HC Deb 28 February 1888 vol 322 cc1657-77
THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)

said, he had now to ask the House to proceed with the second Resolution, which was as follows:— That Questions for the Closure of Debate under Standing Order XIVA. shall be decided in the affirmative, if, when a Division be taken, it appears by the numbers declared from the Chair that not less than One Hundred Members voted in the Majority in support of the Motion. That Resolution was intended to reduce the majority required to enforce the closure from 200 to 100. He had no doubt that it would be received with regret, and possibly with dissatisfaction by many Members of the House. A proposal of that character was not made with any satisfaction by the Government; but they felt that it was essential in order that the House might proceed to the discharge of its duties. The experience they had last Session satisfied the Government that an alteration of the Rule was necessary. It might be said that this was too great a power to place in the hands of any Party; but he relied upon the fact that there was a discretion vested in the Chair which would prevent the power being exercised arbitrarily or unnecessarily. On two occasions the Chairman of Committees did exercise that power when it was proposed to apply the closure. He did not intend to revive the discussion which lasted over so many days during the last Session of Parliament, and he would only ask the House to consent to this modification of the Rule, as he believed it to be in the interest of the House itself in order to promote the due despatch of Public Business. He earnestly appealed to the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Gedge) not to press the Amendment of which he had given Notice, which would make it necessary for the majority on a Division upon a Motion for the Closure to exceed the minority by at least 50 votes, a proposal that he believed would not be found possible to work in practice. Thus, if the minority numbered 180, it would require that the majority should be 230. He begged to move Rule 2.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That Questions for the Closure of Debate under Standing Order XIVA. shall be decided in the affirmative, if, when a Division he taken, it appears by the numbers declared from the Chair that not less than One Hundred Members voted in the Majority in support of the Motion." —(Mr. W. H. Smith.)

MR. DILLWYN (Swansea, Town),

in rising to move, at the end of the Question, to add the following words: — Provided always, that should the Question for the Closure of Debate be decided in the negative, no similar Motion shall be made on the same Question until after the time of two hours has elapsed, said, he did not feel it necessary to oppose the Rule itself; but what he proposed was that when the House had once negatived the application of the closure, two hours should elapse before it was put again. He thought some such provision was necessary in order to maintain the dignity of the House itself. He did not think that it would be a dignified proceeding to give power to put the Rule in force time after time at short intervals. As the Rule stood the Government of the day would have power of sending out their Whips and bringing in their men, and of putting a Rule in force before anything in the shape of discussion could have occurred after a similar proposal had been negatived. He thought that the House should be protected by permitting some interval to elapse before the Rule was put in operation after it had once been distinctly refused, and he was of opinion that an interval of two hours was not unreasonable. If the Rule were adopted as it stood, he was afraid that it would have a tendency to lower the debates in that House in the esteem of the country, and he was afraid it would prevent the establishment of a good feeling in the House itself. He would not trouble the House by entering into a debate upon the general principle of closure. He would simply say that he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman opposite as to the propriety of amending the Rule; but he did not think that the safeguard suggested in the Amendment was an unreasonable one, or one that ought to be rejected.

Amendment proposed,

At the end of the Question to add words "Provided always that should the Question for the Closure of Debate be decided in the negative, no similar Motion shall be made on the same Question until after the time of two hours has elapsed."—(Mr. Dillwyn.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."

MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)

said, he rose upon a point of Order to ask Mr. Speaker, whether the putting of this Amendment would preclude the discussion of the earlier part of the Rule? Would hon. Members be precluded from discussing the earlier part of the Resolution at all?


Yes; and I waited purposely before calling on the hon. Gentleman to move his Amendment, in order to give the House an opportunity of discussing the Rule as it stands.

MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)

said, he wished to oppose the Rule as it stood, and he should like to know if he would be in Order in making some observations upon that subject now?


The most regular course would be to discuss the Amendment before the House, or for the hon. Member for the Town Division of Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) to withdraw it with the leave of the House.


said, he wished to consult the convenience of the House, and in consenting to withdraw the Amendment he hoped he should not lose the opportunity of moving it at a later hour if necessary.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question again proposed.


