HC Deb 10 February 1891 vol 350 cc312-29
(4.40.) THE FIRST LORD or THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH, Strand, Westminster),

in rising to move— That the proceedings on the Tithe Rent-Charge Recovery Bill have precedence of the Notices of Motion and the other Orders of the Day on every day on which it may be appointed, said: I think it only respectful to the House to take the opportunity of ex- plaining the course which the Government propose to adopt with regard to Public Business. The position is such that they are compelled most reluctantly to take the time of private Members this day, but they hope that it will not be necessary to take advantage of the Motion, on subsequent days. I think it will be admitted that the Government have done everything in their power to render unnecessary the course which they now find themselves compelled to take, and I hope, therefore, that the Resolution will not be met with prolonged criticism on the other side of the House. I have been—the Government have been—from the first most anxious to meet the challenge of the right hon. Member for Newcastle, and to supply an opportunity for the discussion which the right hon. Gentleman desires to raise on the conduct of the Executive in Ireland. But hitherto the Government have been prevented, by the slow progress of the Tithe Bill, from giving the right hon. Gentleman the opportunity which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman desires, and which we also desire. In the circumstances, we have no alternative but to ask the House to agree to this Motion, upon the understanding that if the consideration of the Tithe Bill as amended is completed this evening it will be put down for Third Reading on Thursday, and Wednesday's business will not be interfered with. I take it almost for granted that the measure will be read a third time on Thursday, and, therefore, that the Government would not find it necessary to avail themselves further of the powers conferred by the Motion. But the House will understand, having regard to the prolonged consideration which has been bestowed upon the Tithe Bill up to the present, that it will be unwise in the Government to ask for any less powers than they now seek. If the Bill is read a third time on Thursday, we shall place Monday next at the disposal of the right hon. Member for Newcastle for the Vote of Censure of which he has given notice.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the proceedings on the Tithe Rent-Charge Recovery Bill have precedence of the Notices of Motion and the other Orders of the Day and every day on which it may be appointed."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)

(4.44.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)

I am bound to say it seems to me that this Motion is not warranted by the circumstances at the present period of the Session and in the present condition of Public Business. The Government have no ground whatever to complain of the progress of their business or of the discussions upon the Tithe Bill and the other measures which they have submitted to the House. The time has not arrived for breaking in upon the ordinary Rules of the House in this violent manner. The right hon. Gentleman says that if the Tithe Bill is read a third time on Thursday he will not make any further use of the Motion; but, according to my recollection of the conduct of former leaders of the House, it is not usual to ask for powers a great deal in excess of those that will probably be wanted. If the Bill is read a third time by the 12th of February, and in that I myself see no difficulty, the Government, I think will have no reason to complain. I must vote against the proposal, because, under the circumstances, I think it is unnecessary.

MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)

I am, unfortunately, not a disinterested party in this Debate, because I have on the Paper for to-night a Motion dealing with a subject of great importance and interest to the country. Without entering into the merits or demerits of that Motion, I think hon. Members on both sides of the House will admit that it is of national importance and Urgency, and, therefore, I should not feel justified in acquiescing in the action of the Government, having regard to the extreme importance of the subject of my Motion, were it not that I feel that when the Government bases its claim on the ground that the exigencies of the Public Service require that progress shall be made with particular measures before a given date, unofficial Members are bound, so far as they can, to facilitate the course of business. Unofficial Members of the House of Commons in times past have been, and justly so, very jealous of their rights and privileges, but they have invariably allowed cases of emergency like these to be dealt with. I understood from the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, the other night, that it was submitted that the requirements of the law made it necessary that the Government should proceed with financial measures at a given date, and under such circumstances, I think that unofficial Members would scarcely be justified in insisting upon their extreme rights. But in acquiescing in the Government proposal, I am bound to point out that if demands of this kind are to be made at the beginning of the Session, it will be extremely difficult for private Members to discharge their duties to their constituents. It so happens, however, that the question which I intended to raise to-night also figures on the Notice Paper for this day week in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, and I trust we shall have the assurance of the Government that there will then be no interference with the fair consideration of that question, the importance and urgency of which are admitted by all. On the understanding that we are not to be asked to give up our rights and privileges except in a case of emergency like this, I, for one, shall be prepared to accept the Motion.

