HC Deb 08 June 1893 vol 13 cc536-9
MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts, Mansfield)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether, having regard to the time occupied in Debate on Clauses 1 And 2 of the Government of Ireland Bill, after the several Amendments thereon had been disposed of, he will consider the expediency of moving a Resolution that, in the case of the remaining clauses, after Amendments have been dealt with, the Question "That this Clause stand part of the Bill," shall be put without Debate?


I have frequently been obliged to confess great sympathy with questions of this kind, which are put in the interests of expediting the Business of the House. But I have intimated on more than one occasion that the Government do not consider that the time has arrived when it is an absolute necessity for us to adopt a positive Resolution on this subject. With regard to the particular proposal of my hon. Friend, what I would observe is this—that, whatever opinion we may entertain of the general course of proceedings in Committee, if a proposal of this kind were made it would have to be justified on the ground that the power of taking the opinion of the House on the clauses of the Bill, after they had been amended, has been abused. This is only the 3rd clause of the Bill. The 1st clause of the Bill, I am quite aware, justified the opponents of the Bill in taking a Division upon the Question whether it should stand part of the Bill, because, as a point of fact, it was a challenge to them on the entire Bill. The 2nd clause, perhaps, may be held, though not so clearly, to stand in the same category. With respect to the other clauses, which are of a different character, I hope that it will not be thought necessary as a mere matter of form to take the opinion of the House upon the clause as a whole, unless principles are involved in the clause which are deemed to be of great importance, or unless the question upon the clause raises fairly the issue which it professes to raise.


I beg to ask whether a precedent was not sot on the 10th of June, 1887, when the late Mr. Smith moved a Resolution asking the House to come to a decision on all the Amendments to all the clauses of the Coercion Act on the 17th of that month, and whether the right hon. Gentleman recollects the words which Mr. Smith used on that occasion? We have arrived at the fourth month of the Session, and we have practically done nothing except to consider the measure before the House. We have arrived now at the 35th day of the consideration of this measure. What is the alternative open to Her Majesty's Government? … That the majority of this House and, as we believe, the majority of the country, must yield their sense of obligation, their sense of responsibility, their sense of duty to the country, to the obstruction of the minority of this House.


I am aware of that precedent, and it would be impossible for anyone who was in the House in 1887, or who took any interest in public proceedings, to ever forget an occasion so historic. It is of great importance, but there is one obvious amendment which should be made in the language in applying it to the present case—namely, that we are in the fifth month instead of the fourth month of this Parliament. But the declaration I have made with reference to the existing state of Public Business at the present moment would prevent me from founding myself on that language in any reply I might make.

MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)

Is it not the fact that, although the discussion on Clause 3 has been somewhat long, no less than nine Amendments have already been adopted by the Government on that very clause?


Does the Prime Minister see no difference between a Bill creating a new Constitution for a country and a Crimes Act?


I do not think the hon. Member ought to have addressed to me a challenging question of that kind. In my opinion there is no conceivable class of Bill that requires such strict, such jealous examination at every point of its proceedings as a Bill for diminishing the liberties of the subject.


Whatever may be the subject of the Bill, does not the right hon. Gentleman consider that the majority of the House have the right to take adequate measures to secure that the Bill should be passed in the course of an ordinary Session of Parliament?


That is a most natural question to raise at the present moment. I can set no such limits upon the powers and rights of the majority of this House as would imply a negative answer. The majority must in all circumstances be guided and governed by the fulfilment of their pledges to their constituents.

MR. W. REDMOND (Clare, E.)

I beg—


Order, order! I think this discussion should not proceed further. Arguments from analogy are quite out of place.

MR. EVERETT (Suffolk, Woodbridge)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether he will take such steps for quickening the passage of the Government of Ireland Bill through the House as will enable the majority of the Members of the House to fulfil the wishes of their constituents by passing it and other measures during the present year?


I have practically answered this question; but I may venture to observe to my hon. Friend that we adhere entirely to the strong opinion we have expressed that the pressure of the Irish Question does not absolve us from our obligations to the country in respect of the other great measures in which the interests of Great Britain are concerned.