§ (RESOLUTION OF 26TH MARCH.)
§ *(11.41.) MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
I think the House pretty well understands the object of the Resolution which I am about to move. When this Bill was under discussion on March 26 a misapprehension arose. The Closure was moved at half-past 5, after this came the Division on the Bill, and while everyone was going out an Amendment which had scarcely been spoken to at all was passed by the House. It has been thought that this might apply to other Bills besides the one under discussion, and to make the ground quite clear and to avoid doubt 1171 I think it would be better to pass this Resolution. I believe it will meet with the unanimous assent of the House.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland having informed the House that the Local Government Bill for Ireland to be introduced this Session, as intimated in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech, will he upon similar lines to the Acts passed for England and Scotland, and will not contain any provisions giving Local Authorities powers to control the times during which exciseable liquors are sold in Ireland, or any such regulations, this House is of opinion that there is nothing to prevent it from proceeding further with legislation in relation to the control and regulation of the trade of excisable liquors in Ireland, any previous Resolution of the House to the contrary notwithstanding."—(Mr. Lea.)
§ (11.43.) MR. BAUMANN (Camberwell, Peckham)
I object to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman opposite on two grounds, In the first place, I believe the adoption of the Motion of the hon. Gentleman would be an act of self-stultification; and, in the second place, I believe it would be an unfair departure from the ordinary practice of the House. It appears to me that the contingency which the hon. Member for Tipperary had in view when he carried his Amendment is now before us. It is true that the Government are not going to bring in a Local Government Bill for Ireland? but the First Lord of the Treasury has stated that the new Licensing Bill will apply to Ireland. If that is not exactly the contingency contemplated by the hon. Member for Tipperary, it is very like it. The point of the Amendment which I am about to move is that the House should not deal with the question of the liquor traffic in Ireland, because the Government are going to introduce some measure during the Session relating to the question. If this Resolution is carried, it appears to me that the House will be stultifying itself. To allow the Motion to be carried would be a most unfair departure from the 1172 ordinary practice of the House. The hon. Member for South Derry was fairly cut out by the operation of the Resolution of March 26, and it is most unfair to deprive me of the opportunity which the fortune of war has placed at my disposal. One thing that makes it more unfair is that Irish business has already absorbed three out of four of the Wednesdays which private Members have had at their disposal during the Session. If Her Majesty's Government will state that it is necessary to pass this Resolution, in view of the Budget Resolutions, I have no more to say. But it appears to me that there is nothing in the Bill of the hon. Member for South Derry which would justify the course the Government have taken in this matter. I hope the House will reject the Motion of the hon. Member. I think I have some cause for complaint in this matter. I know that I am only a Conservative Member; that I am only one of that great number of Conservative Members whom the Metropolis sends to this House in such large numbers. No doubt, if I had been an Ulster Member or a Liberal Unionist, the Government would have done its utmost to strain the forms of the House to give me precedence on this occasion. I have only one question to ask, and that is, do the Government get most votes in Ulster or in London? I hope the House will not stultify itself by departing in the most unfair manner from the ordinary course of business.
§ (11.50.) MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
In seconding the Amendment, I desire, in the first place, to thank the hon. Member opposite for the manly protest which he has made against the unfair treatment to which I and my Amendment have been subjected by the Government. In the whole course of my political experience I have never received such shabby treatment before. The hon. Member for South Derry has said that my Amendment was carried without a word spoken; but the hon. Member himself moved the Closure, and so prevented the matter from being discussed.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
What will satisfy the hon. Member? He himself Closured the Debate. If the phrase "political chicanery" were permissible in this House, I would use it with regard to the action of Her Majesty's Government in this matter. They have departed from the usual course of practice in consequence of the pressure which has been brought to bear upon them by certain hon. Members opposite. If the Government had obtained an advantage by means of the ballot over their political opponents they would not have strained the Rules of the House in order to reinstate their opponents in the position which they had lost. I, therefore, protest against this Motion having been allowed to be placed upon the Paper. The Motion has not been placed there for any great political purpose not for any purpose of general utility, not even for the purpose of the Government themselves. It is absurd to say that my Amendment was carried through a misapprehension. The Government have stated that, in the Bill which they intend to introduce, it is not their intention to place in the hands of the Local Authorities the power to grant licences or otherwise to deal with the sale of intoxicating liquors in Ireland. That statement does not affect my Amendment at all.