(4.50.) MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

Like the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken I am interested in this matter, and I am so interested in two ways. In the first place my Motion stands in front of his, and in the next place he will have an opportunity this day week of obtaining a discussion upon the subject in which he is interested. But I know from long experience how little facility is given to a Member whose one ewe lamb is taken away. I may mention that this is the ninth year in which I have, without intermission, endeavoured to obtain a discussion on the subject of my Motion in this House. It is a subject which excites very great interest, and I think the Government have done wrong in endeavouring to stifle the discussion upon it. The right hon. Gentleman has talked about the Public Service, but he gave no reason whatever to prove that there was urgency in the matter of this Tithe Bill. Last year we met on the 11th February. This is the 10th February, and I submit that there is no precedent whatever for taking private Members' privileges away so early in the Session. This is a new departure which I hope will excite considerable displeasure in the House. I shall merely express my belief that the Government would do well to propose a Standing Order putting it in their power to take the time of the House whenever they please, for it has now become almost a farce to suppose that this House sits here for any other purpose except to deal with the questions which it may please the Government to have discussed.

(4.52.) SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)

I want to ask the House what is going to become of private Members' nights if proposals such as that made by the Government are constantly to be brought forward. During Session after Session, at any rate during the last two Sessions, a great majority of the nights which properly belonged to private Members have been taken by the Government. As to the present Motion, the House has now only just reached the date at which Parliament generally meets. There has already been held an Autumn Session in order that the Government might be enabled to make good progress with its own Bills, and as the result of this, two important measures, so called, have been advanced from stage to stage with great rapidity. Yet already, on the 10th February, private Members are asked to give up their nights in order that the Government may be enabled to proceed still more rapidly with one of these measures—the Tithe Bill. The Tithe Bill is not a measure which has created any great public interest. People who have to pay the tithes do not seem to care for the Bill at all, and those who receive them would, as far as can be made out, be quite as well off without the Bill as they will be with it. In short, the Tithe Bill is emphatically not one of those measures to whose immediate progress the rights of private Members ought to be sacrificed at so early a period of the Session. If the hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet Division of Kent, who, though an interested party, has announced his intention of supporting the Government on the Motion, carries out that intention, he will be foregoing his privileges as a private Member in a most unnecessary and unwarrantable manner. For my own part I shall divide against the Motion, in the firm conviction that the course proposed by the Government can have no support from any Members who has the welfare of the country at heart. If private Members' rights are taken away on the 10th of February where will they be later on, in the middle of the Session?

(4.55.) MR. S. T. EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid)

As one who has taken an active part in the discussion on the Tithes Bill I should like to say a word or two upon this Motion. I have not observed that anything has been said to show what is the urgency of this particular question. I am informed that the only justification for a Motion of this kind at any time is urgency. We have been reminded that this is only the 10th of February. We are sitting before Parliament is ordinarily called together, and before this Motion is carried I think we ought to hear from the Government Benches what is the urgency of the question. The Tithe Bill is an important Bill, which ought not to be rushed through its various stages. It is a Bill dealing with a very large amount of property—property of the value of £4,000,000 a year, and I certainly do not think that a discussion extending over seven nights is too prolonged for a Bill of this kind. I can only conceive two arguments which might be used to show the urgency. One is that the passing of such a Bill as this might be necessary in the interests of "law and order." Hon. Members who urge that know very little of the Principality of Wales, except what appears in the newspapers. I can assure them there has been no real disturbance in the Principality. Interested persons have called for the assistance of the military, but let me give the House one instance to show that it was utterly unnecessary to call out the military in certain cases in which they had been called out.


Order, order! That is quite beside the question before us.


Then if law and order do not constitute the urgency of this matter, the only other point is that the parsons in the Principality should have their pay. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade will say that we Welsh Members have unduly prolonged the discussion; and therefore I ask, why should Members be put to inconvenience and lose their rights in order to enable the Government to push forward this measure?

(4.57.) MR. PICTON (Leicester)

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Thanet Division of Kent spoke of the duties of unofficial Members. I think there may be a difference of opinion as to what those duties are, and undoubtedly they generally differ according to whether their leaders are in or out of office. As to the official Members, it is their bounden duty to lay before the House grave reasons for taking such steps as are embodied in this Motion. It has been often assumed by the Government that unless this or that measure is passed by a certain time awful consequences will happen. But in the past such consequences have not resulted, and I think it is time that the Government learned a little better as to the nature of their responsibilities towards the country. I earnestly hope that this side of the House will show some spirit in the matter, and make a determined protest against this most unjustifiable and tyrannical invasion of the rights of private Members.

