§ Order for Committee read.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
There are three proposals to instruct the Committee standing upon the Paper. The first stands in the name of the noble Lord the Member for South Paddington, to confer on the Committee the power to suspend the operation of Standing Order No. 35, and to allow the Motion to be revived that the Preamble be postponed. The first observation I have to make is that technically it is out of Order, inasmuch as it empowers the Committee to do what I have never heard of this House empowering a Committee to do—to alter 346 or suspend a Standing Order of the House. A Standing Order can be altered by Resolution of the House, but a Committee cannot do so, and it has never been delegated to a Committee to exercise such a power. Looking at the importance of the substance of the Instruction, I am bound further to observe that the object of the noble Lord is clearly to promote a discussion on the question of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, and he proposes to take that discussion at once on the question that the Preamble be postponed. Before 1882, when the Standing Order was passed which directed that the Preamble should stand postponed, so that it should, as a matter of course, be taken last without the possibility of discussion, great abuses had sprung up in this House from a repetition of Second Reading Debates, sometimes of great length, on this usually formal Motion on the Preamble; and it was deliberately enacted by the House that the Preamble should stand postponed without any Motion, and be always and without question, as it was usually, taken last. The object, of course, was to enable any alterations to be made in it consonant with any alterations made in the Bill in the course of the Committee. It would be impossible to discuss the Preamble first and then to amend the Bill, as it might well be that the Preamble would not be consistent with the alterations made in Committee. That is the object of postponing the Preamble, and I am afraid it is not within my duty to sanction such a grave departure from ordinary practices as to deliberately undo the Standing Order of this House relating to the conduct of Bills in their passage through this House. This is my reason for saying that the first Instruction is out of Order. With reference to the second Instruction, standing in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Hammersmith (abolition of office of Lord Lieutenant), I think it is competent for the hon. and gallant Member in Committee to do what he proposes in this Instruction, to abolish, if he pleases, the office of Lord Lieutenant, and to transfer the office hither to performed by the Lord Lieutenant to the Crown. With reference to the next Instruction, standing in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Deptford, to re-establish the House of Lords in 347 Ireland and to transfer the judicial business on appeals thereto, I think also that what he proposes may be achieved in Committee, and it will be in his power to constitute a House of Lords in any way he thinks expedient, and he may clothe it with any appellate or other jurisdiction he may think proper. On these grounds I am bound to conclude that all three Instructions are out of Order.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
With great respect, and without challenging your ruling in any way, may I put a further question? Is it the effect of that ruling that no Standing Order passed by this House for the conduct of legislation can be suspended by the House? Would not an Instruction of the House to the Committee empowering it to suspend on a particular Bill a particular Standing Order be equal to a Resolution of the House itself, and was Standing Order No 35 when passed intended to be subject to no exception, but to be absolutely permanent and unchangeable in its effect; and whether, if the question of the supremacy of Parliament is not raised on the Preamble of the Bill, on what clause and when can it be raised? The only words in the Bill which refer to the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament are contained in the Preamble. I desire to repeat, Sir, that I put this question to you with the utmost respect.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I did not say that on no occasion could a Standing Order be abrogated. What I did say was that I had never heard, and that I am unwilling to set the precedent, of this House instructing a Committee to abrogate a Standing Order of this House ad hoc. If such a thing were done I think that it ought to be done by distinct Resolution, and not by merely an enabling power to overrule the Standing Order conferred by a contingent Motion. The other question of the noble Lord was as to when he can raise the question of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. I am bound to decide these questions only as they arise on points of Order; but I had the less compunction in deciding as I have done when I see the first Amendment in Committee on the Paper in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Deptford will enable the whole question of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament to be raised. Therefore, I think 348 that there will be no inconvenience to the noble Lord or to the House in the decision which I have arrived at.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Legislative Authority.
§ Clause 1 (Establishment of Irish Legislature.)
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I beg to move that Clause 1 be postponed, and if I am able to induce the Government to assent to that Amendment I would then follow it up by a consequential Amendment and move the postponement of all the clauses down to Clause 9, my object, of course, being that we should commence the discussion of the Bill at that very important point in the Bill. I thought that possibly I might have been spared the necessity of making this Motion by the answer I hoped to gain from the right hon. Gentleman just now. The question I put to the right hon. Gentleman was whether he intended to adhere to Clause 9 as it stands in the Bill? Of course, in putting that question, I was not seeking to pledge the right hon. Gentleman to every letter and comma of the clause; but it embodied one of the various suggestions that have been put forward from time to time for dealing with the question of the retention of the Irish Members, and I wanted to know whether the Government in principle adhered to that proposal and intended to make it a vital point of their policy, because, if so, we are discussing the provisions of the Bill in absolute ignorance of what the intentions of the Government are with regard to this important point. If we pass the 1st clause of the Bill and declare that there shall be a new Legislature set up in Ireland, we shall do so being utterly unaware of what is to become of the Legislature of Great Britain. Well, now, Sir, I maintain that it is the custom of Governments in this House to lay their whole policy before the House, and to adhere to and make vital all the essential points of that policy. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has, I suppose, more experience of the House of Commons than any other living Member; but it will, I think, puzzle his memory to 349 give us any case in which the Government have introduced a Bill of this considerable importance, but have kept an open mind upon one of its most vital and essential provisions. The only case which I can recall, as being in any degree a parallel, is the Reform Bill of 1867; and certainly I do not think that the analogy of that Bill is one that is likely to commend itself to my right hon. Friend. On that occasion the Government of the day, which allowed important clauses of the Bill to be altered in Committee, was strenuously accused by its own friends of bad faith; and, on the whole, the course which they adopted did not strengthen their position in this House, nor conduce to increase their popularity in the country. The point, therefore, I venture to put is that, with regard to the main provisions of this Bill, we have a right to know that the Government intend to adhere to those provisions. Otherwise we are liable, at any point of this discussion, to have an entirely new Bill sprung upon us. If that be true with regard to the main points it is exceptionally and especially true of Clause 9, because it is upon this clause, as it stands—that is to say, upon the particular principle which the clause involves—that the Government have obtained their majority in this House and have carried the Second Reading of the Bill. There are only three ways of dealing with this question of the Irish representation at Westminster.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member is not the Chairman. The first way is by the total exclusion of the Irish Members.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I rise to Order. I desire to know whether the right hon. Gentleman is in Order in thus discussing the various ways of dealing with the representation of Irish Members in this House and in Dublin on a Motion to postpone Clause 1?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Before you reply, Sir, to the point of Order, may I explain that my object is to show the essential importance of the clause in question, and of the undesirability of allowing any alteration to be made in it by the Government, and the necessity of knowing the course the Government in- 350 tend to take in the matter before we come to deal with the rest of the Bill.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman is in Order. I think that he is justified in bringing this forward as a reason for postponing Clause 1 and the other clauses down to Clause 8 inclusive.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I wish, therefore, to know whether the Committee will be in Order in discussing Clause 9 before we come to it?
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I have said that there are only three ways of dealing with the Irish representation. These are—(1) by exclusion: (2) by what is known as the plan of omnes omnia; and (3) by the plan proposed in the Bill. So far as regards the first of those proposals, which was the proposal of the Bill of 1886, that was so unpopular in the country that it was one of the causes why the Government of that day failed to obtain a majority, and there are hon. Members who are still Members in this House who are pledged in most positive terms by their election addresses not to accept——
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I rise to Order. I wish to know whether the election addresses of hon. Members constitute a matter for discussion upon a Motion to postpone the 1st clause of this Bill?
I really must point out to the hon. and learned Gentleman that it is difficult for me to judge of a question of Order if he continually rises to Order himself. I have already said I think that the right hon. Gentleman is in Order. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman will not go into details in discussing the clause.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
The fact that so many hon. Members are pledged against total exclusion justifies the statement which I made previously—that if the Government were now to adopt that plan it would be practically a breach of faith, because they obtained their majority upon the assurance that they would not again proceed upon the principle of total exclusion. That is, therefore, excluded from their consideration. I come next to the second proposal, which is, that the Irish Members shall be retained for all purposes and in their full numbers. 351 In regard to that, I would point to a statement which my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury made some years ago. My right hon. Friend was then dealing with this very matter, and said, in the plainest and clearest of terms, without any qualification or addition—I will never be a party to allowing the Irish Members to manage their own affairs in Dublin and at the same time to come over here and manage British affairs.That being so, and seeing that my right hon. Friend has never in the slightest degree varied that pledge, it appears to me that it would he incompetent for the Government at the last moment to adopt that plan. There remains only the plan embodied in the Bill. If my right hon. Friend, in answer to my question, had said that he intended to stand by the proposal in the Bill, I should not have thought it necessary at this point to deal with Clause 9. But this is not the position that has been taken up by my right hon. Friend, and I am therefore obliged to contemplate the possibility that, in spite of the pledges given by my right hon. Friend, and in spite of the pledges given by his supporters, the Government have in contemplation, at all events, the possibility that when we get into Committee on Clause 9 it may be altered in one of the two ways suggested. I should have been prepared to admit that Clause 9 contained an honest attempt, at any rate, to deal with the difficulty, by keeping Irish Members at Westminster without giving them power over British affairs. I do not say how far it would succeed in that object; but the clause as it stands was regarded as an endeavour by the Government to find a solution of what at one time we were told passed the wit of man, and it was on the faith of that endeavour that the House allowed the Second Reading of the Bill. Suppose the House were now told by my right hon. Friend that he intended to propose the absolute exclusion of the Irish Members, where would be the majority which he had on the Second Reading? It would be absolutely impossible, under these circumstances, for the Government to go on with the Bill; and, that being so, it is perfectly ridiculous and would be a waste of time for us to consider Clauses 1 to 8 until we know whether upon this point, which I have endeavoured to show is the real essence of the Bill, the Govern- 352 ment do or do not adhere to their original views. Surely it is not too much to ask my right hon. Friend. The Government have had seven years to consider this Bill. From the very first they have known that it was a very difficult matter. They have pledged themselves to give, and have, no doubt, given, their careful consideration to it. As a result they carried the Second Reading on the proposals before the House, and now, at the last moment, they refuse to say that the proposal in the Bill may not be changed, Let me point out what an important bearing this has upon the discussion of the Bill. The first operative clause declares that there shall be a Legislature in Ireland. The majority in this House have agreed to that, provided that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament is not seriously interfered with, is not hampered or weakened, as it would be, either by the exclusion or by the retention for all purposes of the Irish representation. I should like to know whether the vote would be the same, if it is taken on the assumption that this clause is going to stand, or upon either of the other two assumptions I have put before the House? It is perfectly certain that if hon. Members kept to their pledges they could not vote for the 1st clause of the Bill if they knew that Clause 9 was going to be altered. Then there is the question of supremacy. Upon the question of supremacy, the Irish Secretary said that if you keep the Irish Members here for all purposes they will be supreme, not only in Dublin, but at Westminster. What is the use, therefore, of our discussing the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament when we do not know what the constitution of the Imperial Parliament is to be? I quite understand that hon. Members opposite (pointing to the Nationalist Members) do not want any discussion at all to take place upon the Bill. I quite understand that hon. Members on this side, too, would like to ram it down our throats. Well, let them try. We were told at the former stages to wait till we got into Committee to discuss the details of the Bill, and we are going to discuss them—and discuss them thoroughly—until you put the gag on us. [Mr. GLADSTONE: Hear, hear!] In spite of the ironical cheer of my right Friend, I maintain that this is a perfectly legitimate question to raise, 353 and that it is raised on account of his refusal to give a plain answer to a plain question. We are no longer in the position we were in before. Whenever we attempted to discuss this Home Rule scheme we were told to wait until the right hon. Gentleman was in power. Sow the right hon. Gentleman is in power; he has produced his Bill; he is pledged to toll the House of Commons what his policy is; and when we have good reason to assume that he is contemplating, it may he, a change of policy, we have the right to ask from him an assurance that there is no truth in the rumours to that effect which we have seen in the 'public Press, and which he has refused, up to the present time, to contradict. I move that the clause be postponed.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Clause 1 he postponed."—(Mr. J. Chamberlain.)
