amendment in order will be that of the noble Marquess, which proposes to provide a machinery for avoiding an evil which has been generally recognized by the House. The two Amendments which follow that of the hon. Member for Belfast will be clearly out of Order.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Amendment of the hon. Gentleman is directed to the same point as that which is dealt with in the two Amendments which follow.
§ MR. PARNELL
The Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast seeks to provide that the closure shall not be applied to the consideration of an entire clause.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The whole point is, whether the closure, on being applied, will prevent subsequent Amendments—what may be called "bogus Amendments"—coming in. The whole question is whether, upon the closure being applied, such Amendments will not he ruled out.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
I am anxious to follow the appeal which has been made to the House by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for 50 Staffordshire (Mr. Staveley Hill), not to adopt that part of the Rule in question as proposed by the Government. The view I take of the matter is that the power of closure should be made as large as possible; but the closure and the exclusion of debate are two very different things, and the words of the Rule go a great deal further than closure. It is an important point whether, under the terms of the Rule, as it at present exists, real, substantial, and important Amendments would not be involved in the disposal of frivolous Amendments by the application of the closure. While I would go as far as possible in urging the House to adopt the purest and simplest form of closure, I am not prepared to grant the power of exclusion; and the Rule, if adopted, would not only give the power to close debate, but to exclude it. Under the first part of the Rule it would be in the power of any Member to initiate a Motion that the closure should be applied with a power of vetoing given to the Speaker. But those words go a great deal further, because they empower not only the closure of debate, but its exclusion altogether. I am anxious to make that point quite clear to the House. I am prepared to say close a debate by all means if it is considered necessary to do so, and I would give extreme power to do that; but I must remind the House that to exclude even the possibility of putting the Question is not done by any Foreign or Colonial Assembly where the closure is now applied. The closure is never used to prevent a question being raised. It should be applied in order to prevent Amendments of an absurd and frivolous character which are only brought forward for the sake of obstructing debate from being discussed. No one who voted for the proposal that the Chair should interfere to prevent the abuse of the Rules of the House would agree to sanction Amendments which would also involve an abuse of the Forms of the House. It is quite clear what our course upon that matter ought to be. As was pointed out by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Staffordshire (Mr. Staveley Hill), we have Bills drafted now-a-days in which there are clauses of two or three pages containing some 15 or 20 sub-sections, each of which, sometimes, has sub-divisions. The effect of the Rule, as it stands, would 51 put it in the power of any Member to prevent Amendments in subsequent subsections from lifting discussed unless the Chair vetoed closure on an Amendment on the first sub-section.
§ MR. CHILDERS
I accept the correction. Power would be given to the Chair to exclude a discussion upon every one of the sub-sections after the first Amendment. The hon. and learned Gentleman specially referred to a Bill which was under consideration some years ago—I think the Army Bill. That Bill contained a clause which dealt with the question of flogging in the Army. I recollect that there was a long and animated debate upon the clause which, and I think not unreasonably, was carried over one or two nights. Now, what would have been thought if it had been in the power of any hon. Member, if he were not stopped by the Chair, to have prevented any discussion from taking place on the subsequent subsections? Yet that is the power which is proposed to be given under this Rule. It is no answer to say that the power given will not be abused, or that the Chair will always take a reasonable view of the case put before it. I would give the Speaker and Chairman the fullest latitude that may be proposed to be given to them with respect of closure. This, however, is not the power of closure; but you propose, in the event of the first line of a clause being objected to and closured, to give them the power of excluding from debate a number of questions which may be of the greatest possible importance. I should object to give a power of closure, in regard to one Amendment, which would have the effect of excluding debate upon other Amendments not of an obstructive character. The power of excluding every Amendment would be an abuse of the Forms of the House. To that extent I go fully with the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Staffordshire, and I do not think that anyone on these Benches would desire such a power to be given, no matter to whom it is proposed to give it—whether an individual Member, or the Chair. I object to give to any individual the power of saying that "this or that proposal shall not go before the House." or to say "a Motion for Closure has been 52 made, and by my authority under the Rules I will allow that Motion to exclude the consideration of other genuine Amendments altogether." Therefore, while consenting to carry out a stringent measure of closure, I appeal to the Government not to force the Rule, as it at present stands, or to compel the House to adopt the words as they are now proposed by my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith), or by my noble Friend on this Bench (the Marquess of Hartington); but to use their best endeavour to find some form of words which may prevent the closure from being applied to genuine and important Amendments, though a previous Amendment has been closured.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE, Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House is not able to answer the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, I may, perhaps, be allowed to say a word. As far as I understand the argument of the right hon. Gentleman, it comes to this. He says—"Your proposal amounts to a proposal for the exclusion of debate." No doubt it does amount to the exclusion of debate upon frivolous and obstructive Amendments.
§ MR. RITCHIE
The right hon. Gentleman says that he would give power to the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees to rule frivolous Amendments out, so that he does not object, under certain circumstances, to a power being given for the exclusion of debate on frivolous Amendments. The right hon. Gentleman proposes that there should be a power vested in the Speaker and Chairman of Committees to say that certain Amendments are frivolous and obstructive, and that they will not be put. Now, what difference is there between that suggestion and the Rule as proposed by the Government—that the Chair shall have power to permit or not to permit a Motion for the clôture. The right hon. Gentleman seems to forget that the power given to the Speaker and Chairman of Committees to allow a Motion for closure is qualified by the words contained in the first paragraph of the Rule "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." 53 My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Staffordshire (Mr. Staveley Hill) put a case which has also been alluded to by the right hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Childers).
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I put a case also. How would you deal with the 132 Amendments which were put down on Clause 7 of the Land Act?
§ MR. RITCHIE
I will come to that presently. My hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire spoke of a clause with 20 sub-sections in it; and he considers that it would be monstrous if the closure were exercised upon a first sub-section in such a way as to shut out all discussion upon the remaining sub-sections. As far as the Government are concerned, they agree that it would be a monstrous tiling if substantial Amendments on a clause or the subsection of a clause were excluded from discussion because the closure had been applied to a previous Amendment; but I cannot conceive for a moment that substantial Amendments would be ruled out in that way, nor can I imagine that any Speaker or any Chairman could be got to fill the Chair who would allow substantial Amendments of that character to be ruled out.
§ MR. RITCHIE
We do not believe that such a circumstance could possibly arise, or that any Speaker or Chairman of Committees could be got to fill the Chair who would allow a Motion to be made for cutting out such Amendments as those alluded to by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Staffordshire. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) spoke of a Bill which had 132 Amendments proposed to it.
§ MR. RITCHIE
That, to my mind, shows the imperative necessity of some such Rule as this. If it can be conceived possible that 132 Amendments could be put down to a particular section of a Bill; is it not evident to the House that unless some step is taken to rule out a great number of such Amendments, and unless we have some safeguard that similar obstruction shall not be practised in future, you may as well tear up the whole of this Rule? It is exactly to 54 meet such cases as that referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman that the Government think such a Rule is absolutely required. It would be altogether impossible for the Government to proceed with the Public Business if they allowed hon. Members to put down 132 Amendments to a particular clause, and were to detain the House for nights and weeks in the discussion of them. The long and the short of it is—that the Government feel that the real safeguard, in this matter, must rest with the Speaker or the Chairman. We have the utmost confidence that the Speaker or the Chairman will consider it his absolute duty, in carrying out the instructions of the House, to protect the rights of the minority and. to see that the Rules shall not operate so as to shut out Amendments which the House ought to consider. On the other hand, we believe that the effect of the Rule we are asking the House to assent to will be that Amendments of a serious and proper character will have much more chance of being adequately discussed than they can possibly have at the present moment. For the Government to consent to the withdrawal of this proposal would be to give up the whole value of the Rule. I was struck by one observation made by the hon. and learned Member for North Longford in reference to the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale. My recollection of the circumstances under which the noble Lord gave notice of that Amendment was, that it had been pointed out by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway on the other side of the House, that under the Rule, as it originally stood, the Chairman would not have any option, if the closure was moved on the first Amendment, but either to refuse to put the closure or to put the whole clause. The hon. and learned Member for Longford says that the noble Lord admitted the reasonableness of the proposals of the Irish Members. No doubt there might be a good deal of objection taken to the Rule as it originally stood, and it was generally admitted that the objections which were urged were of a reasonable character. Strange to say, it is now stated that the Amendment of the noble Lord makes the Rule worse. How could that be, seeing that the Amendment will distinctly limit the power conferred by the Rule? The noble Lord's Amendment 55 will remove all reasonable objection, and it is believed that the Rule, as thus limited, will secure adequate freedom of debate for every Amendment the House desires to consider and decide upon. But, on the other hand, Amendments calculated to waste the time of the House will be ruled out; but the House will be able to discuss all other Amendments in a complete and adequate manner.
§ MR. MURPHY (Dublin, St. Patrick's)
I still hope that the Government will consider the representations which have been made to them, especially when those representations have proceeded from hon. Members of great experience on both sides of the House. The uncompromising speech, just made on the part of the Government increases the objection of hon. Members who sit on these Benches to oppose the Rule. The proposal now before the House is one of the most monstrous that has ever been submitted to a deliberative assembly. The importance of assenting to the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) is still greater after the ruling of the Speaker in reference to the Amendments which follow it on the Paper, because if this Amendment is rejected, the proposition of the Government in all its naked deformity will be obliged to be passed as part of the machinery of the Rules. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Ritchie) how a Chairman, no matter how impartial he may be and how willing to uphold the rights of the minority, if a Member gets up to move a series of Amendments; how can he, in such a case as that which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Longford (Mr. Healy) referred to when 132 Amendments were proposed to a single clause of the Irish Land Bill—no matter how able and how impartial he may be disposed to be, and however anxious to maintain the rights of minorities—how can he separate the chaff from the wheat? I contend that it is a position in which the Speaker or Chairman of Committees of this House ought not to be placed. If this Rule is passed, a Member of the Government, with a large majority behind him, may be found getting up, when angry passions have been excited, to call upon the Chair to enforce the closure, and the Chair, although 56 giving a decision which the occupant of the Chair believes to be perfectly right and just, may find that his decision is most unsatisfactory to a large minority in the House. As a Member of the Irish Party, I tell the Government that their conduct in making such a proposal as this, and their refraining from converting it into a Standing Order of the House, although persistently sticking to the proposition itself, is capable of but one interpretation, and that it points to but one purpose—namely, that it has been introduced in order to enable them to rush a Coercion Bill, directed against Ireland, through this House. I join in the challenge which has been given to Her Majesty's Government to make this Rule a Standing Order of the House; but I am afraid they will not dare to do so, for fear of the consequences to themselves when they may happen to be in Opposition. I trust that the Government will take into serious consideration the representations which have been made to them, and will make some effort to prevent a grievous wrong from being done.
§ MR. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
I hope that the Government before this debate closes will give a clear and distinct intimation that substantial Amendments in the clause of a Bill will not be ruled out because the clôture has been applied to an Amendment which may be moved early in the same clause. I find that in the Army Act a whole Bill, perhaps of the greatest importance, may consist of one clause only, and one single clause extends to four quarto pages. If this Rule is passed as it stands, it would be possible on the first line of that clause to shut out every Amendment that might be proposed to the rest of the clause.
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Mr. RAIKES) (Cambridge University)
I think, Sir, as there must be a power somewhere to prevent obstructive Amendments, that power must either reside in the Committee or in the Chair. That is the only alternative. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) admitted when challenged by my right hon. Friend, that he would allow the Chairman power to rule out obstructive Amendments. Well, that is giving to the Chairman alone the power which is proposed to be given to the Committee with the consent of the Chair; and the right hon. Gentleman 57 who spoke just now has enlarged upon the possibility of the Chairman exercising his veto without all the Amendments being heard. That is in opposition to the proposal put forward by his own Party a few minutes ago. I think I have never heard a more unfortunate argument. From the general observations with which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh commenced his speech, I gathered that hon. Gentlemen opposite are in favour of giving a larger scope to the closure, but that they are not in favour of in any way enlarging or extending the authority of the Chair. But I wish to point out that if we are to have any system under which we are to exclude frivolous and obstructive Amendments, that power must be given either to the Committee or to the Chair alone, and the alternative I put to the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues is that if they are prepared to support words determining what Amendments are to be excluded or not, they will be enormously enlarging and extending the authority of the Chair, and at the same time excluding the action of the House altogether. Her Majesty's Government are not prepared to enlarge, in any such way, the powers of the Chair. This is a power which will only be exercised, after all, by a very considerable majority of the House after having obtained the consent of the Chair to put the closure. It is because of the practice which has grown up of covering the Paper with Amendments which render debate useless and nugatory, that it is necessary to adopt a strong and drastic remedy which I have sufficient confidence in the Committee and the Chair to believe will not be abused, but, on the contrary, afford protection to free debate.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I hoped when the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Raikes) rose that he would have been prepared to make some concession on the part of the Government. I understood that the First Lord of the Treasury on Wednesday admitted that the clause in its present form was not satisfactory. It would be contrary to the Rules of the House to discuss now the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington); but, on the other hand, it is difficult 58 to do justice to this question without adverting in some way to that Amendment. I will say, however, that I prefer having no Amendment at all to having that of the noble Lord. I agree entirely with what has fallen from the hon. and learned Member for Stafford (Mr. Staveley Hill) to the extent that I am in favour of giving power to the Committee, but I am not prepared with him to exclude Amendments as proposed by the clause as it now stands. Allusion has been made to 130 Amendments being put on the Paper in respect to one clause, but I say that in practice those Amendments would very probably run themselves out; the decision on one would shut out many others, and it is very rare that anything like the number of Amendments on the Paper are the subjects of discussion. I put this question to the House;—supposing that there are 130 Amendments on the Paper, what Chairman of Committees could by a impossibility determine which of them are obstructive, and which ought to be discussed? Neither the Chairman nor the Committee could determine that. I think, Sir, we must trust to the House applying the closure not in accordance with any prescribed form, but as the case may demand. I think the House will do well to strike out these words, and unless the Government are prepared to make some further concession in this matter, I shall feel myself bound to vote with the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton).
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
The Question before the House becomes a very serious one indeed, when we consider that, under the modern practice in Parliamentary drafting, a Bill is often moved in the form of a single clause with a number of sub-sections. This practice renders it necessary, for the effective debate of a clause, that not one, two, or 20, but it may be 200, proper and bonâ fide Amendments should sometimes be moved to it. I deny that any hon. Member, however skilled he may be in weaving Amendments, could put down any considerable number which would not, unless there was something substantial in them, be found to be out of Order; and in the second place, I say that there is effective machinery proposed to be provided in the latter part of these Rules to put an end to debate when that debate is obstructive. 59 It appears to me, therefore, that the mere fact of a largo number of Amendments being put on the Paper is not one which ought to make us feel that we have any serious difficulty in assenting to the proposal of the hon. Member for West Belfast. The real alternative is to have no Rules at all—to leave everything to the discretion of the Chairman. The fact that we have Rules, and that we are taking care to amend them—that the principle is laid down on which the Speaker should act—shows the general principle on which we ought to proceed. If we were to accept the proposal of the noble Marquess, we should be at the mercy of anyone who chooses to make a Motion for the closure; but it seems to me that the proposal of the hon. Member for Belfast is the one which, of all that have been put before the House, is attended with the least amount of evil. For these reasons, I am not prepared to accept the proposal of the Government.
§ MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK (Penryn and Falmouth)
I have had a position in this House, by the favour of my constituents, for a considerable number of years, and I suppose there is no Member who has more strongly supported the rights of minorities than I have myself. I confess that I have felt some difficulty as to the way in which I should vote. I think the proposal of the Government is open to very serious objections; still I think those objections are in a great measure obviated by the Amendment lower down on the Paper, which is to be moved by my noble Friend the Member for Rossondale (the Marquess of Hartington), and which will, no doubt, be discussed in due order. I venture to state my conviction that if the Amendment of the noble Lord is adopted by the House, it will in a great measure relieve us from the difficulty which surrounds us in respect of this Question. If I am assured by my right hon. Friend on the Treasury Bench that this course will be followed, I shall feel it my duty, on this occasion, to support the Government, and to vote against the Amendment of the hon. Member who sits below the Gangway.
§ MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I do not think that much light has boon thrown on this subject by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General. It is impossible for the Chair to decide what Amendments are fictitious and 60 what are substantial, and I think a most instructive commentary on the entire proceedings, which ought to make all Members support this Amendment, is the bare fact that all day on Wednesday Members on these Benches spoke in favour of it, and it was not until the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) awoke out of his sleep at 4 o'clock on that day, and discovered that there was something in the point that was being urged, that the Government them-selves woke up to the idea that possibly there might be some value in the suggestions which came from this side of the House. Our contention is that it passes the power of the Speaker, or the Chairman, to decide on the genuineness of Amendments until the House has had an opportunity of hearing what can be said in favour of them. Take the case of a Bill dealing with Irish Fisheries, or, if you like, a Coercion Bill, and lot hon. Members ask themselves whether the Chairman of Committees can form any idea of their nature until the Proposers of the Amendment, which would certainly depend upon an intimate knowledge of the facts, had explained them to the House? Take, again, the Labourers' (Ireland) Act of 1883. Amendments were proposed to the provisions of the Government by Irish Members, who know the conditions under which the labourers lived, who know exactly how far the Act ought to go, and in what direction it ought to tend; what kind of houses, how much land ought to be allotted to the labourers, and what were the best means by which the local authorities could carry out the intentions of the Act. Well, Sir, if the closure had been applied to the Amendments which stood to that Bill, it would have been impossible to carry any of the important alterations that we made in the Act. If that be true of the Act of 1883, it is true in a very much stronger degree of the Act of l885, which was an enlargement of the former Act, and a considerable improvement upon it; but all the valuable work that was done with regard to that Act in this House and in Committee would have been lost to the labourers of Ireland if the closure had been applied to the Amendments and new Clauses that were moved to the Bill. If an Irish Coercion Bill is brought in by the Government, I contend that it ought to be in the power of 61 Irish Members to point out where it will fail in effecting its object, where it would inflict hardship, or subject localities to unfair and oppressive taxation, and also to move the necessary Amendments in its provisions; but, as has been over and over again pointed out, the proposed Rule will debar us from the opportunity of doing so. I think we have ample indication of the value which is attached to the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast on the Government side of the House. That Amendment ought, in my judgment, to be accepted by this House; and we shall do all in our power to press it on the attention of the Government.
§ MR. SALT (Stafford)
The point be-fore the House is one of considerable importance and interest; it is one, also, which illustrates the very great difficulty of introducing Rules of Procedure. These Rules are the embodiment in words of the power of the House to keep its own order. In the old days, the keeper of order and the rules of decency in debate was the House itself; but the introduction of these rules shows that something more is wanted than the voice of the House. There must be a power somewhere to deal with the difficulty that has arisen; and if it is not to rest in the House itself, I see no alternative but to put very great power in the hands of the Chair. I confess that I see a difficulty in the words which we have been discussing, and my mind has been very much exercised as to whether I can support them. The whole House agrees in this—that, while they are anxious to retain for discussion any good and useful Amendments to a Bill, it desires, at the same time, summarily to exclude those which are frivolous and useless. That, Sir, is the problem which we have to solve. I do not think there is any real danger of the closure being abused. In the first place, a Member would have to move the closure; and I think we may safely assume that there are not many Members of the House who would move the closure to any clause or Amendment until there were good grounds for doing so. Such a Motion can only be put by the consent of the Speaker. If such a Motion is asked for, the Speaker has his veto, and in that we have the second safeguard to free discussion. The third safeguard is that, if the Motion be unwise, it is in the hands of the House to 62 reject the Motion when it is put. I acknowledge that I have had considerable difficulty in this matter; but I have come to the conclusion that the plan proposed is proper to deal with frivolous and foolish Amendments; and, therefore, having given the matter fair consideration, I shall support Her Majesty's Government on the Division.
MR. SEXTOX (West Belfast)
Sir, after the discussion which has taken place, I think, perhaps, that it would be for the advantage of the further consideration of this question that I should ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ MR. T. P. GILL (Louth, S.)
The right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General has said there may be 130 Amendments to a clause placed upon the Paper which may occupy several days in discussion; but if those Amendments are proper to propose, why should not their discussion occupy several days? Is the House, which is supposed to give a free amount of discussion to every question which it decides, to be reduced to the necessity of giving to the Leader of the House everything he may ask for at once? The whole argument of the Government throughout this discussion has been that the Rules must be accepted because it is their will that they should be accepted. It is put in the power of the majority to say whether it wants to have a certain Motion debated or not, and if the opposition to a Motion rises to a point at which the majority consider that it has gone far enough, they may put an end to it by the closure. It is all very well for the Postmaster General to say that the Chairman of Committees will decide what Amendments are frivolous and unnecessary; but that, Sir, is assuming omniscience for the Chair, which I do not think any Member of the House has a right to assume. Suppose the Bill in Committee is one which deals with technical matters of an exclusive character, the knowledge of which is confined to specialists—suppose, for instance, that the Chairman of Committees has to decide as to whether or not an Amendment relating to mining is frivolous or useless; I say that the Chairman of Ways and Means would, in all probability, not be able to say that any Amendment of the kind, although 63 it might seem to him frivolous, was useless. You are assuming that the Chairman of Ways and Means is to take upon himself the collective knowledge of the whole House, and decide upon questions which are beyond his knowledge. It will, in fact, come to this: that he will assume that every Amendment is frivolous which he does not understand. That, I venture to say, is a most absurd position in which to put the Chairman, and it is giving him a power which will destroy the efficacy of debate and legislation; and I venture to think that from it the greatest amount of trouble will arise. I am sorry that the Government have not allowed my hon. Friend to withdraw his Amendment, and allow others to be proposed which would enable a modification of this clause to be arrived at. I think it is, therefore, our duty to carry this matter to an issue, and discuss it, as far as possible, with the view of convincing those Members of the House who are open to reason. I think we ought to offer every opposition to this particular clause, which strikes at the whole power of the House to amend Bills which are favoured by the majority. I point out that not one substantial Amendment has been adopted by the Government in regard to this Rule which has come from this side of the House. Over and over again has the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House begun his speech with the words—"The hon. Member knows very well that this Amendment cannot be carried." Well, Sir, that is exactly what the majority will always say; they will ask what use there can be in argument, when they have made up their mind? When you become habituated to this state of things, the Government of the day will more and more resort to this method of legislation, and you will have discussion in this House reduced to mere idleness, for everybody who speaks will be regarded as a waster of time. I certainly deprecate the action of the Government with regard to this Amendment. They have to-night broken faith as to what they stated on Wednesday afternoon; and now they will not allow us to withdraw our Amendment, so as not to prejudice the Amendment which stands on the Paper in the name of the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale. I protest, in every sense, against the action of the Government, and shall 64 certainly support my hon. Friend (Mr. Sexton) if he goes to a Division.
§ MR. P. MCDONALD (Sligo, N.)
I am pleased to see, by the speeches that have been made by hon. Gentlemen above and below the Gangway opposite, that freedom of discussion has not yet entirely left this House. I have the utmost confidence in the judgment of the Chairman of Committees, and believe that he acts justly and judiciously on all occasions; but it is a very difficult thing to believe that he will be able to act in the same way when he is suddenly called upon to act with regard to Amendments which are of a technical nature. It is often the case that Amendments are put down by lawyers, and that the words on the Paper, which may appear very insignificant, may have a very great importance when explained by the Mover. Under those circumstances, it would not be possible for the Chairman to decide whether such an Amendment ought to be put from the Chair. Again, the essence of a Bill very often lies not in itself, but in the Amendments that have been made in it. We have had many Bills passed through the House relating to Ireland, and I particularly look back on the Land Bill and the last Coercion Bill, to the latter of which there were l30 Amendments put down, all of them being of importance. I am not prepared to see debate on similar Amendments shut out in future without a protest, and for that reason I am strongly in favour of the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton).
§ Question put, "That the words 'and also if a Clause be then under consideration' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Aye3 154; Noes 9.3: Majority 59.—(Div. List, No. 58.)
In line 10, leave out "with the consent of the Chair, as aforesaid," and insert the words "the assent of the Chair, as aforesaid, not having been withheld."—(Mr. W. H. Smith.)
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
The consent of the Chair has now be come a matter of very great importance, and I should like to know why the Government are continually recurring to the words proposed, against which I have many times protested? I think it is desirable that the consent of the Speaker should be retained. A man 65 may signify his assent; but how is it possible for him to signify his dissent in the way proposed by the Government? For my part, I am opposed to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentlemen, because, instead of saving the time of the House, it will cause waste of time. Looking at the serious nature of the subject we are upon, I think that the least we can expect from the Chair is a declaration of assent, and I suggest that words should be put down to show that that is your decision. I think the consequences of putting down that the Chairman shall do this thing if he does not object will be most disastrous. Therefore I think that there ought to be a record of the action of the Chairman affirmatively, and not negatively. This House is largely guided by precedent and by the rulings of the Speaker and Chairman of Committees, and in the way I suggest there would always be a report of them in Hansard. The volumes of Hansard are always accessible, and we shall, for our guidance, be able to look to them for the rulings of the Speaker and Chairman on certain occasions. But that would not be the case if they remain silent, and so we should have nothing to guide us. It has already become difficult to contrive Amendments that shall be secure against what I may call the clôture of the Chair; but in future the difficulty would be met, to some extent, if we had an opportunity of knowing on what ground we were proceeding. It is much safer for the Government that we should have enshrined on the pages of Hansard the distinct grounds and reasons for every decision or ruling of the Chair, rather than that the clôture should be applied simply upon the Chair's non-expression of dissent. I certainly have come to the conclusion that this Rule is not intended to be a permanent Rule of the House, but is only proposed in view of the Irish Coercion Bill.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I did not rise to explain this Amendment, because it seemed to me to explain itself. The House has declared that when the Speaker is in the Chair "the assent of the Chair as aforesaid" shall be necessary to the Motion being put, and it would be very unreasonable to have another set of words relating to the putting of the Motion 66 when the Chairman is in the Chair. I cannot think it is necessary to provide that the Chair's ruling should be accompanied by an explanation.
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
Mr. Speaker, if it is to be "the assent of the Chair not being withheld." we shall have Member after Member rising and moving the application of the clôture. Such Motions will be made amidst the cheers and shouts of the dominant Party in the House, and all the dignity that attaches to so serious and drastic a Rule as this will be entirely lost. I protest against it being within the power of any Member to rise during periods of excitement and make this Motion, because I firmly believe dozens of such Motions will be made in the course of a night, especially when the Estimates are under consideration.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
Mr. Speaker, it is only your dissent or veto which can prevent any Member of the House making a Motion for the clôture; and, therefore, the words "with the consent of the Chair as aforesaid," and even the words now proposed to be substituted—namely, "the assent of the Chair as aforesaid not having been withheld," are inapplicable. Neither set of words are necessary.
§ MR. GEDGE (Stockport)
It seems to me a waste of the time of the House to discuss words of this kind. In the first paragraph of this Rule the Chair is to withhold its assent or put the Motion; then, in the 7th line, we have adopted the words" the assent of the Chair as aforesaid not having been withheld; "and now, in the 10th line, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) proposes to put in just the same words, instead of "with the consent of the Chair as aforesaid." The two phrases cannot mean precisely the same thing, whereas we do mean the same thing. I think any sensible man of business would say that as we have, in the 7th line, "the assent of the Chair as aforesaid not having been withheld" we should be foolish if we adopted different words three lines lower down to express precisely the same thing.
§ Amendment agreed to.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON (Lancashire, Rossendale)
Mr. Speaker, I have to move the insertion of certain 67 words which will make the Rule run as follows:—If a Clause be then under consideration, a Motion may be made (the assent of the Chair as aforesaid not having been withheld), 'That the Question, That certain words of the Clause defined in the Motion stand part of the Clause, or that the Clause stand part of, or be added to the Bill, be now put.'I am perfectly aware that the words which I have to propose do not remove the objection of a large number of hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in the previous debate, and who object that any powers should be given to any majority of the House to exclude discussion of Amendments under any circumstances whatever. That was not my intention in suggesting, the other day, the insertion of these words. An hon. Gentleman who spoke a short time ago said that I had. in the observations I made on Wednesday, admitted the reasonableness of the contention which had been put forward. I did nothing of the sort. I stated that, in my opinion, any system of closure whatever would be totally inoperative and useless unless some power were given to the Committee, or to the House on the Report stage, of excluding discussion upon Amendments which it did not consider raised important issues. But what I did admit, the other day, was that there was a certain blot in the Rule as it stood—namely, that the House or the Committee might have been put into this difficulty—that it would either have had to decide to discuss all Amendments which might be on the Paper, or might be moved to a clause, or else that in refusing to discuss any of them, and in taking the whole clause as it stood, it would pass over one or more Amendments which it was of opinion raised substantial and important issues. That was a real blot, and it appeared to me, in concert with others, that that blot might be removed by the adoption of these words. These words will enable a Motion to be made to obtain a definite decision on the part of the House or Committee on the words of a clause down to a certain point. The adoption of these words may or may not exclude Amendments of which Notice has been given. The House will have to decide whether such Amendments are, or ought not, to be discussed. It will have the power of stopping short at that point whore an Amendment stands which, by the general consent of the House, is admitted to 68 raise an important question, and which it is the general desire and wish of the House should be discussed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Hants (Mr. Sclater-Booth) said my Amendment supposes an amount of technical knowledge on the part of Members which is not generally possessed, and which we are accustomed to look for from the Speaker or Chairman. I do not see the force of that criticism. I hope we may assume that any Member making use of the powers given to him under this Rule will satisfy himself that the Motion he makes is one which the House may reasonably entertain; but if this power is rashly used by any Member—if the Member who makes a Motion does not possess that technical knowledge of the Procedure of the House which he ought to possess before making such a Motion—I may point out that his action will be checked by the veto given by the Rule to the Speaker or Chairman. When a Motion is made to exclude a certain number of Amendments to a clause, it will be perfectly competent for the Chairman or Speaker to intervene and say—"This Motion will exclude such and such an Amendment. I shall not give my assent to the exclusion of that Amendment, and I cannot put a Motion so made to the House." Well, Sir, I believe that by the great majority of the Members of the House my Amendment, although not mooting all the objections that have been raised, is considered, as far as it goes, a distinct improvement of the Rule. I am quite aware the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) has stated that, in his opinion, my Amendment will make the matter worse. I cannot see how that can be the case. The hon. Member for Cork says it would give power to admit certain Amendments and to exclude others; but I may point out that it is not the Government alone, or oven the majority alone, which will have this power. The power must be exercised by the Government, supported by the majority of the House, and it must also be exercised with the assent of the Speaker or Chairman of Committees. Certainly, it cannot be to the disadvantage of any minority in this House, however unfairly they may choose to assume the majority of the House desires to treat them, that there should be power to allow the discussion of substantial and real Amendments under these circumstances. As the 69 original Resolution seems to me to unduly fetter the discretion of the House, and as my Amendment will restore to the House a considerable amount of liberty, I beg to move the Amendment of which I have given Notice.
