§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I rise to move—That, on and after Friday next, until Easter the House do meet on Tuesday and Friday at Two o' clock, and that the provisions of Standing Order 56 be extended to the Morning Sittings on those days: Provided always, that if the Government of Ireland Bill be appointed for any of such days the House do meet at Three o'clock, and the proceedings on that Bill do have precedence of the Orders of the Day and Notices of Motion.There is a notice of Amendment by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), with respect to which we have determined to take a course which may do away with the necessity for discussion on my Motion. I know not what the opinion of other Members may be; but I confess it to have been long my opinion that no portion of the time of the House is more unsatisfactorily consumed than that portion which is spent, occasionally to the extent of an hour or two, in debating what we shall debate. On the principle of the economy of time it would be well to be free from all such discussions. When the question was first put to me, whether we could consent to postpone beyond to-morrow our Motion with respect to taking the time of the House on Tuesdays and Fridays, my answer was that it would be possible for us to make exception. Our duty is to consider what is the best bestowal of the time of the House that we can devise. Looking at the facts, and having received a good deal of information and light since last Friday as to the desire of hon. Members to speak on the question of bimetallism, I perceive 446 that it would not be fair to confine those hon. Members to a 9 o'clock Sitting. I do not mean that the hon. Members who desire to speak form a very large section of the House; but their number is considerable with reference to the hours available for the Debate, and therefore I do not think it wise to commence the operation of the change for which we ask until after to-morrow. I am glad to be in a position to do what may be convenient for the right hon. Member for the Sleaford Division, but, at the same time, I do not wish to take any credit for acceding to his wish and adopting the words of his Amendment. He will readily understand my position when I say that I find the number of hon. Members who are fairly entitled to ask for an opportunity of laying their views on this question of bimetallism before the House to be such that we should not be justified in resisting the right hon. Gentleman's demand. Therefore, I propose to adopt the terms of his Amendment, and to make the change come into operation until Easter, "on and after Friday next." I propose, also, to exempt from the operation of the change any afternoon for which the Second Reading of the Irish Government Bill may be set down, because it would not be satisfactory to the House that the Debate on the Second Reading of that Bill should be prosecuted at Morning Sittings on Tuesdays and Fridays. I feel it to be absolutely my duty to ask the House to give precedence to the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill on any day on which it may be put down. I think it will be felt that the custom of the House has been, in the case of Bills of great importance, to grant such precedence; but in the case of a measure of such great, such overwhelming importance I might almost say, as this, I think it is quite clear—and I believe it will be agreeable to the general sense of the House—that precedence should be given. I am afraid I cannot make any concession with regard to the Amendment of which notice has been given, which precedes that of the right hon. Member for Sleaford, as it strikes at the root of the demand which I am about to make. I ought to say that there is a good deal of Government Business to be got through before Easter, which it is necessary for the advantage and well-being of the country, and, perhaps, in 447 some degree, for the honour of the House as an Assembly of men of business, that we should despatch. For this reason we feel it absolutely incumbent upon us to make the request we now submit. The House is pretty well aware of the measures with regard to which we have stages to take; but, of course, among them a very prominent place is occupied by the numerous Supplementary Estimates that are already in the hands of Members, and by the Army and Navy Estimates, on which the initial Debates must be taken. There is, we think, ample justification for the course we are taking, and which it will probably be necessary to repeat in connection with the Second Reading and following stages of the Government of Ireland Bill.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, on and after Friday next, until Easter the House do meet on Tuesday and Friday at Two o'clock, and that the provisions of Standing Order 56 be extended to the Morning Sittings on those days: Provided always, that if the Government of Ireland Bill be appointed for any of such days the House do meet at Three o'clock, and the proceedings on that Bill do have precedence of the Orders of the Day and Notices of Motion."—(Mr. W. E. Gladstone.)
§ MR. SETON-KARR (St. Helen's)
rose to move as an Amendment to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and add—it is both unnecessary and inexpedient that at this early period of the Session the Government should take any portion of the time of Private Members for Government Business.He said he intended to record his vote against the Motion of the First Lord of the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman had taken the wind out of the sails of the bimetallists, but that had not affected the principle on which his (Mr. Seton-Karr's) opposition was based; and in regard to the infringement of the rights of private Members, it amounted to the same thing whether the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division (Mr. Chaplin) was accepted or not. The Government had practically monopolised the whole of the time of the House — with the exception of four Sittings—from the commencement of the Session. They now proposed under the terms of the Motion after Friday next to take the whole time of the House up to Easter with the exception of one Evening 448 Sitting. He was at a loss to understand for what reason or on what principle the right hon. Gentleman proposed to inflict what he could only describe as a wanton and unnecessary outrage on the rights of private Members. He would recall the circumstances of the case. The time appeared to have arrived when the rights of private Members required to be asserted in the House. During a portion of the time of the last Parliament the rights of private Members were allowed to fall into abeyance. Perhaps it was because the late Government had such a large majority. But if that were so, and if for that reason the two Front Benches entered into a coalition to deprive private Members of their rights, all he could say was that that condition of things did not exist now. Her Majesdy's Government had not got so large a majority as at one time they anticipated; and whether that was the direct reason or not, he ventured to think that now, being the commencement of a new Parliament, was the time for private Members to combine together to lay down some principle for the regulation of the time of the House under which their rights would be respected. The Session was barely four weeks old, and they were being rushed headlong through the Business of the House. The Debate on the Address had occupied 10 days, six of which occurred in one week to suit the convenience of right hon. Gentlemen opposite. In 1887, 1888, 1889, and 1890, during the time of the late Government, the average length of the Debate on the Address was 12 nights, and on two of those occasions the Debate was only terminated by means of the Closure —of course he did not take account of the Autumn Session of 1890 or the two Sessions of 1892, when the energies of the Opposition, instead of being concentrated in the House, were spread throughout the country. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite no doubt thought that 10 nights was a reasonable amount of time to spend on the Address; but in 1887 they did not think so, for in that year the Debate occupied 16 nights, and was only terminated by the application of the Closure. He referred to this particularly, because the circumstances of that day were in many respects similar to those of the present time. The Government of the day were about to introduce a Bill of the first importance, 449 which was strongly opposed by the Opposition led by the right hon. Gentleman the present Prime Minister. The present Government were introducing a measure of the first magnitude, which was bitterly opposed by hon. gentlemen sitting on that (the Opposition) side of the House. It was war to the knife between them. And yet if they turned back to the records of this parallel Session, they would find that the Debate on the Address occupied 16 nights. He should like to call the attention of the House to the circumstances under which that Debate was concluded. This was what was reported in Hansard in regard to February 17th, 1887—the 16th night of the Debate—Mr. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)rose, whenMr. SPEAKER: It is my opinion that this subject has been adequately discussed—that it is the evident sense of the House that this subject has been fully and fairly debated. It is my duty accordingly to inform the House of that opinion.Upon that the Leader of the House rose to move the Closure, and it was only after he had done that twice, and the House had divided four times, that the Debate terminated. Now, if anything of that kind had happened during the present Parliament, he would have been able to understand that there was some justification for it. But nothing of the sort had occurred. The House had agreed without a murmur to everything the Prime Minister had proposed. Not only had they sat for six nights in the second week of the Session, but they had allowed the whole of the following week, except Wednesday, to be devoted to the introduction of the Home Rule Bill, and then, instead of dividing on the First Reading, they had allowed it to pass without a Division. It seemed to him they had given up everything they could give up to the right hon. Gentleman, and now, having made these demands on their patience, the climax was reached when private Members were asked after Friday next to give up practically the whole of their days to the Government. He ventured to think that the Government were displaying a despotic, tyrannical temper in dealing with the rights of private Members. Only the other night the President of the Board of Trade made a most brutal attempt— 450 [cries of "Oh!"]—he only used the word in a Parliamentary sense—to pass the Railway Hours Bill. It was a quarter to 12 o'clock when the right hon. Gentleman rose to move the Second Reading of the Bill, and he absolutely went so far as to move the Closure before 12 o'clock, for which he received from Mr. Speaker a well-merited rebuke.