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I will not follow my right hon. Friend through all the details of his speech, because my duty would be to contradict almost every one of his assertions. The present proceeding of my right hon. Friend, who is admittedly within his liberty as a Member of this House without In-each of Order, appears to me to be a proceeding, the adoption of which would result in all effective and practical discussion upon all Bills whatever being rendered impossible. When some objection was raised to the course he has taken, my right hon. Friend immediately proceeded to charge those who objected to his course with entertaining an intention that there should be no effective discussion whatever on this Bill. Well, now, Sir, that is an intention which I should not be disposed to charge upon my right hon. Friend as his view or desire, but it is the certain and necessary effect of the Motion he has made. Is the right hon. Gentleman justified in setting up this or any particular clause of the Bill as the essence of the Bill, and saying that no progress can be made with the Bill until that clause had been disposed of? In my opinion, there are—I will not say bow many, but not less than six or eight —clauses in this Bill which my right hon. Friend might just as well have chosen as that which is the subject of this Motion, and which lie might much 354 better have chosen than the clause upon which he has based his Motion. My right hon. Friend asked that I should give a pledge to abide by all the essential points of Clause 9. Exactly so; and he reserves to his own breast to determine what are the essential points of the clause. My right hon. Friend chooses to refer to previous declarations and expressions of mine, and evidently reserves to himself, upon all important matters connected with this Bill, a universal, an infallible, and an exclusive power of interpretation. If I told my light hon. Friend that I intended to adhere to all the points which he considers essential in Clause 9, I should be liable to be thrown over by him the next morning by his informing us, with the same supreme authority which he has used to-day in all his interpretations, that we had broken faith with him in the promise we had given to adhere to all the essential points. My right hon. Friend says he does not know what is to become of the British Parliament. Nothing can become of the British Parliament at all. It can undergo no change from what it is now until some change is proposed by the Government, and until we come to the proposal of that change he is perfectly safe, and need entertain no apprehension at all. It seems to me that there are many clauses which might become with equal propriety the subject of the attack which he has made, but I cannot conceive any clause which he could have chosen with less propriety than Clause 9. I am entirely wrong, of course, because he says so, and my own poor private judgment must lurk in the shade until I receive the encouragement and guidance of my right hon. Friend. Here is a Bill which, in order to deal with it practically, we must take point by point, according to the natural order. The object of the Bill is to establish a Local Legislature in Ireland for Irish purposes. We have put that which is the object of the Bill in the forefront of the Bill. From the forefront of the Bill my right hon. Friend proposes to dislodge it, and why? Because of the opinion, widely entertained, that if a Local Legislature is to be established in Ireland, the consequence of that will he to raise the question of the modification of the position of the Irish Members in the British Parliament. How can you discuss the position of the 355 Irish Members in the British Parliament with reference to their having a Parliament established in Dublin until you have determined whether they are to have a Parliament established in Dublin or not? I desire to avoid hard words in this Debate; but I must own I felt I could not give a complete, an adequate, and a satisfactory description of the proposal of my right hon. Friend without using rather hard words, and I shall, therefore, leave it to stand in its naked beauty. If my right hon. Friend could by any possibility persuade the majority of this House to adopt his Motion, or to persuade the minority to adopt it—though there are some doubts even about that—he would then carry us to Clause 9, and we should find it necessary to make Clause 9 a contingent and hypothetical clause, because there is no purpose whatever in discussing Clause 9 unless and until we have decided upon a Local Legislature for Ireland. What a mockery to discuss Clause 9 now! I am now showing my great desire to meet my right hon. Friend. With the hypothetical acceptance of his Motion, we should absolutely begin the discussion of a knotty and thorny clause, by making it entirely dependent upon the adoption of this 1st clause which my right hon. Friend seeks to put aside. But we pursue what we think is the rational course, and the course agreeable to common sense, in putting into the first line of the Bill the main object of the Bill, upon which every other clause of the Bill is based. What can be more vital than the Veto Clause? [Opposition Cries of "What clause?" and "We can't hear!"] I do not believe that the two or three gentlemen who are attempting interruption are adopting a mode of expression which is agreeable to those among whom they sit. All the clauses of this Bill—the Retention Clause, the Finance Clause, the Veto Clause—are entirely dependent upon and consequent upon the establishment of a Local Legislature in Ireland. I say, therefore, that in point of reason the only course for us to take is, to consider, first, whether we shall or shall not establish such a Local Legislature, and when we have determined to have a Local Legislature in Ireland, then, and not before, will be the time to consider under what conditions it is to exist, and what changes, if any, it is to bring about in 356 the composition or the proceedings of this House. I must, therefore, object to the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
Before I deal with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, may I, just by way of explanation, say that I think the right hon. Gentleman misunderstood certain exclamations which came from hon. Gentlemen behind me, who had no desire to interrupt him? It so happened that the right hon. Gentleman very naturally turned to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, with the result that he could not be heard by some hon. Gentlemen near me; and it was for that reason, and that reason alone, they made the observations the right hon. Gentleman complained of. The right hon. Gentleman, under the excuse that the occasion is not propitious for dealing with the facts brought forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, has really, in discussing this vital question, confined himself to generalities, and the value of those generalities may be judged from one of them. He said my right hon. Friend had asked the Government whether they meant to adhere to Clause 9 in all essential particulars. The right hon. Gentleman the Member or Birmingham is a judge of what are the essential particulars; but the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House said, "If we give the pledge required, we may find, in adopting some alteration, we have varied the clause in regard to something which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham declares to be essential." My right hon. Friend made it absolutely clear what he meant by essential conditions. He laid it down that there are three, and only three, ways of dealing with the Irish Members, and he asked the Government which of those three possible methods they were going to adopt. He did not ask to be informed as to the details by which any one of those methods could be carried into effect; all he asked —and the request was surely a reasonable one—was that we should know from the Government whether they meant to adhere to the discredited plan of 1886?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
My word was "adhere," and not "propose." My right hon. Friend wanted to know whether you adhere to the discredited plan of 1886, or to the little less discredited proposal of 1893, or to some possible proposal which may come on in June, 1893? Is that not a reasonable request? It is perfectly true that the Government cannot pledge itself to the details of any plan, and we do not ask them to do so. We make no unreasonable request. It is also perfectly true that the Government may be forced to recede from proposals which the right hon. Gentleman believes to be the best; but has a single word fallen from the Government indicating their own faith that the proposals embodied in this Bill are the best? We have fresh in our recollection the speech made by the Prime Minister on the First Reading, and the speech made by the Home Secretary on the Second Reading. Both dealt with Clause 9, and I venture to say the impression loft by both speeches was that, whatever views these two eminent Members of the Government might have as to the merits of other proposals, they were perfectly convinced of the demerits of the proposal they were laying before the House. If the Members of the Government obviously hate their own proposals, what ground have we for thinking that they mean really to vote for them? They are merely going to toss Clause 9 on the Table to be turned and changed at the will of the House without exercising their authority as a Government to retain it in the main in its present shape, and by so doing they are absolutely preventing the House dealing with clauses antecedent to Clause 9 in a rational and reasonable spirit. The right hon. Gentleman says—This is a Bill for the establishment of a Legislature in Ireland; if you do not establish a Legislature in Ireland the whole of the rest of the Bill falls down by its own weight; therefore pass Clause 1, at all events, embodying that principle before you deal with anything else.I admit that Clause 1 proposes to establish the principle that there shall be a separate Legislature in Ireland; but on the clause other questions and one especially must be raised, and, as Mr. Speaker has pointed out, that question can be raised fully upon the very first line. On the very first line we shall have to discuss the supremacy of the Imperial 358 Parliament. Until we know what is to be that Imperial Parliament which is to be supreme, how can we discuss this question? Until we know what is to be the future constitution of the most important Member of the Imperial Legislature, how can we possibly discuss adequately the question of Imperial supremacy? The thing is absurd; and I venture to say that if the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind, firstly, the vital importance of the question of the supremacy; secondly, the impossibility of discussing the question of supremacy without knowing what is to be the constitution of the Imperial Parliament; and, thirdly, the ambiguous character of his own utterances on this question, he will feel that the doubt and uneasiness with which we are beset is based on reasonable grounds; and that the least he can do is to satisfy as that the Government do mean to bring forward on their responsibility some plan to which they mean to adhere, and that they will tell us what that plan is before we proceed with one iota of the Bill. I venture to say, with some experience of carrying difficult Bills through the House, that the Government will certainly not lose time by endeavouring to meet what I think even the right hon. Gentleman will admit, after reflection, is not an unreasonable request preferred by the whole of the Opposition on this matter.
§ MR. J. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
said, the question was one on which the House was entitled to have something more than mere fencing. The Bill proposed to constitute an Irish Parliament, but it did something much more important than that; it proposed to alter the constitution and the nature of this House of Commons. Before they considered any question in regard to the Irish Parliament, they were entitled to know what the intentions of the Government were with regard to this Parliament; they were entitled to know which of the three alternatives the Government chose to stand or fall by. In his speech introducing the Bill the Prime Minister did not say that this principle was a vital principle; he merely said it was an important and organic detail of the Bill, and they were entitled to know what an organic detail was, and what a vital principle was. It was impossible to 359 discuss the previous clauses of the Bill until they had a direct answer upon the questions put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. [Cries of "Divide!"]
MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
I rise to a point of Order. I wish, Mr. Mellor, to call your attention to the fact that the hon. and learned Member for Louth is interrupting and organising disorder. [Cries of "Order!"]
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I wish to ask if it is in Order for the right hon. Gentleman to charge me with organising disorder?
All interruptions are disorderly. I hope hon. Members will remember the extreme importance of this matter.
§ *MR. T. M. HEALY
I wish to ask you whether it is in Order for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thanet to charge a Member of this House with organising disorder?
The right hon. Gentleman has made this statement. If the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to say anything with regard to it he is perfectly entitled to do so.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
On a point of Order, I beg to say that I distinctly heard the hon. and learned Gentleman say "Divide, divide!"
I said all interruptions are disorderly. I cannot say it s disorderly for an hon. Member to say "Divide, divide!"
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
That being so, I wish to submit to you, Sir, if that is the only foundation the right hon. Gentleman has for his charges, that it would be seemly that he should tender game apology.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
Mr. Mellor, I distinctly heard the hon. and learned Member for North Louth leading a chorus of "Divide!" It was not the word "Divide!" pronounced once, but a chorus of "Divide, divide!" for the purpose of creating disorder.
I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that the charge he made against the hon. and learned Member for North Louth was that he called "Divide, divide!" That is not an uncommon expression in this 360 House. It may not be disorderly. It depends altogether in the manner in it is done. I think it is a very slight foundation on which to make a charge of that kind.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
The reason I made the statement—and I now repeat it—is because Members upon this side of the House during the present Session have been repeatedly subjected to interruption. [Cries of "Order!"] I have myself upon repeated occasions seen the hon. and learned Member for North Louth—[More cries of "Order! "]
! Order, order! The right hon. Gentleman is not entitled to bring general charges against the hon. and learned Member. It is altogether out of Order, and I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman's experience. I will do my best to preserve order in this Committee; but in order to do that I must rely upon the assistance of Members in all parts of the House. I think this question ought now to terminate.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH
said, that the heat which had been generated at this early period of the Committee did not seem to him the best augury. [Cries of "Question!" and "Divide!"] He was perfectly prepared for any amount of fair Parliamentary interruption; but when a question of vital importance was raised and discussed for something under an hour they were entitled to discuss it without disorderly interruption. The question that had been put was not one of detail, but one of vital principle, and it was one on which they were fully entitled to an answer.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, the Treasury Bench pretended that that Bill simply set up an Irish Assembly; he contended that it did more, and by Clause 9 proposed to alter fundamentally the constitution of the Imperial Parliament. Doubts had arisen in the public mind as to whether the Government intended to stand by the vital principle of Clause 9. If these doubts were not well-founded, if the Government intended to stand by the principle of Clause 9, why did not the right hon. Gentleman say so? Why did the Prime Minister completely burke the whole question? He thought they had a right to have an answer, and he hoped the Opposition would insist upon it.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 213; Noes 270.—(Division List, No. 67.)
§ *MR. DARLING (Deptford)
rose to move the following Amendment in Clause 1, page 1, line 11, before "on," insert—Without in any way whatever impairing, restricting, or altering the supreme power and authority of Parliament in all matters, as well local as Imperial, and over all persons in Great Britain and Ireland.He said he hoped the Committee would believe, although he had addressed the House on other occasions, that he felt very considerable diffidence in submitting to them any proposal whatever with regard to a Bill of the magnitude and complexity of the Bill now before the Committee. But he thought it would be the desire even of the Government themselves that anyone who could in any way improve the measure which they had submitted to Parliament should have the opportunity of doing so before the Bill finally took its shape; and he gathered that the Government themselves were not wholly precluded from making Amendments in the Bill on very important particulars, although at present they had not been able exactly to ascertain in what direction these improvements were likely to proceed. The argument had been used that it did not become those to amend the Bill who were resolved, when it had gone through Committee, to do what, they could to prevent it becoming law. He imagined there was little force in that suggestion, and he would like hon. Members opposite to apply to the Hill what a celebrated gourmand recommended should be applied to the dressing of the cucumber. This person advised that they should add a little salt, a little pepper, and a little oil in order to make it palatable and agreeable; and having done so they should throw the preparation out of window. If it happened that those for whose delectation this Bill was served up should treat it in the same way he did not think the Government would be surprised. The Amendment he proposed was one which was forced upon them by the fact that, perhaps, the most important provision of this Bill was put into that portion of it which was not an enacting part of the measure in any sense whatever; and it behaved 362 the English Members, at any rate, to see that no kind of uncertainty was left upon this point, because, as he understood it, the attitude of Members representing Irish constituencies was now entirely different, and the claim they made was entirely different from what had been the attitude of former Irish Leaders and the claim they made. Former Leaders, and particularly Mr. Parnell, claimed that the Parliament of Ireland should be absolutely, unfettered in every particular; free from tills Parliament, and free to shape the course of Ireland among the nations of the world. He did not know how many Irish Headers there now were, but one and all of them had abandoned the position of the late Mr. Parnell. [Mr. J. E. REDMOND: No, no!] Well, there was one of them—and he was bound to say he thought the most influential of them—who had not abandoned that position; and, that being so, there was all the more reason, therefore, for passing the present Amendment. He understood, at all events, that the great bulk of them had receded from the position of the late Mr. Parnell, and were content to take a Parliament subordinate to this Parliament, and which would have no power to deal with a large number of matters. That was a Parliament which Mr. Parnell certainly did not demand, and never would have accepted, because it was well known that Mr. Parnell claimed that Ireland would not take anything but a Parliament with—Full and complete power to arrange our own affairs, and to make our land a nation; to secure for her, free from outside control, the right to direct her own course among the people of the world.That Bill did not offer them anything of the sort. It did not offer them a Parliament free from outside control, but it offered them a Parliament by a Bill the Preamble of which said the supreme authority of another Parliament should be preserved. It was because he wished that the position should be understood at the earliest possible moment, and not in a Preamble when the rest of the Bill was passed, that he desired, with diffidence, to submit this Amendment to the Committee. The contention from Ireland had always been that the laws of this Parliament were not good, because they were the laws of an alien Government. But 363 they in this Parliament always thought they had a right to make laws for Ireland, because, in this Parliament, Ireland was fully represented. That must still be the view of Her Majesty's Government, because the Irish representation was maintained. They did not know exactly in what proportion the right hon. Gentleman would give them Irish Members in that Parliament; but they had no doubt he would give them in a measure they in England neither deserved nor desired. It was for that Parliament he wished to secure, by enactment in an Enacting Clause of the Bill, the fullest powers to make laws for Ireland, and having it well understood that if any law made by the Irish Parliament conflicted with any law of this Legislature henceforth, whether made before or after the Irish law, that the law of this Legislature should be supreme, and have precedence over a law made by the Irish Legislature. He knew that that would place Ireland in a position which few nations would accept; but the Preamble professed to do it, and he was anxious it should not only profess to do it but should do it. He knew perfectly well that it made of the Irish Parliament what, to use the words of Mr. Sheridan, was "a sort of National Vestry for the Parish of Ireland." He should not have thought there could be any doubt that it was necessary to put the strength of the Preamble of the Bill into the Bill itself, and he should not have thought it necessary to establish that contention by precedents and decisions if the Home Secretary had not said that the Preamble was quite sufficient to secure the supremacy of this Parliament without having a section in the Bill, when it became an Act, to secure that supremacy. The Home Secretary had quoted, in his speech on the Second Reading of the Bill, the words of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, who had said—The second condition is that the local Legislative Body or Bodies to be created shall be admittedly, from the first, subordinate Bodies. If they are co-ordinate and equal, you cannot have supremacy.Thereupon the Home Secretary said—First of all the continued supremacy of Parliament is expressly declared.Then an hon. Member on that (the Opposition) side asked "when?" and the Homo Secretary proceeded— 364In the Preamble…. Ever since the days of Lord Coke it has been well said that the Preamble is the key-note of the Statute… If hon. Members were in doubt, let them bring up a clause; if they wish to make such an unnecessary declaration, let them bring up a clause to be inserted in the body of the Bill saying that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament is preserved, and I think I may say on the part of the Government that the clause will not meet with opposition.The Home Secretary said that Lord Coke had declared the Preamble was the key-note to a Statute. Lord Coke, he regretted to say, said nothing of the kind. At all events, if Lord Cokedid, he did not say it anywhere where he could find it. He had found, however, what Lord Coke did say, and what he thought misled the Home Secretary, who had many other matters to consider besides Lord Coke. Lord Coke, in his Fourth Institute, chap. 74, page 330 said this—The Preamble is to be considered, for it is the key" —not the key-note— "to open the meaning of the makers of the Act.He wished this key could open the meaning of the makers of the Act. There was one maker of the Act whose meaning had not been opened by any key, let alone the Preamble of this Bill.To open the meaning of the makers of the Act and mischiefs which they intend to remedy.Lord Coke, again, in the same Institute, said this—The rehearsal or Preamble of the Statute is a good means to find out the meaning of the Statute, and, as it were, a key to open the understanding thereof.Lord Coke's Institute had been commented upon by Hargreaves and Butler as follows:—Lord Coke's manner of expressing himself on the operation of the Preamble in the construction of Statutes is very observable. Instead of saying generally that the Preamble should control the Enacting Clauses, or of limiting precisely how far it shall have that effect, which would have been attempting to make a line where one cannot be drawn, he cautiously says that it is a good means to find out the intention.Lord Coke, again, in the 1st Chapter of his Fourth Institute, had a marginal note, which was this—A mischievous Act, with a flattering Preamble "—Of what was he thinking?A mischievous Act, with a flattering Preamble, in 11th Henry VII.In the text Lord Cork said— 365There was an Act of Parliament made in the 11th year of King Henry VII, which had a fair, flattering Preamble, pretending to avoid divers mischiefs, which were: —1. To the high displeasure of Almighty God; 2. The great let of the Common Law; and 3. The great let of the wealth of this land, and the purview of that Act tended in the execution contrary, ex diametro—namely, to the high displeasure of Almighty God, the great let, nay the utter subversion of the Common Law, and the great let of the wealth of this land, as hereafter shall manifestly appear.He might have been describing the present. Bill, with its flattering Preamble, pretending to avoid these things. Did Lord Coke say that the Preamble controlled the Statute? Did he say it prevented the Statute doing harm to the Common Law, or to the wealth of this land? No; he said distinctly, in spite of its fair, flattering Preamble, it produced all the harm that it professed to make impossible and to avoid, and Lord Coke could nowhere be found to say that the Preamble was the keynote to the Statute. He said it might be a means to find out what those who made the Statute meant; but what Lord Coke said had been misinterpreted, as the quotations he had made abundantly showed. What were the words of Mr. Dwarris? Mr. Dwarris, in his work on The Construction of the Statutes, said—A Preamble is not only not essential, and often omitted, but it is, strictly speaking, without force, in a legislative sense; being but a guide to, and not the vehicle of, the import of the Statute (a). And to what is it properly a guide—to the meaning of the enactment? No; but to the intentions of the framer, which is only the first stage on the road, in the construction of Statutes.He (Mr. Darling) dared say he had not yet convinced the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. It would be necessary to that right hon. Gentleman's conversion that he should read from some American authority, or that he should quote the decision, perhaps, of a modern Lancashire Magistrate. He had not got the decision of one of these, so he would read to the Committee the words of Mr. Justice Story, which, with the Chancellor of the Duchy, at all events, would have some weight. Mr. Justice Story said—The Preamble is properly referred to when doubts or ambiguities arise upon the words of the enacting part. The Preamble can never enlarge; it cannot confer any powers per se. Its true office is to expound powers conferred, not substantially to create them.366 The Preamble had no enacting force; it could not confer any powers; and it did not come into existence until doubts arose. Suppose this Bill became an Act, and it then came before an Irish Court with a modern Irish Judge, and it was argued that a certain power was given to the Irish Parliament. Did they think that an Irish modernised Home Rule Judge would ever have the slightest doubt that it did give that power, and if he did not, it would be useless to refer him to the Preamble. Unless they could raise a doubt, the Judge would not look to the Preamble, but in such a case he would have no doubt. They would, therefore, never get to the Preamble, and the Preamble did not come into question as an enacting part at all. It did not come into question even for the limited purpose of acting as a guide to unlock the mind of the Treasury Bench and their followers, who said on Tuesday they were going to vote against the Bill and on Friday walked into the Lobby for it. The Preamble did not come into action at all unless doubt existed in the mind of the tribunal who had to place a construction upon the Bill. He thought he had shown that if the Government were in earnest in desiring to preserve the supreme and unquestioned power of the Imperial Parliament, they were bound to do more than put words in the Preamble. Their bonâ fides would be judged by the way in which they dealt with the Amendment. By a subsequent Amendment he proposed to declare that any Irish Act contrary to any English Act passed after this Bill became law should be void if inconsistent with any such English Act. That was what supremacy meant. That was the way in which supremacy must be interpreted; that was the way in which supremacy was interpreted before Grattan's Parliament, and that was the way in which supremacy was bound to be interpreted if the Imperial Parliament was to remain in any real, effective sense supreme. That was what was decided in Calvin's case in the reign of James I., and that decision was acted upon until Grattan's Parliament came into existence. In Calvin's case it was decided—Albeit Ireland was a distinct dominion, yet the title thereof being by conquest, the same by judgment of law might by express 367 words be bound by Act of Parliament of England.The judgment in that case was written by the Legal Authority whom the Home Secretary above all preferred — Lord Coke. He wished there to be no mistake about this question of supremacy— that Ireland had not been made a nation, but had been created by the generosity of hon. Gentlemen opposite the parish vestry of the parish of Ireland—that it had got itself into the same position as it occupied in the days of James I. It was for these reasons he desired—relying upon the words, of which he thought there could be no evasion of Lord Coke, and of the authorities he had quoted—to do, in effect, what he believed the Government had not done—to preserve the supremacy in every single particular of the Parliament of Great Britain. He begged to move the Amendment.
