HC Deb 07 July 1893 vol 14 cc1111-9


Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Irish Representation in House of Commons.

Clause 9 (Representation in Parliament of Irish Counties and Boroughs).


The first Amendment on the Paper is not in Order. It is in the name of the hon. Member for Northampton, as follows:— To insert at the beginning of the clause, "The representation of Ireland in Parliament shall remain unchanged, and the Irish Peers in the House of Lords, and the Members of the House of Commons for Irish Constituencies, shall be entitled to deliberate and vote as heretofore.


asked if it would be in Order to move the Amendment in the following words:— Members of the House of Commons who shall sit for Irish Constituencies after the passing of this Act shall be entitled to deliberate and vote as heretofore.


I think that that would be in Order, but not here. It should come on on Sub-section 3. The next Amendment, which is an Amendment to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton, would be in Order if moved on Sub-section 1 as a substantive Amendment. It is, after "Parliament," to insert— Shall bear the same proportion to the total number of Members as the contribution of Ireland fixed in Clause 10 bears to the total Imperial expenditure. The next Amendment is out of Order—namely— Mr. William Whitelaw—As an Amendment to Mr. Labouchere's proposed Amendment (Clause 9, page 4, line 25) line 2, leave out all after "Parliament," and insert "shall bear the same proportion to the representation of Scotland in Parliament as the population of Ireland bears to the population of Scotland; but the Irish Peers in the House of Lords, and the Members of Parliament for Irish constituencies, shall not be entitled to deliberate or vote upon any matter which relates to Scotland and does not relate to Ireland. The next Amendment, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Wands-worth, would be in Order on Sub-section 1 if moved as a substantive Motion—namely— Mr. Kimber—As an Amendment to Mr. Labouchere's proposed Amendment (Clause 9, page 4, line 25), line 2, leave out all after "Parliament," and insert "shall henceforth be reduced to the like proportion to the population of Ireland as the representation of Great Britain bears to the population of Great Britain. The next Amendment is out of Order— Mr. Heneage—As an Amendment to Mr. Labouchere's proposed Amendment (Clause 9, page 4, line 25), line 2, after "shall," leave out to end of Amendment, and insert "cease. The next Amendment ought to come on Sub-section 3— Mr. Charles Darling—Clause 9, page 4, line 25, before "Unless," insert "From and after the appointed day no Member of the Irish Legislature shall be capable of being elected to or sitting or voting in Parliament, but. The next Amendment sets up a rival scheme, and is out of Order. It must be moved, if at all, as a separate clause. The first Amendment in Order is in the name of Mr. Parker Smith— To leave out the words "Unless and until Parliament otherwise determines," and to insert "Until six years from the appointed day.

MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)

said, he did not move his Amendment. As Amendments on matters of principle were out of Order, he did not wish to move one which related merely to a matter of detail.


The Amendment which proposes to leave out lines 25 and 26 is out of Order.

MR. AMBROSE (Middlesex, Harrow), rising to Order, said, he proposed to move the omission of lines 25 and 26 in conjunction with another Amendment, which would make it read. He proposed to omit the words down to "shall," in line 30, and after "the appointed day," to insert "every Parliament so constituted in Ireland."


I think that would put it in Order.


then proposed the omission of lines 25 and 26. He said that Home Rule had been defined as meaning that the Irish people should have the power of managing their own local affairs. It had never been suggested that they should, in addition, have the power of managing the affairs of the British Empire. The question, therefore, arose what would be the position of things if the Irish Members were to retain their seats in the Imperial Parliament? The Bill proposed that 80 Members should remain at Westminster.


I rise, Mr. Mellor, to a point of Order. As I understand, the question is to omit two lines of the clause.


Would it not be competent for us to discuss the omission of these two lines upon their merits? I myself should object to them as surplus age, and we can discuss them without raising the very large questions which must come up at a later stage of the clause?


As I understand, the hon. and learned Gentleman proposes to leave out all the words down to the word "shall" in line 30.

MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)

Surely, Sir, he proposes to leave out "the appointed day."


May I respectfully suggest, for the convenience of the Committee, that the clause would read perfectly well without these words?


I would suggest that the hon. and learned Member should move to leave out for the present only "unless and until Parliament otherwise determines."


If the hon. and learned Member confines himself to those words in the first instance, I think he will be in Order.


said, he was disposed to fall in with the wishes of the Committee, and he would limit his Amendment to the words suggested by the Prime Minister.

Amendment proposed, In page 4, line 25, to leave out the words "Unless and until Parliament otherwise determines."—(Mr.. Ambrose.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."


I will state in a few words why it seems reasonable for us to ask to leave in those words. [The right hon. Gentleman made some further observations which did not reach the Reporters' Gallery.]


I do not wish to interrupt my right hon. Friend, but I assure him we cannot hear a word.


What I was saying was that this subject of the inclusion of the Irish Members has been one of great difficulty. We have always thought that any plan Parliament might adopt would be open to a good deal of criticism. But Parliament has expressed a strong indisposition to exclude the Irish Members, and we mean to give effect to that indisposition. At the same time, we think that the clause will probably be open to a good deal of criticism.


I must say I think the words "unless and until Parliament otherwise determines" seem in themselves to attack and minimise the supremacy of Parliament. It would be convenient if we could have some indication from the Government as to the mode in which the important questions raised by the clause will come before the Committee, as we have felt a great deal of embarrassment through the lack of this knowledge. I take it there are three alternatives to be raised. First of all, there is the question whether Irish Members are to be in Parliament for all purposes; second, whether they are to be limited as to the class of subjects on which they can vote; third, whether they are to sit in the Imperial Parliament at all? It would be of enormous advantage if the Government will tell us—that is, if they have yet made up their minds—when it will be desirable or possible to raise these three great issues. There remains even then a fourth point to be determined, and that is the number of Irish Members to sit in this House, if they are to be retained here at all.


