HC Deb 08 May 1888 vol 325 cc1729-32

(Mr. W. F. Lawrence, Mr. Arthur Elliot, Mr. Hobhouse, Mr. Tomlinson, Mr. Francis Stevenson, Mr. Edmond Robertson, Mr. Seager Hunt.)


Order for Second Reading read.

MR. W. F. LAWRENCE (Liverpool, Abercromby)

said, he feared it was hopeless to attempt to move the second reading of the Bill at the very end of a Sitting—[Cries of "Move!"]—or to do much to win votes or sustain the arguments in favour of the Bill; yet he would essay to do what he could in the few minutes at his disposal. The Bill, no doubt, dealt with an important Constitutional principle; and it would ill become him to minimize its importance, though it occupied but four lines. He was quite aware that, dealing with what had long been a recognized Parliamentary custom, sonic apology was due from a junior Member for proposing to make such a Constitutional change. But, perhaps, a private Member was more able than an occupant of the Front Benches to advocate the Bill, inasmuch as right hon. Gentlemen might be suspected of some sinister motive, begotten of the desire to relieve themselves of the inconvenience of going through reelection when taking Office. As time was fast running out, perhaps he had better content himself with simply moving the second reading.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. W. F. Lawrence.)


said, it was rather a strong measure to ask the House, at such an hour, to introduce such an important innovation in the Parliamentary and Constitutional practice of the country. Perhaps his hon. Friend was not aware that similar proposals to his had been made on previous occasions, and had always been opposed by the Leaders of either Party. It might be true that the original motives for that law had disappeared; but other reasons not to be neglected had come into play. Of course, as could readily be imagined, causes and combinations in Parliament might give rise to well-founded popular jealousy, and continue to afford justification for the principle that was attacked in the Bill. He was, perhaps, better able than others of his Colleagues who sat on that Bench to discuss the question, for he was not one of those whose position was affected by the operation of the law; but he did not think that his hon. Friend seriously meant that the expediency of such an important Constitutional change could be argued at such a time, and still less that it could be assented to without discussion. It was a matter that required the well-considered judgment of the House before any such proposal could be entertained.

DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)

said, bearing in mind the fact that a Bill would shortly come before the consideration of the House to provide a right hon. and gallant Gentleman who sat on the Front Bench with a salary in connection with a post that had lately been manufactured for him, he really thought this subject might have called forth a more fitting response from some Minister on the Front Bench. [Laughter.] It was in accordance with the usual treatment of Ireland by the dominant Party that Irish Members and Irish Bills should find a lack of courtesy and consideration. [Laughter.] But, to imitate the Chief Secretary, he treated the laughs and sneers of the Tory Party with the respect they deserved. When a Member of the House obtained a position of lucrative importance in the Government, he certainly ought to vacate his seat, in order that the constituency might express their judgment whether he was worthy of the reward, and fit to continue their Representative. The appointment of a Parliamentary Under Secretary to the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and the provision of his salary was not now before the House; but it would be dealt with when it was. But when a right hon. and gallant Gentleman had such a position manufactured for him, and when a Bill like this was introduced, he sincerely hoped it was introduced in sober earnest, and not as a mere cat's paw to be brought on late at night, in order that a Member of the Government might get up and say it was too late for serious consideration. He had been in the habit of opposing Bills brought forward at a late hour; but here was a subject that really called for a speedy determination.

MR. HOBHOUSE (Somerset, E.)

said, he had great pleasure in supporting the Bill, and he felt very much disappointed at the way in which it had been received. The Bill was intended to abolish a practice obsolete, useless, and injurious to the country—

It being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Friday 8th June.