(4.59.) MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)

I have listened in vain for arguments as to why the time of private Members should thus be monopolised by the Government. If the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the House succeeds in getting his comprehensive Resolution passed, not only will the rights of private Members be lost for this evening, but to-morrow also may be gone, and my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar, who has the first place for an important Resolution on Friday evening next, may lose the opportunity of bringing that forward. It means that the whole of those hon. Members who have taken the trouble to ballot at the beginning of the Session, in order to obtain a favourable place for the Bills which they have in charge, are, because the right hon. Gentleman chooses to think that certain progress should be made with Public Business, to lose those chances. I hope that hon. Members will vigorously protest against this action of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman is introducing these gagging Resolutions earlier and earlier each succeeding Session. I think it ought to be borne in mind that last Friday night the right hon. Gentleman had an opportunity of pushing forward the Tithe Bill, and he failed to avail himself of it. It was well known that the Motion which stood first on the Paper for that evening would not occupy the whole of the evening, and he might very well have proceeded with his Tithe Bill after 8 o'clock. But on the plea of the fatigue from which he and his colleagues were suffering as the result of their labours during the week they facilitated a count out on purpose that they might go home. Why, under such circumstances, should private Members be robbed of the facilities which are given to them under the ordinary Rules of this House? I think it behoves us to strenuously protest against this action of the First Lord of the Treasury, and I, for one, shall go into the Lobby against him.

(5.2.) DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)

It is very true that "there's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip," and that saying is exemplified by the fact that after nine years of long weary waiting my hon. Friend the Member for South Aberdeen had at last got the opportunity so long desired of bringing forward a question in which Scotch Members are so much interested, and he is suddenly deprived of it by this proposal of the leader of the House. Is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to give my hon. Friend any facilities for bringing on this Motion at a later stage of the Session? I am sure my constituents would be very dissatisfied with me if I did not take the opportunity of making a protest against the proposal to prevent the discussion of a matter in which they take a great interest. I have had many communications from public meetings in Scotland asking me to back up my hon. Friend in this matter, and I am certain that the decision of the Government will cause extreme disappointment to many of the Scotch electors. The zeal of the leader of the House for this Tithe Bill is of a somewhat suspicious character. It does not strike me that there is any overwhelming necessity for pushing forward the Tithe Bill. At any rate, no proof of that has been shown to-night. I think that probably the object of the Government is to burke and shirk the discussion of the question involved in my hon. Friend's Motion. I have no doubt that such a discussion would be extremely inconvenient to many hon. Gentlemen who sit opposite.

(5.4.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the House will facilitate the progress of Public Business by the course he has taken. We find, year by year, more and more time is taken up by Supply. We also find that more and more private Members' nights are taken away by the Government, with the result that, as hon. Members are deprived of legitimate opportunities of raising questions in which they are interested on those nights, they seek the opportunity in Committee of Supply, and thereby prolong the discussion of the Estimates. I think that if the right hon. Gentleman would only utilise the time of the House in a better fashion he would help on Public Business. I must say that, outside the crofter question, the subject of access to mountains is one which has caused more disturbance in Scotland than all other Scotch questions put together; and therefore it is a great pity that the opportunity my hon. Friend, after so many years' waiting, has secured for bringing it on, is now to be taken away from him. I venture to say that the interest in that question, and also in the question involved in the Motion of the right hon. Member for Thanet, is greater than that embodied in the Tithe Bill. Of course, we expected a conspiracy of silence from the Government. We knew they would not attempt to answer our arguments. But, indeed, we ought to have from the First Lord of the Treasury some reason for, at this early stage of the Session, taking away private Members' nights. One effect of this Motion will be to induce private Members to conspire together to see how best they can circumvent the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the leader of the House said the Government had done everything within their power to facilitate the progress of business; but how was it they allowed the House to be counted out last Friday evening? Knowing something of the Members who were to have spoken on the Motions down for that evening, I assert that the Government might have reached the Tithe Bill by 8 o'clock, and would then have had four hours to deal with it. But for some reason it suited the Government Whips to allow a count out, and thus four hours were deliberately thrown away. If you take away the time of private Members we shall have to retaliate, and take away a good deal of your time in discussing questions which we desire to have debated.