In page 1, line 11, before the word "on," to insert the words "without in any way whatever impairing, restricting, or altering the supreme power and authority of Parliament in all matters, as well local as Imperial, and over all persons in Great Britain and Ireland."—(Mr. Charles Darling.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I do not object to the way in which the hon. Member has exercised his wit upon me; but he complains of the absolute impossibility of getting at any knowledge of my intentions. It is the understood privilege of the entire Opposition to expose my unfortunate incapacity to make intelligible anything I have to say. The hon. Member has made a proposal to us, but his argument goes much beyond it. His general argument is that in such a matter as the supremacy we ought to enact. ["Hear, hear!"] I am very glad that sometimes I can make myself intelligible. The hon. Member has bound himself in the most solemn way to the proposition—he has given us his professional authority for it—that this Bill is destructive of the Common Law.
§ *MR. DARLING (interrupting)
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I read a quotation from Lord Coke, describing an Act which was subversive of the Common Law, but the particular 368 part of it which I meant to apply to this Bill was that which referred to the "great let of the wealth of this land."
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Then there are other people, besides the unfortunate gentleman who now addresses the Committee, who ought to take pains to make their meaning clear. The hon. Gentleman said that Lord Coke's words were most admirably applicable to this Bill. He says that we ought to enact, instead of merely putting these words in the Preamble. But all he does is to propose a Preamble. The words of the Amendment enact nothing whatever; they are a mere Preamble. But the difference is this: the words are a Preamble to be inserted in a particular clause, and, therefore, their effect is limited to the Preamble of a clause. Our words being in the Preamble of the Bill, and not in a clause, apply to the whole Bill, and supply what is called the keynote of the Bill. Now, Sir, I do not intend to go beyond the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member. I must oppose that Amendment, but I must oppose it on the ground that, in my opinion, it distinctly tends to the limitation of the supremacy. I believe that it was the case with regard to Mr. Parnell —I believe it might have been the case with some other Irish Members, although I am not prepared to assert it as a matter of fact—that in early days, before he had a prospect of the concession of Home Rule for Ireland, he did use large, general, and, perhaps, inconsiderate and dangerous words as to the nature of the powers that ought to be conferred upon Ireland. I do not look to those declarations of Mr. Parnell—they were not made here, or on his responsibility as a Member of Parliament and as a Leader of the Irish Party. I look to the declarations of Mr. Parnell when he sat upon the Bench opposite, when, in 1886, the Home Rule Bill was introduced, and when Mr. Parnell, in direct contradiction to what the hon. and learned Member quoted from Mr. Parnell, declared on the part of himself and on the part of his Party that he accepted the proposal of that Bill in the main, and that he said he accepted it as constituting a subordinate Parliament for Ireland. It is material for all purposes that that should be understood. The hon. and learned Member also says that, according to his 369 view, a law passed by the Irish Parliament in contrariety to the law of the Imperial Parliament might be accepted by the Judges and might run in Ireland. Has the hon. and learned Gentleman read Clause 33, which expressly abolishes any Irish Statute that runs counter to an Imperial Statute in so far as it is counter? I come to the Amendment, and I take what I think to be the main objection to it. My opinion, and the opinion of the Government, respecting the supremacy is that it is absolutely without limit, and we do object to any declaration, or any words in whatever form, which tend to limit this supremacy. I must, therefore, object to the Amendment upon the ground that it tends to limit that supremacy, and that by the most distinct implication it does limit it. What is that supremacy? What is its range? Is it one in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland? No, Sir; it is a supremacy throughout the entire Empire. The hon. and learned Gentleman does not propose any enactment. There is no enacting force whatever in his words, which are a mere repetition, in substance, of what we say in the Preamble. He says it is necessary to uphold "the power and authority of Parliament in all matters"—very good, so far—"as well local and Imperial "—very good—" and over all persons." Where? "In Great Britain and Ireland," and not elsewhere. Then there is no supremacy in British North America, in the West Indies, Australasia, the Cape, or anywhere else, but only in Great Britain? This is the mode in which the hon. and learned Gentleman proposes to maintain the supremacy. Whatever we assert of this supremacy, we shall always assort that the supremacy is a supremacy reaching and prevailing alike in each and every quarter of Her Majesty's Empire. Therefore, it is impossible for us to accept the Amendment.
§ MR. WYNDHAM (Dover)
said, the right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to minimise the force of certain references made by Mr. Parnell by stating that his speech was delivered not in the House, but in the country, and in the next place that it was not delivered by him a; Leader of the Irish Party. Mr. Parnell had said that, speaking for himself, and he believed, for the Irish people and for all his Colleagues, he had to declare that 370 they would never accept anything but the full and complete right to manage their own affairs and make Ireland a, nation, and to secure for her, free from outside control, the right to direct her course among the peoples of the world. The Unionist Party held that that declaration of policy was inconsistent with the policy of the Government as delineated in the oft-quoted words of the Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith). Turning to the second contention of the Prime Minister—that they were not to attach any importance to the words of Mr. Parnell because they were not uttered in that House——
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said, in that case he must have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman. For his part, he attached more importance to words used in the freedom of addressing one's constituents. But, at all events, they must face the question of supremacy in the light of the innermost convictions of the Irish Members, if they could arrive at those convictions. Putting that matter on one side, the Unionist Party intended, if it were possible, to see that the Government gave real effect to the supremacy of which they had talked so much. The Prime Minister had said that in Clause 33 some such supremacy as the hon. and learned Member had described was reserved to that House, and that by that clause, as he understood the Prime Minister, any Act of that House would over-ride any Act passed by the Irish Legislature. As he read the clause, however, it only applied to those matters which were specifically excluded from the Irish Legislature in Clauses 3 and 4.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said, he was not, a lawyer, and he hoped some hon. and learned Gentleman would be able to reassure the Committee on that point, which was very obscure in the Bill. The Prime Minister told the House that the supremacy was maintained in the Preamble; but hon. Members on the Opposition side of the House felt that it was too like chaos, without form, and void, and that it might have a protean tendency to take different shapes in proportion to the opportunities which hon. Members might have of coming from 371 Ireland. The references to supremacy made by Members of the Government, on which they won the last General Election, and as understood by the audiences to which they were addressed, were to the effect that that House would still be able by law to provide such safety and liberty as now existed in Ireland. In respect of such pledges the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. E. Redmond), in discussing this question out of doors, had said that they were threats. This supremacy was the only watch it would be possible to keep over the action of the Irish Parliament. The right of that House to pass laws for Ire-land had always existed except during the interregnum of Grattan's Parliament; if any hon. Member hud a doubt on the subject let him read the admirable work on Irish Legislatures by Mr. J. P. Ball, and they therefore had a right to see that the supremacy of the House should exist in the future without any limit. He based his support of the Amendment very much upon the argument used by the Prime Minister in opposing, earlier in the evening, the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain). The Prime Minister's contention in that instance was that the governing principle of the Bill should be given in the 1st clause, and the Home Secretary had said that the Government accepted the principle of supremacy, and they were also told that if anyone would frame or draft a clause it would be accepted into the body of the Bill. But if the 1st clause was the proper clause for embodying the principle of the Bill, the Unionists preferred to have it in the very forefront of the Bill. Whether the principle of the necessity for a separate Parliament in Dublin was abandoned for some other principle, and whether this Bill were to pass or not, the principle of supremacy was imperative now and must always remain imperative.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
said, the Prime Minister found some fault with hon. Members on a Opposition side of the House at not finding his remarks intelligible, but he thought that the right hon. Gentleman was himself to blame. On a recent occasion the House learnt that "marching through rapine to the dis- 372 memberment of the Empire" meant the opposing of a Land Bill. He had never understood the statement of the right hon. Gentleman in that sense until it was explained the other evening. But now the right hon. Gentleman was equally unintelligible. On the question whether the Irish Members were to be retained in their present number, or the number mentioned in Clause 9, or whether they were to be excluded, hung the meaning and authority of Clauses 1 and 2. Clause 1 proposed to set up a Parliament in Ireland which was supposed to be a subordinate Parliament. If the Irish Members were retained at Westminster in their present number, there certainly would be a subordinate Parliament, but it would not be the Irish Parliament. The Imperial Parliament would be the subordinate Parliament. [Cries of "Order!" "Chair!" and cheers.] Gentlemen called "Order!" but this was a question of supremacy, and it was impossible to discuss a clause dealing with Parliamentary supremacy without taking into consideration the clause which would materially affect the question whether the Imperial Parliament should be supreme or subordinate. If, therefore, Clause 9 was changed, as they supposed it would be—[Cries of "Order!"]
It is not competent for the hon. Member to discuss Clause 9. This is an Amendment to the first part of Clause 1, and he cannot discuss the question embodied in another clause.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
Mr. Mellor, I rise to a point of Order. We have had a ruling of the Speaker on the Instruction that the question of supremacy could be raised in the largest manner on Clause 1. Are we to understand that it is now decided that Clause 9, which proposes the retention of the Irish Members, is not an essential part of the genuineness or want of reality of that supremacy?
I entirely concur with the ruling of the Speakee with regard to the Instruction and with his explanations as to this Amendment. It is perfectly open to any hon. Member to discuss the question of supremacy in the fullest manner on this Amendment; but while, with regard to Clause 9, it is com- 373 petent for an hon. Member to refer to it, it is not competent for him to discuss it in detail.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said, he was not going to discuss Clause 9, but he desired to point out the impossibility of discussing adequately the supremacy of Parliament without taking into consideration a clause which must absolutely affect that supremacy. As far as that clause was concerned, the Prime Minister had given the Committee absolutely no information. Would the right hon. Gentleman tell the Committee what amount of elasticity he would display when it came to consider Clause 9? [Cries of "Order!"] He was in a slight difficulty with reference to this Amendment—indeed, difficulty on his part must arise on all Amendments to this Bill. Personally, he should move no Amendment, because no Amendment of any kind that could be devised by the wit of man could make a Bill of that kind tolerable to him and, he believed, to the majority of his colleagues. As far, however, as he could make out the meaning of this Amendment, his hon. Friend wished to establish fair play between the Irish Parliament and the British Parliament. The Government proposed, on the other hand, that the Irish Members should have the absolute control, not only over the destinies of Ireland, but at the same time over the destinies of this country. There were certain facts clearly before the Committee as to the Irish Parliament in Dublin and the Irish Government to be created. They maintained that from the record of the men who would form that Parliament and constitute that Government the Loyalists had a perfect right, if Home Rule was granted, to demand that there should be safeguards placed in the Bill which should curb the instincts of those whom it was proposed to make their rulers in Ireland. They knew exactly how the Government would be composed and how the Parliament would be elected. Those men who were to be their future governors had left a record behind them to which all eyes were ever open.
The Amendment is intended to establish the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament in all matters, local as well as Imperial, and over all persons. Although I cannot say that the hon. Member is keeping very closely to the point, I do not think he is out of Order.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON
said, he did not see how he was to avoid this line of argument, because he and his friends had grounds for believing that the men who were to compose the Government of Ireland were not to be trusted, and that the Amendment of his hon. Friend would place a curb on the action of the Irish Parliament and Government. If a Home Rule Government and Parliament was established in Dublin the record of those men who would form it and the Executive proved this: that that Government would be a Government of robbery, jobbery, and beggary. That being their belief, it was their bounden duty to support any Amendment which would effectually curb the predatory propensities of a squaid Parliament and a hungry Executive floating on whisky. The object he had in rising to speak to the Amendment undoubtedly had been to try and extract from some Gladstonian Radical his views upon this clause and upon other clauses of the Bill. But none of them showed any alacrity in rising. They had had two speeches from the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister of a very light and good-humoured character, as though he had been dealing with a Parish Councils Bill or with some minor act of legislation instead of a great question which touched the vital interests of Ireland and the Constitution of the Empire. But they had witnessed no sign of alacrity on the part of the right hon. Gentleman's followers to get up and support him on the clauses of the Bill. Well, he (Colonel Saunderson) had not expected that there would be. It was a "personally conducted" Party—conducted by Lord "Cook." However, the right hon. Gentleman's followers might feel, with regard to this. Amendment or with regard to the clauses which followed if the right hon. Gentleman showed his determination to stick by the clause no matter how they objected, they would adhere to it. They 375 had a new policy presented by the Prime Minister and his followers had now indented a new "ism." [Cries of "Question!"] They had Protestantism, Mormonism, Roman Catholicism, and now they had Grand Old Manism. [Cries of "Question!"] None of the Members of the Gladstonian Party would dare to get up to express their opinions until they knew how their Leader wished them to vote. The speeches of hon. Members were of a funereal character. They all knew that this Amendment and all the discussions that would take place during the next two months or three or four would be discussions over a dead Bill. It was a sort of oratorical wake. The Bill was a dead Bill. It would be buried in August, but the discussions in the House which they had undertaken to-day, and which they would carry on to-day, were addressed to those who would give the final decision; and when that final decision came, he believed the Bill of the Ministry and the policy they had started would disappear together.