said, he wished to give the reasons why he objected to the Rule proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. He thought the right hon. Gentleman had expressed accurately the feelings of some Members of the House, when he said that the Rule would be received with a feeling of regret, and possibly even of dissatisfaction. He (Mr. Chaplin) confessed, for his own part, that he always had shrunk, and shrunk at the present moment from going any further in the direction of Closure of Debate than they had gone already. He had always entertained an exceeding dislike to the principle of closure, and he had only consented to accept it as it stood embodied in the existing Rules as an unavoidable necessity. At the same time he saw no reason for strengthening the Rule at the present moment. The experience of last Session had shown conclusively that the present Closure Rule was sufficiently drastic to enable the Government to pass any measure in spite of the most extreme obstruction that could be brought to bear against it. They were told that it was exceedingly difficult under the existing Rule to enforce the closure. For his own part he did not wish to see the closure made more easy than it was at present. He looked upon it as a dangerous weapon to place in the hands of any Government, and he regarded it as equally dangerous whether placed in the hands of a Liberal or a Tory Administration, and that it would lead in the future to probably both of two things—namely, a step in the direction of closure by a bare majority, and to its being made use of as a Party weapon. More than that, the Rule did not seem to meet what it was necessary to deal with at the present moment. What they wanted to deal with was the extreme loquacity and verbosity of hon. Members. He was quite willing to put a stop to the abuse of the freedom of speech in that House by individual Members; but he objected to go further in the direction of the Closure of Debate. For those reasons, he should feel obliged to oppose the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

said, he thought the Liberal Party in that House had reason to congratulate themselves on the present state of affairs. It would be in the recollection of the House that the proposal of the Closure of Debate came in the first instance from a Liberal Government, and it was a measure which had the approval of every thoroughly democratic Assembly in the world. Whatever humble share the Irish Party might have taken in the debates, they had to a certain extent earned the gratitude of the Liberal Party for having brought about such a state of things. He could recollect the time which was not so very long ago, when he sat through 14 weary nights witnessing the most extraordinary and scandalous obstruction which was offered by the then Fourth Party, backed up by the present occupants of the Front Bench opposite, to the Liberal proposal for the closure. Now, however, they found the Conservative Party adjusting the rope round their own necks. It was a spectacle that filled the breasts of the Home Rule Members with the greatest possible satisfaction. As he said, they were putting a rope round their own necks. He trusted the Irish Members would very soon have the opportunity of getting hold of the end of the rope and pulling it, which they would do very tightly. In the meantime they had every reason for congratulating themselves that a great obstacle to the passing of a Home Rule Bill had been cleared out of the way. In the past he had never had any great reverence or affection for that House; but he was beginning to feel more affection for it now than he ever had for it before. He would, however, say this, that he thought the Conservative Party were committing a great mistake in extending this Rule. The proposal was to choke all discussions that were distasteful to the majority. It was a proposition that would always be used against the minority. The Conservative Party were bound to be the minority in the long run, and a proposal which would enable the majority to choke discussion so easily was a proposal which would always tend to a considerable extent to increase the tyranny of the majority. He thought that the Tory Party in giving increased stringency to the Rule, or in proposing the Rule at all, were making a considerable mistake in view of their own interests, and in view of the fact that for centuries the business of this great country had been carried on without recourse to such methods. He thought the Government ought to have tried whether, by other means, the Public Business could not be carried on, trusting to the traditions of respect for the House and reverence for its character. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) had protested against the closure, but wished to see it directed against particular individuals in order to put a stop to verbosity; but it was very doubtful whether the verbosity of the right hon. Gentleman himself would not compare favourably with that of any other Member. The right hon. Gentleman had conveyed to the House what the true root of all this trouble was—namely, that the Government sought for some years to except the Irish Members from the ordinary courtesies which ought to be extended to every Member of the House. They had attempted to except a considerable number of Members from those courtesies and to cut off from them those privileges which ought to be the right of every man in the House. Hon. Members had brought this punishment upon themselves. He doubted very much whether the Irish Party would suffer most from the closure. He thought that, on the contrary, the Conservative Party would suffer more, and he had not the slightest intention of offering any opposition to the proposed Rule.