§ *THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (MR. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
What I said was—That of course the Government adhered to the intention expressed in the Queen's Speech. It was not usual to state the provisions of any Bill before it has been read a first time; but there will be no inconvenience in my stating that the Irish Bill will not differ from the Bills already passed for England and Scotland in respect of containing provisions to give power to Local Authorities to control the hours during which excisable liquors are sold.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
That bears out my contention. Until we know what powers the Bill proposes to confer I think that no discussion of this question should take place; otherwise you will, in the language of the hon. Member for 1174 Peckham, be stultifying yourselves for the mean and miserable purpose of gratifying a few Members who sit on the opposite side of the House. Great pressure has been brought to bear on Her Majesty's Government, and in obedience to that pressure they have allowed matters to take this unprecedented course. The character of this House and that of the Government are at stake on this question. [Laughter.] I do not know why hon. Members laugh at this statement, for it is true; and when this Debate is read to-morrow, the people will form their own conclusions on the matter. I say that, in the face of the terms of my Resolution, until the House shall have ascertained the scope and powers of the Local Authority, and the intentions of the Government are declared with regard to Ireland, it shall not be competent to them to legislate on this question, and that any facilities afforded for the discussion of the Bill put down for to-morrow will be a stultification of the principle hitherto followed. I maintain that that Resolution cannot be set aside except by the carrying of some Resolution by which it would be rescinded after full and formal discussion in this House in a regular manner, and not in the way proposed. The hon. Member opposite has spoken of a straining of the Rules of the House. I say that this proposal is not merely a straining of the Rules, but an outrage of the Rules of the House, and of the rights and privileges of Members. I believe I shall have the sympathy of hon. Members on both sides, even among those who differ from mo on the main question, in protesting against what I must call a piece of political dishonesty, and I hope that if we come to a vote to-night it will be seen that the House has not lost all sense of honour or propriety with regard to the privileges and rights of its Members.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words—In view of the proposal by Government to introduce during the present Session a Licensing Bill, which is to apply to Ireland, this House declines to annul the Resolution of the 26th of March,"— (Mr. Baumann,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ *(12.2.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I cannot help thinking that the hon. Member who has just sat down, and my hon. Friend behind me, have discussed this subject with a considerable amount of unnecessary heat. The terms applied by them to the course which the Government favoured were "dishonest" "underhand," "chicanery," "straining of Rules, "and" general unfairness. "These are words considerably stronger than the case warrants. My hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Baumann) referring to the position which he obtained for his Bill relating to the sweating system on Wednesday's Paper, has spoken of politics as a game. Surely we ought not to speak of politics as we may of card-playing or pitch-and-toss. What are the facts of the case which we have to consider? A Local Veto Bill for Ireland was brought in on March 26th, and an Amendment was moved in opposition to it by the hon. Member (Mr. John O'Connor). Those who voted for the Amendment on that occasion had not in their minds at the time the effect which that Amendment might have upon other Bills not then under discussion. Now, it appears to me that if the Ballot is a game, and the fortune of battle a mere chance, we ought to recognise the fact that my hon. Friend opposite, who had charge of the Local Veto Bill, was the victim of an unfortunate mischance, and it ought to be our business to correct the effect of that mischance. But says my hon. Friend behind me, "What reason can you allege in respect of this particular Bill for attempting to remedy the mischance'?" I will tell you. The Bill which my hon. Friend wants to bring forward is a measure dealing with the sweating system, and is brought forward before the result of the Sweating Committee's investigations is known. I do not say that as a hostile comment on my hon. Friend's Bill. But this Bill is brought forward for the second or third 1176 year, after the matter has been carefully thrashed out by a Select Committee, and the various provisions of the measure have received the unanimous approval of the Select Committee. If on that ground only the Bill is in a different position from the Bill of my hon. Friend behind me, as far as the action of the Government is concerned, it is, I think, justified by stronger claims. The leader of the House, last year, gave a pledge to offer facilities for the consideration of this measure. The course of public business rendered it absolutely impossible for him to carry out that pledge.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
It was agreed to by a large majority of the Committee, including my right hon. Friend the Attorney General for Ireland.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney General agreed to the main provisions of the Report.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR
The Report introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Attorney General, who was Chairman of the Committee, was directly opposed to the main provisions of the Report of the majority.
