§ Mr. DILLON, Member for East Mayo, rose in his place and asked leave to move the adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance—namely, "the refusal of the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to answer a question put by an honourable Member of this House, and his statement that he based that refusal on the general prohibition of the Leader of the House"; but the pleasure of the House not having been signified, Mr. SPEAKER called on those Members who supported the motion to rise in their places, and not less than forty Members having accordingly risen—
§ MR. DILLON
It will take very few words for me to explain the grounds on which I venture to submit this motion to the House. For the last two or three years there has been evidence of a growing desire on the part of Ministers to treat this House with scant courtesy, especially in regard to information on foreign affairs. The first ground on which I submit this motion is one which, I think, will commend itself to all Members, irrespective of party affiliations—namely, that the Members of the House of Commons, who have to vote the supplies without which the foreign affairs of the country could not be carried on for an hour, are entitled at least to the same amount of information and the same courtesy as are accorded to Members of the House of Lords. I affirm without fear of contradiction that for three years, by a departure from the unbroken tradition and constitutional practice of this country, Members of this House who desired information as to the foreign policy of the Government have been obliged to wait until the next day, when 326 they were able to read the statement of that policy given in the House of Lords. And yet we are the House, after all, on whom the existence of the Government and the conduct of their foreign policy depend. A new departure was taken at the beginning of the year before last—a departure without precedent in the history of any legislative assembly in the world—when one night, to the astonishment of everyone, and I venture to affirm, though I have not inquired in regard to it, without intimation to the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the House—who, if he acted in accordance with the best traditions of the House, ought to be guardian of the liberties and privileges of every Member—announced, in his insinuating and agreeable voice, as if he was saying something that would be welcomed by everybody, that, in consequence of embarrassing questions, he had given directions that the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs should not be at liberty for the future to answer any supplementary questions.* I supposed the meaning of that was that such supplementary questions should be referred to his superior in the House of Lords. There is a great constitutional question involved in this matter. If the House of Commons assents to this new gag it will inevitably take a back seat in influencing the foreign policy of the country. No Ministry which requires to be relieved from the unpleasant criticism of the House of Commons will ever put a Foreign Minister in this House when it can muzzle hon. Members here by putting him in the House of Lords it is the right of the House of Commons to obtain from the representative of the Foreign Office in this House the same amount of information as if he were at the head of that Office. What is the position taken up by the Leader of the House and the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs? It has been the recognised custom from time immemorial that a Minister is always at liberty to exercise his discretion with regard to supplementary questions, and, while maintaining a civil and decent demeanour, even with regard to ques-* Refer to The Parliamentary Debates [Fourth iSeries], Vol. lxvi., page 114.327 tions on the Paper. But he must exercise that discretion on the merits of the individual question. Any Minister is at liberty to say "The state of public affairs is such that I do not consider it advisable to answer the question at the present moment," and there is hardly a night during the session that that position is not taken up with regard to some Parliamentary matter. When, however, the First Lord of the Treasury, with reference to the merits of the question, assumes a right—to which he has no more claim than a private Member of the House—to tell one of his Ministers, who is not his subordinate, but who is responsible directly to the House and not through the right hon. Gentleman, that he shall not answer any supplementary questions, I say we are face to face with a most revolutionary departure from all previous precedents, and one which may cause the utter destruction of the privilege of questioning in this House. Another ground upon which I attach the utmost importance to this new practice is that you must scrutinise every departure from old practice not on the merits of the departure itself, but on the question of bow far the principle may be drawn. What may be the result if we yield to this new claim? This year the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is forbidden to answer supplementary questions. Next year he may be forbidden to answer any questions whatever. What is the difference in essence? If the Leader of the House has this right with regard to supplementary questions, how can we deny his right to say to the Under Sec-rotary of State, "I think it desirable that you shall not answer any questions at all Members of the House of Commons can wait until next day and read Lord Salisbury's speech and get the information there." And if the rule apply to the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, why not to the Irish. Secretary? What is the difference? Some people think we Irish belong to the domain of foreign affairs. We are accustomed to be called "rebels" and "traitors." I see no logical argument by which we could resist the claim of the Leader of the House, if this departure were acquiesced in without protest, to forbid the Irish Secretary to answer 328 any questions whatever. All he would have to say would be that the interests of public order and good government in Ireland would be best served by stopping the heckling and annoyance to which the Irish Secretary was subjected. In this claim is involved the right to take away one of the most valuable privileges which distinguish the House of Commons from any other assembly. Questions are one of the main means by which we can call the Executive Government of the country to account. If the First Lord of the Treasury is entitled by his simple ipse dixit to muzzle the Under Secretary of State for Foreign. Affairs, he is entitled on the same ground to muzzle every Minister on the Treasury Bench and to sweep away the privilege of asking questions altogether. Great constitutional questions are involved, and the House of Commons will be very badly advised if they consent without a strong protest to this great invasion of their rights. I have ventured to move this motion because I think a precedent like this ought not to be allowed to pass sub silentio, and that such a serious step in the degradation of the House of Commons ought at the earliest opportunity to be brought to notice. I beg to move.