(5.8.) MR. F. S. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)

I must enter my protest against the implication of the First Lord of the Treasury that discussion on the Tithe Bill at its various stages has been unduly prolonged. If the right hon. Gentleman had been as constant in his attendance of these Debates as has his colleague the President of the Board of Trade, he would have known that the very reverse is the case, and that at the close of the Committee stage the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill had nothing but words of commendation for the actions of Members on this side interested in the Bill. Indeed, the only words of criticism which fell from his lips were directed against one of his own supporters. It will also be in the recollection of many hon. Members that a very important Amendment indeed, affecting the future relations of landlord and tenant, was last night passed without a word from the Government and without any discussion from this side. Can it be said, then, the discussion was unduly prolonged on that point? When we consider that during the Autumn Session the First Lord swooped down upon private Members and took the whole of their time, it seems an extreme proposal on his part to pursue a similar course now.

(5.12.) MR. A. STAVELEY HILL (Staffordshire, Kingswinford)

I think the hon. Member for Caithness must be of a confiding disposition if he really thinks that any number of Members staying in the House on Friday night would have enabled the Government to reach the Tithe Bill that evening. The length to which the discussions on the Tithe Bill have been protracted has rendered necessary the Motion made by my right hon. Friend. What has necessitated the prolonged discussion on the Tithe Bill? Has it been questions arising out of the merits of the Bill, or is it something ulterior lying behind? I do not suppose there is any hon. Member who doubts for one moment that it is the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle is not ready to debate his Motion with regard to events in Tipperary; and it is a significant thing that, whereas the right hon. Gentleman was sitting in the House up to the moment when this subject arose, he has now removed himself from the House. I doubt whether we shall see him again at the present Sitting. Doubtless the leader of the House regrets that he has taken away the opportunity for the hon. Member for South Aberdeen and the right hon. Member for Thanet bringing on their particular Motions; but his action is the only way of dealing with the obstructive tactics applied to the Tithe Rent-Charge Bill.

(5.14.) MR. J. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)

It is interesting to find that at least one Member has risen to support the Government Motion by argument. I leave it for the House and the country to say whether the Debates of the Tithe Bill have been unduly prolonged. Hon. Members generally should remember that they are dealing not with the particular question in hand, but with the certainty that private Members will lose their nights altogether during the rest of the Session. For, if this thing was done in the green tree, what will be done in the dry? If the time of private Members is taken away for a measure like the Tithe Bill, what are we going to do when the Land Purchase Bill comes on? What is the good of the House coming together in Autumn Session if, before the time that Parliament usually sits, private Members' time is to be taken away? Remember, that hardly any great question has become matured for legislation which has not first formed the subject of exhaustive discussion on private Members' nights, and one of the great causes that have led the Government into difficulties is the want of consistent and steady action they have shown in regard to measures before the House, and the fact that they have not taken sufficient opportunity to ascertain the opinions of private Members in regard to them. It is not an unimportant point to consider in connection with this Motion how the Government have used the time of private Members in previous years when they have taken it. They have, in fact, practically wasted that time over Bills in regard to which they did not know their own mind, or the minds of Members on their own side, and which they eventually had to withdraw. I oppose the Motion also because, if it is adopted, I believe it will endanger the Motion of the hon. Member for Poplar on Friday night, on a question in which the working classes of the country are very deeply interested. I should have liked, too, to hear what arguments could have been adduced by hon. Gentlemen opposite in support of the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thanet. It would be very interesting to see if there are any new ideas to be advanced. I rather fancy the Government are not anxious to have that Motion brought forward.

(5.18.) MR. STUART RENDEL (Montgomeryshire)

If this Motion is to be interpreted as a reproach to Welsh Members for the manner in which they have conducted the Debates on the Tithe Bill, I think it is not justifiable. I understood that, as far as the Committee stage of the Bill was concerned, we had not only no reproach, but distinct commendation and approval from the right hon. Gentleman in charge of the Bill. Certainly there has been on no single occasion any opportunity of prolonging the Debate unduly, because the Government have been most conciliatory and ready to meet the wishes of Welsh Members. The action of the Government seems to have followed in consequence of what has taken place on the Report stage of the Tithe Bill; but I maintain that there has been no waste of time, and that fact has been admitted by Members of the Government. In making the Motion, the right hon. Gentleman has hardly assumed that there is any great urgency for it; and notwithstanding the slur that has been cast on the Welsh Members by the drastic character of the Motion, I repeat that they are entirely free from any charge of having by collusion needlessly wasted the time of the House.