§ *MR. A. J. BALFOUR
My hon and learned Friend differed only as to one part of the Report. In order to make the argument clear with regard to the position of this Bill, I will state what occurred. The Government, last year, promised to give it facilities, but were unable to do so. This Session the fortune of the Ballot gave the hon. Gentleman first place upon Wednesday (to-morrow). The Parliamentsary accident, to use the word adopted by my hon. Friend behind me, which deprived him of his chance, occurred on Wednesday, March 26th. Are we, or are we not, more than justified, by perfectly legitimate Parliamentary means, in trying to remedy what was purely accidental? It is not a straining of the Rules of the House. The Rules of the House are well fitted to remedy an error which the House fell 1177 into unintentionally; and if the object of the Rules of the House of Commons be to give full expression to the will of the House of Commons we are acting in the spirit of those Rules in accepting the Resolution of my hon. Friend.
§ (12.20.) MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK (Whitehaven)
I am very sorry to differ from ray right hon. Friend on this occasion, more especially as I am willing to follow him on ordinary occasions. Like the hero of antiquity, he is invulnerable, except in one weak point, and he has shown what that is to-night. I never, in all my experience of this House, remember a case less fully discussed than that raised by the hon. Member for South Tyrone. I myself wished to address the House at short length, when the hon. Member rose in his place and closured me. I was about to explain to the House what my reasons were for supporting the Amendment, but the hon. Member for South Tyrone would not allow reasonable debate. If he had allowed that debate I would have convinced the Government that we were perfectly right in the course we took. The right hon. Gentleman the leader of the House is not in his place, I regret to see; perhaps it is not convenient for him to appear on this occasion. Is it right for my right hon. Friend (Mr. Balfour) to say that the Government were not informed, when they themselves voted for the Closure '? The hon. Member for Tipperary will bear me out, because we were tellers on that occasion. That combination alone shows the righteousness of the cause. I had the honour of telling, with the hon. Member, for the Closure, and when the Question was put from the Chair, the Government changed their opinions and filed through the Lobby in opposition to the hon. Member for South Tyrone's Bill. I venture to think that the Government have not placed themselves in a position which is very creditable to them. If they had intended to follow the course which they are now about to pursue they ought to have done so on the occasion of the Second Reading of the hon. Member's Bill. But I am afraid there is something underneath. If I may be allowed to use a phrase not altogether Parliamentary, they have been "got at" 1178 by gentlemen on this side, who wear blue ribbons in their button holes, and who have behind them a large amount of what is called Sabbatarian support, and they have been exercising their influence upon Her Majesty's Government, and this most unusual course has been adopted on this occasion, not as the result of free will, but of pressure, undue pressure, the very improper pressure, which has been brought to bear upon the Government. For that reason, I shall move the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend on this side and seconded by the hon. Member on the other.
§ (12.25.) MR. W. REDMOND (Fermanagh, N.)