§ MR. R. T. REID (Dumfries, &c.)
said, he did not intend to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel Saunderson) through a speech which appeared to him to be very wide indeed of the subject-matter before the Committee, nor would he follow him into the references of a personal character which he had made to the Prime Minister. If the hon. and gallant Member desired to know why the supporters of the Government maintained silence on this as on the other stages of the Bill, he would tell him. It was because they wanted to see the measure passed into law, and because they were conscious that for that purpose it would be very unwise to fall into any of the numerous traps that were laid for them by hon. Members opposite. If this Bill were to be fairly discussed in Committee by hon. Members opposite with a desire to solve a most difficult question, and with a real desire to agree upon some settlement, they would find the expressions of opinion of hon. Members on the Government side of the House much more numerous and perhaps very much more satisfactory to any fair views they might themselves entertain. He now wished to say a word with regard to the Amendment. It involved a principle on 376 which, as he understood it, both sides of the Committee were entirely agreed. Hon. Members opposite were anxious that there should be an effective and real supremacy of the Imperial Parliament safeguarded in adequate terms in the Bill, and he understood that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, and every right hon. Gentleman on the Government side of the House had expressed precisely the same opinion. The Bill contained a statement of supremacy in the Preamble, and, for his own part, he believed that, in point of law, if the rest of the measure were absolutely silent upon the subject, that supremacy would remain unimpaired without a shadow of a doubt in the mind of every lawyer and every Judge in the country. Out of excessive caution the Government had inserted that declaration of their intentions in the Preamble, and he had no doubt that the declaration would be an adequate guide to any Judge, however blind, to lead him into the right path. It was possible to move in another direction. It was possible to put a plain statement into the Bill such as was found in all Statutes setting up our various Colonial Governments, which would make the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament absolutely clear. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith) had said that the Government were willing to accept such a chaise. It would have been better to have put down a clause of that kind than to have put down an Amendment which was merely a preface to the clause and inadequate for its purpose.
§ *SIR HENRY JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
I am sure that many Members of the Committee heard with satisfaction the declaration of the Prime Minister that the sovereignty of the Imperial Parliament was an indisputable fact. It was especially satisfactory to hear the right hon. Gentleman express as his principal objection to the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Deptford that it did not go far enough. The argument of the Prime Minister was that they ought to go as far as to express this sovereignty of the Imperial Parliament in respect to all the Queen's Dominions. If the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say so, 377 that statement of his goes to contradict his own Bill. The Preamble of the Bill does not express that. In a Bill of this kind, referring to Ireland alone, the Preamble would also be read as referring to Ireland alone. It may be said that the words of the Amendment are not the most apt words, and that they are not proposed in the best place; but the object in moving this Amendment is that, before we commence the further discussion of the measure, hon. Members shall know whether the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament is to be an admitted fact or not. It should not be left to implication, but should be admitted expressly. The Preamble is not the enacting part of a Bill, and it never could be referred to unless doubts arose as to other parts of the measure. The Prime Minister referred us to the 33rd clause. In one sense he is right, because it will not allow the Irish Legislature to interfere with Acts passed by the Imperial Parliament after the passing of this Act. Still, in the course of time it may come to be thought that the Imperial Parliament has only supremacy in relation to those particular Acts. The supremacy of Parliament consists of two ingredients—authority to enact and power to enforce its legislation. Unless those two things are expressly admitted, difficulties will arise in respect of the construction of the Act. It is not alone lawyers and Judges who will have to consider it. If the Bill is passed every Petty Sessions in Ireland will have to construe the measure. This matter can easily be placed beyond doubt, and I hope the Home Secretary will adhere to the statement he made on the Second Reading, that there is no objection to a clause declaring that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament shall exist. If he does, and a clause is inserted, it will get rid of all question on this point. The Prime Minister said that the words of the Amendment do not go far enough.
§ *SIR H. JAMES
It was, I think, the principal objection of the right hon. Gentleman. My hon. and learned Friend (Mr. R. T. Reid) says there is no objection to an express clause, and once it is framed this discussion will come to an end. If the Government say they cannot take 378 this course, will it not be said that in the conduct of this Bill the Government have had some reason for abstaining from explicitly declaring the supremacy of Parliament? If Irish Members are excluded from this House, and if in some Petty Sessions Court in Ireland it is asked, "Is the Parliament of England to pass laws for Ireland?" will not the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament be imperilled if there is no explicit declaration of that supremacy? I ask the Government to consider the promise of the Home Secretary that there should be an express admission by a clause of the supremacy of Imperial Parliament, and I would urge the Prime Minister to put the question beyond dispute by accepting the advice of the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. ASQUITH,) Fife, E.
I have listened to the discussion with a certain amount of surprise, because I understood, after I had spoken on the Second Reading, that it was practically conceded by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that, so far as paper declarations are concerned, the supremacy of Parliament is amply safeguarded by the Bill as it stands. ["No, no!"] If that is disputed, I must refer to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition in the Debate on the Second Reading. At the close of the Debate, after referring to my speech, and saying that I had explained at considerable length that the Imperial Parliament would still be supreme, he went on to say—Legally, of course, it would be supreme; no one has doubted it. But what layman takes the slightest interest in these paper supremacies? For my part, I take no more interest in the question of whether the Imperial Parliament is on paper superior to the Irish Parliament than I do as to the order of precedence at a London dinner party. The thing is of no public interest or importance whatever. What we want to know is where the power lies. Who is going to exercise supremacy? Who is going to be the de facto ruler of Ireland?Well, what is proposed now? Why, to add another to the list of paper safeguards of the supremacy. Furthermore, if the offer I made were accepted, and a declaratory clause asserting the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament were inserted in the Bill, according to the right hon. Gentleman it would not make the least 379 difference—it would not be a matter in which any layman would affect to take any interest, because the question which is the de facto ruler—not the de jure ruler, not the ruler on paper—will remain precisely the same. I am, therefore, surprised that so much time should be occupied on the discussion of this puely academic question. I would repeat what was said by the Prime Minister — namely, that the Amendment before the Committee, if it does anything, tends to cast a doubt upon the supremacy of Parliament. It is a preamble to the clause, and will only govern the clause; and if if there is any doubt—I deny that there can be—lawyers and Judges will look not to a clause, but to the Preamble for a key to the Statute. As to the appeal of my right hon. Friend (Sir H. James), what I have to say is that if a clause bearing in express terms upon the supremacy is placed upon the Paper, when the time comes for the discussion of that clause—which, I may remark, is not now, but when the new clauses come to be considered—the Government will carefully consider its terms. [Laughter.] Well, if hon. Gentlemen suppose that the Government will bind themselves in advance to accept any form of words which may be put on the Paper, they are making a very unreasonable demand. I do not in the least degree recede from the statement I made on the Second Reading; I do not go back one step. All I do say is that at the proper time—and certainly this is not the proper moment to discuss the question—the Government are as determined as any hon. Gentleman opposite can be that when this Bill finally passes through Committee the supremacy of Parliament shall be amply and unequivocally safeguarded.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I should not have intervened thus early if it had not been that the right hon. Gentleman appears to have relied upon some statement of mine on the Second Reading fortifying his own view of the legal position in which we stand. It would be rash of me to make any statement on the legal aspect of the Bill, but I frankly admit that I have been told by lawyers of high authority that if the Bill passes in its present shape, or amended as we desire to amend it, competent lawyers will hold that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament has not been interfered 380 with. But, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury has pointed out, the Bill will have to be interpreted in Ireland by persons who are not competent lawyers. It is possible that the Magistrates in Ireland may be as ignorant of Constitutional Law as I am myself, and it will be quite as necessary to guide them into the true path as it would be to guide a lay Member of the House. But there is another point which, to my mind, is much more important. I still adhere to the view that a paper supremacy is not a thing in which lay Members need take great interest; but the value of this clause, in my opinion, is that if it is followed, as it ought to be, by a specific proposition intended to make it effective in practice, the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament will be a real supremacy, and not a paper supremacy. The question in the future will be as to how far the Imperial Parliament can with propriety —I do not say with legal justification— interfere in Irish affairs in so far as all matters, local and Imperial, and all persons in Ireland are concerned. This question of the propriety of interfering in those affairs will be constantly coming up for decision. If we are going to leave the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament unmentioned in the clauses of the Bill, and are not going to specify what the duties of that Parliament are to be, it will be open for gentlemen to argue that, although this House undoubtedly has a right to interfere, it cannot with propriety do so in Ireland any more than it can with propriety do so in Canada or Australia. My view is that we should put this matter beyond doubt in the Act itself, and declare distinctly that the Imperial Parliament not only has legal right—about which lawyers are quarrelling and will go on quarrelling—to deal with Irish local affairs and with any person in Ireland, but that the Act contemplates the exercise of that right. Therefore, I attach the utmost importance to placing in the first line of the 1st clause of the measure words implying the deliberate determination of the Imperial Parliament as a matter of concrete fact and everyday practice to deal with any matter in Ireland, local or personal, if on the matter being brought before them they should think it proper so to do. But I go further than that. Valuable as I think these words would be if they stood 381 alone, and cordially as I shall support the Amendment if carried to a Division, in my opinion their greatest value will be as a preface to the future provisions to be introduced creating machinery for enabling the Imperial Parliament to control local and personal affairs in Ireland. This is not the time for considering what that machinery should be, but undoubtedly it will be our duty—a duty from which we shall not shrink—to endeavour to put within the Bill the actual instruments and implements with which the Imperial Parliament will exercise supervision over the acts of the Irish Legislature and extend protection to all individuals and to every local interest in Ireland. By seeking to introduce these words into the Bill we are not dealing with a legal quibble, but are endeavouring to introduce a great and important modification into the Bill.
§ *MR. DUNBAR BARTON (Armagh, Mid)
thought he could explain why the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary had withdrawn from the position he took up on the Second Reading. It was because the Irish Members took exception to his view. The hon. and learned Member for Dumfries (Mr. R. T. Reid) had said that even if there was no mention of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament in the Bill there would be no doubt as to the existence of that supremacy. If the hon. and learned Member was as familiar with this particular controversy in Ire-laud at a time preceding the Union as he (Mr. Barton) was, he would know that, of all questions which had ever been disputed by the Nationalists of Ireland, this was the one most disputed. If the hon. Member for Waterford and his friends were to agree to a clear statement of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament being inserted in the Bill they would find it difficult to explain their conduct to those who at present regarded them as the trustees of Irish nationality. They were first told that they need not place the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament in the enacting part of the Bill, because it was in the Preamble, and now they were told that it was unnecessary because of an admission alleged to have been made in Debate by the Leader of the Opposition. That was a high compliment to pay the Leader of the Opposition no doubt; but the right hon. Gentleman had sufficiently ex- 382 plained that his words were not to be taken as justifying the Government in omitting this Amendment from the Bill. The supremacy of Parliament over Ireland was of two kinds—judicial and legislative. The judicial supremacy was seriously affected by this Bill. By Clause 22 of the Bill the most important branch of the judicial supremacy was abolished, as it was enacted that appeals from Courts in Ireland to the House of Lords should cease. That was important, because the appellate jurisdiction of the English House of Lords had in 1719 and 1783 played an important part in the struggle between the Parliaments of Great Britain and Ireland. Therefore, by abolishing it the Government had removed one important branch of the Imperial supremacy. There were other branches of the judicial supremacy which would require definite words, especially impeachment. Would an Irish subject be impeachable after this Act, and, if so, where? But the legislative supremacy was the most important branch of the subject. How did this stand? He ventured to say that Clause 33 of the Bill did not do that which the Government would lead them to suppose. It omitted an important part of what the opponents of the Bill insisted upon. Would it be competent for both Parliaments to legislate upon the same subject? If so, would this Parliament be supreme? Unless it were made clear that this Parliament could pass a special Act with reference to matters within the powers of the Irish. Legislature, there would be no effective supremacy. He was aware that they would be told they would have the veto, but that would not do for them. That was indirect supremacy, similar to the supremacy exercised by the Privy Council under Poyning's Act. They wanted a complete Parliamentary supremacy, and wanted it to be made clear in the Bill. The hon. and learned Member for Dumfries had said that the supremacy would be secure, even if it was not mentioned in the Bill, but a slight knowledge of Irish history and law would soon undeceive him. No subject had been more disputed by every generation of Irish Nationalists. There had been three cases on the subject in the Law Courts, a glance at which would show how doubtful the question was. In Pilkington's case, in Henry VI's. reign, it was decided in 383 the English Courts that the granting of a subsidy by the English Parliament would not be binding in Ireland. In the ease of the merchants of Waterford, which was finally decided in the first year of Henry VII. conflicting decisions were given by the Judges. First, they decided that the English Parliament could not bind the Irish people by an Act restricting external commerce. Then they re-considered their Judgment, and having been reinforced by the Chief Justice, they decided the contrary. Finally, in Calvin's case, early in the reign of James I., in a ease about. Scotch naturalisation, it was laid down by Lord Coke and the other Judges that the laws passed in the English Parliament might by express words bind Ireland. This was decided on the ground that Ireland was a conquered country. But the Irish people had always disputed the fact of conquest, and, therefore, the ratio decidendi of Lord Coke's Judgment was traversed and disputed in Ireland. The House would see from these three cases the question was one which, so far as case law went, was by no means clear, and was not one which could be lightly passed over in an Act of Parliament. He would next deal with legislation and the action of Parliament. After Calvin's case was decided the Irish Parliament of Charles I. consulted the Irish Judges on this very subject of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament; and having received an ambiguous reply, the Irish Parliament, disregarding the judgment in Calvin's case, declared solemnly that the English Parliament had no right to bind Ireland, but that the laws for Ireland wore the Common Law of England and the Statute Law of Ireland. That was in 1641–2. In 1689 they had the brief and notorious Parliament of James II., the Parliament which confiscated the property and sentenced to death all the leading members of the Protestant community in Ireland, and it repudiated, among other things, the right of the British Parliament to legislate for Ireland. Hardly had the Parliament of William III. assembled than the same question was again raised, and early in the next century Molyneux, in his Paper on The Case for Ireland, argued that the Imperial Parliament had no power to legislate for that country. The question created such a degree of interest that about 1718 the Irish House of Lords 384 decided the point one way and the English House of Lords another, and both claimed appellate jurisdiction on the ground of Parliamentary supremacy. It was this controversy between the two Houses of Lords as to judicial supremacy which led to the Declaratory Act of 1719, commonly called the Statute of 6 Geo. I. This Parliament then found it necessary to declare the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, and if it was found necessary to declare it then why did Her Majesty's Government not think it necessary to declare it now? That was the last time the Imperial Parliament declared its supremacy. Thus, in 1719, this Parliament found it necessary to declare it by deliberate enactment; but so violently was it disputed by the Irish leaders that Parliament, in 1782, had to repeal that Act, and remove it from the Statute Book. The independence of Grattan's Parliament depended upon the repeal of that Declaratory Act, and yet they were told that it was not now necessary to declare, in specific terms, the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament. In 1783 this Parliament renounced any right of supremacy it had over the Irish Parliament. He asked hon. Members whether the question of supremacy could be satisfactorily dealt with in a Preamble when all these great events of Irish history and all these great Constitutional movements and circumstances turned upon that question? By the Act of Union the question was settled, as the supremacy was practically established by that measure which made Ireland a partner with England and Scotland in the government of the Three Kingdoms. How had the Members of the Government treated the Act of Union which thus practically established the Imperial supremacy? They had gone up and down the country endeavouring to discredit it. They declared that that Act, which was now the sole foundation of the supremacy of Parliament, was gained by force and fraud. Under these circumstances, the Opposition wore entitled to say that the Imperial supremacy must be expressly safeguarded in the Act. He was entitled to ask those who represented the historic Nationalist Party what was their view on the question? Were they willing to admit the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament in 385 the sense in which it had been described? Whatever was their reply, the Opposition was at least entitled to ask the Government, who had tainted the title deeds of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament, to set up in its place something that would be a sure basis for the supremacy in the future.