In line 11. after the first word "That," to insert the words "certain words of the Clause defined in the Motion stand part of the Clause, or That."—(The Marquess of Hartington.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
MR. STAVELEY HILL (Staffordshire, Kingswinford)
Mr. Speaker, I find some difficulty in assenting to the Amendment of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) on account of the words "or That" at the end of the Amendment. As the Rule now stands, after the first Motion for the closure has been adopted, a Question "That the whole of a Clause be now put or added to the Bill," may be the Question which may at once, with your assent, be put to the House or Committee. That has been considered to be too great an infringement of the liberty of debate; but the noble Marquess has said that is guarded by the fact that no Member would be rash enough to make such a Motion unadvisedly; or that, if he was, you would restrain him; or that, failing these safeguards, there would be an appeal to the House. If that was the case, it would be entirely unnecessary for the noble Marquess to have moved this Amendment at all. I think we may take it as conceded, by the fact of the Amendment being moved, that something more than these three safeguards is necessary. There are rash people on both sides of the House; and there might be a person in the Chair who would not be able to see to what extent such a Motion might affect the liberty of debate, or the House might be full and impatient. The noble Marquess says his Amendment will be a distinct improvement, and I quite agree with him. It is a distinct improvement that the Mover of the clôture should stipulate in his Motion how much of the clause he wishes the closure to apply to; but, this being a distinct improvement, why should the Mover be allowed an alternative? Why should he be allowed, if he chooses, to move that the whole clause be put? I am quite willing to adopt the closure in 70 so far as to allow a Member to move, with your consent or without your veto, that a certain portion of a clause shall be put to the House; but I am not willing to give to any Member the opportunity of doing that which, by the very fact of adopting the Amendment of the noble Marquess, the Government themselves say is the worse plan of the two. I beg to move that the words "or That" be omitted from the Amendment of the noble Marquess.
§ Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, to leave out the words "or That."—(Mr. Staveley Hill.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'or That' stand part of the said proposed Amendment."
§ MR. MOLLOY (King's Co., Birr)
I am glad the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) admits now the validity of the arguments advanced from this quarter of the House against this portion of the Rule; but I am sorry I cannot agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Staveley Hill) that this Amendment is a distinct improvement. The Rule was bad enough as before; but, if amended as the noble Marquess proposed, it will be infinitely worse in respect to the freedom of speech and the introduction of substantial Amendments. This Amendment will assist the Government to do wrong, if they are so disposed, rather than to prevent it; because, while the Government would not have the audacity to strike out by the clôture all the substantial Amendments, if you give them the power of selecting a portion of the Amendments, their audacity need not be so great, but they will be able to get rid of Amendments objectionable to them. They may say—"Let us apply the clôture as far as such and such a line of the clause; we shall got rid of two or three Amendments of an obstructive character, and we shall also get rid of one or two substantial Amendments which we do not care to consider, and which we do not care to have put to the House." The noble Marquess does not think that any Member, knowing the responsibility resting upon him, would make a Motion improperly, but that if a Member did make a Motion the effect of which would be to prevent the discussion of a substantial Amendment, the Speaker or the Chairman would not 71 permit the clôture. Now, the Speaker or the Chairman is to decide which are substantial Amendments and which are not. I should like to know from you, Sir, whether it is possible for you or the Chairman of Committees, supposing the clôture has been proposed upon the first six Amendments on the Paper, to decide whether or not these Amendments are obstructive or substantial Amendments? I do not think it is possible for either you, Sir, or the Chairman to do anything of the kind, unless you are permitted to hear the arguments adduced in favour of the Amendments. It seems to me that, by these Rules, we are expecting the Speaker and Chairman to be possessed of the gifts of a clairvoyant. I admit that the intention of the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) is good. He wishes to minimize the unnecessarily drastic powers of the Rule; but, unfortunately, his Amendment will not effect that object. It would have been all right if the Amendment had provided that each Member having an Amendment on the Paper was entitled to occupy two minutes—or, say, only one minute—in explaining the object of his Amendment, and that then the Speaker or Chairman should say whether the Amendment was obstructive or substantial. It cannot be said that such an arrangement would lead to an undue prolongation of the debate, because, if any Party in the House were so foolish as to put down 20 obstructive Amendments, only 20 minutes would be occupied in their explanation. You ask the Speaker or the Chairman to do what is absolutely impossible; he cannot tell the value of an Amendment until he knows what the Amendment is. The Amendment of the noble Marquess makes matters worse. It does not get over the main difficulty, but facilitates the application of the clôture to substantial Amendments by the application of the clôture to a certain number of Amendments, some of which may be obstructive.
§ MR. WADDY (Lincolnshire, Brigg)
As far as I can understand the arguments of the hon. Gentleman the Member for King's County (Mr. Molloy), they amount to this:—Assuming the House has determined on closure, the next thing we have to do is to make it so inconvenient in working as to render it practically nugatory. That does not 72 appear to me to be a legitimate form of procedure. However we may object to the closure, it certainly is not legitimate for us to endeavour to graft upon the Resolution some other arrangement which will entirely stultify what we have already done. Although I object to certain arrangements which have been adopted, I cannot think it is dignified or loyal for us to endeavour to prevent the closure being carried out at all, after the principle has once been affirmed deliberately by the House.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
The hon. Member for King's County has put the difficulty very plainly. he has illustrated how the Amendment of the noble Marquess will leave the door open for the exclusion of Amendments, as distinct from closing a debate upon one that has been moved. Yet the rejection of the Amendment of the noble Marquess will leave the Rule as it is submitted by the Government, and will apply the closure to a clause as a whole. To obviate the difficulty, some Amendment must be looked for in the direction of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Staveley Hill). I quite agree with the last speaker (Mr. Waddy) that it is quite impossible to argue the question from the point of view of making what the House generally has accepted utterly impracticable. The best solution of the problem seems to be to graft upon the Amendment the proposal of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Staveley Hill). I take it he proposes to leave out not only the words "or That," but the words which follow—that is to say, to leave out "That the Clause stand part of, or be added to the Bill, be now-put." The effect of that will be that when we are dealing with a clause it will be impossible to adopt a closure overriding at once all future Amendments in it. The Amendment is an improvement on the noble Marquess's. I prefer the arrangement of the noble Marquess to the impracticable proposal of the Government, and I prefer the hon. and learned Gentleman's (Mr. Staveley Hill's) to that of the noble Marquess. If, as I hope, the hon. and learned Gentleman's Amendment is grafted on the noble Lord's, I shall propose to add at the end some such words as these—Provided that whenever the Chairman does not withhold his assent to a Motion of closure, 73 which, it carried, would withdraw from consideration any Amendment of which Notice has been given, he shall declare whether he deems such Amendment to he an abuse of the Rules of the House, or that it has been sufficiently discussed under some form or other.It should be remembered that there is a great difference between closure and exclusion. Closure does not withdraw from the House the decision on any point; it only expresses the view of the majority that a question has been sufficiently discussed, and forces it to a decision. Exclusion, on the other hand, removes from the consideration of the House certain questions which, from their being put on the Paper, it is clear certain Members wish to be discussed. If, under certain circumstances, there is to be exclusion, it should only be on certain distinct and specified occasions. Although my objection to this form of closure in Committee will not be entirely removed, yet I think it possible, by the adoption of some such Proviso as I have indicated, to make it of a more practicable and reasonable character.
§ MR. M. J. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
We object altogether to the insertion in the Rule of the words proposed by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale, because they do not give us the assurance for freedom of discussion which we think we are entitled to claim. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) has very properly pointed out the distinction between closure and exclusion. Of course we recognize that, under certain circumstances, closure may be fairly applied; but exclusion can never be fair. Exclusion simply means the application of the gag. I doubt very much if the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh will have the effect of securing liberty of speech and fair play; and even if the right hon. Gentleman's words are adopted, it will be necessary to obtain a better definition of the power of the Chairman than this Rule at the present time contains. Any proposal which gives unlimited power to the Chairman of Committees to declare whether an Amendment is an abuse of the Forms of the House is very dangerous. The Chairman of Committees has now the power to rule an Amendment unconsequential, and, I think, frivolous. We cannot argue with him; his ruling is final. To give unlimited power to the Chairman, who is merely a 74 Party man, to rule any Amendment he chooses out of Order, is to put in his hands one of the most powerful and dangerous weapons, not only of closure, but of exclusion, you can desire. The Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Staveley Hill) will have a satisfactory effect as far as it goes; but if the words of the noble Marquess are adopted we can easily see that the Chairman of Committees will have the option either of clôturing the clause bit by bit or altogether. I am sorry the Government have been unable to frame a Rule more after what they seem to wish. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) has confessed he has certain ideas in his mind which he is unable to express on paper. I regret he has not been able to express in words his ideas, because if he had I am sure, judging from his generous instincts and conciliatory disposition, he would have framed a Rule which would have secured absolutely free discussion, and not have left us, as this Rule, amended as the noble Marquess suggests or not, unquestionably will, at the mercy of the Chair.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Glasgow, St. Rollox)
There are two Amendments before the House. The first Amendment, that of the noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), provides that the Speaker or Chairman shall have the option of putting either the whole clause, or, in the case of a complicated clause, only a portion of the clause. We can perfectly well understand how, if the clause be a long one, involving many points of dispute, it may be necessary to put only certain portions at a time, and we can also conceive a case in which the clause—say a short and simple clause, which provides that the Act shall apply to Scotland or to England only, as the case may be—may be put as a whole According to the Amendment of the noble Marquess, the Speaker or Chairman will have the option of putting the whole clause to the House, or of splitting it up into sections and taking the sense of the House on each section; but, according to the Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Staveley Hill), the Chair would not have it in his power to put the clause as a whole to the House. He would have to put the clauses in sub-sections, whether the sub- 75 stance of the Amendments required it or not.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
My Amendment gives power to put a clause in parts, or to allow the Chairman to put it at the very end.
§ MR. CALDWELL
Nothing of the kind. The words of the Amendment are "That certain words of a clause defined in the Motion stand part of the Clause." How could it be put that the whole clause "stand part of the Clause?" It would be impossible. So that, according to the Amendment of the noble Marquess, the Chairman will have the option either of putting the whole clause or part of it, leaving other parts which may be contentious out; whilst, according to the proposal of the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, there would be no power to put the whole clause to the House.
MR. STAVELEY HILL
I am sure the hon. Member does not wish to misrepresent me. There will be a remaining part as well as a first part of a clause, and the clôture could not be applied to the remaining part unless the first part had been under consideration, and then all the remaining part of the clause be put.
§ MR. CALDWELL
The meaning of the hon. and learned Member's Amendment to the Rule, as we have it here, is that it shall be impossible to put the whole clause at one time. It will be necessary to break it up into sections.
§ MR. P. J. POWER (Waterford, E.)
This part of the Rule will apply principally to proceedings in Committee, and, as has been pointed out by the hon. Member for Mid Tyrone (Mr. M. J. Kenny), the Chairman of Committees already has ample power for dealing with frivolous Amendments, or Amendments that appear consequential. It seems to me that the Mover of an Amendment should have some opportunity allowed him of showing why he brings his Amendment forward. The House has already decided upon the principle of the clôture; but the Rule as now proposed goes beyond that principle, for it goes to the exclusion of matters which the Members who may bring them forward may not have an opportunity of explaining. It seems to me that the Amendment the noble Marquess proposes is a very dangerous one. We know that very frequently the whole substance of a clause hangs upon two or 76 three words; and it would be quite possible, with this Rule in operation, for a Member on this or the other side of the House, in a moment of irritation, to get up and propose that the clôture apply to those particular words. I quite understand that the object of the Amendments is to prevent for a time the application of the clôture to all the sections and subsections of a Bill, and all the sub-divisions of a Vote; but it will be perfectly in the power of any Member of the House, in a moment of excitement, to propose to apply the clôture to certain words, and if he obtains the consent of the Chair, or the consent of the Chair is not refused to him, it is possible for him in that way to shut out half-a-dozen words on which the whole clause hinges. There is another danger which I see in the proposed alteration of the Rule. If the Rule were to be applied as originally intended it would require a large amount of brazenness on the part of any Government to move that a large number of sub-sections be clôtured; but as it is now proposed, taking a clause bit by bit, it will be possible for the Government to get individual Members to move that all the most important parts of a clause be clôtured, word by word, or half-a-dozen words at a time. In this way, without outraging public opinion, the clôture may be put upon all the Amendments to a clause. Under these circumstances, though I admit that the Amendment of the noble Marquess has a certain amount of plausibility in it, I believe that it amounts to a most insidious and dangerous proposal, and one which, if passed in its present form, will place us in no better position than we should occupy if it had never been brought forward.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
I prefer the Amendment originally proposed to that of the noble Marquess. On Wednesday night I ventured to say that, as well as I could understand the Amendment as it was then read out to us, so far from improving matters, it would make them much worse. I am confirmed in that view, and I think that will be the opinion of everyone who is at all likely to be chronically a Member of the minority in this House. As the Rule stood originally, if there were 40 Amendments to an important clause, and if the Government desired to get rid of those standing in the names of 77 Members of a minority, they would have to sacrifice every one on the Paper, even those belonging to themselves or their followers. Though the original proposal would have placed in the hands of the Chairman power which I do not suppose is possessed in any other Legislatives Assembly in the world, the interests of the Government and their own necessities would have obliged them to protect the minority; if they destroyed all the Amendments, some of their own, lower down on the Paper, would have had to go with the rest. According to the original proposal it would have been impossible to pick and choose between certain Amendments, and the carrying of a Motion "That the Question be now put" would have wiped off all the Amendments from the Paper. Of course, we know that there is no priority in the putting down of Amendments, and that there is always a chance that a Member of a minority may get his Amendment down before one appears in the name of a Member of the Government. Before a Government Amendment was reached a Member of a minority might, in that way, have obtained the right—in which the Government would protect him—of having his Amendment brought before the notice of the House. The noble Marquess, however, proposes to place a new power in the hands of the majority and the Chair, as if the Rule of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House was not sufficient; and I do not wonder in the least at the Leader of the House assenting most willingly to the Amendment. The result of the proposal will be that the Members of the two Front Benches will meet together and decide what Amendments shall be put to the House and what Amendments shall not be put, and no independent Member in the future will have any opportunity of moving an Amendment to a Bill at all. This is just such an Amendment as one would expect to come from an occupant of the Front Opposition Bench. It is not at all unusual to see the two Front Benches joining together in an endeavour to defeat those hon. Members leading forlorn hopes below the Gangway; and we remember how the noble Marquess who has made this proposal endeavoured on one occasion to put down the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain) himself when the right hon. Gen- 78 tleman was exhaustively treating the subject of prison rules or of the abolition of the lash. We know that if the Amendment of the noble Marquess is carried the result will be that when an important Bill is before the House the Leaders on both sides will put their heads together and decide what Amendment they will permit and what they will not permit. A process of selection will thus be established. Under this system the minority will have no chance at all; and I would, therefore, appeal to every independent Member of the House to vote against the Amendment as an additional attack on the rights of private Members in this House, and an attack which, if passed, will leave private Members no rights at all.
