§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Arthur Balfour.)
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
asked how much longer this farce was to continue? Night after night the Chief Secretary came to the House, and, knowing perfectly well that these Bills must be debated, yet after 12 o'clock he answered "now" when the Order was read, in order possibly that he might gain some spurious reputation for a desire to pass these Bills—[Cries of "Order!"] The Bills could not pass without discussion by Members representing constituencies interested, and that conduct of the right hon. Gentleman was most undignified for one in his position, though he was bound to admit that it was thoroughly characteristic.
§ MR. MURPHY (Dublin, St. Patrick's)
hoped the Government would give time for discussion, or else withdraw these Bills. The present Bill appeared in a version different to what Members were led to expect from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary on the first reading, and it would certainly be a monstrous thing to attempt to pass it without discussion.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
said, he was extremely interested to know what hon. Members had to say upon the Bill, and there was ample time—three-quarters of an hour—for a speech on the subject.
§ MR. P. STANHOPE (Wednesbury)
said, the right hon. Gentleman, his followers, and his friends the Liberal Unionists, spoke as if there was a general agreement among English and Scotch Members on the principle of these Bills. But he (Mr. Stanhope) would venture to say they required very serious examination on the part of the House of Commons. They contained a principle which hitherto when developed, as it had been in several cases in public works in Ireland, had often resulted in serious loss to the Public Exchequer. He could not allow the impression to be created that only Members from Ire- 887 land were interested with these measures. It was proposed to grant over £300,000 to some parts of Ireland as a free gift, and as a first instalment of much larger sums; and yet the right hon. Gentleman, after midnight, in his usual jaunty manner, gave his customary nod, as if he alone had the authority to sanction that expenditure. Let the Government understand clearly that these Bills must be debated at great length, and that they contained a great deal of controversial matter in which not only Irish Members were seriously interested.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
said, as an inducement to the Government to put down these Bills for a time when they could be discussed, he might mention the fact that the Irish correspondent of The Times stated that the drift of engineering opinion in Ireland was that these schemes were radically bad.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
said, it was idle to assume that these measures affected Ireland only. In this instance a sum of £680,000 was involved, nearly half of it in the way of gift, the other half as a loan, which he was quite certain, seeing that the proposals were not made in a form satisfactory to Irish Members, would, in the end, be a loss to the National Exchequer. Not only Members on that side expressed opinions adverse to the policy of the Bill; the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had himself formulated the strongest possible objection to grants upon these lines, this recourse to the national cheque book whenever there was a question of the kind. Certainly the House would consider it was very desirable that the right hon. Gentleman should have the opportunity of corroborating these views, or show the causes that had induced his change of opinion. Nothing could be fairer than the demand for time for discussion. The House understood that these Bills were only the first instalment of a long series of measures in connection with public works in Ireland, and involving a much larger expenditure. £1,000,000 by loan or gift was a matter not to be trifled with in itself; and, moreover, it was setting up a precedent that might be fraught with dangerous consequences.
§ MR. SPEAKER
, interposing, said as the Bill had been objected to, and was 888 proposed to be deferred till to-morrow, debate now would be irregular.
§ Second Reading deferred till To-morrow.