said, he did not think it would contribute to any public purpose if he were to refer with any minuteness to the proceedings in the Parliament before last, as the hon. Member for East Mayo (Mr. Dillon) had done. He would only make this remark. The hon. Member spoke severely in condemnation of the obstruction of what he called the Fourth Party. The conduct of that Party might have been very bad; but in their opposition to closure, to whatever length it was carried, they always enjoyed the fullest sympathy of the Irish Party. He therefore doubted whether it lay in the mouth of the hon. Member to hold the Fourth Party up to execration. Passing away from that subject, he was really anxious to clear himself from all responsibility for this great change. He had been alluded to in the autumn by many Members on his own side of the House as being a person of the most dangerous Radical opinions and proclivities; as being disposed to import into that House a most drastic measure of closure; and one hon. Member had gone to the extent of warning his audience against his (Lord Randolph Churchill's) revolutionary principles. Well, his advocacy of the closure was limited to the form in which it was proposed last year. That was the form he had always had in his mind; it was the form he had pressed upon his Colleagues, and when it was adopted by the House, all his desire in regard to the closure was satisfied. They were now asked to reduce the number required from 200 to 100, in order to make it possible to carry the Closure of Debate. He was not at all without sympathy for the feelings of the right hon. Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) on this matter. He thought it would have been well if the Government had exhibited a little more patience than they had manifested, and had endeavoured to rub on a little longer, in order to give a more complete control to the Rule as it was passed last year. There were many reasons why such a course should have been taken. In the first place, the Government had succeeeded in carrying a most drastic and almost revolutionary change in the Procedure of the House of Commons. Last year the difficulty in applying the closure was felt after 12 o'clock, in the small hours of the morning. It was naturally felt that it was not necessary to keep so large a body of Members in attendance in order to support the closure; but he could not see what serious difficulty there ought to be if the Unionist Party, animated in their desire to see the Public Business carried on, tried to keep 200 Members in the House out of a Party which was said to number 350 until 12 o'clock. He, therefore, thought the Government might have been content with the Resolution which was passed last year. Another reason why he thought the Government might have rubbed on with the old Rule was that the character of the Resolution which they intended to propose this year was hardly such as ought to be forced through the House by the drastic application of the closure. The Government were about to bring forward Resolutions which ought not to excite Party feelings; and the Irish policy of the Government did not require to be supported by the closure, seeing that it was not likely to receive the same kind of opposition which it met with last Session. Another reason why the Government should not have proposed an alteration of the Rule was that they had had public declarations from the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), and of still more value and importance from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), that what was known as Obstruction would not be countenanced either by the Leader of the Opposition or by the Leader of the Irish Party, and that if there was any repetition of what occurred last Session it would not be with their sanction or approval. If he (Lord Randolph Churchill) had had the great honour of remaining with the Government, he should certainly have advised the propriety of leaving the Rule alone at present. He understood the Government to tell the House that it was perfectly impossible to make any progress with Public Business without the application of the closure. If that was their honest opinion, it was obvious that, however much any Member on that—the Ministerial—side of the House might question the soundness of their reasons, it was hardly possible to offer any opposition. He thought, however, that the Rule, as now proposed, was wholly unnecessary. That was merely a personal opinion, but he wished to place it on record, because he declined to be responsible for any of the consequences that might result from the extension of the closure in time to come.

MR. CRAIG SELLAR (Lanarkshire, Partick)

said, he wished to remind the House of what occurred last Session. When it was proposed that the majority should consist of 200, he had moved to omit 200 in order to substitute 120. That proposal was negatived, so that he was unable to move his Amendment to substitute 120 as the quorum. His proposition received support from both sides of the House, though it was opposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler). It was negatived, and 200 found its way into the Rule. The Loader of the House said that if he were beginning again he would be inclined to propose a smaller number than 200. That encouraged him to hope that this year the right hon. Gentleman would propose to reduce the quorum not only to 120, but still lower. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) said that the experience of last Session had shown that it was unnecessary to have a more drastic closure; but he (Mr. Craig Sellar) would like to call the attention of the House to what happened in the month of March, only five days after his Amendment was rejected, with regard to the number necessary for the closure. There were essential Votes which had to be carried in Committee of Supply on that evening—Votes on account in the Civil Service Estimates and in the Navy Estimates. The Leader of the House said it was absolutely necessary that they should be carried in the course of the evening. The discussion went on till a quarter past 1 without any of the Votes being passed. At that hour the hon. Gentleman the senior Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) moved the adjournment of the debate, and that Motion was discussed, with some acrimony, till 3.30, when a Division showed 199 in favour of going on with the Business and 61 against it, so that the absence of a single Member prevented the closure being applied to the debate on a night when it was essential to get the Votes. The closure accordingly was not adopted, and the debate went on. At 5.30 another Division was taken, and as a quorum was found to be present, 210 Members voted for the closure, and it was applied, and one of the Votes was carried. But this majority did not continue in the House; in the next Division it fell to 141. After that four Divisions were taken, and still there was no quorum present. On every occa- sion the quorum was higher than the 120 he had proposed, but did not reach 200. At 1.10 in the afternoon, 250 Members were present and voted for the closure, and the essential Votes were carried, after a sitting of 22 hours. During the rest of the Session the quorum was frequently short of the necessary 200. He was glad the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House had now come forward with a proposal to reduce the quorum to a manageable number. The House—by which he meant the majority—must be master of its own time. The majority were sent there to carry on the Business of the country. But if it were not master of its own time it could not carry on the Business of the country. He hoped that in future the closure would be more frequently resorted to for the purpose of carrying on Public Business. He was convinced that no Minister of the Crown would ever be able systematically to abuse the Closure Rule. There were always enough men of independent mind in the House who would resist such a proposal even from the most arbitrary Minister, and they would be supported by the country outside. No Minister who attempted to abuse the Rule would again have a majority in that House, or would come back again as a Minister of the Crown.