SIR UGHTRED KAY-SHUTTLE WORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
I do not rise for the purpose of discussing the suggestion made by the right hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Childers). The Question before the House is the Amendment moved by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Staffordshire (Mr. Staveley Hill). The hon. and learned Gentleman has pointed out that there are two points in the Amendment of my noble Friend the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Harrington), the first being that the question that certain words of the clause defined in the Motion be now put, or that the Question that the clause stand part of the Bill be now put. The hon. and learned Member for Staffordshire has pointed out the great importance of enabling a discussion to take place on the clause itself. But, before we go into that, let me point out that I think hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, whilst I can understand their strong objection to the Amendment of the noble Marquess, seeing that, in their opinion, it makes matters worse, yet should recognize the spirit in which the Motion was proposed—namely, that of minimizing the harm that the Rule in its original form would have done. But I do wish to press very much on the attention of the House and Her Majesty's Government the injustice that might be inflicted by enabling the Question, "That this Clause stand part of the Bill," to be put without any do-bate. It seems to me quite possible that totally new questions might be raised which could not have been foreseen by the House—questions that have never 79 been debated on any Amendment, and which ought to be debated and put before the House—and a Member who has given Notice of his intention to move that a clause be not inserted in the Bill should not be excluded from putting his case before the. House, and stating to the House his reasons for so moving. Take the simple case mentioned by the hon. Gentleman the Member for the St. Rollox Division of Glasgow (Mr. Caldwell). Even in the case of a single short clause, to the effect that the Bill apply only to Scotland, no opportunity might have been given on any Amendment for English and Irish Members to express their views, and argue that the Bill should apply to England or Ireland. And, further, I think it-would be impossible for any Chairman, however able and efficient, to divine all the reasons which may be in the mind of an hon. Member who has put down a Notice on the Paper to move the omission of a clause. There is a great distinction between the question of clôture and the question of exclusion. We have never yet in this House contemplated excluding questions which are on the Notice Paper from the consideration of this House. No doubt it is in the competence of the Chair to exclude questions which it thinks have already been discussed, but that is a different thing from excluding questions which have not been discussed. When an hon. Member has given Notice of a Motion he may fairly expect that an opportunity will be allowed him of explaining the grounds of his proposal, and certainly the question of the omission of a clause is one upon which an hon. Member has a right to say that no Speaker or Chairman of Committees shall exclude him from the right of stating his reasons why he moves the omission of the clause. I speak as a Member of a Party in this House especially interested in passing an efficient Rule of Clôture. I think no Party is more interested in the adoption of such a Rule than the Liberal Party, for during the last 50 years that Party has done more for legislation than any other, and it may be hoped that after the next 50 years the same tiling may have to be said. But we do not wish to pass a Rule of exclusion to prevent questions which have not been put before the House from being argued.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co. N.)
I should like to know what the Government mean to do by the proposal they wish to adopt? Do they wish to stop the discussion of frivolous Amendments? Do they want to stop the discussion of dilatory Amendments, or of Amendments which are out of Order? If they do, I contend that the Chair already possesses, under the existing Rule of the House, full power to stop these Amendments. Do they want, on the other hand, to stop a debate that may have been already sufficiently prolonged? They will have power to do so under the first paragraph of this Rule. What more can they want? Why, all they can want in the direction of shortening discussion is the power of exclusion, to which reference has been made. It seems to me that that is the only object the Government can now aim at, and, to my mind, it is a thing which should be resisted by every Member who takes an interest in fair discussion in this House. I am sure the House welcomes back to the scene of his labours the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Manchester (Mr. A. J. Balfour), who has just entered the House for the first time since he was charged with the government of Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman must take a sympathetic interest in this discussion, because we know that in 1S82 he proposed several Motions of an anti-closure character, and I would almost say distinguished himself as an Obstructive. By this Amendment we shall be putting an additional power in the hands of the Speaker and Chairman of Committees, without a limitation to prevent them from exercising their judgment in accordance with the opinions of the majority in the House. No matter how well intended they may be, they will be unconsciously influenced by the prevailing temper of the majority; and the prevailing temper when, for instance, a Coercion Bill is under discussion will be to cut short debate on the part of the Irish Members. In the case of a Bill dealing, we will say, with Scotch law—a subject that probably no 10 men in this House outside the Scotch Members understand—how will the Chairman of Committees be able to satisfactorily exercise the power of ex-eluding Amendments unless he is a Scotchman, or is assisted by a Scotch assessor? In the case of an Irish Bill, 81 in order that he might properly understand the nature of Amendments that might be moved, it would be necessary for him to have two assessors—one for the Conservatives, and one for the Nationalists. Then there are Bills which deal with questions of pure law, and with the law of real and personal property, passing through the House every year. Unless yon have a lawyer acquainted with the law of real and personal property in the Chair, I defy you to say that he is not likely to shut out real and substantial Amendments. What we want is the power of proposing Amendments and of explaining them to the House; and I hold that under any modification of the Rule, except that proposed by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), which has been rejected, power will be given to the Chairman of Committees and to the Speaker to exclude substantial Amendments, which is a thing we shall always protest against and endeavour to resist to the last. We desire that the Proposer of an Amendment shall have power to state, at least, the substance of his Amendment. If that power be given, and if a Member abuses it, you have in the first part of the Rule ample power to cure that abuse—you can close the debate at any time you like. Any Government that is not satisfied with a power like that wants a thing that the House of Commons should never grant.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Sir HENRY HOLLAND) (Hampstead)
The hon. Member who has just sat down, and other Members, have asked what is the object of the Government in pressing on this Rule. That object has been stated over and over again, but I will venture to repeat it. The object of the Government is to facilitate debate, and to stop needless discussion and waste of time on dilatory and frivolous Amendments. The Government do not contemplate, nor has it ever contemplated, the exclusion of sound and substantial Amendments, and the words proposed have been accepted in order to enable such Amendments to be put and fully discussed. At the same time, the Government do not think it desirable to take away from a Member of the House, if he can obtain the assent of the Speaker, the power of moving that the clause stand part of the 82 Bill. This might still be necessary to put an end to frivolous and obstructive Amendments. It is not an easy matter for the Government to steer through the differences of opinion expressed in the House. we accept the words proposed by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale, as we thought, after full discussion, that there was force in the arguments of hon. Members below the Gangway; but now it appears that those Members prefer the Rule as it stands to the Rule as proposed to be amended, and argue that the Amendment will defeat the very object for which it was proposed, and strike a blow at legitimate discussion by Irish Members. The Government dispute this view, and are satisfied that by enabling the Speaker to put part of the clause no substantial Amendments will be excluded. Many hon. Members who have been discussing the matter seem to forget that the Government and the House are committed to the principle of the closure, and that behind the private Member and the House there is the protection of the Speaker and the Chairman. Reference has been made to the temper of the House, and to the possibility of Motions for the application of the closure being carried in haste in an excited and hot-tempered House; but, again, I say that the Government rely on the Speaker and the Chairman, who will be unmoved by the temper of the House. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] Doubtless many hon. Members below the Gangway opposite will not believe that; but the majority of the House believe it, and are ready to rely upon it. The House is used to hearing hon. Members below the Gangway expressing a want of confidence in the Chair; but I must protest against this argument being extended, as it has been again this evening, to casual Chairmen. The First Lord of the Treasury has more than once stated that Her Majesty's Government do not intend that this closure Rule should apply to casual Chairmen; and if the hon. Member who repeated the argument this evening had looked at the Amendment Paper he would have seen an Amendment confining the Rule to the Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means. The course which the Government intend to pursue is to accept and adhere to the words proposed by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale, and to reject any other Amend- 83 ment. I altogether disapprove the proposal or suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that the Speaker should be called upon to give his reasons to the House for excluding Amendments under the operation of the closure. It would certainly lead, in the most objectionable manner, to controversy between hon. Members and the Speaker, and I think the House can well rely on the judgment of the Chair as to whether Amendments are frivolous or substantial.
§ SIR LYON PLAYFAIR (Leeds, S.)
The right hon. Baronet who has just spoken used words the meaning of which he, perhaps, did not fully realize, but which were very significant. he said the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees were "behind the House." The Speaker and the Chairman of Committees are before the House, and everything that they do must be done in the face of the House, before the House, and with the full cognizance of the House. There is a difference between right hon. Gentlemen opposite and those who sit on this side of the House. Some things we hold in common. One of them is that we all wish the admission of the Closure Rule in some efficient form; and another is that we are all agreed that the Speaker and the Chairman will, at all times, act to the best of their ability. But we differ on this important point in the matter under discussion—that while Gentlemen opposite desire to throw the responsibility of action on the Speaker, those on my side of the House wish to put that responsibility on the House itself. We think it most dangerous to call upon the Speaker or the Chairman to intervene between the House and its will, and we believe that it would bring the Chair into constant collision with different sections in the House. As to the Amendments proposed, they would put on the Chair, for the first time in its history, the delicate duty of saying what Amendments are frivolous or not. I have fulfilled the duties of the Chair myself, and I can understand the great difficulty—I will say almost the impossibility—of the Speaker judging whether particular Amendments, perhaps several in number, which he has had little or no time to consider, and has not heard discussed, are substantial, or frivolous and obstructive. I recollect being in the Chair when the Crimes Bill 84 was before the House, and when I had to consider not only Amendments placed on the Notice Paper and printed beforehand, but sometimes 20 or 30 paper Amendments on the same clause which were handed to the Chair. How was it possible for me, in such circumstances, to say at once which of those Amendments wore substantial and which frivolous? It is altogether out of the power of the Chair to do so, and the effect of placing such a duty upon it will be to bring it into conflict with the minority or the majority of the House. I, therefore, approve the Amendment which I understand the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh intends to move. I agree that it is easy for the Speaker to do one of two things—to say that an Amendment should not be put because it is an abuse of the Rules of the House, of which he can judge at once; or because the question involved has been already discussed in another form. The Government will act wisely in submitting to that limitation of the Amendment. The Amendment of the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale is, no doubt, a limitation; but it will not relieve the Chair of the danger of collision with different sections of the House. I hope, therefore, that the Government will be able to see their way to adopt the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Edinburgh when it is proposed.
§ MR. E. HARRINGTON (Kerry, W.)