§ MR. J. E. ELLIS
Mr. Speaker, I' ask you if you did not say that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade was justified in the course he took?
§ MR. SETON-KARR
regretted that in his ignorance he had transgressed the Rules of the House, but his point was not affected by this incident. His point was that an attempt had been made by the President of the Board of Trade to pass the Railway Hours Bill without discussion.
§ MR. SETON-KARR
said the President of the Board of Trade had moved the Closure, but Mr. Speaker had declined to put the Question. The tyrannical procedure of the Government seemed to him to arise from their having put down the Home Rule Bill for such a very early day, leaving only a short time for the discussion of several most important questions. This Bill was being made an engine of tyranny to trample on the rights of private Members. They had heard of the despotism of the ancient Assyrian King, but Nebuchadnezzar and his image of gold were quite thrown into the shade by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Did they expect hon. Members to bow down and worship the Home Rule Bill? What was the meaning of this conduct on the part of the Government? Everybody knew that they had to deal with an innocent and guileless Opposition, but they were trying to take an unfair advantage of that Opposition. Innocence and guilelessness might be very admirable qualities, but they might be carried too far, and the Opposition would be carrying them too 451 far if they submitted to this restriction of the rights of private Members. It had always been the rule that private Members' rights should not be interfered with except for urgent reasons such as arrear of Public Business or lateness of the Session, but neither of those reasons could be urged at the present moment. Members were sent to the House for other reasons besides giving support to Parties. In many cases they were pledged to the people who sent them to Parliament to bring forward social and other questions of great importance for discussion. Matters of that kind might be of small importance to a powerful Government, but they were of importance to individual constituencies. There was a case in point—bimetallism—in regard to which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House had given way. He had made a concession to the principle he (Mr. Seton-Karr) was advocating. Other questions might arise between now and the Second Reading of the Home Rule Bill. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman had disarmed one set of opponents by the concession he had made, but why were other Members who were interested in subjects which their constituents had charged them to bring forward to be left out in the cold? It seemed to him very much as though the Government had been making a Concession to the Front Opposition Bench. He stood there as a private Member, and he asked other private Members on both sides of the House to support his opposition to the Motion. He asked them to do so in their own interest. A point made against private Members was, that they were sometimes counted out, but that, he submitted, had absolutely nothing to do with the question. The time of private Members was their own, and they were entitled to make what use of it they chose. They all knew it was the luck of the Ballot which gave precedence to particular Motions. It might be an important or burning question which obtained a place, or one which interested very few Members; but whether the House counted itself out or not was a question for private Members alone to decide or to concern themselves about. Many people, indeed, thought that the House of Commons was better occupied in counting itself out than in doing any- 452 thing else. He had been referring to some authorities on this question, and one of the most interesting he found to be the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). The hon. Gentleman was always a jealous guardian of rights of private Members. When a Motion of this kind was brought forward by the late Government the House was not large enough to contain the hon. Member's indignation, and the English language hardly had words strong enough to enable him to give expression to his feelings. On April 18th, 1888, a Motion was brought forward by the late-lamented Leader of the House, to give precedence over Notices of Motion to the Local Government Bill, which was then at the Second Reading stage. The hon. Member for Northampton rose in his place and opposed the Motion, and amongst other things he said—The ordinary usage was, that private Members' days were only taken for the Second Reading of opposed Bills which involved the fate of the Government, and that was not the case at present.This was an argument brought forward by the hon. Member against infringement of the rights of the hon. Members. The Employers' Liability Bill, which was down for discussion on Second Reading, and would be taken probably at a Morning Sitting, was a Bill as to the principle of which everybody was agreed. It could not be said, therefore, that the fate of the Government was involved in that. The Welsh Suspensory Bill might be put down for Second Reading, but that measure was only a theoretical propostion. It was an open secret that the introduction of that Bill had served a very useful purpose, and that it would not be proceeded with; at any rate, it could not be called a Bill involving the fate of the Government. He submitted, therefore, on the principle laid down by the hon. Member for Northampton, that the Motion was absolutely unnecessary at the present time. There were other authorities on the point. The right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the House had himself given some very authoritative statements on the subject of the invasion of private Members' rights. On the night to which he had already alluded— namely, April 13th, in the Session of 1888, the right hon. Gentleman, dealing with the Motion before the House, said— 453The right hon. Gentleman"—that was the then Leader of the House, Mr. W. H. Smith—"appeared to assume that there was no way of interfering with the rights of private Members, except the appropriation of entire Sittings. There was another mode of abridging very greatly the time that private Members had at their disposal—namely, by means of Morning Sittings.He (Mr. Seton-Karr) quoted these words of the right hon. Gentleman to show that, according to his own statement, the present Motion was one which would abridge the rights of private Members. And it must not be forgotten that the Motion of Mr. W. H. Smith was brought forward on the 13th April. The House could calculate for itself how much later that was than the period at which they had now arrived. The precedent of the discussion of the Rules of Procedure in 1887 might be referred to, and he would say at once that he admitted that the Rules were made a special case. The time of private Members was taken for two or three days early in the Session in order to facilitate the passing of the Rules, but it was admitted on all hands— even by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) himself—that there was good and sufficient reason for it. What happened on that occasion did not interfere with the present argument. The right hon. Gentleman had gone on to say—However, be did not wish to discuss that matter further than to say that he thought that the arrangement of the Business of the House with regard to its division between the Government and private Members was a matter which had reached a point—after the experience of last year and the initial experience of this—which made it very necessary that it should in a very short time be made the subject of general consideration.From that day