I am perfectly certain my right hon. Friend meant to cast no slur upon the conduct of Members from Wales in reference to the proceedings on the Report stage of the Tithe Bill. There has, however, been delay, and on the Report stage, from other quarters. I may point out, however, that if the House comes to a decision on the Motion, they will have the whole of the evening for the remainder of the Report, which may be perfectly well concluded in that time, and thus this will be the only day of which private Members are likely to be deprived.

(5.22.) MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)

Not only is this a most unwarrantable invasion of private Members' rights, but I think the Scotch Members have special cause to complain of the conduct of the Government in their treatment of Scotland. I am afraid, however, that this is only a part of their customary policy. If they introduce any measure affecting Scotland it is one opposed to the wishes of the great majority of the Scotch people, and it has to be carried by the votes of English Members. This evening a question of great interest to the whole of the people of Scotland was to have been discussed, and yet the First Lord of the Treasury selects this above all other days to advance a wretched and miserable Bill, in which even the people of England have no interest, and we are deprived of one of our rare opportunities of scoring in this House another Scottish majority against the Government. But I do not complain, for the Government are giving to the Scottish people another object lesson in the necessity of Home Rule for Scotland. It is another illustration of the necessity for making some provision for the consideration of Scottish questions, and if we cannot have our business transacted in this House we must transfer it elsewhere. This is the conduct of a Government which came into office to demonstrate the beauties of the Union and the advantages Scotland derives from it; and I anticipate that, as a result, the next General Election will see the return to this House of a large number of Members pledged to vote for Home Rule for Scotland.

(5.25.) MR. ABRAHAM (Glamorgan, Rhondda)

The House will, I am sure, pardon me for entering my protest against the action of the Government in thus taking away the rights of private Members on the pretence of urgency for pressing forward the Tithe Bill. I think the Government have themselves to blame entirely for greater progress not having been made with the Tithe Bill. There are points in the Bill which the Welsh Members could not pass over without protest and strong resistance—points involving injustice to the Welsh people which the Government might well have abandoned. At the same time, although the Government have sought to push on the Bill from stage to stage with great haste, there is little, if any, demand or necessity for it in Wales. Not a single class of people—not even the clergy themselves—have united in any demand for the Bill; and I cannot conceive a more frivolous excuse for the important Motion proposed by the First Lord of the Treasury than the one which has been given. If the time of private Members is to be taken away in this manner, the attendance of private Members will soon become of little use, and we may as well stay at home and await the call of the Whips, who will, in due course, force us, like dumb driven cattle, into the Division Lobbies. I believe that this feeling is growing on both sides of the House. The private Members ought not, without urgent necessity, thus to be deprived of their rights, for some of the best and most useful legislation ever passed by this House has been initiated by private Members.

(5.28.) SIR J. SWINBURNE (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

I am sure the hon. Member for the Kingswinford Division of Staffordshire is entirely misinformed as to our views with regard to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle. Personally, in consequence of the pressure put upon me by the Whips, who desired the Bill to go through last night, I abstained during that Sitting from making more than one or two remarks. I want the House to consider for a moment what happened last Friday night. At considerable personal inconvenience I came back at 7 on that evening to help in the discussion of the Tithe Bill, and was at once informed that the Government had arranged a count out. My information has been confirmed in many quarters since, and yet now, in the middle of February, when, under ordinary circumstances, Parliament would be discussing the Queen's Speech, we are asked to take away the time of private Members. The First Lord of the Treasury has often twitted me with not having brought in a Bill respecting the appointment of Managers and Trustees of Charities. You might just as well ask a private Member to jump over the moon as to pass a Bill when the time of Members is taken away so early in the Session. Really, Mr. Speaker, I think Her Majesty's Ministers ought to consider what a very bad precedent and example they are setting in forcing this proposal upon the House.

(5.32.) MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)

There is a Motion standing next on the Paper which we must vote upon without discussion, as far as this Debate is concerned, as it would not be in Order to discuss it now. I only mention it to remind the House of its existence, and to ask at what hour the Government propose to close the discussion on the Tithe Bill, in the event of the Motion being carried. As I understand, the First Lord of the Treasury says this is a case in which he will pick and choose. He will not give facilities for the discussion of the Motion respecting access to mountains in Scotland, but he says if we do not dispose of the Report stage of the Tithe Bill to-night he will not to-morrow impinge upon the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill. What business has he to say he will shut out the Scotch discussion, but will allow an English discussion to take place because certain Dukes and Lords are interested in it?