§ * MR. BLAKE (Longford, S.)
I rise to second the motion. The general custom of questions is one of the highest importance and value, and one of the principal privileges in the custom is that of put ting supplementary questions. A single question put on the Paper may receive an inadequate, ambiguous, or evasive answer, or one provocative of further inquiry, and if you have not the power of questioning a Minister with reference to that which he has answered there is at once created for him the opportunity and the temptation to be more evasive or reticent, and to evade and avoid the subject of inquiry even more than is at present the case. Suppose this rule applied to all subjects, and that to every supplementary question we were told, "No, no further Questions to-day; put it on the Paper." You put it on the Paper; again there is evasion or the suggestion of something lacking, and again you are told to put any additional question on the Paper. The power of 329 questions would be no longer anything substantial, but a mockery. Yet that which would be intolerable as a general proposition is said to be not merely tolerable but proper with reference to a most important branch of the questioning power—that relating to foreign affairs. I readily admit that with reference to foreign affairs there will arise more frequently than with regard to almost any other domain of questions the necessity for the power of saying "public interest demands that I should abstain from replying." Nobody proposes to interfere with that discretion; but why in the world should not the Minister in this domain, just as much as in any other, with reference to supplementary questions be allowed to answer if he thinks fit? If the subject be delicate and important, and he is not seised in advance of the material for a proper reply, why should he not say, as many a Minister has to say, "I am not in a position to answer now, therefore put it down"? But to lay down a general rule that, whatever answer the Minister may give, no matter how evasive, unsatisfactory, or provocative of further inquiry, this House should be muzzled, and should not be entitled to say one word upon it, is to render a sham and a delusion the power of questioning with reference to the very subject in which the highest interests are involved, and in regard to which it is of the greatest consequence that the House of Commons should retain or resume its just power.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,—"That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Dillon.)
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
There was a good deal that surprised me in the course of the speeches to which we have just-listened, as well as in the course of that somewhat irregular fire of questions which preceded them. In the first place, let me point out that the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Mayo is now raising as a question of urgent public importance a matter which has been the practice for now more than two years. This is a new Parliament, and I presume there are a good many Gentlemen present who have not been long in the House, and I am sure that, listening to what has 330 occurred to-day, they would suppose that I had given an absolute direction to the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs; but that is a most inaccurate view of the history of this question. I believe this rule was laid down for the first time some two years or two years and a half ago, not on the irresponsible will of any one Minister, but after careful consideration and discussion by the Government as a whole. Therefore, so far from this being a new practice the House has been accustomed to it for at least two years or two years and a half.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am not looking into the heart of my hon. friend. He may always have resented it, but I do not recollect any speech of his on the subject. But it has been the practice for two years, and therefore for a Member of the House to say that it is an innovation—a recent innovation—is, I think, altogether to violate the true accuracy of historical statement. But that is an unimportant point. The really important point is not whether the precedent is new or immemorial in its character, but whether in itself it tends to the dignity of the House and the safety of the country; and after careful reflection we have come to the conclusion that the practice of cross-examining the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs and expecting him to answer questions on the spur of the moment in this House is an inexpedient practice, because we see that it is impossible, if such a practice is to prevail, to carry on the difficult and delicate negotiations in which an Empire of this magnitude is constantly involved. The hon. Gentleman has made two statements which I venture to say are wholly unsupported by the facts. He talks as if this practice of cross-examining Ministers was the old practice of the House. It is nothing of the kind. It is a new practice. In the course of my own Parliamentary recollections—[An HON. MEMBER: The Fourth Party initiated it.] Even in the course of my Parliamentary recollections it has steadily grown. I do not know whether it is or is not an advantage to the House. That 331 is not the point I am discussing. What I am venturing to point out to the House is that the practice is a comparatively new one in Parliamentary history.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I think the right hon. Gentleman is mistaken. Does he not himself recollect that any Member on asking a question and not getting a satisfactory answer could make a speech, and if complaint was made he always said, "I will conclude with a motion"?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