to this the right hon. Gentleman had done nothing to bring about the "general consideration" of which he had spoken. He had admitted that the subject was one which required consideration, and on the 13th April, 1888, he had gone so far as to say that the Government of the day, in taking the course they were proposing, were invading the rights of private Members. If that was the case then, how much more was it the case now—six weeks earlier in the year? He (Mr. Seton-Karr) had endeavoured to explain some of the grounds on which he was opposed to the Motion. The right hon. Gentleman told 454 the House that he would give them Evening Sittings. Well, he (Mr. Seton-Karr) ventured respectfully to assert that Evening Sittings were a delusion and a sham. The right hon. Gentleman had given them a guarantee the other night that he would make a House on Tuesday evenings, and both make and keep a House on Friday evenings; but though he (Mr. Seton-Karr) did not impugn the sincerity of the Government, he would not invest a farthing on the strength of the guarantee. There had always been an implied contract that the Government should make a House at a 9 o'clock Sitting. They now entered into an express contract that they would make a House on Tuesdays, and make and keep one on Fridays. But what redress would private Members have if they did not carry out this guarantee? The Government might summon their colleagues to attend at 9 o'clock; but the question was whether they would remain in the House. It was quite possible that a House would be made by the Government at 9 o'clock, and cheerfully counted out at a quarter past 9. He submitted that a private Member, who was thrust into an Evening Sitting on the chance of being counted out soon after 9 o'clock, was not being treated fairly and properly. It was the duty of the Government to show that they had the most urgent reasons before they compelled private Members to submit to such treatment. He appealed to private Members on both sides of the House to support his opposition to the Motion. The other day, when the Prime Minister asked for two private nights in the third week of the Session, some of the Dockyard Representatives on the opposition side of the House made a forcible protest, and asked for better opportunities for bringing forward their questions. He confessed he was surprised at the innocence of those hon. Members, who ought to have known better. Did they think that private Members, by making appeals to Cabinet Ministers, could get any satisfaction? If private Members wanted to retain their rights, they must fight for their own hand. It took a very short experience of the House of Commons to teach Members that Cabinet Ministers and ex-Cabinet Ministers—for they were both tarred with the same brush — were, 455 politically speaking, absolutely without conscience, scruple, or remorse. Some time ago, on three occasions, he had an opportunity of bringing forward a subject on which he was interested. Thrice he was counted out, and on the third occasion he was requested by a Cabinet Minister to withdraw his proposal. He was told that he would get a better opportunity later on, and that it would be much better for his subject if he dropped it for a short time. He most innocently and ignorantly deferred to this suggestion, but had never had another opportunity of bringing it forward. He mentioned this experience for the benefit of other private Members. He remembered that on the occasion of the Evening Sitting at which he might have brought forward his Motion had he not withdrawn it, when the House met the Government Bench was conspicuous by its emptiness; but a House was made by Radical Members who had got wind of the situation. These Members had spent a considerable sum of money in 6d. and other telegrams in getting a large body of supporters together, and in five minutes they passed more pernicious and dangerous legislation than they had been able to do for five years previously, or would be able to do during any succeeding five years. This incident showed the evil of having these Evening Sittings. He appealed for the support of Members opposite as well as of Members on his own side of the House. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had always opposed the two Front Benches on these questions, and he asked him to do the same now. The hon. Member used, when he was in opposition, to taunt the Conservatives with being a flock of sheep who were only fit to bleat and have their throats cut. He asked the hon. Member, and those Members who were sitting behind him, if they wished to call their political souls their own, to oppose the Government on this occasion. He had placed an Amendment on the Paper, but had been informed on the high authority of the Speaker that it was practically out of Order. He should like to ask if he might move the Amendment with the addition of the words "prior to the Second Reading of the Government of Ireland Bill." If he were in Order he would move his Amendment as it stood.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Amendment as it stands is out of Order, for reasons I have communicated to the hon. Gentleman. The Government propose to take the time of hon. Members at this early period of the Session, and the hon. Gentleman says in his proposed Amendment it is inexpedient to take the time of hon. Members at this early period of the Session. That is only a mere expanded negative in another form, and the hon. Gentleman knows that a mere negative cannot be moved as an Amendment. The hon. Gentleman may, however, move to reject the Motion in its final shape.
§ MR. SETON-KARR
I bow to your ruling, Sir, and make a final appeal to private Members to prevent the right hon. Gentleman destroying their rights and making nonsense of the Rules of the House.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, he had always been a strenuous supporter of the rights of private Members. The hon. Member who had just sat down had expressed a hope that he would remain the same now as he was in the last Parliament. Principle sat enthroned always on the Radical side below the Gangway; but it must be remembered that when he opposed the Motions of the late Mr. Smith, it was because that gentleman was always desirous of taking entire days from private Members. He (Mr. Labouchere) had always supported proposals for taking Morning Sittings, because he thought that they in no sort of way interfered with the rights of private Members. Under the present Rules private Members had 24½ hours a week, including the hour taken four times a week in asking questions, while the Government had only 15 hours. This was obviously entirely wrong. The Government ought certainly to have more time than private Members, and it could not be said that if they left a fair amount of time to private Members each week they ultimately invaded the time of private Members. He himself should be glad if the Prime Minister proposed as a Standing Order that throughout the whole Session Morning Sittings should take place on Tuesdays and Fridays, and the Government should have the Morning Sittings on those days. He had regretted to learn that the Prime Minister was going to allow a day Sitting to be taken up with a discussion on bimetallism. 457 Surely three hours was enough for a Debate on that question. It was said that at the present moment lunatic asylums were populated with those who fell victims to bimetallism. For his own part, he should just as soon think of devoting a day to a discussion on abstract love as to a Debate on bimetallism. The right hon. Gentleman had thrown out a suggestion that he would adopt the same course in Committee on the Home Rule Bill as on the Second Reading, and take the whole of private Members' days.