said, he very much regretted that his right hon. Friend below him (Mr. W. H. Smith) should have found it necessary to propose this New Rule. He (Sir Robert Fowler) would have supported last year a proposal to substitute 150 for 200 as the quorum. He did not consider that number an unreasonable one, as the Members of the Government were always over 30 in number, and, therefore, to have 150 present only meant that 120 independent Members should come down to support the Government. The experience of last Session showed that at certain times there was great difficulty in securing the attendance of 200 Members; but it must not be forgotten that the Rule they had passed for curtailing late Sittings would very much diminish that difficulty. He therefore regretted that this proposal should have been made.

MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)

said, that an Amendment stood on the Paper in his name to the effect that the majority should exceed the minority by at least 50 votes; but, at the request of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, he would not press it. He thought, however, that they were making a great mistake in weaving a rope for their own necks. Last year he had proposed a proportional majority of half as many again, and to get rid of the 200 limit. His right hon. Friend had opposed both, but now he himself proposed to do away with the 200, and he believed that the right hon. Gentleman would in the future regret his opposition to the proposal that there should in all cases be a substantial majority of 50. He very much regretted the course which the right hon. Gentleman had taken; but, as he was a hearty supporter of the right hon. Gentleman, he would not move his Amendment. In common with many other Conservative Members, he was pledged, when he entered the House, against closure by a bare majority. Last Session there was a difficulty in applying the closure, because often it was found that the necessary quorum was not present. On six divisions only was the majority less than half as many again of the minority, but on no single occasion did the majority exeed the minority by less than 50.


said, that he had always supported a Rule of Closure in the House. He thought the House ought to have complete control over its time, and that, therefore, any Resolution to make the closure more effective in regard to giving power to the House itself to regulate the time of its discussions, he would cordially support. The mere fact that a majority of the House, represented by the Government of the day, should have charge of the Closure of Debate, by making the Motion for it, would be exercised under a sense of responsibility and generally with discretion. The Government were always the party of action; it was the minority that was the party of inaction. So it was the interest of the former to get on with as little friction as possible. His objection was, that last year the Government had introduced a most unfortunate provision into the Closure Rule. Instead of making the House and the Government of the day responsible for the use of the closure, the Government had hauled in the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees, and made them responsible. As he had thought then, and as he continued strongly to think now, it was most desirable that the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees should be outside the action of any objectionable Rules which were calculated to bring them into friction with the House of Commons. Therefore, although he would support with the greatest pleasure a Rule to make the closure more effective, speaking only for himself, he was unwilling to vote for this change, because it would be much more frequently applied and must necessarily increase the responsibility of the Speaker and the Chairman of Committees in giving judgment as to whether the Rule should be applied or not. He thought now, as in last year, that the Government were making a great mistake, and were endangering the position of the Chair by making the Speaker or Chairman of Committees give any opinion whatever upon the application of this Rule. Although he would at once have voted for the proposal that the majority should consist of only 100, if the Speaker and Chairman had not been introduced into the question, he was not disposed now to vote for it when it was to facilitate an application of the closure which would bring the Speaker and the Chairman into collision with the House unnecessarily.

THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Mr. RAIKES) (Cambridge University)

said, he was glad that the right hon. Gentleman who had just addressed the House had announced that he spoke for himself only, and that he did not commit right hon. Gentlemen who sat with him. For his own part, if he (Mr. Raikes) had intervened earlier in the debate, he would have ventured to recommend the proposed alterations upon the very arguments which the right hon. Gentleman had used against it. He confessed that if this Rule were to be applied only by a bare majority of the House—provided that majority exceeded 100—in his opinion it would be a matter of very grave consideration for the House; but, having regard to the fact that the Rule last year had most wisely, and as experience had shown most fortunately, interposed the authority of the Chair as a protection to the minority, he thought that it was possible to trust to a bare majority, if consisting of 100 or over, the right of closing a debate when the Chair had sanctioned that Question being put to the House. As it was said last year, and the experience of last Session proved it, the rights of the minority would never be endangered in the House so long as the Chair was filled as it was last year. The experience of last year furnished, indeed, the precise material which enabled the Government to recommend the proposed extension of the Rule, and without that experience they would not be in a position to make the recommendation. Many hon. Members of the House were in favour of something like a proportional majority. But the House had always shrunk from an express concession to a minority of the right to decide a question, and had preferred to deal with this proposal rather from the view of exacting a sufficient proportion in order to give effect to the wish of the majority. He was not ashamed to say that he was one of those who opposed the Standing Order establishing the closure when it was introduced by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone); but the principle having been accepted by the House, it became their duty, as practical men, to make it effective, and not ineffective, in its operation. There were many cases in which it was impossible to have a large quorum; and, in view of the earlier Sittings of the House, it would most likely be found that during the dinner hour the House would be more sparsely attended than in the past. The House of Commons could not "eat its cake and have it," and if hon. Members were determined to go to bed earlier, there must be some method of shortening the debates. Although the Rule might endanger liberty of debate if passed without the Proviso which required the previous assent of the Chair, he believed that so long as that most important and beneficial Proviso was retained, the House might safely trust itself to the operation of the Rule as his right hon. Friend proposed to amend it.