§ MR. BOUSFIELD (Hackney, N.)
rose to make a suggestion which he thought might possibly meet the opinions which had been expressed on both sides of the House. He understood that both sides were equally agreed that the supremacy of Parliament ought to be effectually maintained. With that object in view, he thought both sides were agreed that the Irish Legislature was to be really a subordinate Legislature. The Prime Minister had raised the objection to the Amendment that it was not of an enacting character, but was rather a preamble to the clause. He (Mr. Bousfield) suggested that the words "subject to and" should be prefixed to the Amendment. If this suggestion were adopted, it would make the Amendment of an enacting character. His hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Darling) did not think this Amendment necessary, but he understood that he would accept it.
§ Amendment proposed, to the said proposed Amendment, before the first word "without" to insert the words "subject to and."—(Mr. Bousfield.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'subject to and' be there inserted in the proposed Amendment."
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
We cannot accept the Amendment. We do not think that the best mode of dealing with the supremacy is by means of a preamble to a particular clause.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I cannot help thinking that perhaps the Government have already seen some reason to doubt the wisdom of the course they have taken in refusing all information as to their intentions with regard to subsequent clauses. We are anxious, as far us we can, to confine ourselves strictly to the immediate matter under discussion, and not to refer, if we can avoid it, to future parts of the Bill when we do not know how they are going to be treated by the Government. I am not 386 going to say another word on Clause 9 because, as far as I am concerned, Clause 9 no longer exists. It does not represent any settled intention of the Government. It is merely a pious opinion which is thrown upon the Table of the House and to which it would be perfectly useless and unnecessary for us to refer. But I cannot help referring to the question which is treated in Clause 9—namely, the future condition of the House of Commons. We are told that it is a matter of agreement between the two sides of the House that there shall be real and effective supremacy. I confess I am sorry to say I do not share the view of my hon. and learned Friend the Members for Dumfries (Mr. Reid). I doubt very much whether we are agreed on both sides of the House. Taking it for granted that that is true, as far as my hon. and learned Friend and those who act with him are concerned, I ask how can you have an effective supremacy or how can you devise words to secure it until you know what is to be done in regard to the Parliament at Westminster? The one argument which we urged against the extinction of the Irish Members in 1886, and the argument which was accepted by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in subsequent speeches as being a very reasonable argument, was that without the Irish Members at Westminster we could not have supremacy.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I beg my right hon. Friend's pardon. I was not going to refer to his words; but as he challenges me I must. On July 18th, 1886, my right hon. Friend at a tea, I suppose, given by the hon. Member for Cumberland (Cockermouth) (Sir W. Lawson) said—Moreover, I will go so far as to admit that it is impossible not to respect the feeling that in many minds has led to the entertainment of that desire. It is in order that there may not be as much as the slightest shadow of a presumption that the real union between the countries is about to be impaired that is a feeling to which the greatest respect should be paid.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
If my right hon. Friend agrees with that I really do not understand what the difference is between us. I assert that in 1886 the argument was that if the Irish 387 Members were excluded the supremacy could not be maintained. If the Irish Members are not retained it would be very difficult to argue logically that this House should have the right to tax them or impose its views upon them. My right hon. Friend says that is a feeling which is deserving of respect. I say that, under these circumstances, it is clearly impossible that we should discuss this question of supremacy without discussing possible methods of dealing with the Irish Members at Westminster. At present we have not the least idea what is the intention of the Government in this matter. We are obliged to argue on three different assumptions, and to show what is necessary to secure the supremacy of Parliament on each of these three assumptions. If my right hon. Friend, who knows of course what his intention is, would only frankly take the House into his confidence, as he has already no doubt taken hon. Members from Ireland into his confidence, he would shorten the Debate, because, instead of having to discuss on every clause as it comes up three separate hypotheses and propositions, we should only have to discuss one. Why are we to be the only people who do not know the future intentions of the Government? I think my right hon. Friend will find he has made a mistake in not saying yes or no to the simple question I asked him whether or not he adheres to Clause 9. I think some of my hon. Friends behind him, when they note his persistent silence, must have some qualms of conscience as to the position into which they are to be led. [Ministerial cries of "No!"] I find it is not so. They have been so accustomed to swallow their opinions that nothing the future can have in store for them can arouse the slightest alarm. I come now to the particular words suggested by the hon. and learned Gentleman. To my mind, they are words which are very insufficient, and will have to be added to and extended to other parts of the Bill. But what are the objections taken to them? We are told by the hon. Member for Dumfries (Mr. Reid) that both sides of the House are agreed in principle. A proposition is made from the other side of the House in order to secure what all of us want to secure. We get no suggestion from this side of the House, except the suggestion that 388 the proposal we make is unacceptable. The reason given by the Prime Minister was that the proposal did not go far enough, or rather, that the Amendment would affect a limitation of that immense, complete, unimpaired, entire, and satisfactory supremacy which the Government are determined, at all hazards, to maintain. But then, Sir, what does it amount to? Only to this: that while, as far as matters are concerned, the supremacy declared by the hon. and learned Gentleman is thoroughly satisfactory because it includes all matters everywhere——
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Well, my right hon. Friend, in his speech, passed over as satisfactory that portion of the Amendment which deals with matters, and it was only when he came to persons that he raised an objection.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Well, then, I am one of those unfortunate persons who did not understand my right hon. Friend. I take it then as both. My right hon. Friend will see that "Great Britain and Ireland" only refer to persons, and the rest of the Amendment to matters. We will assume, however, for the sake of argument, that "Great Britain and Ireland" limits both the matters and the persons. My right hon. and learned Friend (Sir II. James) differs from the Prime Minister as to the legal operation of the words; but there is this to be said for them: that they are taken from the language of another lawyer, the Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith), who gave them as a satisfactory definition of Imperial supremacy. When we accept them the Government find them entirely unsatisfactory. If they want enlargement, why does not some one on the Front Bench give us a suggestion for an enlargement? The Prime Minister may be quite sure that we shall not disagree with him on that point. The Home Secretary says, if we will bring forward a clause, he will consider it. This is a Bill to be dealt with not by discussion, but by consideration. This Bill is thrown on the Table, and we are to provide clauses to turn it into a good Bill, although the Government will not let us discuss their clauses. We are to provide clauses 389 dealing with finance and dealing with Ulster, and until we do those subjects are to be postponed. This is the most absurd way of dealing with a great Bill. If the Government have a mind lot us, for goodness sake, know what it is! Do not let let them ask us to help them in the drafting of their Bill. The second objection is that this is not an enacting clause. That is a most strange objection to come from the Government. I think my right hon. and learned Friend (Sir H. James) has an idea that it is an enacting clause. But, putting this aside, what a curious thing it is that the Government, who think it satisfactory to deal with this matter by means of the Preamble with no enacting value, should complain of the Amendment that it does not go far enough. It is perfectly evident that the objection is taken for the sake of objecting, and that it is perfectly impossible to support it on any logical or reasonable ground. The Home Secretary complained that we are now increasing the number of safeguards, although the Leader of the Opposition has said he attaches no importance to paper safeguards. I think we are all agreed that there is no importance in paper safeguards if they stop there. But to place them in an Act of Parliament is the first stop to enforcing them. The Government is in too great a hurry. We shall come to the enforcement after they accept the insertion of the principle. I do not believe they want to assert it. Of course, they are willing to assert it in Debate because words used in Debate are of no value subsequently in the interpretation of an Act. But I think if they were to put those words into the Bill, they would find they would have to enter into some discussion on the subject with some of their supporters. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. E. Redmond) — and this is a most extraordinary thing to which I must call attention —declared in terms that he would not be satisfied unless he inserted in the Bill a clause declaring that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament should not extend to these matters expressly relegated to the Irish Parliament. We are now discussing the supremacy, and the hon. and learned Member is absent. I take it for granted that if he were here he would object to the insertion in the 390 Bill of the words which right hon. Gentlemen say they accept in principle. They tell us they agree with us in principle; and while all they have to say against our Amendment is that it does not go far enough, they will neither accept it nor teach us how to amend it. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Reid) laid down certainly a most extraordinary doctrine as to the policy which apparently he and his friends are going to adopt in this discussion. He said— "If you were willing to assist us in this Bill, we should be very happy to discuss it with you; but, as you are opposed to the Bill in all respects, as you have a bitter and undying hostility towards it, we are not going to discuss it with you at all." Well, what on earth is the good of a Committee of the House of Commons if that attitude is to be adoped? This is the doctrine laid down by a Member of this House who calls himself a Liberal— by one of those Members the tradition of whose Party it is to obtain free discussion. Committee is the place for discussion of the details of a Bill. We are now informed, and we are told, on the first Amendment on the 1st clause, that there is to be no discussion except by the Opposition. Only two right hon. Gentlemen have risen to speak in answer to the many speeches which have been made against them. This is the policy of silence. Our arguments are not to be answered. We are to be left to carry on the Debate alone. It cannot be said that we are carrying on an obstructive Debate.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
Not even the very young Member behind me would, I should think, have the hardihood to get up and say that the discussion of an Amendment of this importance has been obstructive.
§ MR. LITTLE
I have read the right hon. Gentleman's speeches, and those of the Leader of the Opposition, and that is the construction I place upon their assertions.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
It is not my business to defend the Loader of the Opposition, but the construction the hon. Member has put on my speech is a most unauthorised and a most impertinent one. I defy him to find a single word in any of my speeches which justifies the 391 interpretation he has placed upon them. I say again that, for my part, I am absolutely indifferent whether the Government answer our arguments or not. That will not prevent us, however, from bringing our arguments before the House and the country. If the Government do not answer our arguments it is because they cannot. Never before, I should think, in the history of Parliament has a Debate on the Second Reading of an important Bill gone on without an answer being given to any one of the principal arguments used against the measure. I am not speaking of the quality of the arguments. That, of course, is a matter on which I should be a had judge; but what I say is, that to the principal arguments not a single word has been said in reply. If throughout the Committee stage the Government are going to treat us in the same way, that is to us a matter of the most perfect indifference; but the country will understand it perfectly well, and we shall challenge the Government to take the opinion of the country upon it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT,) Derby
With one remark of my right hon. Friend I entirely concur, and that is that the country will understand it. The country will understand my right hon. Friend's objects and the method by which he is seeking to secure them. We are perfectly prepared to answer the arguments of my right hon. Friend. What we will not do is to follow him in his method of discussing the 9th clause on the 1st clause. That is not a thing which we are bound to do or which we ought to do. The House, by a significant majority, has pronounced its opinion on the first Amendment, which was that of my right hon. Friend. What adjective belongs to that Amendment I will not say. Upon the Amendment before the House I will answer in two sentences so much of the speech of my right hon. Friend as can be called argument. About nine-tenths of my right hon. Friend's speech was not argument but denunciation. What is the part, the infinitesimal part, of my right hon. Friend's speech, which may properly be called argument? He says it is necessary to put this Amendment into the 1st clause. We have said we think it sufficient to put it into the Preamble. Hon. Gentlemen say the 392 Preamble is not sufficient, and in order to cure the defects of the Preamble of the whole Bill, they introduce the Amendment into the preamble of a single clause. Even a layman will see that the Amendment is not of an enacting character. The hon. and learned Member opposite (Mr. Bousfield) is so confident that it is not enacting that he has suggested certain words which would make it not an enacting clause at all, but a saving clause. That in itself is an objection fatal to gentlemen opposite. My right hon. Friend (Mr. J. Chamberlain) asks why we do not bring up an enacting clause. We say we do not think an enacting clause necessary. We think it is sufficient to call attention to the supremacy of Parliament in the Preamble. If you do not think it sufficient, bring up your enacting clause. It is for you to supply any defects you think there are in the Bill. That is an answer to the whole argument. To say that we should bring up an enacting clause when we do not think such a clause necessary is totally unreasonable. That is our position in this matter, and it is perfectly fair and intelligible. We say that even without the statement in the Preamble the supremacy of Parliament would be legally intact. If you are not satisfied bring your proposal forward.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS (Herts, St. Albans)
said, the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down argued that it was the business of the Opposition to produce an enacting Amendment. They had done so as a matter of fact, but the right hon. Gentleman said it was not of an enacting character. If the right hon. Gentleman was sincere in his desire to see the supremacy of Parliament asserted in the most absolute manner why did he not give the Committee the benefit of his advice and try to improve the clause? The right hon. Gentleman spoke about mere paper declarations. No one despised paper declarations more than he (Mr. Gibbs) did; but he was desirous of bringing into contrast the difference of opinion that existed on the question of supremacy amongst the supporters of the Government. Certainly some of the supporters of the Government desired that the supremacy should not be impaired; but hon. Gentlemen below the Opposition Gangway equally desired that it should be impaired. That was 393 the real reason which was actuating the Government in opposing the clause. What was the position of the Home Secretary in this matter? When the Prime Minister spoke, he (Mr. Gibbs) supposed that the Home Secretary had been thrown over; but after hearing the Home Secretary he could only suppose that the right hon. Gentleman had thrown himself over. The right hon. Gentleman said on the Second Reading that the Government would have no objection to a clause, and now he said that he would consider one if it were brought up. The right hon. Gentleman said that the supremacy of Parliament was unquestionable; but when he was asked whether or not he was prepared to give way on Clause 9, he had no reply to make; in fact, there was such a mass of nebulous hypotheses floating around each clause, and the action of the Government was so uncertain in regard to every point, that it was impossible to tell what the Government might do at any moment. The hon. Member for Waterford had asserted that he did not depart from Mr. Parnell's statement thatThe Irish Parliament should be free from outside control, and should enable Ireland to take its place amongst the nations.He could not imagine any nation, however small or unimportant, accepting such a Bill as this if it were a nation. The Unionists refused to recognise the separate nationality of Ireland, and on that account they opposed the Bill, because it did recognise the separate nationality of Ireland. It was perfectly clear, however, that the Bill was insufficient to satisfy the national aspirations of Ireland. They could have no better assurance of that than the statement of the hon. Member for Waterford, that he maintained the same attitude as Mr. Parnell. Of course, the hon. Member did maintain it; he would be afraid to face those who had returned him to Parliament if he did not maintain that attitude. The Prime Minister said they had very little to say in this matter, except that he could not give a plain answer to a plain question. They did certainly say that, but they had more to say besides. The right hon. Gentleman should not put it down entirely to the stupidity of the Tory Party that they used that argument, for he should consider that he had always shown himself 394 supremely expert in explaining away anything he had said on any subject on any occasion in any part of the United Kingdom whenever it became inconvenient for him to admit it.