I wish to re-echo what has already fallen from these Benches—namely, that, bad as the original words of the Resolution were, the Amendment of the noble Marquess is infinitely worse. "We object most strenuously to that Amendment; because while we considered, in the first place, that the clôture was within the facile grasp of the Government, we considered that whilst they grasped the rose, there was also a certain risk of the thorn. Let us suppose that a clause be under discussion in Committee, and that it is desired by the Government that after a certain amount of irritation has been produced in discussing the earlier words of the clause, possibly on the second word of the clause a Member may rise and move that certain words, according to the formula suggested by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale, be put. What will happen is that the whole of the clause will be put, and 85 without anyone being heard in favour of the Amendments on the Paper. The proposal of the noble Marquess is that there should be what I may call a hop, skip, and a jump closure. I hope, when we go to a Division, it will be understood by hon. Members exactly what they are dividing on. They are dividing on a proposal which provides that the Chairman is to have in his mind, with regard to an Amendment, a presumption not only as to its frivolity, but as to its use. Suppose there are 10 or 50 Amendments to the clause of a Bill; supposing that a Member rises and proposes that the clause stand part of the Bill. I venture to say that what the Chairman of Committees has to do is not to address his mind to any particular Amendment of the clause, but to find out against which of the many Amendments the Motion for clôture is aimed, and then give his sanction or otherwise to the closure. I have, in a previous speech, suggested that the Chairman of Committees may be the strongest partizan in the House; but, whether he be the partizan of the Government or not, it is clear that in each case it is his interest to further Public Business, and the complaint of the majority has always been that it is the desire of the Government of the day to run its own special measures through the House. It is, therefore, necessary that the Chairman of Committees should be imbued with the same desire as the Government to show a good night's work; and, therefore, as a minority, we say that we have no protection from the wholesale adoption of the closure. The Amendment of the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale will reduce the risk of the Government, with regard to the closure, practically to nil. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), it is true, has come to the House with a set of Rules to which he says the Government attach the greatest importance and value; but he has not told us that he would stand or fall by those Rules. He has come down and tinkered and pottered with his new 'Rules day after day, and we do not know that he is not at this moment preparing some new modifications that will change the whole face of them. Well, Sir, it is just when the House is beginning to have a glimmering of what it is that the Government moan by the wording of their first Rule that 86 the noble Marquess comes down and sets them off in another direction. I object that, on this illusory process, we have been allured from one set of words to another, and always told that in the end we shall get introduced the words we want; but, so far as the words now proposed are concerned, I venture to say that the realization of our wishes are as far from it as we have been all along. I think the Government will do well to give us some time for consideration of the proposal made; and I venture to say that the Government might even now stop in their proceedings and put into proper shape the expression of their own ideas. The question involved here is one which I say ought not to be looked at through the light of Party considerations. If you are framing Rules for the conduct of proceedings in this House, I say that the Rules proposed ought to be worthy of the traditions of this House—worthy of the Government Bench, and of the genius which is supposed to adorn the Benches occupied by the Opposition, and not framed in the slip-shod and clumsy fashion in which the present Rules have been laid before the House.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
Nothing can be more touching, Sir, than the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury prostrates himself before the Chair, so to speak, when he is defending this Rule. But I would remind the right hon. Gentleman of the occasion in January, 1881, when he, with Lord Iddesleigh and Lord Cross, flounced out of the House in opposition to the ruling of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds (Sir Lyon Playfair) when he was Chairman of Committees. It is impossible on all the various technical subjects which come before this House that the Speaker or Chairman should say beforehand whether an Amendment is or is not frivolous. You propose to make the Chairman of Committees assessor of the value of these Amendments and of their substantiality; but I say that a more absurd and impossible task was never put upon anyone. What will be the effect of the proposal before us, which is essentially to allow the Government proposal to stand? I will give the Government a lesson in drafting Bills. By closuring a clause you will clôture the whole of the Amend- 87 ment to it, and so all that your draftsman has to do will be to put the Hill into one clause, and you can then carry your Bill by the process I have described. That, Sir, is reducing legislation to absurdity. If you had been asked whether the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) was frivolous or not, probably, if you had given expression to your real mind, you would have said, "I will rule this Amendment out;" but what has been the result of our discussing it? Why, we have succeeded in penetrating the mind even of the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale, and, after four or five hours' discussion, we induced him to get up and support our proposal. This is not a question of confidence in the Chair. I have a great respect for the Chair, and for all those who have filled it and will fill it—I respect them in advance—but I decline to allow the judgment of the Speaker or Chairman to be the substitute for the good old practice in this House. In my judgment, the proposal of the noble Marquess makes bad worse: he proposes that some Amendments are to be excluded from the clôture. I am inclined to accept the opinion of hon. Gentlemen opposite and upon the Opposition Benches upon English subjects—I know nothing of English matters, and I keep my mind pure and undefiled in that respect—but as to Irish Amendments I deny that they know anything more than I do about them. They have not lived in Ireland, and if I were to put them through a competitive examination of the clauses of the Land Act of 1881—why they would be spun in a very short time. I think that the discussion we have raised, although it will have no good effect so far as Irish Amendments are concerned, will be for the benefit of Englishmen. We have pointed out a blot on the Amendment of the noble Marquess, but, as I have said, it does not affect us. You had an hon. Member saying the other night that this discussion had continued long enough; and, when this Rule passes, you will have some equally uninformed Gentleman getting up and moving the closure on an Irish question. I prefer to be guided by my own experience rather than by the experience of the Speaker, or the Chairman, or of English Members. I shall never forget the time when the 88 First Lord of the Treasury and his Colleagues marched out of the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. and learned Gentleman is not speaking relevantly to the Question before the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Question before the House is simply that the words proposed to be left out stand part of the clause. The hon. and learned Member has been for some time very much beyond the Question.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I have endeavoured to point out, in the few words which I have addressed to the House, that we consider that the words of the noble Marquess do not afford us the protection which we consider we are entitled to in the peculiar circumstances in which we are placed. I think English and Scotch Members are adequately protected by the Amendment of the noble Marquess; but with regard to us that is not the case. As the Government declare that Ireland is to be mainly dealt with, and as the Rules are proposed for the present Session, surely we are entitled as being the Party, whose country will be affected, to press on the Government for some better assurance on this question than we have had up to the present.
§ MR. JAMES STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
The only point in which I have already taken part in the closure debate has been to object to a portion of the proposal on the grounds of its relation to Irish Business, in as much as that the safeguards urged as generally existing in respect of English Business seemed to me absent in the case of Ireland; but I rise to support the Amendment before the House, not because of its relation to Irish Business, but because of its relation to the position of the House generally. My experience is that there are often upon the Paper Amendments to Bills which at first sight appear of little importance, but which, when we come to them and proceed to argue upon them, prove to be of far-reaching importance. I think it would be a great misfortune to the legislation of this House if it were in the power of the House, or any section of the House, to say at any period of the debate on a clause that all succeeding Amendments should be swept away 89 without consideration. In supporting this Amendment I am supporting this position—that it should not be in the power of the House, or in the power of any Member of the House, to bar the House from considering any particular Amendment, or to make a proposal which would lead the House to sweep away, with reference to a clause, all the subsequent Amendments. This, Sir, is the first occasion on which the closure has been advocated as a prospective measure, and I altogether dissent from a Rule which establishes a form of closure which has never been advocated i or considered by the country at large. I am, on account of the experience I have had in this House, and on the ground of this proposal being entirely new, opposed to any Resolution of this House which shall prospectively prohibit the discussion of Amendments. It is on that ground, and not because it is connected with Irish Business, that I support the Amendment before the House.
§ MR. O'DOHERTY (Donegal, N.)
I am of opinion that the effect of the Amendment of the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington(will be entirely destroyed if Rule 5 is carried out; and it can only be prevented by some modification of that clause. I therefore would like to draw the attention of the noble Marquess to what will happen when we come to that part of the Rules—because it will be impossible to pass Rule 5 after we have admitted the noble Marquess's Amendment.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork, Co., Mid)
The silence which the occupants of the Treasury Bench have observed during the greater part of this evening, and notably upon these Amendments, has struck me as most remarkable. The speeches which have been delivered upon the Amendment of the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) and the subsequent Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kingswinford (Mr. Staveley Hill), clearly demonstrate that the Amendments are of the greatest importance. I cannot help drawing the attention of the House to the remarks which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Leeds (Sir Lyon Playfair), who has great practical experience in connection with Procedure. He stated that the Chairman may Lave 90 time to investigate the Amendments placed upon the Paper, and may be able to eliminate those which he deems to be frivolous or objectionable, but that many Amendments are brought to the Chairman when he is actually sitting in the Chair, and that in regard to these it is impossible for him to form a judgment off hand. The right hon. Gentleman knows a great deal about this matter, having acted as Chairman during very troublous times, and therefore I commend his remarks to the serious attention of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) drew attention to the fact that there is a great deal of difference between clôture and exclusion. We know that, as a rule, it will be late in the evening—when time is getting short—that the clôture will be applied. When time gets short, the temper of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen, as has unfortunately been the case latterly, gets short too. I cannot help objecting to this attempt to shift the responsibility from the hon. Member who may propose the clôture to the Chair. I again call upon the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), or the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen), to pay some attention to the remarks which have fallen from right hon. Gentlemen who have had practical experience of the difficulties of Procedure.
§ MR. O'HANLON (Cavan, E.)
Mr. Speaker, I have noticed throughout the whole of these discussions a disposition on the part of the Government to take no heed of the observations addressed from this side of the House. It is very clear that this Parliament is drifting into a most miserable condition. I hold that these Rules are a great abuse of the privileges of the people's Representatives. I have noticed that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, instead of explaining the Rules to the Members of the House, who are anxious to know what effects the Rules will have, has tried to say as little as possible. I have noticed the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) explaining the effects and showing the abuses of certain Rules——
§ MR. O'HANLON
I think, Mr. Speaker, that the adoption of the Amendment before the House will only make matters worse. I believe that the Amendment is neither understood by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale, who proposed it, nor by any other Member of the House. I have heard it discussed from all sides of the House; but I do not know that any two opinions expressed with regard to it agree. If this Amendment is to stop all measures being discussed, we might as well bid adieu to the Business of the country. The noble Marquess and the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kingswinford (Mr. Staveley Hill) cannot agree with the other's Amendment; but they both seem to agree in trying, by every means, to muzzle the Irish Members. I must express my objection to these Amendments; and, in conclusion, add that it is my belief that if these Rules are put in force it will be impossible for any Government to carry out the Business of the country in a satisfactory manner.
§ MR. DEASY (Mayo, W.)
I have had some experience of the temper of the House on occasions when matters of considerable importance to Ireland were under discussion. We are told by hon. Gentlemen who support the Amendment of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) that we may trust to the Speaker or Chairman and the good sense of the House. I remember that, on many occasions, it would not have been safe to trust our lives to Gentlemen in this House at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, when the temper of the House has not been as cool as it is now. I recollect that night after night, when we had been discussing matters regarding our country, Gentlemen on the Government Benches have endeavoured to howl us down, and have appealed to you, Sir, over and over again, to prevent us expressing our opinion. I ask, how is it possible, under such circumstances, for us to trust any of the hon. Gentlemen opposite to allow us to continue a discussion which might be of considerable importance to us, but wearisome to them? I decline to trust my freedom of speech to any hon. Gentleman opposite, or to any Chairman who may be appointed by a political Party to preside over our debates. My belief is that we shall have. in the future, similar difficulties to con- 92 tend against as we have had in the past. It is not far distant, I fear, when we shall have some very troublous times; and I do trust that, no matter whether this Rule passes or not, the House will preserve some kind of freedom of debate. Now, the silence observed on the Front Ministerial Bench——
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must inform the hon. Gentleman that the Amendment immediately before us is to enable the Chair to put certain words of a clause for the purpose of preserving subsequent Amendments. The hon. Gentleman's remarks have no reference to that Amendment.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I must ask the hon. Gentleman to be more respectful, or I must take very serious notice of his remarks.
§ MR. DEASY
I apologize. Sir, for my seeming disrespect. I had no intention to be disrespectful to you. I hope the Government will reply to the arguments advanced by the Members on the Front Opposition Bench and the Irish Members. I protest against the passing of this Amendment, on the ground that the Government might put the most stringent form of clôture into operation. we believe that all these Rules are aimed against the Irish Members; but I would remind hon. Gentlemen who have experience of the House that some of the most beneficial reforms relating to Ireland have been effected by our putting down Amendment after Amendment to the clauses of Bills. I must also point out that it would be impossible for us, on seeing a Bill for the first time, and without hearing the provisions explained, to say whether we should be justified in endeavouring to amend it. What would be the result? The Government of the day might get any friend of theirs to propose Amendments, and put them down on the Paper first. These Amendments might be discussed at considerable length. They might be of comparatively little importance as compared with Amendments lower down on the Paper; but if the discussion had occupied six or eight hours it might be said that it had lasted long enough, and that 93 the clôture ought to be applied. We might have Governments proposing through their Party Amendments in order to prevent us bringing Amendments forward. I do not expect much from the present Government. I believe that, if they get these Rules passed, we shall get little fair play in regard to the proposing of Amendments. There i is another important effect this Rule will have upon the House. At present, when a new Bill is introduced, hon. Members generally read it over, with the view of finding whether they can draft Amendments which would amend it. In future no one, except a few who are likely to be chosen by the Government, will go to the trouble of going over a Bill, because they will come to the conclusion at once that, if the Government are in any way hostile to the Amendments, they will simply get one of their Party to move the clôture. and thus prevent discussion. It would be better for the country that there should be no legislation at all than that there should be hasty and hurried legislation. I thought that, after what has taken place in connection with this debate during the last two or three days, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) would, at least, have offered us his opinion on this matter. I shall not detain the House longer; but I do hope some alteration of a very important and material nature will be made in this Rule before it is allowed to pass, because I see great danger to the freedom of discussion, and great danger that hon. Members—at least we on these Benches—will not be permitted that opportunity of ventilating our opinion which the importance of the interests of our country demands.
§ MR. NOLAN (Louth, N.)
Whatever difficulty I may feel myself placed in when questions of Procedure generally are being discussed, I feel compelled, by my duty as an Irish Representative, to say a few words upon the Amendment moved by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington). If I have any objection to urge to this Amendment, it is that it does not go far enough. At the same time, I feel that, no matter what imperfections this Amendment may have, it is sure to pass, because the Government, who at the present time command a majority, with the aid of the noble 94 Marquess, are sure to accept it. Sir, I feel confident, after listening to the speeches from both sides of the House, that this Amendment will leave it possible to throw out Amendments without their even being discussed, and I look upon such a condition of affairs as very serious. It is argued by Members of the Treasury Bench that every trust may be placed in the Chairman, and that no Amendments will be thrown out unless they are frivolous, or likely to waste the time of the House. But, oven granting that the Chairman may be a man of the most complete impartiality, it must be borne in mind that this House legislates upon all manner of subjects—upon agriculture, mining, trade, commerce—and that it is impossible for the Chairman to possess the knowledge of an export upon all these subjects. He cannot judge of the substantiality of all Amendments which are proposed to Bills, and he cannot know what is contemplated by hon. Gentlemen who move Amendments. This Amendment proposes to take away from the constituencies the power they are supposed to possess under the Constitution, and to vest it in some irresponsible Member of the House and the occupant of the Chair. Although I am not disposed to trespass upon the time of the House any further, I feel the effect of the adoption of this Amendment would be a serious innovation upon the rights of the constituencies.
§ MR. BLANE (Armagh. S.)
I cannot help saying that I thought the Amendment of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) would have been drafted more generously to the Irish Members—that the Amendment would have been of a more liberal character. We are asked to repose our confidence in the Chair. Some hon. Members of the House have unlimited confidence in the Chair, and others have very little confidence in the Chair. I am, of course, one of the latter, and I am not willing that the matter should be left altogether to the Chair, because the very fact of the physical tedium of sitting in the Chair——
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must ask the hon. Gentleman to abstain from that line of argument, and to keep to the Amendment before the House.
§ MR. BLANE
I regret I have deviated from the subject before the House. 95 I wish the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the liberal Party (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had seen his way to draft an Amendment to this drastic proposition of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. IT. Smith), an Amendment in consonance with the Liberal institutions which this age boasts. This is merely a halting Amendment, and is only made fur the purpose of limiting debate. I suppose the noble Marquess expects some day to be in a position to go up to the Chair and whisper to the Speaker his desire to close the debate.
§ MR. SPEAKER
This is the second time I have to request the hon. Gentleman to keep to the Amendment, with which his remarks have no connection whatever.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 257; Noes 134: Majority 123.—(Div. List, No. 59.)
That the words 'certain words of the Clause defined in the Motion stand part of the Clause, or That.' be there inserted.