§ MR. W. E GLADSTONE
I did not say I would ask for the whole time of ordinary Sittings, although I said I might ask for precedence.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he objected to the whole of a private Members' day being taken for the discussion of Government Bills, even as an exception, because it happened that Members on the Ministerial side of the House had important Motions down on two evenings which might be appropriated for the discussion of the Home Rule Bill—one relating to Railway rates and the other to payment of Members. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would grant Evening Sittings on those two days. It had been said that Evening Sittings were objectionable, because the House might be counted out. He himself had never been able to understand why the Government should make a House on Tuesdays or Fridays. If a Motion was an important one, surely the Member who made it could find 40 Members to support him. Whilst, if it were unimportant, he did not see why gentlemen should be dragged down in order to make a House for some private Member, when they knew it would be counted out half an hour afterwards. He hoped the Government would take Morning Sittings for the Second Reading Debate on the Home Rule Bill. They would gain nothing, in his opinion, by appropriating a whole day, rather than a Morning Sitting. The House might, perhaps, lose one or two speeches, which would be made in a somewhat thin House, when most Members were at dinner, but one could bear the loss of them, and he did not think the Government would gain a single day by the course they now proposed to adopt.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, he had always endeavoured to support the rights of private, or, as he thought they ought to be called, "unofficial" Members. He thought this was an occasion on which they should support one another in maintaining their distinct rights. Private, or unofficial Members, were an important part of that House; they were the majority in it, and they should hang together in supporting their rights. His hon. Friend had said they were not there as pawns merely to vote as they were told, but they were sent there to represent the various social and other questions in which their constituents were interested and without which, after all, this great nation could not advance. It was quite true the late Government did on one or two occasions take certain time from unofficial or private Members, but they had special reasons for doing so. The present Government, however, were doing it in an altogether different manner, and it was obvious their intention was practically to silence private Members. Reference had been made to the Debate which took place on the 21st April, 1888, on the proposal by the late Government to take Friday evening in each week, for the special purpose of hastening the passage of the Local Government Bill. He would point out that that Motion was moved at the end of April, 1888, whereas the present Motion was being moved before they had reached the end of February, so that there was an enormous difference between the two cases. In the Debate on this question of private Members' time, which took place in April, 1888, the present Prime Minister, referring to the observations of the hon. Baronet the Member for South St. Pancras, said that the hon. Member was absolutely and entirely wrong in stating it had been the practice of Liberal Governments to take private Members' nights for the Second Reading of important Bills. His experience (the right hon. Gentleman added) was that when a Liberal Government was in Office nothing was so rare as the interference with private Members' nights for continuous Debates. And yet before this Parliament had been going on for a whole month the right hon. Gentleman insisted on taking practically the whole time of the House. Let him remind hon. Members what had taken place already this 459 Session. The Address had been voted in a most remarkably short time, and then they were made to sit on Saturday in order that the Member for Thanet (Mr. J. Lowther) might bring on his Motion relating to pauper aliens—this being the only opportunity that was given for the discussion of this most important subject. The Address was voted on the Saturday, and then the Government took the whole of the Tuesday and Friday following for the introduction of the Home Rule Bill. Hon. Members below the Gangway, who used to be so fond of denouncing the late Government for the slightest interference with the time of private Members, now sat dumb, and were willing to allow the whole time of the House to be taken, whilst even the Member for Northampton acknowledged that he was going to follow the Party Whip. What was the excuse the Government gave for their proposal? It was that their Business was very important, but there never was a Government yet that did not announce to the House that their Business was important. If the Government had proposed to vote Supply there might be some possible reason for this Motion, but they did not want the time for that purpose. [Cries of "Divide!"] If hon. Members below the Gangway thought he was going to be howled down they were mistaken. The fact was that the Government and the Irish Members were afraid of going into Supply; they no doubt desired to take a Vote on Account and to relegate Supply to some period about the end of August. The Government said they were particularly anxious to press forward their Home Rule Bill. They knew perfectly well that Bill would be defeated, and that it would lead to an appeal to the country, and if there was one thing the Liberal Party wished to avoid more than another it was an appeal to the country. This sacrificing of the time of private Members was not done with the intention of pressing on the various measures which the Government had in charge, for could any sane man suppose that this Parliament was going to get through the Home Rule Bill, the Welsh Disestablishment Bill, a Scotch Disestablishment Bill, Local Option, One Man One Vote, the Payment of Members, and a Registration Bill? It was absolutely impossible, and the reason why private Members rights had 460 been taken away was not to carry on the Business of the nation, but to keep the present Government in power. On Thursday night the Prime Minister was somewhat annoyed at the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington (Lord R. Churchill) speaking so long as he did. The noble Lord made a most remarkable speech. [Cries of "Question!"] It was very much to the question, and the Prime Minister objected that there was not time for him to answer it. The right hon. Gentleman consumed a great part of the half-hour in which he had to speak in explaining he had not time to meet the arguments of the noble Lord. He did not wonder at it, because he was not able to meet them. But why did not the right hon. Gentleman agree to adjourn the Debate on Welsh Disestablishment? and then he would have had time to answer the arguments. Again, seven hours was surely too short a time to allow of the discussion for such an important subject as Welsh Disestablishment. It seemed to him private Members ought to make a great stand in defence of their rights. [Cries of "Divide!"] They were not going to be howled down. He thought it was clear that during the past month the Opposition had been a great deal too mild, and it had been shown that the more they gave way the more they should be trodden down. He warned the Prime Minister that private Members, if they were to be treated this way, would resist in every possible manner; they would not allow this sort of thing to go on, but would insist on doing those duties which they had been sent to the House to perform.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I want to make a little explanation which, owing to a misapprehension, I omitted to make in my opening statement. An Amendment has been given notice of by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to confine the Morning Sittings to the principal Business connected with Supply and the introduction of Bills. I said that I wished for a more elastic arrangement. My motive was simply and solely this: to get forward and bring to a conclusion the Debate on the Employers' Liability Bill. I did not feel certain that it would be possible to do this in an Evening Sitting. But I am perfectly willing to give a pledge not to introduce any other stage beyond 461 the introduction of Bills, except as regards the Employers' Liability Bill, and I think it is felt that that is a great measure in which we ought to join hands.