MR. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)

said, the debate proved once more that time brought round its revenges. In 1882 the Conservative Party were opposed to the application of the closure in any form whatever; but having tried it with certain dimi- nished safeguards, they were now reduced to a proposal for applying it without any real safeguard whatever. Now, the closure might be a good or a bad thing, according to the purpose for which it was applied. It might not only be useful, but necessary, to apply it, in order to put a stop to loquacity and verbosity; but when used to force through the House an unpopular measure, it might be made an instrument of oppression. Last year the closure was applied some 30 or 40 times; but, as far as he recollected, it was almost exclusively applied to one measure which was hateful to five-sixths of the Members affected by it, and which a large minority of the rest of the House could not even now mention without shame and indignation. Under such circumstances, he did not feel inclined to trust to one-seventh part of the House of Commons the power of stifling a discussion which a large section of the House might desire to continue. He agreed with the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord Randolph Churchill) that the change already made in the Sittings of the House really altered the state of things altogether. It was a great hardship, as used to be the case, to compel 200 Members to sit up until 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning; but there would be no difficulty in inducing 200 out of a Party which numbered 350 to remain in attendance until 12 o'clock, if it were considered really necessary to press forward legislation.


said, he had been unable to discover in what direction the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Raikes) tended. When the right hon. Gentleman was himself Chairman of Committees, he was about the first man to pay due deference to the rights of private Members; but when he did not fill an official position, he voted in every obstructive Division, and his example had been constantly quoted. The right hon. Gentleman had only used one real argument, and that was, that now the House had passed the 12 o'clock Rule, they ought to get through their Business quicker. Personally, he (Colonel Nolan) saw no reason why they should not continue the quorum of 200. There were always some 60 or 70 political hacks connected with every Government— he did not use the term disrespect- fully—who might be certainly relied upon to support the Government of the day; and now it would be simply necessary for the Whips to secure the attendance of some 30 or 40 more—which, as a rule, would be supplied from the ranks of the Government themselves, and the Ministry would always be sure of their majority. He defied the Government to do that if they retained 200 as a quorum, and required so large a number of Members to sit up until all hours of the morning. It was not fair to charge the obstruction in the House of Commons upon Members for Ireland, which it had been the custom to do since the time when Mr. J. Lowther and the right hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) first began to obstruct. Under the circumstances, he should vote against the Rule.

SIR RICHARD PAGET (Somerset, Wells)

said, in order that there might be no doubt about a matter of this importance, he would ask what would be the effect of the Rule now proposed upon the existing Closure Rule? Would the second alternative in the existing Rule which pointed to the opposition of not less than 40 Members, and the support of more than 100, be superseded if the Rule now proposed were passed by the House?


The new Rule would be the only Rule of Closure as far as the numbers were concerned, and the alternative which the hon. Baronet referred to would entirely disappear.


said, he rose to make a personal explanation. He thought he had heard the hon. and gallant Member for North Galway (Colonel Nolan) accuse him of having been guilty of obstruction. He altogether repudiated such conduct, and he desired to add that the only time when he was accused of these proceedings he had the honour of being defended by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone), who came forward in the most gallant manner and absolved him from the charge of having done anything of the kind.


said, he could quite understand the reluctance with which his proposal had been received by some hon. Members on that side of the House to make any further alteration in the Closure Rule. It was because he had sat in his place from the meeting to the rising of the House during a whole Session that he felt compelled to come forward and ask the House to give this additional facility for the conduct of Business of the House. He was one of those who in 1882 expressed reluctance to accept any form of closure at all. He was then under the impression that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) might have exercised an authority and influence in the House which would have enabled them to get through the Business without invoking the closure; but once the House had adopted the closure, in the nature of things it became necessary to make it effective. They had, he was sorry to say, parted with the old traditions of the House which sufficed for the efficient conduct of Business; and if anything could bring them back, no one would be more glad than he to endeavour to do so. Therefore it was that the Rule wanted strengthening, for there were periods in the course of the evening when any hon. Member who took an impartial view of the conduct of Business would say that it was for the advantage of the country and of the House that the discussion should be then terminated. He believed the course now proposed to be necessary, and that the safeguards which surrounded it would make it impossible for any Minister to abuse it.