§ MR. PARNELL (Cork)
Before this Amendment is passed I wish to ask the Government whether they will not take into consideration the very strong expression of opinion that has just been given in favour of some modification in the Amendment of the noble Marquess, and agree to insert some Proviso which will come at the end of the clause to protect the minority from oppressive action on the part of the majority? I would point out that the Rule, as it now stands, carries the House further in a restrictive direction against the moving of Amendments than the Rules of Urgency did of 1881, under which two Coercion Acts were passed. If the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) will carry his mind back to that year he will remember that under the Rule of Urgency it was provided that the clôture might come into force against all Amendments on the Paper at a certain hour named in the Resolution; but it was also provided that the House should have an opportunity of expressing its opinion on these Amendments by the Question being formally" put from the Chair. It was not permitted to Members in charge of Amendments to move those Amend- 96 ments; yet the House could express its opinion on them by Divisions. Under the present Rule, if it is left as it now stands, and if the Ministry of the day is in a majority—and we cannot suppose that the Ministry will always continue to be in a minority as at present—the Ministry will be able to carry a Bill through without allowing the House to express its opinion on the Amendments to the clauses. The right hon. Gentleman will be obliged to admit that the emergencies of the time and season do not necessitate a more stringent provision than was obtained in the year 1881, and I think he should concede a point to us, and agree to the insertion of words in the Rule providing that every Amendment on the Paper should, at all events, be put from the Chair. If he does not, it will be in the power of the Government or the majority, before we come to Amendments, before we have an opportunity of understanding what they are, and before we have the slightest sense of their gravity or importance, to shut us out from all discussion of them or power of decision. I submit that we ought not to pass this Rule in its present shape. I venture to say that there never was a more stringent and absolute Rule. Surely the Government will admit that some consideration is due to the very strong representation which has been made to them in this matter. It has been stated, over and over again, that this is not a Party question; and the right hon. Gentleman opposite must admit that, however much we may have opposed him in this Rule, he has not met with much opposition from the Liberal Party, but, on the contrary, considerable assistance. I think, therefore, something is due to the representations which have come from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers).
THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I am unable to agree with the hon. Gentleman that the powers now sought to be conferred on the House and the Speaker are oppressive powers in any sense whatever. I am unable to agree with him that they are greater in extent than those given under the Rules of Urgency, for it must be remembered that the Speaker and the Chairman are themselves judges of the justness of the Motion which they are 97 asked to put from the Chair, and I submit that it is inconceivable that the Chair will at any time put a Motion for clôture which will shut out legitimate debate or discussion of serious substantive Amendments. Sir, I have not through the whole of this very prolonged debate heard any suggestion from hon. Gentlemen opposite, or from any other part of the House, which will define frivolous and unmeaning Amendments from those that are substantive; and I take refuge, therefore, in the responsibility, discretion, and justice of the Chair to protect the minority against any abuse of the power now sought to be conferred on the majority. I cannot admit that the arguments which have been urged from the opposite side of the House—though I desire to pay all respect to them—have at all shaken the conclusion that I and my Colleagues have arrived at after the very fullest consideration. We do not propose these measures with any desire whatever to strain our powers or to assort our authority; but we are conscious of the impotence to which the House has been reduced through the prolongation of debate. We are conscious of the fact that if Amendments are pressed repeatedly on the consideration of the House, and if the discussion that is required by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway is permitted, and Divisions are to be taken on every Amendment, whether frivolous or substantive, it will be utterly impossible for the House to have any question seriously proposed or debated. It has been said, over and over again, that the majority, or any Member who may move the Motion for the clôture, will be responsible for that Motion, and it has been stated, over and over again, that if a Member misuses his power he will have to answer for it to the country. I believe those arguments to have great weight. Moreover, I believe it will be impossible for anyone who occupies the Chair, even in a period of excitement or anger, to permit a Motion to be made which will have the effect of allowing a measure to be passed without due and careful, and even prolonged, discussion. Holding those views, I cannot consent to any mitigation or diminution of the authority which is given to the Chair and to the House, under the conditions that are proposed in the Rule, as it is intended to 98 alter it by the Amendment of the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury expressly alluded to myself, and I think I can claim from him the admission that I have done my best to assist him in passing this Rule. He has had no opposition to its principle from us. But what I contend is that there is a great difference between "closure" and "exclusion." We are anxious that the Rule of Clôture should be made as strong as possible, and we desire to give every assistance to the Government in framing it; but we do not think it should be in the power of any Member—the consent of the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees not being refused—to exclude from the consideration of the House genuine Amendments. The right hon. Gentleman says that it is impossible to distinguish between such Amendments as are genuine and such as are not; but I can only say that, in the words of the additional Proviso which I intend to move after the end of line 12, I should propose distinctly to declare that when permission is given to, or when refusal is withhold from, a Member to introduce such a Motion as will exclude genuine Amendments; it shall be the duty of the Chair to state to the House distinctly that he gives that permission because he considers the Amendment to be an abuse of the Rules of the House, or that he considers that the question has been sufficiently discussed in some other form. That, I think, after the last Division, is the best security we can obtain. I shall vote for the Motion of the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale, and I hope that after that is carried some such words as I suggest will be introduced.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I think the House should direct attention to the title of this Rule. It is called a Rule for "The Closure of Debate." I do not know, Sir, whether you would be inclined to extend to this Rule the principle that is applied to a Bill before the House. The principle of Parliament applied to a Bill is that nothing shall be introduced which is beyond the title. I maintain that the provision we are now-discussing, with the Amendment of the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale, goes beyond the title of the Rule, because both the provision and the 99 Amendment are not for the closure of debate, but for the prevention of debate. and even for the extinction of the mere fundamental right of moving an Amendment. I shall be thankful to hear from you, Sir. as will many other hon. Members of the House, whether, in a Rule that professes to be for closure of debate, another right, separable and perfectly distinct from it, can be introduced. I can complain of a still more striking defect than that in the speeches we have heard from the Treasury Bench. We are discussing the right of moving Amendments, and one would have thought that, in order to justify their position, the Government would at least have brought forward from the Journals of the House some instance of vicious, frivolous, or worthless Amendments. [Laughter.] The hon. Gentleman opposite is disorderly in a double sense; because there is no point in his interruption, and he is interrupting from a part of the House in which he ought to be silent. I wish to challenge the Government. Since 1880 we have had before us many Bills in which Irish Members have taken an ardent interest; but I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to go to the Records of the House and show any Amendment that was frivolous, and which did not. receive a largo amount of support. we have always in Bills affecting Ireland put forward Amendments conceived in an earnest and serious spirit; and Amendments which we have been able to support by arguments. I would point out to the House that no reply has boon given to the cogent arguments of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell), and I am inclined to ask whether any circumstances are existing with regard to Public Business, or any circumstances are likely to exist, so extreme as those which existed when the Rules of Urgency were passed? Those Rules were passed at the time when a body of the Irish Members were excluded from this House, when temper was fierce and when Party spirit ran high; but those Rules gave us the right to have each of our Amendments put from the Chair, and to have for each of them not only formal, but substantial consideration. On a question of this magnitude it will not do for the Government either to sit in helples3dumbness or when they do rise, speak empty platitudes at the Table. They must apply 100 themselves to the facts of the case, and endeavour, at least, to make some show of offering an intelligible answer to the arguments placed before them. The noble Marquess proposes to make it optional with the majority either to carry the whole of the remaining Amendments to a clause or to carry a clause by sections or instalments. That proposal distinctly makes the Rule worse, and more oppressive against minorities than ever. If the Rule stood as it was before the noble Marquess set his hand to it, the Government would be driven either to allow all the Amendments to be put, or to shut them all out, and that is a clear and intelligible issue; but the noble Marquess puts the thing in a new condition, because his proposal will enable the Government to pick out, say, five Amendments proposed by themselves or their Followers, and to shut out 50 that might be proposed by Members of the Opposition. The noble Marquess, while professing to come forward in the character of an advocate of the rights of minorities, has—I do not know whether by intention or inadvertence, but I should rather think by inadvertence—produced a result which practically extinguishes the right of Amendment in the hands of the Opposition, and leaves that right in the hands of the Government and the majority. Surely, that is an intolerable result. If the Rule is amended as suggested, it will be possible, with a sympathetic Chairman, to shut out all the Amendments of the Opposition, and to pass all those proposed by the Friends of the Government. It is easy to expose the hollow pretence that the Chairman will be a protection to a minority in the event of this Amendment being accepted. The Chairman will have to decide, on the spur of the moment, not whether one Amendment is substantial, but whether all of them are substantial or not. We have all heard of "Admirable Crichton;" but Admirable Crichton would only be an ignorant rustic compared with the Gentleman who could satisfactorily decide such a matter as that. We have Bills dealing with the condition of work in factories, Bills dealing with the conditions under which vessels should be allowed to go to sea, Bills dealing with mining matters, and Bills affecting all questions of industry, brought before us from time to time; and will anyone 101 pretend to tell me that either the Speaker or the Chairman will take upon himself, on regard to such measures, without a committee of experts at his elbow, to ay whether or not certain Amendments are substantial or are frivolous? Why, by exercising this Rule the House will make itself the laughing stock of the country, and will soon be rudely compelled to alter its regulations.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
So long as the opportunity is permitted to me I, for one, intend to offer the strongest protest against the proposed Rule. I do so now, it is true, for the last time; but I wish to say that I certainly hope to live to see the day when the Rule will be used against the Government opposite. I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers), who has just said that he intended to vote for the Amendment of the noble Marquess, that this Amendment is likely to interfere with the operation of the Rule, and I would invite him not to vote for it. He will find, in the future, that this provision moved by the noble Marquess will prevent the real stringency of this Rule, as it will prevent its being put in operation in an honest and fair sense. Under the circumstances, it will only be found to hit the Party sitting on these Benches. We have not had an opportunity of considering the Rule as a whole. The Government have refused to accept the request of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) to put the Rule and Amendments down as a whole, so that the House might consider it. It was only when this Amendment was proposed that we grew into the importance of this particular matter. We heard the purport of it suggested on Wednesday; but until hon. Gentlemen came down this morning they were not aware that they were to have submitted to them a Rule to prevent the putting of Amendments. I would especially beg the right hon. Gentleman and the Members of his Party not to vote for the Amendment of the noble Marquess on these grounds. They have no guarantee whatever that it is proposed to make this a Standing Order applicable to every state of facts; there is no guarantee that it is bonâ fide. I say it is not intended bonâ fide so far as the general Business of the House is concerned. We have pressed—and 102 pressed in vain—for an answer to our demand, do you intend to make it a Standing Order? We have got no answer—no sufficient answer to that question.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I have said distinctly that it is the intention of the Government to make this a Standing Order. As soon as the Rule is passed we propose to ask the House to make it a Standing Order; but I said we could not undertake to have another debate upon it.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
When they have got their closure, when they have got this Rule, all they have to do to make it a Standing Order is to apply the closure instanter. The right hon. Gentleman will not have another debate; he has the power in his own hands under his newly-forged machinery. I appeal to Liberal Members not to support in the Lobby the Amendment of the noble Marquess. I infinitely prefer the Rule as it stood. It will protect the Tory Party in any Bills they may bring in; it will strike at us alone. I beg the Liberal Party, unless they have a distinct pledge that it will be made a Standing Order, not to allow this Rule to be used against us—not to be used to push forward a Coercion Bill against our liberties, as dear to us as are their liberties to them.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 278; Noes 100: Majority 178.—(Div. List, No. 60.)
§ Mr. CHANCE
On a point of Order, Sir, may I ask if my Amendment, of which I have given you Notice, will not come in after line 11, before the Amendment next on the Paper?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman has been good enough to give me the words, but they would not be in Order; they deal with a point the House has already decided. The hon. Member for North Meath (Mr. Mahony) has given notice of an Amendment after line 11, but there are several objections to it; it is not consistent with previous parts of the clause; the first part has already been decided by the House, and the second portion deals with the point raised by the Amendment of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), who has precedence, seeing that his Amendment has been on the Paper for some time, while the hon. Member for 103 North Meath has only given Notice just now.
§ MR. PARNELL
Will it not be competent for one of us to move, previous to the end of the Rule, an Amendment providing that Amendments that are shut out from discussion by the adoption of the Rule in its application to a clause in Committee on a Bill, may be put from the Chair, but without debate, as was done under the Rules of Urgency in 1881? I would respectfully submit-that is a point not yet decided—the question of putting Amendments which are on the Paper, and which may be shut out from debate by the application of the closure. It is a novel question not yet decided by the House. I venture to think it would be fair to afford us the opportunity of raising the question whether the Rule shall or shall not provide that such Amendments as I have described shall be put from the Chair.
§ MR. SPEAKER
It would not be competent for an hon. Member to move that, inasmuch as the House has decided that the Question may be put, disposing, no doubt, of the following Amendments. The words of the Rule have been modified by the Amendment just agreed to, and do not preclude substantial Amendments, and it would be competent for the Chair to put the Question in such a shape, that "such words stand part of the Clause" as to preserve substantial Amendments. This will cover the exact point to which the hon. Gentleman refers.
§ MR. PARNELL
My point, Sir, is this. The Rule, so far as we have proceeded, has reference to the stopping of debate; that point only has been decided. But the further question as to putting the Question in reference to Amendments after the debate has been stopped, has not yet been decided. That is my point, and I submit we ought to have some opportunity of asking the House to decide that this Rule should not be more stringent in its application than were the Rules of Urgency in 1881.
§ MR. SPEAKER
That is precisely the question that I have just now decided. the Amendments standing next on the Paper in the name of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) are out of Order. They are four in number. The hon. and learned Gentleman proposes, in line 12, after the word "Motions," to 104 insert "if they have been discussed for one hour," which Motions, or Closure Motions, the House has decided are to be decided without debate. The first Amendment of the hon. and learned Gentleman proposes one hour's discussion of such Motions; but the House would stultify its previous decision by entering upon this Amendment. The second Amendment to the same line is to leave out "shall," and insert "may in the discretion of the Chair." To adopt this would seem to impose on the Chair a different liability to that proposed by the first stage of the Rule. The first stage reads "shall," and if in the second place it be in the discretion of the Chair to do or not, then these two directions seem to be inconsistent the one with the other. The whole question of the discretion of the Chair is settled by the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, and the House would stultify its action if it were to allow a discretion to the Chair in the latter case not allowed on the previous stage. Again, the hon. and learned Member proposes to insert after the word "decided," the words "by a Division but." At present two Members may call a Division; but the effect of the hon. and learned Member's Amendment would be that a Division must be taken whether there is a wish for it or not. The last of the four Amendments I rule out of Order for the same reason that the first one is out of Order. The House has decided that the leave of the Chair may be asked, or rather the veto of the Chair challenged, without any debate; therefore the Amendment would be contrary to what the House has already decided.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
With reference to the second Amendment, Sir, may I ask whether you have considered the fact that my words, "may in the discretion of the Chair," have reference to the putting of the clause, not to the putting of the clôture? The Question, "That this Clause stand part of the Bill" has no reference to the Previous Question of the clôture. My point is that in the putting the clause some discretion should be allowed to the Chair. You might have a Bill consisting of one long clause. A new system of draftsmanship may arise in which you have not the divisions of sections and sub-sections, and what I wish to draw attention to is that 105 in a Bill of this character the Chairman should have a discretion. I submit to your ruling; but I ask your attention to this point, that the discretion of the Chair would be in regard to what I will call a new system of drafting; it is wholly detached from the putting of the clôture with which the first part of the Rule deals.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. and learned Gentleman will see that his Amendment affects "such Motions," not such Motion; it affects the whole of the Motions. I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman I have considered the point, and for the reasons I have given rule the Amendment out of Order.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
To obviate the difficulty I will make my Amendment in the singular, not the plural.