How does that traverse the statement I made that this practice of putting a series of supplementary questions to three-fourths of the questions put upon the Paper is a new practice? I had no notice that this question was to be raised, and therefore I have not been able to make an elaborate investigation; but I asked an hon. friend to bring me in a Hansard for 1865, a year chosen at random, and from that year I take a week, also chosen at random. This is the result. On Monday, June 26th, 1865, there were two questions put and no supplementaries. On Tuesday, the 27th, no questions were put, and of course, there were no supplementaries On Wednesday, the 28th, again there were no questions put. On Thursday, the 29th, three questions were put, and no supplementaries: and on Friday, the 30th, five questions were put, and no supplementaries.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman thinks it was also the practice in those days for Members to interrupt a speaker with a series of argumentative questions of this kind. I do know, however, that the practice of which I speak is a comparatively new practice, and nobody who knows the constitution of the House will deny it. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman opposite will agree to the historical accuracy of the statement I have made that the practice is a new one.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
That is perfectly true; but it is the result of hon. Members having been shut out of other opportunities of asking questions and bringing forward motions.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
The right hon. Gentleman's point is this—that formerly on Tuesdays and Fridays liberty was given to private Members to bring forward special questions; but those questions were brought forward with ample notice to the Minister who had to deal with them. He had ample notice. He could consult his colleagues and his chief. There was ample time for consideration, and no danger could occur. It may be that the modern habit is due to this curtailment, this inevitable and, as I think, unfortunate curtailment of Members' opportunities; but will the House please mark the point I am now going to make? I do not complain of this practice, if kept within reasonable limits, with regard to any member of the Government, except the member responsible for foreign affairs. The hon. Member for East Mayo, who moved the adjournment, drew an appalling picture of a future in which the Irish Chief Secretary would be relieved from the wholesome process of cross-examination. When I was Chief Secretary I had a good many questions put to me, and I should have been very sorry that the power of putting and answering any questions should not have existed.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Surely my own friends might allow me to finish my statement without interruption. I should have been the last person when I was at the Irish Office to complain of the practice—and I am sure my hon. friend who is now Chief Secretary feels in the same way—because it does give an opportunity for stating a grievance, for replying to a grievance, and for showing that a grievance has not real foundation at all. Indeed, I do not believe you could carry on the work of government smoothly without the power of asking and answering questions. If a certain modification be adopted in this 333 process of cross-examination without notice, I think that, on the whole, it is a practice which has a great deal to be said for it in regard to the general domestic business of the country, But you come to an entirely different position of affairs when you are dealing with the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Recollect how you are playing with fire in this matter. I remember being told, I believe on very good authority, that one of the ablest and most dexterous predecessors of my noble friend as Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs had on three ocasions in one fortnight to request the gentlemen in the Press Gallery to modify the wording of some answers he had given to supplementary questions lest they should produce some unfortunnate impression in the Chancelleries of other Powers. Every despatch which is sent to a foreign Government, and every telegram which contains instructions to foreign Ministers, is carefully drafted; every word of it is weighed, considered, and reconsidered, and it is perhaps submitted to the Cabinet before it is sent. And yet you ask the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, or the Secretary if he be in this House, to say on the spur of the moment, without notice, without previous consideration, that which in its effects may be as dangerous as any formal communication by telegram or despatch. Is not that an impossible responsibility to throw upon the Under Secretary? The hon. Gentleman who seconded the motion is of opinion that it is sufficient protection for the Under Secretary to be able to say that he must ask for notice of the question, as he cannot answer it at the moment. Does not everybody know that the cases are common in which silence alone amounts to an answer, and that a refusal to reply gives rise to rumours and conjectures of the most dangerous and damaging description? How is it possible to obviate that great danger except by some general rule? If the Under Secretary can say as a general rule that notice must be given of supplementary questions, then no evil interpretation, no erroneous or dangerous construction, can be given to his silence. But if you take that rule away you leave the House, the diplomatic