HC Deb 03 February 1893 vol 8 cc407-17

Motion made, and Question proposed, That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown in Ireland to make out a New Writ for the electing of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the County of Meath (Southern Division) in the room of Patrick Fulham, esquire, whose election for the said County has been declared void."—(Colonel Nolan.)


I object to this Motion, on the ground that the hon. and gallant Member is not the proper person from whom such a Motion should come. The hon. and gallant Member is not in any sense connected with the party who recently held the seat in South Meath, and though perhaps he may be within his right in moving for this Writ, we must have regard to what the usage of the House has been. That usage is an ancient usage whereby Writs are moved by the officials or Whips to which these seats belong. Therefore, I object to the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member. Of course, this matter must now be decided by the House. If it is to approve of the course adopted by the hon. and gallant Member, the usage which has prevailed by courtesy amongst the Whips representing the different Parties in this House will he transgressed. If such a Motion is allowed, there will be nothing to prevent the Whip of my Party from moving a Writ in the case of a seat which has been vacated by a Member of any other Party in the House. I would respectfully submit that inasmuch as my Party hitherto held the seat in South Meath, and also inasmuch as I have a Motion on the Paper for Tuesday next, that the Writ for South Meath be moved for on that day, that the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member should not be allowed. I respectfully beg to move the adjournment of this Debate until Tuesday next.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Sir Thomas Esmonde.)


and Colonel NOLAN rose at the same time, and the SPEAKER called on


who said: Of course, I should in all eases give way to the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), but in this case there may be some matters of which he may not be aware. The first and most extraordinary business is that I went to the hon. Baronet (Sir Thomas Esmonde) last Tuesday, the first day on which this subject was before the House, and told him I would move the Writ if he did not move it. I would appeal to this House—is moving for the Writs to be turned into an electioneering dodge—[Tory and Parnellite Cheers]—or whether we are to move for them fairly and squarely? Otherwise a majority in this House may disfranchise a small minority. What did I do on Tuesday? I asked the Secretary to the Speaker for the two Writs for North and South Meath. I brought them both into the House to move them both. The hon. Baronet had only one Writ on the Paper; I wanted both down. I believe there is supposed to be a small Party advantage in the holding of one of the elections first, and I believe that is the explanation of all these manœuvres. I have had no manœeuvres. On every occasion I had both Writs ready, so that both might go by the same post to Ireland. I submit to Liberal Members opposite, is it not fair that the two Writs should be moved for together And as to the point of etiquette, I appeal to everyone, is not this rule that if a Whip is too slow—[cries of "Oh!"]—in moving for any Writ and wants to turn it into an electioneering dodge—is it not the custom for another Whip to go to hint and say, "If you do not move it, I will?" That is not a supposititious case. The last one was done by the hon. Baronet to myself. There was a vacancy in the County of Wexford. The hon. Baronet, I think, very properly came to me and said, "You move the Writ for the County of Wexford, or I will be obliged to move it myself." I told him I had no instructions on the subject, and that I had no great anxiety to move it.


"The Boys of Wexford."


He then moved it himself. In the present case, I think the two Writs should be sent away by the same post, so that both elections may take place on the same day.


With the indulgence of the House I wish to say, in reply to the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member for Galway, in reference to the Writ for North Wexford, that I did not move for the Writ until I had asked him to move it and until he had declined to do so. The difference is this: that in the present case the hon. and gallant Member put down the Motion without consulting me at all.


I regret extremely that any difference should arise over this matter, and I sincerely trust that no conflict will take place over it. What I would ask the House to do is to take care that fair play is asserted in the matter. I may say that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Galway, in moving the Writ on Tuesday last, moved under the impression that he was acting in accordance with the usages of the House. He said very fairly on Tuesday that he would submit the question to the Whips of the two great Parties in the House, and would adopt their decision. He accordingly consulted the gentlemen, and they told him that in their opinion he had taken a mistaken view, and he at once acted in accordance with the view which they expressed. The invariable practice of the House, as explained by the Whip of the Conservative Party the other night, has been that not merely the Whip of the Party who owned the allegiance of the late Member should move the Writ, but it has also been the practice of the House that if he does not move the Writ, the Whip of another Party might say to him, "If you do not move the Writ by such a day, I will move it." On Tuesday last my hon. and gallant Friend said openly and publicly to the House that he would move for the Writ to-day if it was not moved by the hon. Baronet, the Whip of the other Party. In addition to that, my hon. and gallant Friend had some private communication with the hon. Baronet; but as to that I know nothing. But he certainly stated publicly in this House that if the hon. Baronet did not move the Writ, he would move it. The hon. Baronet bas not moved the Writ today, and so my hon. and galland Friend in moving for the Writ is acting in strict accordance with the usages of the House, as explained by the Whips of the two great Parties. Under these circumstances, I regret extremely that there should be any objection to issue the Writ; and I would appeal to the House, in the spirit of fair play, that if there is any political advantage to be gained by one side or the other, that we should take care not to lend ourselves to any such attempt, and to take care that the Writs are issued on the same occasion by the same post to the proper office in. Dublin.