§ MR. HUNTER (Aberdeen, N.)
said, the impression prevailed among many hon. Members that in this matter the Government were asking too much. The suggestion that had been made by the hon. Member for Northampton, that the Government should be content with the Morning Sittings, was one which, he thought, would meet the necessities of the case so far as the Government interests were concerned, and, at the same time, would not wholly and entirely extinguish private Members. Let him remind the right hon. Gentleman that the very first Motion which he extinguished by his present proposal was one dealing with a most urgent and most important question—namely, the question of railway rates. That was a subject which affected Ireland as much as England, if not more. It was a question which affected every trader throughout the country; and unless they could get the question discussed on Tuesday, the 14th March, it was perfectly hopeless to have any discussion on the subject during the present Session.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
(interposing) said, he desired to move an Amendment which would come before the Amendment which he presumed the hon. Gentleman was going to move. He understood the hon. Gentleman was going to move to exclude Tuesday, the 14th March, but he (Mr. Macartney) intended to move to exclude Tuesday, the 7th March.
§ MR. HUNTER
said, the Amendment he should move was to omit the proviso altogether, and that would cover the hon. Member's case. He wished to make this appeal to the Government. He said they were in the presence of a legislative fiasco the like of which was not known in the memory of man. They had had the traders of this country and the Railway Companies spending thousands of pounds and engaging in continuous litigation for three years; and he was sure if the traders of this country expected no good from this legislation, at all events they expected no evil. But the result had proved that this legislation which was supposed to be for the benefit of the traders had proved to be solely a protection for the most exorbitant charges 462 on the part of the Railway Companies, and he had letters from all parts of the country showing that business was being disturbed, and that merchants were sending telegrams abroad stopping orders because the rates were completely opposed to the calculations on which their business transactions were based. They might be told that the Board of Trade were attending to this matter. He should have more confidence in the Board of Trade if he had ever seen that the President of the Board of Trade understood the nature of the crisis which has arisen. But he had watched that right hon. Gentleman in 1888 and since and he had never seen or heard anything from him that would convince him that the right hon. Gentleman understood the nature of the question; therefore, he for one was not disposed to leave this question under the sole protection of the President of the Board of Trade. On the contrary, he thought it was most urgent that the House should have an opportunity of expressing its views to the Board of Trade; and those gentlemen who represented large trading interests would incur a great responsibility towards the traders of this country if they did not insist that some opportunity should be given during the present Session for the consideration of this question. That was not the only question on which Members on that side of the House were interested. They had also a Motion for the payment of Members; and if the Government would say they were prepared to introduce a measure providing for the payment of Members, it would be unnecessary to proceed with that Motion. Private Members on that side of the House, while-prepared to give ample time to the Government, would insist on having some time left to themselves. He ventured to say, if the House would adopt his Amendment to omit the proviso, they would be doing justice both to the Government and private Members. He begged to move that the proviso be omitted.
§ MR. HANBURY (Preston)
seconded the Amendment to omit the proviso, which, he said would get rid of the worst feature of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal. He did not know that it was a very great hardship to private Members when there were Evening Sittings at which they had two or three hours for ventilating their grievances, but it was 463 undoubtedly hard when the whole time of private Members was taken away. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would meet them on this point. Those who were interested in the question of railway rates had ballotted day after day in order to get time to deal with this pressing subject, and after considerable difficulty they got Tuesday, the 14th March. That, however, happened to be the very first day which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to seize for his Home Rule Bill. The right hon. Gentleman had already given way on the subject of bimetallism, and did he not think this large question which affected the whole of the traders of this country and the Railway Companies was much more important than the question of bimetallism? Bimetallism was a subject on which there was a great diversity of opinion; but on the subject of railway rates, and the way in which past legislation in that House had been dealt with, there was hardly a dissentient voice in the House. He fully concurred with the last speaker in supposing the President of the Board of Trade was wholly mistaken in the way he was going to deal with this question.
§ MR. SPEAKER
(interposing): The action of the President of the Board of Trade is not relevant to this Motion.
§ MR. HANBURY
could only say he protested against legislation which did injury and harm to the traders of this country.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out all the words after the words "those days" to the end of the Question. — (Mr. Hunter.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK (London University)
said, ever since he had had the honour of a seat in that House he had always opposed those Motions for taking the time of private Members, and he had never done so with more confidence than on the present occasion. He thought the House would see he was bound to offer a strenuous opposition to the Motion made by the right hon. Gentleman. If the hon. Member would look at the Resolution in favour of which the Government had made an exception, they would see that the operative part of it was whether a Conference as to the monetary 464 system, which was to meet in May, should meet somewhat sooner. Now, seeing that some members of that Conference were coming from the United States and Russia, it was practically impossible for the Conference to meet earlier, and yet that was the subject which the Government made an exception in favour of. Now, on the 21st of March he had, after ballotting for some years, been fortunate enough to get the first place for his Motion for the earlier closing of shops. A Royal Commission and two Committees of that House had considered this question, and what did they say? They told them that there were thousands of men and women at the present moment working for 80 and 90 hours a week. That was a state of things which affected the health of these unfortunate shop assistants. It was not part of the Newcastle Programme, like the long hours of railway servants—
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Baronet is now speaking on a subject quite foreign to the Motion.