§ MR. SPEAKER
That would be inconsistent with the reference to the several Motions in the second paragraph.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
That is quite right, Sir. I will ask you later as to the introduction of a Proviso to the second portion of the Rule. I think we are entitled to ask the judgment of the House on the question whether a Division should be allowed on putting the clause under the Clôture Motion.
§ MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
In the absence of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), I beg leave to move the Amendment standing in his name with reference to the application of the clause in Committee of Supply.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am not quite sure—for I have not the words before me—but I think an Amendment the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) desires to move will come first.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
Mr. Speaker, it appears to me it is necessary to have some safeguard in this matter. What I am anxious to press upon the House is this—When, by the action of a Member, the assent of the Chairman not being withheld, the debate upon a clause to which there are Amendments is closed, and there are other substantial Amendments to the clause which are thereby shut out from discussion, then I submit that the Speaker or Chairman should slate distinctly why he allows Amendments of 106 that kind to be shut out. I mentioned this suggestion earlier, and I think that at the time it was received with some favour. It would be perfectly impossible now, after 1 o'clock, to discuss this fully; but. with the leave of the House, I will state exactly what the words are of the Proviso which I shall propose to insert at the end of the 12th line—Provided that whenever the Chair does not withhold its assent to a Motion of Closure which, if carried, would withdraw from consideration any Amendment of which Notice has been given, the Chair shall declare whether such an Amendment is an abuse of the Rules of the House, or has been sufficiently discussed under some other form.Now, Sir, that lays down distinctly that Amendments shall not be shut out except upon two grounds, either that they are an abuse of the Rules of the House or that they have been sufficiently discussed in some other form; and I believe that that is as great a safeguard as we can hope to get. I think the House will hardly wish me to repeat the arguments in support of it which I urged at an earlier hour. I ask you to put the Question to the House, and I trust it will receive the support of all who, while admitting to the full the value of the closure, are not anxious to see the exclusion from debate of important Amendments.
In line 12, after the word "Debate," to insert the words "Provided that whenever the Chair does not withhold its assent to a Motion of Closure which, if carried, would withdraw from consideration any Amendment of which Notice has been given, the Chair shall declare whether such an Amendment is an abuse of the Rules of the House, or has been sufficiently discussed under some other form."—(Mr. Childers.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, Hanover Square)
I do not think we can accept the words of this Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman. He said the suggestion had been received with some favour, but I cannot assent to that. the right hon. Gentleman has now put on the Chair the duty of giving reasons for its decision, and the task of declaring with regard to every Amendment why it is shut out. One of the reasons to be given is that it has been sufficiently discussed, but if some of the Amendments to be excluded have not 107 been discussed at all how could the Chairman say they had been adequately discussed?
§ MR. CHILDERS
The right hon. Gentleman does not seem quite to understand. I want the Chair to give the reasons for excluding Amendments.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Yes; before many of them have been discussed. The right hon. Gentleman is inviting the Chair to say with regard to Amendments not yet discussed, whether or not they have been adequately discussed. Is not that so?
§ MR. CHILDERS
Providing that that general principle has already been adequately discussed under some other form. I do not ask that there shall be any statement of reasons on the first application of the closure, but when Amendments are shut out from debate I think we ought to have a reason.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
But it cannot be a reason with regard to adequate discussion, because the Amendments will not have been discussed at all. The Chair might say that the Amendments ought to be discussed; but these are not the words of the Amendment. Then the next point is whether the Amendments are an abuse of the Rules of the House. Now, frivolous and superfluous Amendments are not exactly a broach of the Rules of the House, although the discussion of them could only obstruct the progress of Business. A right hon. Member just now alluded to the case of 50 or 100 Amendments being suddenly given to the Chairman in Committee with regard to one clause; and it was asked how a Chairman could possibly discriminate between them. That is just one of the matters we have to deal with, for to allow unlimited Amendments means unlimited opportunities of preventing Business being done. The House has already practically decided in favour of limiting the number of Amendments. I would submit to the House that the Amendment increases the danger and responsibilities of the Chair by calling upon it to give reasons for excluding every Amendment. I venture to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should withdraw his Amendment.
SIR UGHTRED KAY-SHUTTLE-WORTH (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has just admitted that handing in a large number of Amendments to the Chair might be an abuse 108 of the Rules of the House. It is precisely at that kind of abuse—the handing in of frivolous Amendments—that the Amendment of my right hon. Friend is aimed. He asks the House to restrict the power of excluding Amendments from discussion to two classes of cases—the first when there is an abuse of the Rules of the House, and the second whore the subject of the Amendment has not been adequately discussed.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The Amendment sets forth either that it is an abuse of the Rules of the House, or that it has been sufficiently discussed. It says nothing about the subject.
SIR UGHTRED KAY-SHUTTLE-WORTH
The meaning is obvious; that the subject has been already sufficiently discussed. A great distinction exists between closure after adequate debate and the power of exclusion from debate.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I am not uninclined to move the Adjournment of the House, not merely because of the lateness of the hour, but also because of the difficulty of dealing with an Amendment of such great importance without having had time to consider it. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer a few moments ago spoke of the handing in of a number of Amendments to the Chairman of Committee as an abuse of the Rules; and one reason he gave was that as they were not on the Paper hon. Members would not have an opportunity of considering them properly. I am afraid that if that Rule had been applied with rigidity the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury would have been found guilty of an abuse of the Rules of the House on more than one occasion in the course of these important and complicated discussions; for we have been called upon to discuss several important Amendments without having them in print before us. Why, even the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with his fertile imagination, has failed to grasp the purport of the Amendment before the House. He asks how can the Speaker declare an Amendment to have been adequately discussed when it has not been discussed at all? Surety that is an entire misapprehension; all the Speaker is to be called upon to say is whether the subject raised by the 109 Amendment has already linen adequately discussed. The words of the Amendment are—"Sufficiently discussed in some other form." Surely that is a reasonable proposition. What would be the operation of the Rule as at present framed? Suppose the House is discussing a clause with three sub-sections. There is a long debate on the first sub-section, which deals with one matter. To the two next sub-sections which each of them deal with different matters, there are Amendments. Does the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer mean to contend that because the first sub-section has been sufficiently discussed we are not to have the right to discuss the different subjects raised by the second and third subsections? Yet that is the logical and inevitable issue of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) whether my interpretation of the Amendment—that the point is that the subject has been discussed in some other form—is not correct.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite will see I was justified in saying there was a difference of opinion as to the meaning of the Amendment, which I say is a perfect safeguard against two evils. It is, on the one hand, a safeguard against frivolous Amendments which raise the same question over and again; while, on the other hand, it prevents the exclusion of Amendments raising wholly distinct and substantial issues to these which have been already discussed. I say we require these safeguards for the protection of the liberties of the House and the liberties of discussion, unless indeed we are to understand that the Rules are to be made as tyrannical and as oppressive as possible, and in the calm and comforting assurance that they will be used only against the Irish Members.
§ MR. GEDGE (Stockport)
It seems to me that this is a clever attempt to induce the House to reverse what it has already done, and to go back upon itself. We have already decided that the cloture is only to be applied if the Chair does not withhold its assent—that is if it is silent; and now to ask the Chair to 110 state its reasons for not allowing certain Amendments to be discussed is, to my mind, to ask the House to give a decision contrary to the one it has already arrived at.
§ MR. CHILDERS
The Amendment I have proposed is not one to the part of the Rule the hon. Member is dealing with. It only affects the discussion of a clause in Committee.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
This is evidently a very important Amendment, and every word has its importance, and although we have been discussing it some time, very few of the hon. Members seem to agree as to; what it means. I hardly think that, persons of average ability, like myself and many others in this House, can grasp the Amendment unless we see it on paper. It is now half-past 1, and it seems to me to be desirable that the debate should be adjourned. I therefore move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed "That the Debate be now adjourned.'—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I hope that the House will not adjourn this debate. The right hon. Gentleman opposite stated his Amendment two or three times in the course of the evening, and therefore it does appear to me that the House is in a position to give a decision on the subject. I do not wish to undervalue its importance, but it has been stated to the House, the House thoroughly comprehends it, and I think that in justice to the House itself it ought now to be decided.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
I think the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury ought to con- sent to the adjournment. He should remember that we sat up till 2 o'clock last night and voted away £500,000, and that we gave £100,000 for an invention. We do not wish to obstruct the Government, and we think the Government should reciprocate our kindness and not keep us out of our beds after half-past 111 1. I put it to the House, if one-third of the Members on the Government Benches do not look as if they would be much bettor in their beds? I took an active part in Committee last night, and I find myself quite incapable of properly weighing the merits of this Amendment, particularly as it is not on paper. I think the request of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) is a reasonable one, and I would remind the First Lord of the Treasury that a little courtesy is duo to the Front Bench opposite. This is an Amendment brought forward by a loading Statesman on the Opposition side of the House, and it ought not to be decided at an hour when hon. Members are worn out with fatigue. I hope the First Lord of the Treasury will consent to the Motion.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
I am quite sure that we on this side of the House are completely willing that the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Galway (Colonel Nolan) and his Party should go home to bed. However, I hope that the House will not adjourn because an Amendment has boon proposed which nobody can understand. If the House consents to adjourn on such grounds, I do not see how any progress can possibly be made with the Business, for every hon. Gentleman who takes it into his head can propose impossible Amendments. If hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House retired to bed, we should make considerable progress. But I think that this side of the House is determined, if possible, that the Business of the country shall be advanced; and, therefore, I urgently appeal to the Government that they will not consent to the adjournment of the House, but will proceed with the Business which the country expects them to do.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
I would urge upon the Government that in regard to the question whether the House should now rise, there is some consideration due to the Front Opposition Bench, recollecting the late hour of night at which we have now arrived. It is not at all likely that an Amendment of this character should be disposed of to-night; but even if it could, I must say before I could consent to go on with the Business the speech of the Chanceller of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) would make me hesitate. In 112 his speech, instead of going into the merits of this matter, he intimated that whereas the Amendment had been received with some favour now, he ventured to predict that it would not be received in a Division with such favour. If it were not for the secret treaties between certain right hon. Gentlemen on this side and on the other side, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have no moans of stating beforehand how an Amendment not discussed would be likely to fare in a Division. I trust that the Government will consent to an adjournment, in order that we may have the whole merits of this case discussed. Those who, as a matter of right, have Amendments on the Paper should receive some little consideration, instead of having their Amendments extinguished wholesale.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
It was absolutely out of my power to put the Amendment on the Paper till this afternoon; for it was only suggested in an early part of the debate to-day, and I lost no time in bringing the Amendment up. I did my duty in that respect, and I can do no more. I am now entirely in the hands of the House. Everyone knows the inconveniences of adjournment, but that is for the House to decide. I, personally, am quite prepared to go on.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Everyone knows the great importance of this Amendment, and everyone will admit the great difficulty there is in understanding it. I submit, as one further reason why the debate should be adjourned, in order that the Amendment should be adequately discussed, that the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) may come, if time is given, to see that this Amendment is desirable, just as he came to see a few days ago that a certain other Amendment was desirable. It is of the highest importance that these Rules should not be considered merely on the spur of the moment or hurriedly. Every time the Rules are under discussion now light is thrown upon them, and it is right that we should have the fullest acquaintance possible with their effects when they become law. As to this case, a man of large official experience proposes an Amendment, which we have not had an opportunity of studying: and are we to be told that the 113 Amendment is unworthy of having a reasonable adjournment, when we know very well that the Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) had more consideration shown to it? Are we to be told that though the noble Marquess (the. Marquess of Hartington) is willing to support some change in the Rules proposed by the hon. Member for Cork, he would not support some modification of this Rule, which everybody admits to be of an extremely novel and, perhaps, of an extremely dangerous character? Hon. Members below the Gangway opposite confessed that they could not understand the Amendment; and that is because they have not had an opportunity of studying it. I appeal to them not to exhibit impatience, but to accept the adjournment, in order that they may have time to clearly understand these matters; and I ask the Government to remember that we are entitled to have a full and fair discussion of this important Amendment. I appeal to the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), who, after all, Sir, is willing, so far as he is able, to approach in a candid spirit the conduct of the affairs of this House, to say whether it is an unfair thing that we should have the opportunity we seek?
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire Sleaford)
It is difficult to see how there can be any misunderstanding of this Amendment. I consider, indeed, that hon. Gentlemen opposite under-rate their own intelligence in thinking that they do not understand the Amendment. I propose that the adjournment of the debate be withdrawn, and that we should be allowed to continue the discussion—at all events—for a short time, in order to see whether we can discover any meaning in the Amendment. I think myself that the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Childers) is totally unnecessary, and as simple to be understood as it is unnecessary.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I do not. Sir, deny to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) any satisfaction he may derive from being the heavy father of Her Majesty's Government; but I would suggest to him that we on this side are the best judges of our own intelligence. At the same time I am inclined to think that the right hon. Gentleman over-rates his own intelligence, if he makes it a little 114 superior to that of the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen). I am not one of the personal or political admirers of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but I regard him as a man whose intelligence bears no comparison in this House. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) declares that the Amendment is extremely simple; but I would call attention to the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer entirely misunderstood the whole bearing and purpose of the Amendment. I would not accuse the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) of misrepresenting the Amendment, for he is a candid and relentless debater; but he either misrepresented or misunderstood it. In regard to the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for North Armagh (Colonel Saunderson), I must say that I would have expected a more sober and more impartial tone from him with the mantle of paulo-post future Office hanging over him. The hon. and gallant Gentleman—the future official—considers that the Business of the country should be conducted in the absence of one of the Parties of the State. As to the arguments of the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith), when he complains that we have made very slow progress, besides being disposed to deny that, I would point out that we are now discussing questions more grave and momentous than any raised about any previous part of the Rule. If the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) had been able to say that the debate to-night had been confined to one section of the House, and especially to this section, I could understand some reason for the complaint; but, as a matter of fact, the debate has been either initiated or participated in by every, and some of the most important sections of the House.
§ SIR RICHARD PAGET (Somersetshire, Wells)
I rise to Order. I want to know whether the hon. Gentleman (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) is justified, on a Motion for the adjournment of the debate, to discuss the whole question and subjects already discussed?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I do not think that if the hon. Gentleman (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) reviews the debate on this Motion, he would be in Order.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I will not then, Sir, proceed any further in that way. I was arguing that the progress in the House was not slow in comparison with the gravity of the questions raised. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) thinks it his duty to make an appeal not to the reason of the House, but to Party passion. I do not think that that way of meeting his political opponents adds to the dignity of the House or the good feeling and temper of debate.