MR. J. KELLY (Camberwell, N.)

May I remind thé hon. and learned Member that the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill applies to Ireland?


Of course, I am not such a fool as not to know that. The Government say, in effect, that they will keep us sitting as long as they like—and why?—because they are determined not to interrupt the discussion about the deceased wife's sister. I say that is a most offensive proposition to put before this House; and if it is a question of the relative merits of access to mountains in Scotland and marriage with a deceased wife's sister—in which only Dukes and Earls are interested—between the health of Her Majesty's subjects and the matrimonial alliances of members of Her Majesty's family, the former ought to be considered first. What the Government ought to say is, that if the Tithe Bill is not finished by 12 o'clock, they will sacrifice the deceased wife's sister to-morrow. Do the Government mean to put before us the issue that the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill is more important than the Tithe Bill? The supporters of the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill may be ready to sit up all night in order to obtain a discussion of that Bill to-morrow, but I am not ready to do so. If the Government have any bonâ fide belief that the Welsh Tithe Bill is of such immense importance, let them put it down for tomorrow. Those who remember the time when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian led the House of Commons will recollect that he never made a Motion to take the time of the House towards the end of the Session without having a long string of precedents on which to support his proposal. When the Fourth Party, under which I was schooled, used to sit on this side of the House in the Parliament of 1880, precedents used to be wrangled over if it was proposed to take half an hour of the time of private Members. The noble Lord the Member for Paddington (Lord R. Churchill), or some other Member who was acquainted with all the precedents, from Genesis to Deuteronomy, used to bring them forward, saying, "In such a year so and so was Prime Minister, and he said so and so," and he used to go on quoting until he came down to what Lord Beaconsfield said or did. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian never made such a Motion without a string of precedents as long as your arm being brought forward. The First Lord of the Treasury is so brazened in this matter—I use the phrase merely in a Parliamentary sense because, if he will allow me to say so, he is "the mildest mannered man" that ever cut a Parliamentary throat—he is so brazened in this matter that he comes down to the House, merely says he wants to-morrow, and must have tomorrow, simply because he wants it. This House, it must be remembered, met in November, apparently for the right hon. Gentleman's amusement, and it is now the 10th of February, a date at which the House of Commons has frequently not begun its labours. The right hon. Gentleman, however, is so greedy for the despatch of business that he absolutely wants to have the most important Bill of the Session read a third time at a period when the House has not usually met at all. Under the circumstances, I should like to know when Parliament is going to dissolve—on what day in the month of April is the Prorogation to take place? I suppose everything is going to be in proportion. In view of the way in which the Welsh Members, whose grievance you admit, are being treated by the Government, I tremble to think what the Irish Members may expect when the Chief Secretary comes back. The Welsh Members have ventured to say three or four words in a mild manner, and they have been charged with obstruction of the most atrocious character. When we get into March, and the landlord's mouth is open a yard wide for British treasure and finds it not, what will be said of the Irish Members if they venture to discuss the Land Purchase Bill? It is not one, but probably every private Member's day that will be taken for that measure. I regard the action of the Government in this business as absolutely revolutionary. If, in the words of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), some hon. Gentlemen opposite who now receive £1,000 a year for holding their tongues in the House were sitting here below the Gangway, I tremble to think of the amount of rhetoric which would be discharged at the head of the Government if a Motion of this kind were made. This House of Commons has practically become a house of placemen. The Government come down with their Bills and Motions, and if anybody else ventures to propose a measure he is shut out. Private interest is no longer of any importance, and the people of the country ought to understand that no Member can successfully legislate unless he has a salary of from £1,000 to £5,000 per annum.

(5.42.) MR. W. H. SMITH

The hon. and learned Gentleman has asked me up to what hour I shall ask the House to sit this evening. I trust it will not be necessary to ask the House to sit beyond midnight. It was hoped that it might be possible to conclude the consideration of the Bill last night. I certainly trust it will be concluded to-night. With regard to to-morrow, I have no desire whatever to interfere with the progress of Bills if it can be avoided; but if the consideration of the Tithe Bill is not completed to-day, I shall be constrained to put the Order down for tomorrow.

(5.43.) The House divided:—Ayes 243; Noes 178.—(Div. List, No. 46.)