said, that the principle which found favour with some of his hon. Friends on the Select Committee on Procedure, by which the closure should be guarded against abuse, was to secure that a certain number of persons should be present when the vote was taken; but his own opinion was that the present quorum of 200 was no guarantee whatever against injustice being done. The feeling which animated hon. Members in voting was not altered whether they had 200 or 100 present. With 200 they might be guarded against surprise; they could not apply the closure as often with 200 as they might with 100. But they did not safeguard that it would be applied more justly had they 600 Members. With regard to the diminution from 200 to 100, he confessed he had no fear that regard to justice would be any the less. But he always regarded closure by bare majority as one of the greatest perils to that House. He utterly distrusted mere majorities of that House. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) secured that closure should be on the initiation of the Chair. Undoubtedly that was a safeguard. Now the security was that the Chair must consent. That was a most alarming responsibility to put upon the Chair, and he confessed that he himself had felt it. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear !] He heard the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) say "Hear, hear!" but he would press upon him that he must make his choice whether the burden rested with the Chair, or whether he would secure some other guarantee than that of the presence of a certain number of Members. If they were going to relieve the Chair, as he thought it could be relieved, of responsibility, then they must come to some other guarantee than that of the mere presence of numbers—either a certain proportion or a certain minimum balance, as suggested by the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Sydney Gedge). The fact that the House had adopted new and shorter hours was, to his mind, a very strong reason in favour of the present proposed change, and he disagreed with what the noble Lord (Lord Randolph Churchill) said about new hours. If they were to have shorter hours they must have the means of more expeditious work.


said, he could not allow the Question to be put without stating his firm belief that if the Conservative Party were sitting on the other side of the House they would oppose this proposal. He had always been among those who were opposed to closure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had shown by his action in 1882 that the House had deteriorated from what it was in olden days. It was not required then, but now it was said that the Business of the House could not go on without it. He regretted that his right hon. Friend had thought it necessary to introduce this question again. He agreed with the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Courtney) that if they altered the Closure Rule at all, they should have required a proportional majority, so that it might be seen whether the opinion of the House was in favour of the closure or not. The proposal was now that the question should be decided by a bare majority. He, for one, did not agree to that principle. He could only regret that this was the view of the Government; and he felt from a Conservative point of view that when some of those very important questions now rife and talked of by hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway came to be decided in that House, they would find they had by the Rule of Closure made a rope for their own necks. They might find on that question of the deepest importance, the Church of England, that this Rule would be turned against themselves. He, therefore, entered his strongest protest against the proposal of his right hon. Friend.


said, he should not trouble the House with any remarks on the subject of the Amendment which he had placed on the Paper relating to this Rule.

Question put.

The House divided: — Ayes 256; Noes 134: Majority 122.