§ MR. VICARY GIBBS
said, he had not the practised experience of speaking which other hon. Members enjoyed, so that when he was interrupted it wasted the time of the House, which he should have thought hon. Members below the Gangway should be desirous to economise, because it took him some time to recover the thread of his argument when he was interrupted. He was saying when interrupted that the Prime Minister had only himself to thank when he said they could not understand him; and if the right hon. Gentleman ascribed it to the stupidity of the Tory Party they might cheer themselves by the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham— whom he had often heard abused, but whom he had never heard charged with stupidity— was precisely in the same difficulty as the Tory Party. They need not go beyond the present Debate for proof that it was very difficult to understand the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman gave as his reason why he did not attach weight to Mr. Parnell's statement that it was said long ago, and said outside the House. But when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham put forward that reason the right, hon. Gentleman interrupted, and said that that was not his reason at all; that he had another reason, which was that he had no official knowledge of Mr. Parnell's statement. He had listened most attentively to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and he did not say a single word about official knowledge, and he was confirmed in that view by his Colleagues who sat around him. If the assertion of the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament was confined to the Preamble of the Bill, he was perfectly certain that it would be brought up against them in Ireland that there was no assertion of the Imperial Parliament in the Bill itself.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said, this Debate was one of very great importance, and up to the present the legal element had figured most conspicuously in it. No doubt it was, to some extent, a legal question; but a great many people who were not lawyers would read this Debate and have to make up their minds about it. He did not pretend to be able to discuss this question from the legal standpoint; but there were some things about it perfectly plain even to the non-legal mind. Let them assume the Irish Parliament at work, and it was only by assuming this that the necessity for supremacy could be said to arise. If there was one thing that a Roman Catholic Parliament—as this was bound to be, and he did not use the words offensively—if there was one thing more certain than another that a Roman Catholic Parliament would take umbrage at it was the doctrine of civil marriages. That was a matter acutely felt by. Roman Catholics, and he could not imagine an Irish Parliament, dominated by priests, sanctioning civil marriage. Assuming the Irish Parliament passed an Act that made civil marriage illegal, it was quite certain that in that case the Imperial Parliament would interfere. Its right to do so had never been questioned—he did not question it, and he did not know anyone who did question the right of the Imperial Parliament to interfere with the Acts of any Assembly in the British Empire; the real matter for discussion was not the right to interfere, but the best way of interfering. Assume such an Act passed by the Irish Assembly and a Petty Sessions Court called upon to decide the question of the legitimacy of the children of such marriages, and, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) very properly said, the Act would have to be construed by gentlemen who were not lawyers— assume an Act like that passed, and a Petty Sessions Court called upon to decide the legitimacy of the children of such marriages, could anyone imagine that a statement in the Preamble of the Act would have as much effect on the Petty Sessional Court as a direct Enacting Clause. [An hon. MEMBER: This is a Preamble to a clause.] He did not admit that, and, with all due respect to his hon. Friend, he would rather take 396 the legal opinion on this point of the right hon. Member for Bury (Sir Henry James). A distinct Enacting Clause in the Bill asserting the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament would be a better guide to these Magistrates; an assertion in the Preamble would not compare in effect and strength with an Enacting Clause in the Bill.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
There are many ways in which it might arise. But let them take another question; take the Land Question, and that was not going very far a field. Let them suppose this Irish Assembly passed a Land Act, after the statutory period of three years had passed—an Act which that House considered oppressive and unjust. It did not require very large powers of assumption to assume that if there was one thing more certain than another it was that this would come about; and the reason he said so was that he believed that on this question hon. Gentlemen opposite would be true to their word, they would be true to the pledges they had given to the Irish people, and therefore it was not a large assumption to imagine a thing of that sort. Suppose the Imperial Parliament deemed the Act of the Irish Legislature oppressive, and made up its mind to interfere, he wanted to know if it was not better to have the right and the power to interfere put into an Enacting Clause than merely to have an assertion in the Preamble of the Bill?
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said, he was not speaking of a British Act extended to Ireland by the vote of that House, but of an Act expressly passed by the Irish Parliament to deal with the Land Question. The Committee ought to remember there was no dispute as to the question of asserting the supremacy of Parliament in the Bill. If the Government took the ground that it was not 397 necessary to put it in the Preamble at all, that the supremacy of Parliament was inalienable, if it took that ground he could understand them; but the Government did not take that ground—they put it in the Preamble. His argument was that if the Government took the position it was not necessary to assert it at all, either in the Preamble or a clause, he could understand that position. It was a mere question of assertion in the Preamble versus an enactment in a clause, and the Committee ought to be able to come to a judgment on an issue like that very easily. The Debate had taken place to-night in a House in which there was scarcely a Member on those (the Ministerial) Benches but was pledged up to the chin to the supremacy of Parliament. If there was one thing more than another English Members pledged themselves to their constituencies upon it was the supremacy of Parliament. [An hon. MEMBER: Agreed!] Yes; and when they were brought face to face with an Enacting Clause making that supremacy unquestionable, not a man rose in his place to say a word about it. He believed the reason why the Government would not accept the Amendment, and why they were keeping silent, was because they did not mean the supremacy of Parliament to be real. What did the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. E. Redmond) say? His argument was that, although he could not destroy the supremacy of Parliament, he and his friends would not be content with anything less than an arrangement in the Statute that it was not to be exercised so long as the Irish Parliament existed. He was obliged to assume, from arguments like these, that this was part of the understanding and agreement that was referred to in past Debates between hon. Gentlemen opposite and the Front Bench. If the Government meant to assert the supremacy of Parliament let them put it in their Bill; and if they did not the country would understand what they did mean was that the supremacy of Parliament was not to be a real supremacy at all.
§ *SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
said, he rose to ask a very plain question of the Government. Would they be so kind as to refer him to the passage in which the late Mr. Parnell said that he would accept either the Home Rule scheme of 1886 or some other Home 398 Rule scheme of that kind as constituting a subordinate Parliament in Dublin to the Parliament in Westminster?
§ *SIR R. TEMPLE
said, he took down the word "subordinate" at the time the Prime Minister used it, when he pointed with outstretched arm to hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, and said— "These words were uttered from there." Therefore, if they were so uttered, they must be in Hansard.
§ *SIR R. TEMPLE
was obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for referring him to it, as he should be glad to see the passage in which the late Mr. Parnell used the word "subordinate." He did not pretend to be acquainted with Mr. Parnell's views; but he had heard every speech that gentleman ever made in that House since 1885, and he did not remember ever hearing him say that the Parliament in Dublin should be subordinate. Certainly, he should have thought such an idea was wholly foreign to the hon. Gentleman's mind. He brought forward the point because the Prime Minister seemed to attach great importance to it as affecting this particular Amendment which was under the consideration of the Committee, and he quite agreed with the Prime Minister in thinking that Mr. Parnell's opinions were still important, and that, although dead, he still spoke to many people in Ireland. If he might judge from the brilliant speech of the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. J. E. Redmond) on the Second Reading, he did not think that hon. Member was imbued with the idea of the Dublin Parliament being subordinate; the very notion was contrary to almost all he uttered, and he seemed to be true inheritor of the Parnellite tradition. He understood the hon. Member for Waterford to say that if there was anything like a supremacy it could only be tolerated so long as it was kept dormant. How far the idea of such subordination would be entertained by other Nationalists— by the Leader of the anti-Parnellite section, he did not know; but, he imagined there must be large sections of Nationalist electors in Ireland who would reject the idea of the Dublin 399 Parliament being subordinate to the Parliament here. The Home Secretary (Mr. Asquith) made some remarks upon some criticisms that were very justly and appropriately used by the Leaders of the Opposition as to the insufficiency of what were called paper securities. They on that side of the House agreed in that, but still it was better to have a paper security than none at all; though it might not be worth much, still it was worth something more than the paper on which it was written. It was the law, after all, and in this civilised age it was always an advantage to have the law on their side, though they had no means of carrying it out. Now, with regard to this Amendment as affecting the Preamble. He listened with great respect to what fell from the Home Secretary; but he would like to express to that right hon. Gentleman and all who sat on the Front Bench the fear and apprehension that was entertained on his side of the House was that the Government were willing enough to have words about supremacy so long as they were in the Preamble and in the air, so to speak. But the Opposition were not satisfied with the Preamble. Some lawyers told them the Preamble was sufficient, others told them it was insufficient, and hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway told them that subordination was always to be kept in a state of suspended animation; therefore, could it be wondered at that they were wholly dissatisfied with a Preamble of that description? Their fear was increasing almost to a point of suspicion when they found a Government, so willing to put words about supremacy in the Preamble, hesitating the moment they came to put them into a real clause—a clause about which there could be no doubt. They wanted to have the words of supremacy put into an Enacting Clause, and they contended that this was the proper clause to put them in—a clause which laymen could understand, which lawyers would accept, which Courts would enforce. As to its being a limiting clause, it was nothing of the kind. It was a governing clause, a fundamental enactment, and the very basis and foundation of the whole matter. The words of the Amendment were not only necessary, but this was the only clause into which they could be inserted. The words proposed, he considered, were a very salutary and necessary qualification. 400 It was wholly unjust and a misdescription to say that this was not an Enacting Clause and that this was not an Enacting Amendment. The Home Secretary said, in effect, that they need not trouble to press this Amendment, because he promised there should be a sufficient clause introduced later on. He did not doubt the sincerity of the right hon. Gentleman's intention; but still there were many ways of carrying out an intention, and the right hon. Gentleman must forgive them if they felt some distrust, especially when they considered the somewhat shifty manner in which the Government dealt with the question of supremacy in the Preamble and declined to put it in a clause. There might be a clause of some kind intended; but who knew whether it would be satisfactory or not until they had had an opportunity of considering it? Moreover, if such an important clause as that were in contemplation, why was it not drafted, printed, and put on the Notice Paper, so that hon. Members would have an idea of what was to follow? It would have given them some confidence in the sincerity of the Government if a clause of that kind had been already put on the Notice Paper; and as it was not, they should certainly vote with his hon. and learned Friend in the Division, for assuredly a more important matter could not be brought before the House. There was no ground whatever for accusing them of any intention of impeding the passage of this Bill through Committee, because they insisted on debating the ins and outs of this important question. They desired that the supremacy of Parliament should be enacted in a manner from which there was no evasion and no escape; therefore, he trusted the whole Unionist Party in the House would insist upon this question being thrashed out, and an Amendment thoroughly competent and workable being inserted in the Bill.
§ SIR J. GORST (Cambridge University)
I hope the Committee will allow me to say a few words upon the Amendment, because, to my mind, a great alteration has been made on this question by the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Armagh (Mr. Barton), to which the Government have made no reply. I was always myself of opinion that this question of supremacy was one which the Government were very glad 401 to air in speeches to the constituencies, because it was a great thing to be able to say to the British electorate that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament was in no way interfered with; but it had very little meaning. I was myself of the same opinion that the Home Secretary seemed to be— namely, that you could not impugn the authority of the British Parliament, whether you have Preambles in your Bill, or whether you have Enacting Clauses in your Bill, or whether you loft them out, that the supremacy of the Imperial Parliament was undoubted—that nothing could add to it and nothing take from it. I am glad to see that opinion shared by hon. Members opposite. But that was also tempered by the consideration that if that was all that Imperial supremacy meant there was very little in it, because that meant the Imperial supremacy would enable you legally to enact laws for Australia or for New Zealand; but who on earth in this age and Parliament would ever dream of suggesting, though Parliament had legally the power of doing it, that we should presume to pass laws for either the domestic affairs of Australia or New Zealand? If that sort of supremacy was all you meant in your declaration about Ireland, it would not have prevented Ireland from becoming, under a Home Rule Bill, as entirely a separate legislative community as either Australia or New Zealand. I thought supremacy was a mere fiction and figment; that Parliament would obtain a nominal power to legislate; but that it was a power which could practically never be exercised. I confess that, in my mind, an entirety new complexion has been put upon this question by the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Armagh. That speech was made in a very full House. The Prime Minister was present, and not only the Prime Minister, but the Legal Adviser of the Government, the Solicitor General was sitting in a corner of the Bench, and was smiling in interested attention to that speech; and I confess I thought, when my hon. and learned Friend sat down, after making what I consider an extremely powerful and quite a new argument upon this question, that after the professions that had been made by the Government of their readiness to answer any real point, the Solicitor General would at least have risen to have advised 402 the House upon the striking argument of the hon. and learned Member for Armagh. But, as I understand now, this argument and new view of the position is to be treated as so many other arguments have been treated in this Debate— with silence and contempt. I would like to press upon the right hon. Gentlemen the Chief Secretary, who is, I believe, a gentleman of candid mind, who will appreciate an argument even by an opponent, what the argument used by the hon. Member for Armagh is. My hon. and learned Friend stated, as I understand, that so far from the supremacy of Parliament in Ireland resting, as it does in all other parts of Her Majesty's Dominions, upon the undoubted rights and prerogative of the Crown and Parliament, in the particular case of Ireland it rested only upon Statute, and only upon one Statute—the Act of Union. My hon. and learned Friend showed that previous to the Act of Union, the power of the Legislature at Westminster to have laws to have effect in Ireland had been disputed, and had, by a decision of Judges, been refuted, and in other cases had had very considerable doubt cast upon it, and that, so far as the power exists at the present moment, it rests not upon the general law by which this Parliament can make laws for every part of Her Majesty's Dominions, but rests upon one single Statute—the Act of Union. What Parliament has enacted Parliament can take away, and if the power to legislate in Ireland rests upon Statute that power can be taken away also by Statute. And, therefore, so far from the general power of Parliament surviving the passing of any Act of this particular Parliament — so far from that surviving, it seems to me, if words were used in passing a. Statute taking away that power which exists only by virtue of the Statute of the Act of Union, the power to legislate in Ireland might be gone. That may be right or it may be wrong: but I think hon. Members below the Gangway will admit, for the credit of their countrymen, that that is one of the first new things said this Session on the Home Rule Bill. It was said by one of their countrymen, of whom I dare say they are proud, although they differ from him. But there was a real, serious, sober argument which demanded some answer. Her Majesty's Government have not the advantage of the presence 403 of an Irish Law Officer, because, notwithstanding the confidence of the Irish people in the present Government, they are not willing to supply them with a Law Officer to advise them on Irish legal questions. But they have the Solicitor General there. The Solicitor General heard the argument of my hon. and learned Friend, and I saw his eyes twinkling with pleasure at the powerful legal argument addressed to the House. I was once, in former days, a learned Member myself, and though I have long since ceased to have any claim to that character I hope I retain enough of my professional powers to be able to appreciate a good legal argument when it is used by someone else, and I confess I was very much struck and moved in my mind by the powerful argument addressed to the House by the hon. and learned Member for Armagh. I must say that the Committee is entitled, in a situation of this kind, to the assistance of the Solicitor General, because it has been often stated in this House that the Solicitor General is not only the Law Officer of the Government, but of the House; and when the House is puzzled by the ingenious arguments which gentlemen of the long robe address to it, they have a right to call on the Law Officer of the Crown to state what his official and responsible views are, and to guide the House in the decision it may come to. Unless the Solicitor General can refute the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Armagh, I submit this question is not in the position it was in when the Prime Minister addressed the House. It is not a case in which the Government can say— "Oh, we did not think anything necessary, and we leave it to the Opposition to bring forward a clause." Unless you refute the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Armagh a clause is necessary; and, if so, it is the duty not of the Opposition, but of the Government, to submit such a clause to the House. Really, I rise as a sort of protestant. I do not like to be left in the legal darkness in which the reticence of the Government has left me, and I am merely in the position of what Tennyson calls "a child crying for light." Let me be enlightened by the legal luminaries opposite. Let my faith, which has been rudely shaken since the speech of the Prime Minister in consequence of the 404 argument of the hon. and learned Member for Armagh, be rehabilitated; and if the Solicitor General, who is one of the ablest lawyers in the House, can rehabilitate that confidence which I felt in the law as laid down by the Prime Minister, and if he can rehabilitate the faith of the House in that law, then, perhaps, the Government can stand on the position that a further clause is not necessary; but, unless this argument can be answered, a further clause, in my opinion, is necessary.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
As the right hon. Gentleman has appealed to my candour—an appeal I always find it hard to resist—I feel bound to say a word or two—and a word or two will be quite sufficient—on what he calls the new position established by the argument of the hon. and learned Member for Armagh. The main part of the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Armagh was an account of the various cases in which the supremacy of the Parliament in London had been denied by the Parliament in Dublin. Yes; but the hon. and learned Member left out of the sight of the House the whole of the reply to that argument, which was that that Parliament was not the Imperial Parliament in the ordinary sense, but the Parliament of Great Britain or the Parliament of England. Therefore, the whole of the elaborate structure the hon. and learned Member built up—and I was able to follow him as he went along, as I happened to have before me the source of his argument—the whole of that fabric falls to the ground the moment it is considered that the supremacy which was denied in those cases was not the supremacy which we are discussing; it was the supremacy of a Parliament which no longer exists— namely, the Parliament, first, of England and then of Great Britain. The hon. and learned Gentleman contended that the supremacy of this Parliament rests upon the Act of Union. Very well; whatever the supremacy as established by the Act of Union was, that it is and remains in spite of this Bill. If this Bill becomes an Act in the form in which it is now presented to Parliament, there will not be a line in it which impairs or restricts the supremacy as constituted by the Act of Union, and that is my answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ *MR. H. MATTHEWS (Birmingham, E.)