gallery, the newspapers here, the newspapers of 334 foreign countries, to put their own interpretation on that silence. And do you not think that consequences, not damaging to the Government, not damaging to the Under Secretary himself, but damaging to the nation as a whole, and, it may be, even to the peace of Europe, may result from the reckless use of this power of Ministerial cross-examination? The hon. Gentleman who moved this motion said that the House was by this rule deprived of privileges enjoyed by every other representative Assembly in the world. I venture to say there is not another representative Assembly in the world which allows such licence and latitude in questions on foreign affairs as are allowed in this House of Commons. Other Assemblies know well how difficult and delicate is the path of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, what pitfalls there are to the right and left of him; they know the jealousies that must be guarded against, the susceptibilities that must always be considered; and therefore they are far too wise not to fence round with every kind of precaution intervention in debate on foreign affairs on the part of individual members of those Assemblies, who, in pursuit of their own particular panaceas, may lead on a Minister to make a statement the effects of which would be not only far-reaching in point of extent, stretching, it might be, to the uttermost ends of the earth, and producing consequences that might take years or generations to remedy—
§ MR. DILLON
The right hon. Gentleman has misunderstood what I said. I did not say that the right hon. Gentleman sought to deprive this House of privileges which were exercised by other Assemblies. On the contrary, I said we were being deprived of privileges which distinguished this House from every other House.
§ MR A. J. BALFOUR
I had misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman, and I am sorry for it. At all events, his interruption is sufficient evidence that in carrying out this rule, which has been in operation for two years, we are following at a distance a practice which every other House has found necessary in the national and patriotic interest. I 335 would not lift a finger to relieve either myself or any of my colleagues of a responsibility which affected merely the Government, or merely the party, or merely the domestic controversies in which we are from time to time engaged. We are here to deal with these controversies and to make the best case we can for ourselves and our party. But when we leave these domestic squabbles, when we come into the debatable area of foreign policy, then I do most earnestly beg the House not to press the Government to answer hastily and at random questions put by Gentlemen who, from the nature of the case may not know what they are doing, or what spark they are applying to what magazine, or may not be aware what international explosion they may be provoking. I am well convinced that if the House will endorse, as I hope they will, the action we have taken in this matter, they will endorse it not with the view of saving the Ministry, or the party, or any individuals on this bench, but in the full consciousness that the man who speaks at this Table for the Foreign Office is a man who has upon his shoulders already sufficient responsibility to make it most unwise to throw upon him the additional burden of expressing on the spur of the moment with absolute accuracy the facts of some difficult point of foreign policy. That can only be done by laying down that general rule which we have adopted, and I earnestly trust that the House will support us in maintaining it.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
The right hon. Gentleman has addressed to the House an ingenious, an earnest and in some parts even an impassioned argument-, which is, unfortunately, vitiated by the fact that it is irrelevant to the question at issue. The right hon. Gentleman has said that the habit, not of asking supplementary questions, but the habit of asking questions at all has greatly increased. But he had to admit, in answer to the interruption of my right hon friend near me, that that is largely due to the shutting to Members of the House of other means of obtaining information. Then we come to the point of supplementary questions. The right hon. Gentleman ignored one 336 great protection we have against the wanton use of supplementary questions, which is the presence in the chair of the Speaker, whose duty it is,—and I am bound to say, Sir, that you even in a more signal degree than your predecessor have discharged this duty—to prevent the practice of asking supplementary questions from developing into anything like abuse. I venture to say, Sir, that since we have had the advantage of your presiding over our deliberations a great improvement has taken place in this respect. Then I would point out that supplementary questions which are ad-addressed to any Minister can always be dealt with by that Minister, if he is not in a position to answer them, by the simple process of asking for notice. It so happens that we are speaking with considerable authority on the point, because I have sitting near me no fewer than three Gentlemen—my noble friend the Member for the Cricklade Division of Wiltshire, my right hon. friend the Member for South Aberdeen, and the hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick—who have all filled the office of Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs Some of them I would specify ill particular my noble friend the Member for Cricklade—filled that position at a time when I do not think there was any lack of desire on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite to extract information. Indeed, I do not think I am doing any wrong to those who took part in the proceedings in saying that it would not have aggravated them very seriously if their questions had had the effect of embarrassing the Government. I refer to the Parliament of 1880. I think, if the right hon. Gentleman exercises his mind, that even he at the back of his memory may find some trace of the proceedings to which I refer. The right hon. Gentleman said that this is now an established custom of the House: that the House has agreed to this means of curbing the desire of Members for information, and of sheltering the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. I can only say that at the very opening of this Parliament, on 6th December, I openly protested against the continuance of this practice, and said that it reduced the privilege of asking questions to a farce. If the House will allow 337 me, I will quote a sentence or two which I used on that occasion. I said—Let me give expression of a hope that there will not be continued the curious rule, originated by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, and novel to the House, of restricting the number of questions that can be put to the representative of that Department. I cannot understand why any such rule should exist, and if it has been assented to in the House of Commons it is simply because the House has been too astonished at it to bring the Government to book. The right hon. Gentleman and I the other day expressed our perfect confidence that Mr. Speaker would be able to conduct all our proceedings with perfect order, and in nothing has Mr. Speaker been more energetic and successful than in the preventing of unnecessary questions. Let us trust to him to prevent anything exceeding the points of ordinary propriety, but do not let us have this spectacle again, which reduces questions really to a fares, of allowing the representative of a Government Department to sit dumb in the presence of a number of questioners."*What is it we complain of? We make no complaint on the ground that supplementary questions ought to be allowed without limit. We admit that Mr. Speaker is acting in the interests of the House if he stops the incessant use of supplementary questions. I am not sure that this, being so serious a matter, ought not to be left, if not entirely, almost entirely, in the hands of the Leader of the House, the chief member of the Government. Let him, or in other cases the Minister principally concerned, say to the House, "It is to the public interest that this particular question should not be answered." Has there ever been a case where the House of Commons has refused such an appeal? Then we come to the point of the Minister being able to plead that he is not instructed, or that he would like -the matter being delicate time to consider the actual terms of the answer he would give. Has that ever been refused by the House of Commons, or grumbled against by the House of Commons? No, Sir. We are not in the habit of so treating Ministers and public affairs. But that is not the ease we have to deal with. The case we have to deal with is a general edict which has been passed by the Leader of the House that on no occasion and under no circumstances is this par-* See The Parliamentary Debates; [Fourth Series], Vol. Ixxxviii., page 120; Mr. Balfour's reply, page 122.338 ticular Under Secretary to answer any supplementary question. And the consequence is this. An hon. Member addresses a question to a Minister and receives a cut-and-dried answer, or an answer that may be no answer at all—which sometimes happens—or he receives an ambiguous answer, which is very often the case. And yet when the hon. Member gets up and asks the Minister, "Did you mean Yes or did you mean No when you gave me that reply?" the Under Secretary is to sit and smile and shake his head, but dare not get up. Why, Sir, the thing is ludicrous. Let the right hon. Gentleman take off this absurd embargo, and I will answer for it—not on my own authority but from my knowledge of the House of Commons—that there will be no inconvenience to him, nor to the Government, nor to the Under Secretary, nor to the public interest. The House of Commons knows perfectly well the delicate nature of negotiations, and it will make allowances to this extent, that it will concede the time to give a deliberate and well-considered answer. The right hon. Gentleman says it is too much to expect that an Under Secretary on the spur of the moment should be prepared to answer the most delicate questions. But Under Secretaries, even the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs, have to make speeches without special preparation or notice. He has to take part to-night in the debate on China; be will be asked a good many questions, I daresay, and he will have to answer them. He has no notice given to him what the nature of those questions will be. There must be some answer to them. Yet this is the poor helpless official who has to be hedged round with this artificial protection, which is, I say, against all precedent in the House of Commons and against the general interests of public life in this country. And there is another point. If we are not to get information as fully as we should like from the Under Secretary it must be got, I suppose, from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. But we are not allowed in this House to refer to what passes in the other House of Parliament, and therefore this channel is provided for us, and an excellent channel no doubt it might be, an ample 339 one for us and also one which can be used without any prejudice to the Government or the country.