I cannot say more than that the Government will gladly accommodate themselves to the method of procedure which may be found convenient in the course of the discussion. I do not see how I can say more than this at the present time. When the question of total cessation of the Irish Members at Westminster is raised the Government will give their opinions upon it.

SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)

I am sure that everybody approaches the consideration of this clause with a deep sense of responsibility. I will ask the Prime Minister whether, if the words referred to in this Amendment remain in the clause, the Committee will not, in his opinion, approach its consideration bound by the fact that anything decided on will, in consequence of these words, be of a temporary character? If the Committee should come to the conclusion that there should be a total cessation of Irish representation in the Imperial Parliament, why should we allow that to be looked upon as a temporary instead of a permanent step? I do urge that the Committee should be allowed to discuss the question unfettered; and if a determination is arrived at subsequently as to the need for making this provision of a temporary character, words can be inserted on Report.


said, he could not adopt the view of the right hon. Gentleman that these words would have an unduly or inconve niently binding effect. If allowed to stand they would not bind any future Parliament, nor, indeed, would they be binding on any future Session of the present Parliament. They were rendered necessary in order to indicate the view of the Parliament which passed the Bill that the arrangement was of a temporary or experimental character. The whole Bill, in fact, had been made transitional and almost experimental in its character by reason of the provisions deferring the power of the Irish Government for given periods of years in regard to judicial appointments, the Land Question, and certain financial topics, and therefore it would be in accord with the general character of the Bill that the words should be allowed to stand.


What the hon. Member has just said shows the vast importance of this Amendment. It is clear that by these words we declare that anything we do by this clause will only be of a temporary character. I quite agree with him that we cannot bind future Parliaments. Evidently we are emphasising by these words our view that what we are about to do shall be only of a temporary character.


May be.


Must be. Why should we not be allowed to discuss this matter unfettered by these binding words?


I think we shall all be agreed that the words "unless and until Parliament otherwise determines" have no substantive character. They are, in fact, implied in every clause of every Act that receives the Royal Assent. The question which the Committee have to consider is whether a provision implied in all legislation shall be expressly stated here. The subject being one involving large and difficult issues, and on which experience will throw some light, the Government think that it would be a pity not to do as Parliament has frequently done in days gone by, and deal with the question more from the standpoint of experiment. I have here two instances in the legislation of the late Government in support of this contention—the Local Government Act of 1888 and the Local Taxation Act of 1890. In the first-named Act the clause dealing with the distribution of the Probate Duty grant contains words to the effect that certain sums "shall, until Parliament otherwise determines," be distributed among the several counties. That distribution has not been altered; but it is an indication of the opinion of the Legislature that the distribution was to be of an experimental character, as experience may make a change desirable. In the Local Taxation Act of 1893, for which the late Chancellor of the Exchequer was also I think responsible, in the 1st clause dealing with the application of the English share of the increased Customs and Excise Duties, provision is made that "unless Parliament otherwise determines" the residue shall be distributed to county and borough funds. We have, therefore, recent precedents for inserting these words, the object being, not to say that the provisions affected by them are necessarily of a temporary or provisional character, but to indicate that experience may throw light upon them which may necessitate a change. On that ground the Government think that the words should be inserted here.

MR. MATTHEWS (Birmingham, E.)

I do not think that the two cases cited by my right hon. Friend can be compared with this Bill. In the case of the Local Government Act grants were being made to Local Bodies; and as there is a tendency in grants of this kind to get crystallised, words were inserted to indicate to the Local Bodies that the grants would not be permanent, but that they were subject to alteration by Parliament. No such reason, however, can be advanced in support of this clause. The fact is, that the mind of the Government had not been made up at the time the words were inserted in the clause; they see the difficulties of their scheme, and they are now in a state which may be described as "unstable equilibrium," and they are willing at the slightest push to abandon this plan altogether and to adopt some other. The words can serve no useful purpose, and ought to be struck out of the clause.

MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)

I think that the words quoted by the Home Secretary point to a makeshift—a temporary expedient—and they cannot be applied with reference to this clause unless it is to be looked upon as a makeshift resorted to for a temporary purpose. I confess I cannot understand why the Government cling to these words. We have had many illustrations in these Debates of carelessness in the wording of clauses, and of the Government fighting hour after hour over insignificant words which have only been proposed to make the Bill clearer and more definite. I think they might very well consent to drop these words, and let us commence discussing this clause in its operative part and on points of real importance.


said, he did not think a more unfortunate proposal could have been brought forward by the Government than that a clause on which three great alternative issues were to be raised should have been made to commence with words indicating that it was likely a blunder would be committed in the decision arrived at. Even if the Committee did come to a wrong conclusion, the error could be inserted, although these words were omitted. There was another reason for getting rid of these words. They were about to enter on a triangular duel, and surely it was desirable that those who were worsted in the conflict should have time to sit down under their defeat, and that the plan decided upon should have a fair trial. But the retention of these words constituted a direct invitation to renew the fight without allowing the scheme a fair chance. Again, it was desirable that in dealing with the questions raised by this clause hon. Members should make up their minds to stand or fall by the form of Constitution decided upon; but the use of these words would keep their minds in a state of fluidity until the last moment, and prevent them coming to a decision as swiftly as they otherwise might.

MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)

The words are objected to on the ground that they were not only surplusage, but mischievous surplusage. It is said that Parliament will have the right to make any alteration in the arrangement at any time it pleases; but if the words are retained the tendency will be to limit the authority of Parliament. It is suggested that without these words Parliament will not have the power which undoubtedly it has.

It being ten minutes before Seven of the Clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.

Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.