I think the right hon. Gentleman hardly apprehended the force of the argument which he has to meet. The question which we are now discussing is how such Parliament as is left to this country by this Bill will have supremacy over Ireland, how far it will be able to legislate for Ireland, and how far you will be able to interfere with the Acts of the Irish Legislature you are going to create? The hon. and learned Member for Armagh adduced an argument which is perfectly unanswerable, I think, showing that up to 1782 the rights of the Parliament sitting on this side of St. George's Channel were never recognised. Its power over the Irish Parliament was always disputed by the authorities on the Irish side of the Channel. It was always asserted by them that this Parliament had not any real right to legislate for Ireland, and their contention was conceded in 1782, and in the most formal and solemn way the Parliament of Great Britain recognised and acknowledged that the sole right to legislate for Ireland was in the King, Lords, and Commons of Ireland. Then came the Act of Union, and I quite agree that under the Act of Union it was put beyond all doubt that the Parliament constituted by the Act of Union was a Parliament having supreme authority over Great Britain and Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman has just said there is not a line in the Bill touching the supremacy of this Parliament. No; but you destroy that Parliament. The Parliament left by your Clause 9 is not the Parliament of the Union. Certainly not; it is a Parliament in which at least 103 Members are shorn of part of the privileges which the Act of Union gave them. The Parliament left by your Clause 9 is not the Parliament of the Act of Union. What do you do by your Bill? By Clause 2 you give the exclusive right of legislating for Ireland to the new Irish Legislature. You give that in terms as wide as any Parliamentary language can possibly be. You give it the right to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of Ireland. That means the absolute right of legislating on all subjects so far as Ireland is concerned. It is true you keep alive a certain Parliament by Clause 9; but it is no longer the Parliament created by the Act of Union 406 and to which the supreme right of legislation was reserved by that Act. But the Act of Union is the sole foundation upon which the right of this Parliament to legislate for Ireland rests. [Sir W. HARCOURT dissented.] I see the Chancellor of the Exchequer shakes his head. I would agree with him if it were conceded Ireland was a conquered country. If it were, I agree, according to the sound Constitutional principles of English law, the supremacy of this British Parliament would prevail over Ireland. But that has never been conceded in Ireland. We may maintain it, but the Irish have always denied it; and when your Bill is going to be interpreted by Irish Judges and Irish Courts, can you expect that the Irish Judges and the Irish Courts will not construe the clauses of that Act in the way and in the sense in which the Irish contention has always proceeded in this matter—that is, deny that Ireland is a conquered country, and deny that the inherent right of supremacy over the legislation for Ireland rests with the Parliament of this country as the Parliament of the conquering race? The Act of Union is the sole document which gives this Parliament any supremacy over Ireland. That is an argument I should like to hear refuted by the Law Officers of the Crown. The Parliament of the Act of Union will disappear under your Bill, and it will be a different Parliament under your Clause 9. If Clause 9 is modified by excluding the Irish Members, I fail to see any ground upon which any Constitutional lawyer will venture to argue that the Parliament from which the Irish Members are excluded is the heir, or representative, or the equivalent of the Parliament under the Act of Union which could legislate for Ireland. The truth is that, though Her Majesty's Government in Debate across the floor of this House tell us they are as anxious to assert and maintain the supremacy of whatever Parliament will be left to us if this Bill pass as it is, for some reason or other they shrink from saying so plainly. The Prime Minister met this Amendment by arguments which I should think did not carry the slightest conviction to any human being. I speak with all respect of what falls from the Prime Minister; but his arguments were simply criticisms as to the manner in which the hon. and learned Member for Deptford had attempted to 407 assert the principle in winch we all agree. This, forsooth, was a recital and not an enactment! His next objection was that we did not assert the supremacy of the Parliament in the Island of Ceylon or in some remote Colony of the Crown. But the supremacy of Parliament in the Colonies is not in question. The only point in question now is as to the supremacy in Ireland, and it is in Ireland that the dispute has always been. I defy any Constitutional lawyer to say that you can tamper with the Parliament constituted by the Act of Union, alter its constitution, its functions, and the right of the Members who sat in it, and not require some express words to keep alive the right to legislate for Ireland which this Parliament undoubtedly possesses now. Another argument of the Prime Minister was to fall back on Clause 33; but that clause shows the same extraordinary coyness, the same shrinking modesty, about asserting the principle of supremacy, that characterises the whole of the rest of the Bill. Do the Ministers of the Crown mean that Parliament shall have the right to pass an Irish Act alone, not coupled with an English Act, and to interfere with, alter, and, if necessary, repeal, Acts of the Irish Legislature? If so, Clause 33 does not say so. If you mean that, why do you not say so in terms? I should like to hear whether the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. J. E. Redmond) assents to the proposition of the Prime Minister?
§ MR. MATTHEWS
No; I would select the hon. and learned Member as a Representative; I would be content with his views, and would challenge him to say whether he understands that this Bill, as now drafted, means that the Imperial Parliament, which, under Section 9, would have some of its Members lopped off and which would not be the Parliament of the Act of Union, but a different Parliament created for the first time under this Bill—I would ask the hon. and learned Member whether he understands that that remnant of a Parliament is to have power to review and repeal the whole of the Irish legislation, and to see that the Acts of the Irish Legislature shall not run counter to any enactments passed by this Parliament upon any of those subjects which 408 are expressly left to the Irish Parliament? That is what the Government are unable to say. If they are really sincere they will give us the information for which we ask and which we have a right to demand.
§ *MR. J. G. BUTCHER (York)
said, if they were going to make a lasting compact by this Bill, it was essential that all the Parties to that compact should mean the same thing. The hon. and learned Member for Dumfries had said that they were all agreed on the subject. He, however, thought that it was a pertinent question whether that were so or not. He took it that the main and fundamental question involved in the matter of supremacy was whether this Imperial Parliament was, or was not, to legislate upon matters that wore given over to the competence of the Irish Parliament. He should like to hear what were the intentions of the Government on this vital question; and it would have been more satisfactory if the Government had given a promise to bring in a clause on this point. The Unionist Party knew what they meant: they meant that power should be reserved to the Imperial Parliament to legislate upon those questions that were left to the Irish Parliament. The views of the section of the Irish Nationalist Party of which the hon. Member for Waterford was the acknowledged head were also known. The hon. Member, speaking on February 14 this year, had said that the Irish should have some guarantee that the Imperial Parliament would not exercise its rights of legislation over Ireland over their heads upon the questions committed to the Irish Parliament. That was a view not expressed in the heat of Debate. Again, in The Nineteenth Century for April last, the hon. Member stated that he asked for an amendment to prevent by express enactment any interference by the Imperial Parliament in the legislative sphere of the Irish Parliament. Again, The Irish Independent newspaper, on February 17 last, stated that the Independent Party would demand a clause providing that the power of concurrent legislation should not be exercised while the Irish Parliament existed. That clause; was not on the Paper as yet. Whether it appeared on the Paper or not would depend on the exigencies of Debate——
§ *MR. BUTCHER
said, he was astonished to hear that a question which was admitted to be of vital importance to Ireland and to its Legislature should depend simply upon the tactics of the Opposition. A conference of the Independent Party was held in Dublin not long ago, and the proceedings were reported in The Irish Daily Independent of March 10 last. On that occasion a resolution was passed to the effect that the Irish Parliament should have full power over all the affairs of Ireland, including the laud, and that the laws enacted by it should be subject only to the veto of the Crown, or the representative of the Crown in Ireland. What were the views of the other section of the Nationalist Party, the Party who had been squared, or who had, at any rate, been reduced to a degree of silence which was somewhat unusual, and which must be most galling and irksome to them? He trusted before the Debate concluded there would be some expression of opinion from that section. They would not probably be prepared to repudiate the views of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford. If the views of the Nationalist and Unionist Parties were as he had stated them, he thought the Government ought to introduce a clause which would say which of those views most nearly represented their own views. He would press upon hon. Members opposite the enormous importance of introducing into this Bill a clause which would settle the question as between the various Parties in the House, and which would, rightly or wrongly, say that this House should have power to deal with questions within the competence of the Irish Parliament, and which would put an end to questions which otherwise would prove of the greatest difficulty and danger to the harmonious working of the Irish Legislature.
Opposition cries of "Rigby" [meaning the Solicitor General for England (Sir J. Rigby, Forfar)], but the hon. and learned Gentleman did not rise.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
My hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General does not appear to be prepared to address the Committee at this moment, but I hope I may have the privilege of hearing him in a few minutes. The Chief Secretary (Mr. J. Morloy), in discussing the argu- 410 ments of the hon. and learned Member for Armagh (Mr. Barton), has pointed to the fact that we made an entirely new departure in the Act of Union—that in 1782 we renounced the authority which up to that time had been continually asserted and often exercised, and that the Act of Union was an Act between two independent Parliaments. He argued that the precedents cited by the Member for Armagh were out of date. I myself should have been glad to take the Act of Union as a dividing line from which to start; but, unfortunately, I have to recognise that the Act of Union is a discredited fact; it is a product of blackguardism. We have also heard it forcibly asserted that the Irish Parliament had no moral authority to consent to the Act of Union. That being the position of affairs in regard to the Union, according to the highest authority who drew this Bill and otherwise widely maintained, the Act of Union cannot be safely taken as the starting point from which to proceed to the re-establishment of two Parliaments in Great Britain and Ireland. I cannot accept the doctrine which some legal authorities have laid down as to the impossibility of restoring two independent Parliaments. It is a very singular commentary on the omnipotence of this House that, composed as it is of Members for Great Britain and Ireland, it could not, even if desiring to re-establish two Parliaments independent of one another, effectively embody in an Act what it wished to accomplish. I believe this difficulty to be a mere figment of some Constitutional jurists. It would be quite possible to re-establish that which the Irish Nationalist feeling says ought to be established, which according to their belief was never destroyed with any moral justification—the relative independence and authority of the two Parliaments. I admit that under this Bill that line has not been taken. The Bill technically preserves the authority of Parliament, and I am content to take my stand on the admission that theoretically the supremacy of Parliament is maintained by the Bill. But what is the question? Has the Committee, then, been arguing an empty abstract question? I venture to think that there was a substantial basis for the argument which has occupied the attention of the Committee, and it is this:—Admit that 411 the supremacy is technically maintained, that it is a paper supremacy, a supremacy of the same kind as that over the Parliaments of Australia and Canada. Is that supremacy a working supremacy? Is that supremacy something which represents a real power which can be exercised when occasion calls for it, or is it a supremacy only called so in name, to be put on the shelf, and incapable of being used? The test of the argument is this —Do you wish to have a real, vitalised supremacy through which the conscience of Great Britain can act with the authority of Parliament, with definite machinery to express its will if the occasion arises; or de you wish for a sterilised supremacy which means nothing except an empty respect paid to a dead idea? We are here testing two distinct lines of conduct of the argument which has prevailed during the last six or seven years as to the relation of the Parliament at Westminster towards the Parliament at Dublin. I can refer to Members on the Government Bench, and probably to still more hon. Members behind them, who have said over and over again in the country that they are not going to consent to the setting up of a Parliament in Dublin which may do what it chooses; but that they mean to have guarantees which shall give the power of securing that whenever the Parliament in Dublin does anything unjust, injurious, or prejudicial to the interest of a considerable section of the people of Ireland, the Parliament at Westminster shall be able, actively and fruitfully, to interfere. That has been the language used by a great many hon. Members of the Government Party, and it has helped very considerably to establish them in their present position. The issue raised by the Amendment is this— Do the Government intend to consent to the introduction of Amendments, of which this is the first, which shall incorporate in the Bill the guarantees which they have been professing they would insist on securing if ever the Bill became law? The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary has indulged in repudiation of this idea; and the Prime Minister assures us of the stability of the Imperial supremacy as it now stands. We have reached the first stage of this controversy. Is Parliament to be endowed with an empty vague supremacy, or is Parliament to have a supremacy that would be operative—that will be a real supremacy, 412 that can be called upon if occasion should arise? Are we to have such a supremacy, or are we to have one for which we are to entertain only an empty respect? I hope we shall now hear a few words, giving clear information upon this point, from my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor General (Sir J. Rigby).
There were loud cries of "Rigby" on Mr. Courtney resuming his seat, but as Sir John Rigby did not rise several Members of the Opposition sought to address the Committee.
§ MR. J. MORLEY,
at 9.55, said: I beg to move, Mr. Mellor, that the Question be now put, [Cries of "Oh!"; "Chair!"; "Shame!"; "Scandalous!"]
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 243; Noes 195.—(Division List, No. 68.)
§ Question put accordingly, "That these words' Subject to and,' be inserted in the proposed Amendment."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 222: Noes 276:—(Division List, No. 69.)
That the words 'without in any way whatever impairing, restricting, or altering the supreme power and authority of Parliament in all matters, as well local as Imperial, and over all persons in Great Britain and Ireland' be there inserted.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 233; Noes 285.—(Division List, No. 69.)