Acland, A. H. D. Birkbeck, Sir E.
Ainslie, W. G. Bolton, J. C.
Ambrose, W. Bond, G. H.
Amherst, W. A. T. Borthwick, Sir A.
Anderson, C. H. Bradlaugh, C.
Anstruther, H. T. Bristowe, T. L.
Asher, A. Broadhurst, H.
Asquith, H. H. Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F.
Atkinson, H. J.
Baden-Powell, Sir G. S. Bruce, Lord H.
Bryce, J.
Baird, J. G. A. Buchanan, T. R.
Balfour, rt. hon. A. J. Burghley, Lord
Ballantine, W. H. W. Burt, T.
Barbour, W. B. Buxton, S. C.
Barclay, J. W. Caldwell, J.
Baring, T. C. Campbell, Sir A.
Baring, Viscount Campbell, Sir G.
Barnes, A. Campbell, J. A.
Barran, J. Carmarthen, Marq. of
Bartley, G. C. T. Cavendish, Lord E.
Bates, Sir E. Charrington, S.
Beach, right hon. Sir M. E. Hicks- Childers, right hon. H. C. E.
Beach, W. W. B. Clarke, Sir E. G.
Beadel, W. J. Cobb, H. P.
Beaumont, W. B. Coddington, W.
Beckett, W. Coghill, D. H.
Bentinck, Lord H. C. Colomb, Capt. J. C. R.
Beresford, Lord C. W. De la Poer Commerell, Adml. Sir J. E.
Bethell, Commander G. R. Corbett, A. C.
Cotton, Capt. E. T. D.
Bickford-Smith, W. Cozens-Hardy, H. H.
Biddulph, M. Crawford, D.
Bigwood, J. Crossman, Gen. Sir W.
Cubitt, right hon. G. Heathcote, Capt. J. H. Edwards-
Davenport, W. B.
Dawnay, Colonel hon. L. P. Heaton, J. H.
Heneage, right hon. E.
De Cobain, E. S. W. Herbert, hon. S.
De Lisle, E. J. L. M. P. Hermon-Hodge, R. T.
Hill, right hon. Lord A. W.
De Worms, Baron H.
Dillwyn, L. L. Hoare, E. B.
Dixon-Hartland, F. D. Hoare, S.
Duncan, Colonel F. Hobhouse, H.
Duncombe, A. Holloway, G.
Dyke, right hon. Sir W. H. Howard, J.
Howorth, H. H.
Edwards-Moss, T. C. Hoyle, I.
Egerton, hon. A. de T. Hozier, J. H. C.
Elliot, hon. A. R. D. Hubbard, E.
Elliot, hon. H. F. H. Hunt, F. S.
Ellis, J. Isaacs, L. H.
Ellis, T. E. Isaacson, F. W.
Ewing, Sir A. O. Jackson, W. L.
Eyre, Colonel H. Jeffreys, A. F.
Farquharson, Dr. R. Johnston, W.
Feilden, Lieut.-Gen. R. J. Joicey, J.
Kennaway, Sir J. H.
Fellowes, A. E. Kimber, H.
Fenwick, C. King, H. S.
Fergusson, right hon. Sir J. King-Harman, right hon. Colonel E. R.
Field, Admiral E. Knatchbull-Hugessen, H. T.
Fielden, T.
Firth, J. F. B. Knowles, L,
Fisher, W. H. Lafone, A.
Fitzgerald, R. U. P. Laurie, Colonel R. P.
Fitzwilliam, hon. W. H. W. Lawrence, Sir J. J. T.
Lawrence, W. F.
Fitz-Wygram, General Sir F. W. Leake, R.
Lefevre, right hon. J. G. S.
Fletcher, Sir H.
Flower, C. Legh, T. W.
Folkestone, right hon. Viscount Lewisham, right hon. Viscount
Forwood, A. B. Llewellyn, E. H.
Fry, L. Long, W. H.
Gardner, H. Macdonald, right hon. J. H. A.
Gathorne-Hardy, hon. A. E.
MacInnes, M,
Gedge, S. Mackintosh, C. F.
Gent-Davis, R. Maclean, F. W.
Giles, A. Maclure, J. W.
Gilliat, J. S. M'Calmont, Captain J.
Goldsworthy, Major General W. T. M'Lagan, P.
Madden, D. H.
Gorst, Sir J. E. Malcolm, Col. J. W.
Goschen, rt. hn. G. J. Maple, J. B.
Gray, C. W. Marriott, right hon. W. T.
Grenall, Sir G.
Grey, Sir E. Maskelyne, M. H. N. Story-
Grimston, Viscount
Grotrian, F. B. Matthews, rt. hon H.
Grove, Sir T. F. Maxwell, Sir H. E.
Gunter, Colonel R. Mayne, Admiral R. C.
Gurdon, R. T. Mills, hon. C. W.
Hall, C. Milvain, T.
Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F. More, R. J.
Morrison, W.
Hamilton, Lord E. Mowbray, rt. hon. Sir J. R.
Hamilton, Col. C. E.
Hamley, Gen. Sir E. B. Mowbray, R. G. C.
Mulholland, H. L.
Hankey, F. A. Murdoch, C. T.
Hartington, Marq. of Noble, W.
Hastings, G. W. Norris, E. S.
Northcote, hon. Sir H. S. Smith, A.
Spencer, J. E.
Norton, R. Stanhope, rt. hon. E.