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK
said, he only referred to the hours of railway servants as a parenthesis, and he presumed he was in order in pointing out the importance of his Resolution, which affected the health of thousands of persons, as a reason why it should not come under the operation of the Motion moved by the Prime Minister. The most intense interest was taken in the Resolution by the shop assistants and small shopkeepers throughout the country. They were anxious to obtain shorter hours. They could not obtain these shorter hours except by legislation, and now that, after having ballotted for a place for the Resolution for Sessions, they had been fortunate in securing a first place, the Government was about to take it away from them. Other important Resolutions would also be affected by the Motion. On the 7th March a Resolution in reference to arbitration was on the Paper, Petitions in support of which had been received from 57 out of 62 Trades Councils in the country, and on the 10th March there was a Resolution which had an important relation to the subject before the House, calling attention to—The great and growing difficulty in the way of legislation by private Members of the House under the present Rules of Procedure.465 He would not allude to the question of railway rates, because that had been well dealt with by previous speakers. The House would, therefore, see that on every 'private Members' night affected by the Motion there was a question of great and pressing importance to be brought under the notice of the House; but with reference to the particular Resolution of which he had charge, he would not be doing his duty to the shopkeepers and assistants of the country if he did not make his most respectful, and at the same time most earnest, protest against the proposal of the Government to take away from them the night they had at last secured for the consideration of this great and growing evil.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
said, the tone of the Leader of the House in moving the Motion had been most conciliatory; but he had always observed that when a Leader of the House desired to do something dangerous to the rights of Members or to infringe the ancient customs of the House, he adopted a most conciliatory tone. He admitted that some of the arguments of the Prime Minister were plausible in the extreme, but he did not think the right hon. Gentleman was justified at that time of the Session in asking private Members to sacrifice the days they had been fortunate enough to secure in the Ballot. The right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Lubbock) had expressed surprise at the Prime Minister excepting the Resolution on bimetallism from his Motion. The right hon. Gentleman had said that he had received a good deal of light and information on that subject recently. Perhaps that was owing to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman, like other Members of the House, had received a circular containing Archbishop Walsh's views on bimetallism. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman was aware that there were a number of Nationalist Members desirous of expounding the views of Archbishop Walsh on bimetallism; and therefore knowing the influence which that Prelate had on the deliberations of the Government, he did not share the hon. Baronet's surprise that the Prime Minister should have excluded bimetallism from the operation of the Motion. But if the Prime Minister had conciliated the bimetallists, he had not 466 gone far enough—for the right hon. Gentleman had not conciliated him. He had got a Motion on the Paper which affected the agricultural interests at large of the whole Kingdom, and which hon. Members on both sides of the House favoured. He would be precluded by the Prime Minister's Motion from calling attention to this matter which demanded instant attention, and he had, therefore, every right to complain. But he proposed to show by precedents which had occurred in recent years that private Members had never been asked to give up their days at so early a period in the Session. In 1891, when the Government moved a similar Motion, they had only three Government days before Easter; in 1892 they had only eight Government days before Easter and only four days before the 31st March, the last day on which they could introduce the Appropriation Bill. This year there were nine Government days available. He was also prepared to show that the Financial Business of the Government was in a very much better position than the Financial Business of the late Government had been when they made their demand last year for the time of private Members. Last year there were 26 Votes to be taken; this year there were only 21 Votes, and they were not nearly so contentious as the Votes of last year, for the right hon. Gentleman was aware that the most contentious Vote this Session had been so arranged that hon. Members would not be able to raise a discussion on it at all. But the right hon. Gentleman proposed to devote some of the days he would obtain under the Motion not to Supply but to the Government of Ireland Bill. If Supply were urgent it stood to reason that the right hon. Gentleman ought not to be able to put down the Irish Government Bill on Tuesdays and Fridays, and if, on the other hand, Supply was not urgent, there was not one single argument for the Motion which the right hon. Gentleman had asked the House to adopt. The Chief Secretary for Ireland, in a Debate on a similar Motion which took place in 1890, laid it down that a demand of this kind was unprecedented unless the Business of the Government was in an unsatisfactory condition, and the Prime Minister was unable to show that the position of the Government in the 467 matter of Business was not better than the position of the last Government on the occasions when they had demanded the time of private Members. He further opposed this Motion on the ground that the policy of the present Government was based on principles which had never obtained in any Government before. The Prime Minister had told them in his speech on the Welsh Suspensory Bill that neither he nor the Government ever looked to the merits of a Bill, or whether it was just or fair or prudent but that they looked merely to the votes that measure would catch. The right hon. Gentleman had made the singular confession that if the Welsh Members were to change their minds on the question of the Disestablishment of the Church, he was quite prepared to change his mind with them. The other Bill which the right hon. Gentleman desired to promote —the Government of Ireland Bill—was not understood by the Liberal Party. [Cries of "Order!"] He would not go outside the proper limits of the discussion, and, in conclusion, he would say that he opposed the Motion not only on the ground that the right hon. Gentleman proposed to take away a day he had secured for the discussion of a proposal of great importance and affecting large interests in the Kingdom, but also because the right hon. Gentleman was not justified by the state of Public Business and the condition of the legislative proposals of the Government to ask for so large a concession of the rights of private Members.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
said, he hoped the Prime Minister would accept the Amendment of his hon. Friend (Mr. Hunter). During the last Parliament, when the hon. Member for Northampton and himself moved Amendments to Motions similar to that before the House, they had been supported by a large number of hon. Gentlemen now sitting on the Treasury Bench, and strongly opposed by hon. Gentlemen like the hon. Member for Islington (Mr. Bartley) on the other side of the House. But he and his hon. Friend had not changed their opinion with their seats like hon. Gentlemen opposite. If the Government persisted in taking the whole of the time of the House private Members would be compelled to raise the questions in which 468 they were interested on Supply; and if the Government did what the late Government had done—put down Supply at the end of the Session, when there was no time for discussion—the opportunity of the Debate on the Address at the opening of next Session would be seized by private Members to bring forward what the right hon. Gentleman looked upon as Votes of Censure on the Government as the only means of getting their grievances attended to. A pledge had been given by the last Government that the Report of Supply or any other Financial Business should not be taken after 1 o'clock on days on which the Morning Sittings were used by the Government. He wished to know whether that pledge would be adhered to by the present Government?
MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
Mr. Speaker, there is one thing that will be admitted by hon. Members in all parts of the House, and that is, that the invasion of the rights of unofficial Members has been steadily progressing on the part of the various Governments of the day. I appeal to the Prime Minister to turn his back upon the vicious precedents of recent years, and I invite him to go back to those sounder Parliamentary precedents when he first led the House of Commons. It was my good fortune to enter the House at the time that the right hon. Gentleman succeeded Lord Palmerston as Leader of the House, and I think I may with some confidence appeal to him to be guided more by precedents of those days than by precedents of a more recent origin. It has been said that unofficial Members have availed themselves of opportunities which should be placed entirely at the disposal of the Government, and as an instance reference was made to the Debate on the Address. Well, I have often remarked that where attempts are made to unduly curtail the rights and privileges and opportunities of unofficial Members in one direction, their views find a vent in another direction. The Government do not require to be told that sitting on the safety-valve is not a safe method of advancing their rate of speed. The old practice of the House was that every Member—be his position what it might—had an inalienable right of pressing grievances before Supply; but some years ago that privilege was unduly, 469 and, in my opinion, very unwisely, curtailed, and step by step inroads have been made on the rights of unofficial Members. Unofficial Members have their duties to discharge towards their constituents and towards their own consciences just as much as Governments have; and if they are debarred from calling attention to grievances in a constitutional manner prior to Supply, they are perfectly justified in availing themselves of their remaining opportunities for raising discussions. Why, I ask, is it the interest of the Government that they should procure the whole time of the House? Is it because Governments of these days are more ambitious and are not content to advance at the same steady rate of speed as satisfied their predecessors. In the times of which I spoke, when the right hon. Gentleman first led the House, Governments did not seek to compass the Disestablishment of Churches and the disintegration of Empires with the rapidity of greased lightning. If they introduced momentous measures they did so with adequate explanation, and subject to proper discussion; and they allowed Parliament the full opportunity to deliberate upon them; they introduced such measures in limited numbers, and they did not attempt to force them at racing speed through the House of Commons. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman's knowledge of healthier precedents. I was glad to see that the knowledge of Parliamentary practice and Constitutional Law, which the right hon. Gentleman possesses to so unique an extent, enabled him to extricate his colleagues just now from a very serious blunder. Some astute colleague—I do not believe it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer— appears to have thought he could have enabled the Government to hoodwink the House by preparing an Estimate in such a manner that an important item of expenditure, in respect to which public attention has been very largely aroused, could be smuggled through without discussion. The right hon. Gentleman, however, came to the rescue of his indiscreet colleague and put him right before Parliament and the country. I hope he will act in a similar fashion now —that he will make a timely concession to the general feeling of the House, and 470 will avoid the necessity of a Division on the Amendment before us. The House of Commons has been of recent years very jealous of the privileges of unofficial Members. It does not allow the Government of the day to take unchallenged those privileges which are enjoyed by Members at large. I can well recollect when, on occasions like this, the dividing line was not the floor, but the Gangway; and although, through circumstances over which I have no control, I have been driven to take refuge up here, and by the exercise of the right I possess to take a seat above the Gangway, my sympathies are largely with those below. I hope the Government will see that this action is taken far too early in the Session. The right hon. Gentleman can find no precedent for his Motion beyond the discredited and vicious precedents of the immediate past, and even these precedents furnish him no example of what he now proposes to do. I hope, therefore, he will postpone his Motion for some weeks, and then bring it forward in a form less calculated to arouse the suspicions and the hostility of Members generally of this House.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Mr. Speaker, I will only say a few words on this matter. The right hon. Gentleman says I have brought the Motion forward too early in the Session. I have brought it forward, Sir, under circumstances of very peculiar pressure, and four weeks after the opening of the Session. I supported a substantially similar Motion made by the late Government, unaccompanied by the guarantees we propose of giving Members Tuesday and Friday evenings—within three weeks of the opening of the Session. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that the general feeling of the House is with him upon this matter. It may be conceded that a majority of the speeches are with the right hon. Gentleman, but I have known occasions, which were doubtless known also to the right hon. Gentleman, when hon. Gentlemen who are favourable to the proposals of the Government think that they perceive in some parts of the House a disposition to prolong the Debate, and who, under these circumstances, thought it well to refrain from speaking. Much depends upon the way in which gentlemen look upon these questions. I have heard it stated that the 471 10 days occupied on the Address were to be regarded as having been devoted to Government Business. But with certain exceptions the Address has become the property of private Members, who take advantage of it — I will not say unwarrantably—to raise questions in which they feel great interest, and in respect to which they feel they might not be able to secure an independent night for discussion. According to my reckoning, nine out of the ten nights occupied on the Address were nights of private Members, and if that be so, 13 out of the 20 days the House has sat this Session have been given to private Members and seven to the Government. That is my mode of calculating the matter. But, however that may be, what I wish to impress upon the House is that we have upon us very heavy responsibilities. Day after day endeavours are made—and I make no complaint and pass no censure—to increase those responsibilities. The Member for Aberdeen, while taking exception to our proposal for taking some of the time of private Members, has also proposed an addition to those responsibilities, which, he will admit, will require time—that is, he proposes that the Government should undertake a Bill in the present Session for the payment of Members of Parliament. I can assure the House, and I can assure those who are opposed to the Motion as well as those who are in favour of it, that it is nothing but an imperative sense of public duty, public advantage, and public necessity which, after a careful examination of the time at our disposal, and of the obligations we have undertaken—and that we are bound to redeem—has compelled me to place this proposition before the House.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Mr. Speaker, the right hon. Gentleman has referred to what took place last year, and he has stated that he supported a similar Motion when it was brought forward by the present Leader of the Opposition. That is quite true. It was not a precisely similar Motion, but a Motion fairly analogous to this. On that occasion the Leader of the House stated that my right hon. Friend had raised a very flimsy structure in his speech for so wide a proposition. The argument of my right hon. Friend covered the whole ground, but the right hon. Gentleman called upon him never- 472 theless to submit a stronger argument. My right hon. Friend had submitted a distinctly strong argument to the House. That argument was, that we were absolutely obliged to deal with the finance that still remained over, and that financial considerations made it almost compulsory to give that time to the Government. I have waited to see whether there would be any indication from the Treasury Bench that it was in order to get through finance that these demands were now made upon the House, and that the rights of private Members were to be suspended, but no stress whatever has been laid upon finance, and I am surprised to see that it is almost avowedly admitted by the right hon. Gentleman that it is for the purpose of legislation and not for the purposes of finance that this demand is made. [Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE: We will take both in time.] Yes; but the other day, when the right hon. Gentleman gave his notice, no allusion was made to finance. Again, in the question which was raised by the Member for Northamptonshire—I do not know whether it was a "put up" question or not—no allusion was made to finance at all; but the right hon. Gentleman has proposed this Motion in the interests of legislation. How are we to regard this Motion? I regard it distinctly as a Motion to enable Her Majesty's Government to pass the Second Reading of the Bill for the worse government of Ireland, and it is assumed by the right hon. Gentleman so distinctly that it will be taken before Easter that he puts in this proviso—which is now objected to by some hon. Members on his own side—in order to make sure that the Second Reading of the Bill shall be passed before Easter. The right hon. Gentleman said there were things which must necessarily be done before Easter. I ask, is it necessary to pass the Second Reading of this Bill before Easter, and, if so, why? I can imagine reasons why, in the view of the Government, it should be very desirable that the Second Reading should be passed before Easter, but we on this side do not recognise that necessity at all. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman calculates that the Debate on the Second Reading would take some eight days at least, and the right hon. Gentleman would not wish to curtail discussion on so great a subject. 473 Here, then, are eight days to spare before Easter—eight days which the right hon. Gentleman thinks should be devoted to this particular measure; but a considerable portion of time will be required, I think, for the finance of the year. It has been pointed out how very much Financial Business remains to be performed; and the right hon. Gentleman had taken the game course that we took last year, and said that finance alone must occupy the time before Easter, he would have made it difficult for us to resist the Motion. But that is clearly not the idea of the Government, and the whole energy which the right hon. Gentleman put in the eloquent last sentence of his speech shows us that he thinks it his bounden duty if he can to get the Second Reading of the Home Rule Bill. We do not feel ourselves under an obligation to render the service to the Government of enabling them to pass the Second Reading of the Bill before Easter, and, therefore, we shall feel it our duty to vote for the Amendment before the House, and afterwards to say "no" to the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, S.E.)