I was not in the House the other day when my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Augustine's Division of Kent (Mr. Akers-Douglas) explained what is the usual practice of the house with regard to moving Writs. My right hon. Friend explained that the Whip of the Party to whom the Member who vacates the seat belongs moves the Writ; but he might have gone further and said that that Writ should be moved within a reasonable time, and that it according to that custom the Whip, as announced, does not move the Writ, on it particular day, if that day allows of a fairly reasonable limit of time, that then any person who gives notice would be within his right in moving for the Writ. It is quite true that it is the right of the hon. Baronet, strictly speaking, to move this Writ; but it does seem to me that there is considerable force in the argument used by the hon. and gallant Member opposite that, having given notice to the hon. Baronet, the hon. Baronet has to some extent lost the right to oppose the issue of the Writ. I do hope that matters of this kind will be treated by all Parties in the House without any sort of heat or partisan feeling. It is to the convenience of Members of the House that these formal matters should be treated in a friendly, considerate, and forbearing manner; and I would appeal to the hon. Baronet opposite to give way and not to oppose the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member opposite, for that is a course that will be to the advantage of the progress of the business of the House.


I am sorry that the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury has seen fit to intervene in a matter upon which he is not sufficiently informed. The facts of the case are these: That without any notice to us of any sort or description the hon. and gallant Member for North Galway, without communicating with us, without communicating with the Tory Whips, without communicating with the Liberal Whips, without communicating with anybody, made his Motion upon Tuesday last. ["Hear, hear!"] We were hound to take exception to the Motion. We took exception to it upon the ground that he had moved in defiance of the House requiring two days' notice to be given that he was obliged to postpone his Motion. What were the facts? We waited until that Rule was put on the Paper by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We were bound to wait until we saw what the Rule was, and what the practice under that Rule would be. Some people may take different views; but when you are dealing with a matter that is more or less a matter of discretion, you have to consider the views of those who are acting upon a particular discretion. My hon. Friend did not put down his Motion for South Meath until he saw the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Paper. That was upon the Wednesday. He then, in order to give two days' notice, conceived he had to give two days' sitting notice. His notice did not appear on the Paper till Thursday. The two sitting days were Friday and Monday, and the soonest occasion on which he conceived be could make his Motion was Tuesday next. However, this is a matter, of course, in which the Conservative Party are even more interested than anybody else. They are as much interested in maintaining this matter as we are; so is the Liberal Party. It may he inconvenient to the Conservative Party, as it may be inconvenient to our Party, that Writs should be moved as vacancies occur; and if an inroad is to be made on what is laid down as the settled practice, there is an end altogether to the amenities which have hitherto prevailed in relation to this matter. It seems a fair thing to say, let both Writs go together to the Sheriff; and let him decide. But who is the Sheriff? The Sheriff is their loan, as every Tory official in Ireland is their man.


Every Tory official is not our man, nor every Whig either.


We, by reason of our position in the House—


I will not allow anything of that sort to be said.


We, by reason of our position in this House in regard to this matter, prefer to take one of these elections first. At the same time, the matter is in our carriage. We are the proper judges of a matter affecting our own Party—our own seats; and surely we are proper judges of our own domestic affairs. We do not seek to interfere in the affairs of the Tory Party or of the Liberal Party, and all we ask is Home Rule within our own Party.

MR. T. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)

said, he could scarcely congratulate the hon. Member upon the speech he had just made, in face of the appeals that had been made from different parts of the House not to import heat into the discussion. The explanation he Lad given was an explanation which might have some weight if they did not know that the same Whip of the hon. Member's Party had on the Paper for this evening a Motion with regard to North Meath, and though he antici- pated some opposition from the Conservative Benches of the House, it was a curious commentary upon the courtesy of hon. Members that the Conservative Members withdrew opposition to the notice and yet they declined to withdraw theirs. The South Meath Election Writ should have been moved before the North Meath Election Writ. The petition and the circumstances heard in the course of the case were decided in South Meath before they were in North Meath. He thought they would be safe in trusting the matter before the House to the sense of fair play of the House. They had endeavoured to take no advantage of their opponents. They were willing to go to Ireland together, and let the officials responsible for the carrying out of the elections select their own date. The elections could not take place on the same day; one would take place one or two days before the other. The Sheriff would have to make his arrangements, but in any case he thought they might well leave it to the fair sense of the House.

DR. KENNY (Dublin, College Green)

said he joined in the request to withdraw this opposition. The hon. Baronet had on the Paper a Motion respecting North Meath, put down in the full knowledge of all the facts, and surely he might have put down the Motion for South Meath at the same time, and avoided this conflict. The hon. Baronet was a gentleman of most courteous disposition, but they were all more or less creatures of their environment, and the hon. Baronet had his instructions from a quarter which was not disposed to extend to them that courtesy. He was bound to say that he recognised the position of the hon. Baronet, and he recognised the hand of the hon. and learned Member for Louth; the voice was the voice of Jacob, but the hand was the hand of Esau; and he ventured to appeal to the hon. Baronet to withdraw his opposition. All this contention had been raised over a matter of four days. He would venture again to ask those who thought they were stronger than his own Party, and who had accused them of wishing to take a political advantage, to withdraw their opposition to the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend.

MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)

said he was very glad to observe the temper and spirit in which this question had been discussed by the Irish Members who, had taken prominent sides in the dispute for, whatever might be the issue, he did not think it a question of sufficient magnitude to justify any angry spirit or any intemperate language. Now, he thought certain matters were beyond dispute. The first was that the original Motion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Galway was not justified by the usage of the House. The hon. Member had most frankly made an admission to that effect; in the second place, the question was whether his hon. Friend the Whip of their Party had used sufficient expedition in putting down a Motion for Tuesday next. He thought the argument of his hon. Friend the Member for North Louth had great force. The hon. Baronet was entitled to wait and see what was the nature and scope of the Sessional Orders. He would propose a compromise. It had been said by one of Ins hon. Friends that the Sheriff was their oppponent's man, and that observation had been resented. He would not take any partial position. The other side said the Sheriff was not their man, and the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had intimated that if the writs went together the elections would be held together. Well, if the elections were held together they were satisfied. What they wanted was that by no manipulation of the matter should the elections be held in succession to each other. Both sides believed that one division was more favourable to them than the other. He for Ins part, proposed, though he thought the hon. Baronet was well within Ins right, according to the spirit of the rule and usage, in fixing Tuesday next for the issue of the Writ—that if the hon. Member for Waterford and his friends would agree to assent to au arrangement by which the elections might be held on the same day, he would himself suggest to the hon. Baronet that he should withdraw his Motion, and that both the Writs should be issued together.


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir W. Harcourt) if Ins attention had been called to the fact that the Motion made, to which the House assented on Wednes- day last only, stood as a Sessional Order. He would suggest that the Order should be made a Standing Order of the House.


said he only followed the usual form and practice. He had moved it, he believed, as a Sessional Order, but the Speaker expressed an opinion that it ought to be a Standing Order. He thought that would be sufficient.

MR. J. REDMOND (Waterford)

said he wished to disclaim altogether any desire of manipulation which had been alluded to. The object of himself and friends in preventing the postponement of one Writ until Tuesday next, after the issue of another Writ to-day, was to prevent that sort of thing. If it was proposed to have the two elections on the same day, he would be very glad. He did not know whether it was possible or not, but certainly, so far as he was concerned, and so far as he could speak for others, no attempt whatever would be made by them to manipulate this matter, or to try and induce the Sheriff to have the election which they desired first put before the one which the hon. Member for Kerry desired first. Therefore he thought the matter might now be allowed to end, and the two Writs might be allowed to issue. He regretted that any heat had been imported into the matter at all, and that the two sections of the Nationalist Party, who differed on important subjects, should have differed in this small matter, which at one time approached the indignity of a scene. He hoped the motion of the hon. Baronet would be withdrawn, and that the Writs would be sent by the same post to the Sheriff, the matter to be left to him.


regretted that heat had been imported into the discussion. He agreed with the tone of the speech of the hon. Member for Kerry, but thought that if heat had been introduced it had not been through the fault of his own party. [Ministerial cries of "Oh!"] It was not the slightest use trying to howl him down. The Member for North Louth had attacked the party to which he belonged. The hon. Member said that the Party to which he belonged was supported by every Tory Official in Ireland. Well, if they wanted to raise the question now he was quite prepared to go on. The hon. Member also said the Sheriff was their man. The hon. Member had no warrant whatever for saying that the Sheriff was their man, any more than he was the man of the Party to which the hon. Member belonged. It had been said that the Sheriff favoured one particular Party: he certainly had not favoured their Party, and he did not believe he would favour the other Party. The Sheriff was perfectly impartial in the matter. He regretted that they could not have a discussion about these Writs without introducing Party matter, but so far as he was concerned, he deplored any friction whatever. When, however, he heard a thing said in that House about the Party to which he belonged which he knew not to be true, he would deny it at once and as strongly as he could. Therefore, while he completely agreed with suggestions made by various speakers—principally by the Member for Kerry—that this compromise should be adopted, he also took the opportunity of saving that whenever the Party to which he belonged was attacked in that House he would undoubtedly reply. He repudiated the suggestion that either Tory or Whig officials were on their side. He was not sent either by Whig or Tory to that House, but by the Nationalists of Clare, where he would be glad to meet the hon. Member at any time.

MR. T. D. SULLIVAN (Donegal, W.)

said, he desired only to say that if the Writs for these two seats were issued on the same day, most certainly the elections would not take place upon the same day. The Sheriff would not supply a new set of ballot boxes in order that two elections could take place on the same day. The House might depend on it that if the Writs were issued on the same day the elections would not be held on the same day, and, therefore, he thought the Motion ought not to be withdrawn.


As it seems to be the wish of my hon. Friends, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question put, and agreed to. Ordered, That Mr. Speaker do issue his Warrant to the Clerk of the Crown in h-eland to make out a New Writ fur the electing of a Member to serve in this present Parliament for the County of Meath, Southern Division, in the room of Patrick Fulham, esquire, whose election for the said County has been declared void.

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