I cannot refrain from saying that this question was treated in altogether an incompetent manner by the hon. Member for West Tyrone, who had the conduct of the Local Veto Bill for Ireland. So badly did the hon. Member understand the interests of the cause which he undertook to champion that he moved the closure, without considering that the effect of his action would be to prevent this House from considering any measures relating to temperance in Ireland for the remainder of the Session. I am quite in favour of hearing this question adequately and fairly discussed in the House, but I must say that if the hon. Member for West Tyrone will constitute himself the champion of the temperance cause in Ireland, he, at least, might take the trouble not to get us into such difficulties as we find ourselves at present. The hon. Member for Peckham has moved an Amendment to the Resolution which is upon the Paper. I must say the action of the hon. Member for Peckham illustrates in the strongest and strangest possible manner how English Members regard Irish matters. The hon. Member for Peckham is anxious that this Bill, which is regarded with a considerable amount of interest in Ireland, shall not be discussed, because he desires, as I understand, to have a measure of his own discussed. I do not think that an Amendment moved from a motive of that kind will commend itself to the House as a reason why the Resolution should not be carried, and this Bill should not be discussed to-morrow. With regard to the Member for Whitehaven, I am bound to say that his action 1179 on such discussions as the present always fills me with extreme wonder. He is not, by any means, a constant attendant in this House. Sometimes, unhappily for everybody, he is not here for considerable periods; but, whenever any proposal is made with regard to temperance legislation in Ireland, the right hon. Member for Whitehaven, whose connection with Ireland I have yet to learn, always appears like a Jack-in-the-Box. I must say, if I was not in favour of having these measures discussed, I should be inclined to favour them after I found the persistent manner in which the hon. Member for Whitehaven comes down to this House upon occasions of this kind and insists upon poking his nose into matters which do not concern him. I do think that the House will be very much interested to know the reasons why the hon. Member insists upon coming here and opposing legislation of this kind. All I can say is that I think he might allow these matters to be discussed as much as possible between Irish Members who hold different opinions on the matter. I can assure him that his interference will only have the effect of stimulating the action of those Irish Members who do not wish to see matters of this kind interfered with by Members like the right hon. Member for Whitehaven, whom we do not regard as at all competent to advise us in these matters. Mr. Deputy Speaker, there is a considerable difference of opinion with regard to this Bill, which, if this Resolution be passed, will be discussed to-morrow. What I want to know is this, why do those Gentlemen who are opposed to the Bill object to having it discussed if, as they believe, they have a great many arguments of the strongest kind to urge against it. I do not think that is exactly the proper way to propagate their opinion in this matter. If I were opposed to a Bill of this kind, on which there is a difference of opinion, I certainly should endeavour to have that opinion expressed in debate, and I would not attempt to have the measure put off in this sort of manner. I, therefore, urge upon the House to pass the Resolution on the Paper, which will merely have the effect of enabling the House to consider this proposal to-morrow, 1180 and when we come to consider the proposal we can then judge it upon its merits. I felt tempted to make these few observations for the purpose of impressing upon hon. Gentlemen who feel themselves to be advocates of the temperance cause, that for the future they will, at least, take common pains to see that they do not injure a cause which they seek to benefit.
§ (12.30.) MR. DONALD CRAWFORD
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 151; Noes 22.—(Div. List, No. 53.)
§ (12.40.) Question put accordingly, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 147; Noes 24.—(Div. List, No. 54.)
§ (12.50.) MR. LEA claimed, "That the Main Question be now put."
§ Main Question put accordingly.
The House divided:—Ayes 139; Noes 19.—(Div. List, No. 55.)
Resolved, That the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland having informed the House that the Local Government Bill for Ireland to be introduced this Session, as intimated in Her Majesty's Most Gracious Speech, will be upon similar lines to the Acts passed for England and Scotland, and will not contain any provisions giving Local Authorities powers to control the times during which exciseable liquors are sold in Ireland, or any such regulations, this House is of opinion that there is nothing to prevent it from proceeding further with legislation in relation to the control and regulation of the trade of excisable liquors in Ireland, any previous Resolution of the House to the contrary notwithstanding.
§ It being after one of the clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker adjourned the House without Question put.
§ House adjourned at five minutes after One o'clock.