was bound, as an agricultural Member, to vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, and he was bound also to protest against the action of the Government. They knew perfectly well that at the Evening Sitting last week the House was counted out at 8 o'clock; and although the Government had promised to keep a House in future for the Evening Sittings on Tuesday and Friday, they all knew that on these occasions the House would be counted out after the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of the particular Resolutions to be brought forward. On Tuesday, the 7th March, a proposal of the greatest possible interest to the agricultural population — namely, pleuropneumonia—was to have been brought forward by the Member for Antrim, but that would now be cut out. He himself had also a notice of Motion with reference to the agricultural depression, which would share the same fate. He looked upon the action of the Government as an intention to deprecate in every possible way the claims put forward on behalf of the agricultural interest.
§ MR. A. C. MORTON (Peterborough)
could not very well agree with the Opposition on this occasion, and especially with 474 the opposition of the Member for North Islington, because he remembered in the late Parliament, when efforts were made to get attention paid to the wants and requirements of private Members, they rarely or rather never had the assistance and support of hon. Gentlemen. Something had been said about Supply. He was very anxious to discuss Supply, and he should in future be more anxious to discuss it than ever he had been in the past, because he had now with him a majority pledged as much to economy as he was himself, whose efforts, he hoped, would lead to practical good. He admitted the truth of what had been said by the Leader of the House as to the imperative needs of the Government and the Liberal Party at the present time, and, therefore, he was willing to make sacrifices he would not have been willing to make under other circumstances. He considered that of the four weeks of the present Session three had been occupied by the Opposition in long discussions on the introduction of Bills, without having these Bills in their hands or being properly acquainted with their contents. For his part, he should have wished that the Government had met a fortnight earlier, and he would now suggest that at the Morning Sittings between now and Easter they should take Supply and go on regularly with it. He hoped ample opportunity would be given for discussing the question of railway rates and charges, which was purely a Radical question, and which last year received very little support from Members opposite, who now affected such an interest in the subject. There was a second question, also a Radical question, which he hoped they should have time adequately to discuss, and that was the one relating to arbitration. No one could accuse him of unduly taking up the time of the House this Session, for out of kindness to the Government he withdrew his Amendment to the Address relating to the appointment of Justices in the country, and which, by-the-bye, was the most important Amendment on the Address. He should like to ask the Government if they intended to proceed with their Justices Qualification Bill which stood on the Order Paper? He was sorry private Members' time should have to be interfered with at all; but he admitted this was an important Session, and he regretted that instead of 475 having that real assistance which they might expect from hon. Gentlemen opposite, now they were in opposition there seemed to he an inclination on their part to waste time. He trusted the Government would give way and agree to the first Amendment, and also that they would take Supply in good time so as to afford ample opportunities for discussion.
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
said, he was one of those who in former Parliaments—no matter which Government was in power—had always stood up for the rights of private Members. But there was this difference between the present and former Parliaments: In former Parliaments private Members on both sides of the House combined to press the question on the Government of the day; but in the last Parliament, with one or two rare exceptions, whenever they pressed on the Conservative Party the rights of private Members, hon. Members opposite, who were now so anxious about these rights, showed them a face of flint. When hon. Members opposite asked him now, as a Radical, to support them, he intended to look at it exactly from the Radical standpoint, and to ask himself what did they, as Radicals, lose by accepting the Government proposal? As far as he understood, they lost two things: First of all, the Member for Swansea did not get on with his Motion regarding railway rates. But how did they stand with regard to railway rates? The Board of Trade at the present time were pressing that matter with great severity on the Railway Companies, and the President of the Board of Trade had given a public undertaking that if he could not manage quietly to get something done he would take public means in that House; therefore, he dismissed that. The other right which they lost was the discussion of the Motion for the payment of Members. What they, as Radicals, wanted the the Government to do on that question was to make up their minds quickly. They had been told the Government required this extra time in order to pass the Home Rule Bill. What he wanted to see passed was the Home Rule Bill, therefore he should prefer to treat this as an exceptional year, and give the Government the time they needed. It was not every year they proposed to remodel their Constitution. That was the great enter- 476 prise to which the Government had summoned them, and he did not intend to be drawn by hon. Members opposite into any vote which would have the appearance of defeating the Government that had this great matter in charge; therefore, he intended, no matter what he might be called, to support the Government.
§ MR.KENYON (Denbigh)
wished to know whether, in the event of this. Motion passing the House, the First Lord of the Treasury would consent to abandon the date for the premature "Massacre of the Innocents," so far as related to the following Bills mentioned in the Queen's Speech:—The Bill for shortening the duration of Parliaments, the Bill for equalising the franchise, the Bill for creating Parish Councils, and the Welsh Suspensory Bill? If not, would the latter Bill be made the first Order of the Day upon the first available opportunity?
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 276; Noes 245.—(Division List, No. 13.)
§ Main Question proposed.
§ Question, "That the Main Question be now put," put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question put accordingly.
The House divided:—Ayes 270; Noes 228.—(Division List, No. 14.)
Resolved, That, on and after Friday next, until Easter the House do meet on Tuesday and Friday at Two o'clock, and that the provisions of Standing Order 56 be extended to the Morning Sittings on those days: Provided always, that if the Government of Ireland Bill be appointed for any of such days the House do meet at Three o'clock, and the proceedings on that Bill do have precedence of the Orders of the Day and Notices of Motion (Mr. W. E. Gladstone.)