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
The recent occurrences in the proceedings of the House compel me to submit to you, Mr. Mellor, a Motion, and that Motion is that you do now report Progress. It is obvious that in placing that Motion before the House I am not speaking my own mind alone. I am representing, I am certain, from what I have heard from communications which have taken place between the general body of the Unionist Party during the opportunity which the right hon. Gentleman has given us, the opinion of that Party. It is evident, from the attitude of the Unionist Party, that this is a Motion which is going to be persisted in. [Interruption.] I cannot help speaking strongly. Hon. 413 Members below the Gangway must feel that we have a Parliamentary position in this Motion which we have a right to put forward and to which we have a right to adhere; and it will not help the discussion of this Motion if it is met with nothing but clamour and noise. I should never have made this Motion if it we're not that there are a very large number of Members who are prepared to support it. I hold that the House is not in a condition, after what has passed this evening, to continue the discussion of such business. I move to report Progress because we are engaged in discussing the greatest measure that could be brought before the British Parliament, and because it has been shown by indisputable evidence that neither the supporters of the Government, nor the Chief Secretary for Ireland, nor the First Lord of the Treasury, are prepared to extend to the constitutional Opposition which is opposed to this Bill the slightest fair play. These tactics we must meet at the outset, not only in our own defence, but in defence of the interests which are committed to us. We are bound by every conception of Parliamentary duty to nip in the bud the policy of silencing the arguments of the Opposition against the Irish policy of the Government. That cannot be. Give us the rights and limits of the Opposition to which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister has been accustomed for 50 or 60 years. Never before has such conduct been pursued towards an Opposition numbering nearly half the House, and an Opposition which represents the majority in Great Britain, and who are engaged, and were engaged, in discussing what everybody must admit to be—what you yourselves must admit to be—one of the most important features of this Bill. At this hour of the evening, when the Debate might have terminated perfectly peacefully before the close of the night, and when one or more Members were prepared to discuss the question as reasonably as they could, and to advance what arguments they could, on this important Amendment, the voices of the Opposition were silenced, and is this to be the manner in which the Bill is to be conducted through the House? Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman that this is not the manner in which the Bill can be carried through Committee. He will have to resort to proceedings which he has never dreamed of if he 414 thinks he is going to silence the Opposition. If he imagines he is going to carry this Bill without argument and only by brute force and the Closure—I toll him, on behalf of everyone on these Benches, that never before will he have encountered an Opposition so determined. I appeal to him, from his enormous experience of Parliament, to say why he now introduces this new procedure. Perfectly useless it is—perfectly without precedent. Yes, taking into account the nature of the issue between us, I say it is unprecedented. It cannot help him in the progress of his Bill. It will only lead to what he seems to like most—it is based upon the only argument he seems to have recourse to—the argument of the gag. It is perfectly possible that if it comes to a trial of physical strength we shall prove to have as much tenacity as the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues. Hon. Gentlemen from Ireland below the Gangway, no doubt, disapprove of my action; but they have known what it is to resist the Prime Minister. They did it, and they certainly carried their resistance to extraordinary lengths. But this is a far more aggravating danger, and I hold that every length of opposition on our part, every act which can possibly be justified by precedent in regard to resistance by the Opposition of a tyrannous majority can be used, and I expect will be used to the fullest extent if this kind of policy be persevered in. So, now, Sir, I move that you report Progress, that the Government may, at any rate, have time to consider this question. I say that the Committee will do well to consider seriously the whole position between the two Parties before they finally decide on a continuance of the policy which the Government have adopted. I think it is necessary to have time to consider all the issues of the new development you are giving to a struggle which God knows is bitter enough—a development which will lead you further than you have ever heard of, and may even disorganise for a long time and break up almost all the order of the House of Commons and all the customs of Debate—because, believe me, I pray you believe me, in this matter, we will not yield.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Lord Randolph Churchill.)415
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
Although this is an occasion of some excitement, it is the duty of Members in prominent positions to endeavour to allay it. At any rate that is my opinion, and I will endeavour to resist the infection of the noble Lord's excitement. I see no occasion for it whatever. At the same time, were there occasion for it, I hope I should be inclined to take a very different direction from that which the noble Lord has taken, for I am certain that nothing but mischief can arise from the course he is pursuing. Let us see what are the noble Lord's points. He has made a Motion to report Progress— to stop the Business of the evening, out of which a little more than an hour has been left to us by those who have chiefly consumed the time of the Committee. What does he allege in support of that Motion? His first reason is that this is a most important Bill. I cannot myself perceive that from the importance of the Bill it flows legitimately, and as a consequence, that we ought to stop discussion upon it. Next, he says that I have introduced a new procedure. Sir, I am not the author of the procedure under which the discussion which was just now in progress has been stopped. The honour of that authorship belongs to Gentlemen opposite. By virtue of that procedure I have seen liberty invaded, a Coercion Bill forced upon Ireland without any discussion whatever in Committee of this House—upon some of its most important provisions. I disclaim the honour altogether. Were I to set out upon a course which would be new to me, and to endeavour to give largo application to the principle of Closure, in vain should I struggle to imitate the noble and unsurpassed examples of those who have gone before me. But if the principle of Closure is in use, I imagine that there are certain occasions when resort ought to be had to it. Has this been an unreasonable occasion of resort to it? On what ground is it that so extreme a case has arisen as the noble Lord suggests? The noble Lord is getting into the habit of stating these extreme cases. He gave us one the other day. What is the basis of this complaint to-day? In 1886 we introduced a similar Bill without any declaration in the Preamble of the supremacy of Parliament, because we thought that supremacy was at once unlimited and perfectly secure. We have introduced 416 into this Bill a declaration of that supremacy in the hope of offering some consolation to some of our opponents. Gentlemen opposite differ from us as to the mode of expressing that supremacy, and they speak of a clause as the proper mode of declaring it, we differing from them upon that point, but expressing our willingness to consider their clause when we see it. Can we do more? We have declared our readiness to give full consideration to the recommendations which may be placed before us——
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The Amendment contains a proposal which we think is altogether a bad and dangerous method of attempting to secure the supremacy—a method which does not secure it, but weakens it. Have we attempted by silence to bear down the proposal of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Darling)? [Cries of "Yes!"] Sir, four Ministers spoke from this Bench on the Amendment. We gave our reasons. I presume there was satisfaction with our arguments on this side of the House. We did not attempt to shut out the question. Our pledge holds good to consider your proposals when we see them. Under these circumstances it is that the noble Lord has used the somewhat inflated language that has fallen from him to-night. I do not know whether he intended to intimidate me or not; but if he did I do not think he will succeed.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
I did not in the least try to intimidate the right hon. Gentleman. I tried to tell the Government and the House the real truth.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The noble Lord speaks of our position as an extreme one. We believe that this declaration of supremacy is unnecessary. We have opposed, and we have explained by four Members of the Cabinet our opposition to, the particular proposal made, which even its supporters found so faulty that they were obliged to set about amending it. We have offered to consider further proposals on the subject when they can be presented to us. The only answer made to us is that we have been challenged to produce a clause ourselves which we think to be totally unnecessary, and which we fear, if skilfully managed, may prove hazardous to the supremacy. It is in these circumstances that the noble Lord threatens us 417 with the extremest measures of an opposition with unheard-of numbers and power in debate. He threatens us with these measures after we have had four Divisions, in every one of which we have been supported by numbers exceeding the relative superiority of the Parties. These being the state of the facts, it is our duty, and will remain our duty, in whatever way such a Motion as this is made, provided no better grounds are given than the noble Lord has alleged, to resist it to the uttermost.
I just wish to make one remark. I have permitted this Debate to go on to this point because I think there was some feeling in the Committee. The noble Lord has made his explanation, and the Prime Minister has answered it; but it is irregular and out of Order that there should be any further discussion on the Closure, which, having been accepted by the Committee, was the act of the Committee, and, according to the Rules of the House, can no longer be questioned.
§ LORD R. CHURCHILL
In the Motion I made to report Progress I carefully avoided discussing the act of the Committee, but discussed the general question, on which the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister replied.
I watched the noble Lord, and he came very near the line. But I really want to point out that, this discussion having taken place, it would be altogether out of Order any longer to question the action of the Chair.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I shall confine myself strictly to the speech to which we have just listened from the First Lord of the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman commenced by saying he did not see any necessity for excitement. Neither do I, and, as far as I myself am concerned, I am as cool as a cucumber. But, at the same time, I must point out to my right hon. Friend that the position of the two Parties is rather different. When a worm is trampled upon I do not think there is any necessity for excitement on the part of the person who tramples upon the worm; but I suppose, if one could in any way estimate the feelings of the worm, one might find that there was considerable excitement there. My right hon. Friend considers that our excitement or our feeling is altogether unreasonable, and he com- 418 plains of the noble Lord for moving to report Progress. He says this is a very important Bill, and he does not see why the discussion on it should be stopped. That is precisely the point which we wish to raise. [Cries of "Order!"] I am answering my right hon. Friend, and if he was not out of Order neither am I. I say that this is the question which we desire to raise—why discussion upon important questions—I am not speaking now of the past, I am speaking of the future; the past is over; you cannot mend what you have done. You will feel the consequences before the end of this Debate. Let us consider what is to happen in the future—whether the discussion of this important Bill is to be stopped whenever the Chief Secretary dances up and moves the Closure. The Prime Minister says, as a reason apparently for what has happened, that we have chiefly consumed the time of the House. That is perfectly true. We have been putting our arguments, and I venture to say they are important and serious arguments.
The right hon. Gentleman, I understand, is speaking of the future. He is not entitled to refer to what is past.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
With all respect, Sir, I will endeavour to tread the very narrow bridge you have laid for me. I say, then, that we have laid arguments before the Committee; in future also we hope to lay before the Committee further and important arguments, and we shall consume the whole of the time of the Committee unless the Government will reply to us. We have yet had no adequate reply whatever. It is quite true that four Ministers have made brief speeches; but I contend that arguments, and important arguments, have been laid before the Committee which have received no answer at all. What is the case? What might happen in an important Debate at a future stage of this Bill? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bodmin might get up and make an absolutely unanswerable speech— such a speech as has never been heard in this House before without a reply—and the Government might refuse to reply to it. I say that, under these circumstances, of course we should consume the time of 419 the House. There was another argument of my right hon. Friend which must, I think, he called a tu quoque argument. We apparently, throughout this Debate on the Home Rule Bill, are to be subjected to the Closure whenever it pleases the right hon. Gentleman or his Colleagues to think that we have sufficiently consumed the time of the House, because in the past—he refers, I think to the year 1887—the Irish Members were closured upon a Crimes Bill. I may remind the Committee that that was not the first occasion on which the Closure was used. It was used in 1882, and on that occasion it was used by my right hon. Friend the Head of the Government, of which he and I were Members. What I want to point out is that, at all events, that case was entirely different from this. We were dealing then, rightly or wrongly, on both occasions with a Bill the passing of which we believed to be urgently necessary for the peace and order of Ireland. We are dealing now with an immense Constitutional reform, with a totally different subject. It cannot be pretended by anybody that it is a matter of importance whether this Bill passes on one day or another. The Government do not pretend that the matter is so urgent that a few hours or days longer in passing the Bill can make any difference, because the appointed day for the Act coming into operation is postponed considerably after the time when they hope to pass it. That was not the case with regard to the Crimes Act, and therefore I maintain, in spite of the right hon. Gentleman, that his tu quoque is not in any way applicable. The last argument he used was to the effect that he should be justified in the future in putting the Closure upon us because he has been supported on the present occasion by majorities larger than his normal Party majority. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say by that that Members of the Unionist Party have differed from their Party and voted with him? [Cries of "Order!"] I am answering an argument, and I intend to do so. The only force in the argument of my right hon. Friend would be if the Division showed that his majority had been increased by dissensions among the Unionist Party. That is not the case. On the contrary, there were Members of his Party in our Lobby; and although they can take a great deal from my right hon. 420 Friend, they are unable to follow these very arbitrary proceedings on his part. I make a suggestion for the future in the interest of peace. Why should we go on in this state of comparative warfare? Why should we excite ourselves by continual Motions made, Amendments proposed, and prolonged discussion? Why should not the right hon. Gentleman get up and move that this Bill be reported on Thursday? It is a foregone conclusion. It is the result of a bargain made with hon. Members opposite. They have been "squared"; both sections of the Nationalist Party are now prepared to vote for the Government.
§ MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)
I wish. Sir, to call your attention to the disorderly conduct of the hon. Member for the Shipley Division of Yorkshire, who called out to my right hon. Friend—"How much will it take to square you?"
Then I must say that it is an expression which ought not to have been used, and the hon. Member ought to withdraw it at once and apologise.
The hon. Member ought to withdraw the words and apologise for having used them. I am sure that the hon. Member, on reflection, will do that at once.
§ *MR. BYLES
It is not for the first or second time that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham has insulted my friends opposite. If the right hon. Gentleman will withdraw his imputations against them I will withdraw mine.
As I understood the right hon. Gentleman it was this: that in Debate he made a general statement, using the word in a somewhat different sense. I have now to call upon the hon. Member to withdraw, and to draw his attention to the fact that the expression ought not to have been used in this House towards a Member. I therefore think that the hon. Member ought to be called upon at once to withdraw it.
§ MR W. E. GLADSTONE
I do not know whether I am in full possession of the facts, because it is difficult to hear exactly what took place; but I understand that my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham has spoken of the Irish Nationalist Members as having been "squared." Upon that I understood the hon. Member to say —"Would it take much—[Cries of "No, no!" and "How much?"]— I rather imagine you, Sir, like myself, were not able to hear without the aid of explanation. I do not think such language ought to be used, and it appears to me that it would be greatly to the advantage of the House it both hon. Gentlemen would withdraw.
I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his interposition. There is so much noise in the House that I did not exactly hear what the hon. Member said. I heard merely the statement of it as it was repeated to me. If I had understood the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham to have used the words he did of the Irish Members in the sense I understood the hon. Member for Shipley to have used them, I should have requested him to withdraw them. The hon. Member for Shipley, as I understand him, says that he only used the words in the sense in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham used them. I can only say I did not so understand him, and that I was mistaken. If so, I think the incident might be allowed to drop.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
I wish to ask you, Sir, on a point of Order, for our future guidance in these Debates, whether, when an expression used by an hon. Member is ruled to be an improper expression, and you have called upon him to withdraw it, it is then in the power of that hon. Member to rise in his place and to decline to withdraw the words you have ruled out of Order, and to remain absolutely scot free?
I beg to say that rising to Order unnecessarily is in itself disorderly. I will explain again that I misunderstood the sense in which the hon. Member used the words.
§ MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN
I am exceedingly sorry, Sir, that my hon. 422 Friend below me should have taken any notice of the hon. Member for Shipley. I really do not think he is worth it. What I was saying was that the Irish Members had been squared, and I said so in the usual meaning of the word when it is used by important persons in this House to indicate that an arrangement has been come to or a bargain made; and it never entered my head, I am sure, in using that language, to suggest anything in the nature of a mercenary or pecuniary motive. Of course, the intentional offence of what was said by the hon. Member for Shipley was in the language he used—"How much would it take to square you?" I do not object to answer the question, and to say that it would take a great deal more than the hon. Member for Shipley would ever be able to pay. I had nearly come to the end of my observations, and all I have to say is that, of course, if the Government maintain their present policy the result will be a foregone conclusion, and I think we might save ourselves the trouble of continuing these discussions for weeks, and it may be for months, if the Government would at once have the courage of their opinions, and, if they are determined to carry Home Rule through the House of Commons without discussion, they would say so, and let us get on to something else.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 265; Noes 307.—(Division List, No. 71.)
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Mr. Mellor, especially now that the majority of the Government is reduced below its normal number, and after the evidence we have had of the peculiar importance that the Prime Minister attaches to these accidents of Parliamentary majorities, I suppose the Government will have no objection to accede to the Motion I now beg to make—namely, that you do now leave the Chair. They must, I suppose, by this time have convinced themselves that probably the procedure which they have adopted, whatever merit it may have, has not the merit of conducing to the calm and expeditious conduct of Public Business, and perhaps the Chief Secretary now regrets he did not allow the Solicitor General to make the speech he desired to make. But, Sir, I really do not desire to again bring back the House of Commons to that 423 condition of heat to which the behaviour of the Government reduced it a few moments ago. I would only most. respectfully suggest to those who have the conduct of business on the Treasury Bench that they ought to draw a most salutary lesson from the proceedings of this evening, and that they should allow us, on future occasions, to discuss matters of first-rate importance for more than three and a-half hours. I hope the Government will make no resistance to the demand I now make. I shall not extend my observations on the point, but shall content myself with moving that you, Sir, do now leave the Chair.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. A. J. Halfour.)
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 257; Noes 304.—(Division List, No. 72.)
§ It being after Midnight, the Chairman left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.