§ MR. A. R. D. ELLIOT (Roxburgh, N.)
I do not think that the Business to-night has been one bit slower in pro-gross than the Business during the last three weeks. We have got through 14 lines after sitting three weeks. This sort of thing is becoming very serious, and I think it is absurd that the Business of the House should be conducted in this manner. I hope that the Government will to-night, and on future nights, press forward these Rules of Procedure. I protest against the slowness of progress, and I think that the Government should be determined to see that the Business in this House is done well and quickly.
§ MR. PARNELL
The hon. Member (Mr. H. Elliot) has thought proper to treat the House to a lecture as to the way the Business of the House should be conducted; but I submit, inasmuch as the hon. Member has not been remarkable for his attendance during this evening, that he is not a particularly good judge as to the way in which the Business of the House has been carried on this evening, or as to the grounds upon which an adjournment of the debate is sought. What is all this clamour and outcry raised about by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and by hon. Gentlemen who have deserted their Party sitting above the Gangway on this side? It is raised for a purpose not connected with the subject under discussion. It is raised for a political purpose outside the question. It is raised to prejudice the position of the Irish Members in this House. It is raised for the purpose of making an attempt to close our mouths before there is power to do it. And what is the Party that raises this 116 outcry—an outcry which is premeditated"? It is a Party which in 1882——
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must say that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Parnell) is wandering from the immediate point. I must ask the hon. Gentleman to be more relevant.
§ MR. PARNELL
I submit that if the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Ayrshire (Mr. H. Elliot) is entitled to get up and make the speech of the character he has made, that I am entitled to reply.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for North Ayrshire has merely referred to the length of time which the debate has taken, and urged that as a reason why it should be brought to a close.
§ MR. PARNELL
I am merely desirous, Mr. Speaker, of showing, as a reason in support of the adjournment of this debate, that a debate in a previous year, on a similar question, occupied a very much longer time. In the debate during 1882, on the Rules of Procedure, a Rule, not nearly so stringent as the one now under consideration, occupied 19 nights to discuss.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Gentleman knows that the sole question is whether the debate should be adjourned.
§ MR. PARNELL
Yes, Sir; and the length of the discussions which have already taken place has been brought forward as an argument by the hon. Member for North Ayrshire as a reason why we should not be allowed the adjournment in question.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must call the hon. Gentleman to Order. [Cries of "Oh!" and "Name!"] Order, order, order! I must ask the hon. Member not to be wandering from the subject under consideration. I must beg him to confine himself to the subject immediately before the House.
§ MR. PARNELL
I shall do my best to do so. I submit, Sir, that neither the time which we have taken this evening, nor on any other evening, is an argument why we should not be allowed further time to discuss the Amendment brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers). I earnestly submit that we are entitled to further time for the discussion of this question. So far, we have occupied 11 nights only over this Rule; and I submit to the House that 11 nights is not an excessive time for a 117 discussion on a question of such great, grave, and urgent importance, giving, as it does, to the Government stringent powers in regard to the government of Ireland. We ought to be very careful how we allow our mouths to be shut, before we have put before the House our reasons for asking hon. Members to accede to the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers). I believe that proposal, Sir, to be a most valuable and important one. I believe that if we have further time for its discussion——
§ SIR ROBERT FOWLER (London)
I rise to Order, Sir. I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether the hon. Member is in Order in discussing the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh on a Motion for Adjournment.
§ MR. PARNELL
I thank you, Sir, for protecting me from interruptions which are not now made for the first time. I was saying, when the hon. Baronet interposed, that if we wore afforded more time for the discussion of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh, it would be made apparent to the sense and judgment of the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith), and of the Government generally, that the Amendment is one on which some concession ought to be granted to us. It is not reasonable to ask us to take an Amendment of this character at this hour of the night. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has himself put down a proposal, in a subsequent Rule, to close all Business in this House at 12 o'clock at night. Is it consistent, then, on his part, to ask us to carry on Business at 2 o'clock in the morning—two hours after the time fixed by himself for the stoppage of all opposed Business? I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, as a man of business, and as a man of common sense, to be consistent in this matter. I would ask him what he expects to gain by the course he is now pursuing? Does he think that scenes of turbulence—I will not say scenes of disorder—are going to benefit his Government? I do not believe that he can think so. Surely, in 118 the discussion of a Closure Rule, more than in the discussion of anything else, he should do what he can to facilitate that freedom of debate which he is going, by this Rule, to put an end to. It is not at a time when the House of Commons is turning its back on all its ancient traditions that the right hon. Gentleman should make an attempt to fetter and infringe upon the liberty of debate, as he is doing to-night, by attempting prematurely to conclude the discussion upon the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh. Even culprits under the lash are allowed to say what they please when the punishment is being inflicted. Surely, the Members of this House, during the process of shutting, and pad-locking, and double-locking their mouths, should be allowed to say what they think ought to be said on such an Amendment as this. Then, Sir, we have now reached that portion of the Rule where the Provisoes come in. Everybody knows that the beginning of the end has been reached, and that the Minister in charge of the Rule is able to look forward to the near conclusion of his labours and responsibilities. The right hon. Gentleman is certainly putting on an unnecessary spur when he adopts the attitude he has taken up to-night, in asking the House, when we are within sight of the conclusion of these debates, to go on at such an unreasonable hour, and in exciting the two sides of the House to irritation, anger, and frenzy against each other.
§ SIR RICHARD PAGET (Somerset, Wells)
I hope, Sir, we may be able to settle this question without anger or frenzy, or any serious difficulty. I would submit to hon. Members opposite that it is a sufficient reason for going forward that we have arrived at such a point that we have only to dispose of this single Amendment to get to the end of an important paragraph in. the Rule. This Amendment disposed of, we shall all be able to go to bed at our ease. I think, Sir, that the difficulty which has been raised is entirely owing to the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Childers) who is responsible for the Amendment. Though it is quite true that it may have been difficult for him to have given Notice of it earlier, it must be remembered that it comes at the conclusion of the discussion on the 119 Amendment of the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), which is on the Paper, and that there is no question of surprise, except that to which we have been treated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers). But, Sir, surety we know this question by heart. We have studied it day after day. And it does not require a high degree of intelligence to appreciate the effect of the Amendment. I hope that hon. Members opposite will allow us, in a friendly way, to go forward; that this Motion will be withdrawn, and that we shall get to Business, and show the country that we are in earnest, and do not intend to be turned into a laughing-stock.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
Mr. Speaker, before you put the Question, I wish to raise a point of Order. I wish to ask you, whether the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) and the Lord Advocate (Mr. J. H. A. Macdonald) are in Order in shouting "Question! "from below the Bar?
§ Mr. SPEAKER took no notice of the Question.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 94; Noes 223: Majority 129.—(Div. List, No. 61.)
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I wish, Sir, to make an appeal to the House again. ["No, no!"] Some hon. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway at once say "No;" but I hope that they will be convinced, by what I am about to say, that it is, on the whole, desirable that some decision should be taken on the Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Childers), and that then we should conclude our labours for to-night. I think, Sir, the House will feel that, the right hon. Gentleman having had an opportunity of repeatedly stating his views during the course of the evening, we are really in a better position to arrive at a decision on the question he has raised than we should be if we were to adjourn before doing so. I therefore hope that the House will accept the suggestion I make, that we should divide at once, or, if necessary, discuss the Amendment further, and avoid further delays by way of Motions for Adjournment, which cer- 120 tainly do not conduce to the credit of this House, and which only result in wasting the time that might more properly be used in discussing the Amendment.
§ MR. CHILDERS
There is no Question strictly before the House; but I hope I may be allowed, by the courtesy of the House, to follow the right hon. Gentleman. I said before, that, speaking for myself, I was quite prepared to go on; but that it was for the House to decide whether we should go on or not. Now, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith) has made a proposal that the present Amendment should be discussed and disposed of, and that the other Amendments should be postponed till Monday. I am given to understand, Sir, through the usual channels, that it is very likely that our Sittings may be greatly prolonged to-morrow. If that be the case, I can only appeal to the House and to my hon. Friends, after the last Division, which has shown such a largo majority in favour of concluding this Business now, not to persist further, or to keep us up till a very late hour to-night.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
Mr. Speaker, I, for one, cannot follow the advice of the right hon. Gentleman who has just addressed us. I think, Sir, that the present issue is so exceedingly grave that I must protest against carrying on this debate at so utterly unusual and unreasonable an hour. I beg, Sir, to move the adjournment of the House. I will make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith). The right hon. Gentleman ought not to be surprised if, in endeavouring to carry Rules of this kind, he should meet with a considerable amount of difficulty. I do not think he should be surprised, because we have not succeeded, after 11 nights' debate, in disposing of this matter. What does he expect when our nervous systems are so utterly exhausted? ["No, no!"] I speak for myself; but the conduct of hon. Gentleman opposite looks as if their nervous systems were exhausted. I would beg the right hon. Gentleman to think better of the matter, and to allow us a little more time to consider the issue before us, and to recollect our somewhat scattered souses.
§ MR. McLAREN (Cheshire, Crewe)
Mr. Speaker, I beg to second the Motion, 121 I also am not able to follow the advice of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh, who is taking the lead on the Front Opposition Bench at the present moment. If it were possible to dispose of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman in a short debate, it would be another matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) has asked us to go on with the debate I should like to know bow long it would last? If the Amendment could be disposed of in half-an-hour's debate, I should say we had better go on. If, however, it is to be debated at the same length as have been other proposals of similar importance, it is obvious that it will require a discussion of a couple of hours, and, that being so, I think we ought to adjourn. There are many hon. Gentlemen who would not stay until the debate bad concluded, and, therefore, when we took a Division, we should have only a very small House. I think we shall really gain time by adjourning now, and coming fresh to this subject on Monday or Tuesday. I may say that I think it would facilitate debates very greatly if the Government were willing, as a rule, to adjourn at about 1 o'clock; be cause the only effect of resisting Motions for adjournment after that hour is to waste time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Picton.)
§ MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
I join in the appeal which has been made to the Government to allow us to go homo. Half-past 2 o'clock in the morning is far too late, or rather far too early, an hour at which to discuss any subject whatever. I know, Sir, from communications I have received, that my constituents are of opinion that 11 o'clock is the hour at which the proceedings of this House ought to close, and I am perfectly certain that they would entertain a very poor opinion of my character if they knew I was here at half-past 2 in the morning. It is a well-known physiological fact that, after 12 o'clock at night, the emotional centres of the brain are unduly excited. That is a sound reason why we should not fly into the face of nature, and attempt to carry on discussions at these prepos- 122 terous hours. There is also an especial reason, applicable to the present occasion, why we should not go on any longer. We have arrived at a very interesting and a very important point in a very important Rule. We have discussed the closure under this Rule, and we have now come to the treatment of Amendments. Hon. Members on both sides must recognize that the mode of dealing with a multiplicity of Amendments must be a very different one to that required to deal with an undue prolongation of debate in the House; it is a question of very great difficulty and delicacy. The Amendment proposed by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Childers) is of a very important character. It is attended with some difficulty, and it re-quires to be studied in relation not only to its own terms, but to every word of the Rule into which it is proposed to be introduced; and, not having the words of the Amendment in print, it is impossible for us to form a judgment of the whole effect. These are abundant and adequate reasons why we should not attempt to continue the discussion now.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I hope I am correct in thinking I detect some gleams of a compromise in the manner of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. W. H. Smith). I am quite sure he will consider a suggestion I can offer in a reasonable spirit. It is wholly impossible for us to continue the debate to-night on this particular point. I think hon. Gentlemen will take that as conceded. On the other hand, if we go to a Division immediately, and the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Childers) is negatived, we shall have lost all chance of impressing the minds of the Government and of the noble Marquess, who has shown himself open to the consideration of this point. We shall lose a valuable opportunity, for it rather a hard case to go on with the discussion now. Will then the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) consider with his Friends—I put it to him tentatively—Suppose the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Edinburgh withdrawn, instead of being negatived, will the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord consider the point raised between now and the next occasion when this Rule is under 123 discussion, and in a responsible spirit? The noble Marquess has shown himself reasonable so far as his views go, though we do not agree with them. I have no right to make the suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment (Mr. Childers); but if he does agree to it, will the Government undertake to consider in a reasonable spirit before the next occasion what is at the bottom of this contention for which we have been struggling? I do not know whether the idea finds favour with those around me; I hope it may, and it will show we have no desire to prolong this discussion, while we desire, as everybody must who has had experience of those things, the evils of a prolonged Sitting. We desire to spare ourselves and the officers of the House as much as passible; do not let us stay hero over a profitless wrangle. I know there has been some interchange of views in the Lobby between Members of the Government, the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Marquess, and I hope they have seen their way to indicate some release from our disagreeable position. I appeal to the Government, under the circumstances, seeing that this proposal has come from a distinguished and authoritative source, seeing the great amount of feeling that is manifested by a great many of us, and seeing that we have arrived at this late hour, I am not unreasonable in making the suggestion in which I hope the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Childers) will participate, that the Amendment, instead of being negatived, should be withdrawn, allowing the matter to germinate in the minds of the Government for the next day or two. I offer the suggestion in no factious spirit, but in a spirit of conciliation and a desire for a reasonable release from the impasse in which we find ourselves.
§ MR. CHILDERS
I have had no communication with the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. T. M. Healy), and his proposal comes before us without any suggestion from myself. I can only say I desire to be entirely in the hands of the House. I regret sincerely the sort of impasse we have reached, and I will do anything in my power to release the House from this position. I am quite prepared, if the House desires it, to withdraw my Motion, trusting to the Government to consider, between this 124 and Tuesday, in what way they can deal with the very important question to which I have endeavoured to draw attention. I fully admit that the Amendment is of a character that requires Notice; but I have explained it was out of my power to put a Notice on the Paper. I would propose then not to postpone, but to withdraw my Motion, and it would, I think, be unusual to refuse to allow me to do so. I beg leave to ask to withdraw my Amendment.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I am not quite sure if I am in Order in referring to another Motion the right hon. Gentleman has intimated his intention to make. The right hon. Gentleman seeks to withdraw his Amendment; I offer no opposition; but it must not be understood that we enter into any engagement with regard to that Amendment, simply because I do not see my way to meet the object the right hon. Gentleman desires, and it is not my way to hold out expectations that I do not see my way to fulfil. I offer no opposition to the withdrawal of the Amendment.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR
I would suggest after what the right hon. Gentleman has said, my hon. Friend (Mr. Picton) may withdraw his Motion for the Adjournment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question, as amended again proposed.
§ Debate arising.
§ Debate further adjourned till Tuesday next.