O'Neill, hon. R. T. Stansfeld, right hon. J.
Palmer, Sir C. M. Stewart, M. J.
Parker, hon. F. Talbot, J. G.
Paulton, J. M. Taylor, F.
Pease, H. F. Temple, Sir R.
Pelly, Sir L. Thorburn, W.
Picton, J. A. Tomlinson, W. E. M.
Plunket, right hon. D. R. Trevelyan, right hon. Sir G. O.
Pomfret, W. P. Trotter, H. J.
Price, T. P. Tyler, Sir H. W.
Raikes, right hon. H. C. Vernon, hon. G. R.
Vincent, C. E. H.
Rankin, J. Vivian, Sir H. H.
Rathbone, W. Walsh, hon. A. H. J.
Reid, R. T. Wayman, T.
Ridley, Sir M. W. Webster, Sir R. E.
Ritchie, right hon. C. T. West, Colonel W. C.
Whitbread, S.
Robertson, Sir W. T. Whitmore, C. A.
Robertson, E. Will, J. S.
Round, J. Williams, J. Powell-
Russell, Sir C. Wilson, Sir S.
Russell, Sir G. Wilson, H. J.
Russell, T. W. Winn, hon. R.
Saunderson, Colonel E. J. Wodehouse, E. R.
Wolmer, Viscount
Sellar, A. C. Wood, N.
Seton-Karr, H. Wortley, C. B. Stuart-
Shaw-Stewart, M. H. Wright, C.
Sidebottom, T. H. Wright, H. S.
Simon, Sir J. Yerburgh, R. A.
Sinclair, W. P.
Slagg, J. TELLERS.
Smith, right hon. W. H. Douglas, A. Akers-Walrond, Col. W. H.
Abraham, W. (Glam.) Dimsdale, Baron R.
Abraham, W. (Limerick, W.) Dodds, J.
Dorington, Sir J. E.
Acland, C. T. D. Esslemont, P.
Agg-Gardner, J. T. Ferguson, R. C. Munro-
Allison, R. A. Finucane, J.
Atherley-Jones, L. Fitzwilliam, hon. W. J. W.
Barttelot, Sir W. B.
Bentinck, rt. hn. G. C. Foljambe, C. G. S.
Bentinck, W. G. C. Forster, Sir C.
Biggar, J. G. Foster, Sir W. B.
Blane, A. Fowler, rt. hon. H. H.
Bridgeman, Col. hon. F. C.
Fraser, General C. C.
Bruce, hon. R. P. Fulton, J. F.
Brunner, J. T. Gaskell, C. G. Milnes-
Byrne, G. M. Gill, T. P.
Cameron, C. Gladstone, right hon. W. E.
Cameron, J. M.
Campbell, H. Gladstone, H. J.
Carew, J. L. Gourley, E. T.
Causton, R. K. Halsey, T. F.
Cavan, Earl of Harrington, E.
Clark, Dr. G. B. Hayden, L. P.
Cochrane-Baillie, hon. C. W. A. N. Hayne, C. Seale-
Heath, A. R.
Conway, M. Hooper, J.
Corbet, W. J. Howell, G.
Cossham, H. Hulse, E. H.
Cremer, W. R. Hunter, W. A.
Cross, H. S. James, hon. W. H.
Dillon, J. Jennings, L. J.
Kay-Shuttleworth, rt. hon. Sir U. J. Penton, Captain F. T.
Pickard, B.
Kelly, J. R. Pickersgill, E. H.
Kenny, C. S. Pinkerton, J.
Kerans, F. H. Playfair, rt. hon. Sir L.
Kilbride, D.
Lalor, R. Powell, F. S.
Leahy, J. Power, P. J.
Lewis, Sir C. E. Redmond, W. H. K.
Lockwood, F. Reed, Sir E. J.
Lowther, hon. W. Reed, H. B.
Lubbock, Sir J. Richard, H.
Lyell, L. Roscoe, Sir H. E.
M'Arthur, A. Rowlands, J.
M'Arthur, W. A. Schwann, C. E.
M'Donald, P. Selwyn, Capt. C. W.
M'Donald, Dr. R. Sheehan, J. D.
M'Ewan, W. Sidebottom, W.
M'Laren, W. S. B. Smith, S.
Mahony, P. Spencer, hon. C. R.
Mappin, Sir F. T. Stack, J.
Mattinson, M. W. Stanhope, hon. P, J.
Montagu, S. Stewart, H.
Morgan, O. V. Sullivan, D.
Morley, rt. Hon. J. Summers, W.
Morley, A. Sutherland, A.
Mundella, right hon. A. J. Thomas, A.
Tuite, J.
Newark, Viscount Wallace, R.
Newnes, G. Wardle, H.
Nolan, Colonel J. P. Watt, H.
Nolan, J. Webster, R. G.
O'Brien, J. F. X. Weymouth, Viscount
O'Brien, P. J. Williams, A. J.
O'Brien, W. Wilson, I.
O'Connor, A. Woodall, W.
O'Connor, J. Woodhead, J.
O'Connor, T. P.
O'Kelly, J. TELLERS.
Paget, Sir R. H. Chaplin, right hon. H.
Parker, C. S. Morgan, right hon. G. O.
Parnell, C. S.

Resolved, That Questions for the Closure of Debate under Standing Order XIVA shall be decided in the affirmative, if, when a Division be taken, it appears by the numbers declared from the Chair that not less than One Hundred Members voted in the Majority in support of the Motion.