§ * SIR E. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
I am sorry not to be able to agree with the Leader of the House and the Leader of my Party. I think this is a very important constitutional question, and that the House will, perhaps—at least hon. Members on this side will—be liable to be misled by what I admit to be the very weighty and effective appeal made by the First Lord of the Treasury. The value of questions, especially under the present rules of the House, is very great. The rights of independent Members have been steadily encroached upon for a long period of time, and, although I speak as a private and independent Member, yet I have had some experience of the House of Commons. Having had the honour of a seat in it for twenty-one years, I venture to say that most of the valuable measures that have passed the House have been, in the first case, introduced by private Members. In the old times, as the right hon. the Member for West Monmouth has pointed out, it was always open to members to rise, ask a question, make a speech, and conclude with a motion. These rights have been taken away from us and, instead, we retain only the power of asking; questions. Now, what is the advantage of that? Not only do we obtain on occasions most important information, but the time of the House is greatly saved; for if it were not for this power Members would be driven to move the adjournment every night of the week in order to obtain the necessary information. What is the argument of the Government in opposing the views of hon. Members opposite? The argument is that this is a public danger. But why has it not been a public danger for the past twenty-five years? Is it to be pretended by the Leader of the House that my noble friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, or the late Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, now Minister for War, are, or were, less able to answer questions with wisdom and safety than the right hon. Baronet the Member for Forest of Dean or the noble Lord the Member for the Cricklade Division? I well remem- 340 ber when these right hon. Gentlemen held the office of Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs they were bombarded with questions night after night. [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!] Yes, Sir, and rightly and wisely bombarded with questions, because I maintain that the interests of the country were upheld by these questions and many foreign dangers were averted by the use of questions. But is it to be contended that these right hon. Gentlemen were more able to deal with such questions than the noble Lord now on the Treasury Bench? It is, of course, a reductio ad absurdum when that point is put fairly. If this order is enforced, then there can only be one answer to it; we must have the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in this House. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was perfectly justified in stating that the power of questioning the Minister for Foreign Affairs was never used by private Members in the face of an appeal from the Minister not to pursue a particular question because it was against public interest or that notice should be given of the question. I hope, therefore, the First Lord of the Treasury will withdraw this order, which is more like the ukase or trade of despotic governments than the practice of a free Parliament. He may safely leave it to the good sense of the Members and the intelligence of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs to deal with questions as they arise.
§ SIR CHARLES DILKE
did not know what the Leader of the House meant when he spoke of the practice of asking supplementary questions as a recent growth. If he referred to the practice since 1865 he might as well quote the Parliamentary Register of the last century. There had been an entirely changed state of things since 3 865. Hardly any questions at all were asked previous to that time, and it was in 1882 that the practice of asking supplementary questions in foreign affairs first began. Members whose experience went back to that period, when the hon. Member who had just sat down, Lord R. Churchill, Sir H. Drummond-Wolff, and the present-Leader of the House (though in a much less degree) took an active part in the proceedings and in putting questions, 341 would remember that the practice of asking supplementary questions in foreign affairs was never so rife as it was in 1882, when he held the office of Under Secretary, down till 1885. In this matter everything depended on the tact which was exercised. No doubt a Minister in answering a question might do a great deal of harm, but no one would suggest that the hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick or the present Viceroy of India were persons who from want of time had answered questions which were believed to be unwise. The patriotism of the House was never more conspicuously shown than in the manner in which it helped Ministers responsible for foreign affairs, and in refraining from putting questions which were believed to be dangerous. Many hon. Members would remember bow during the discussions on the Venezuelan question the House of Commons abstained from putting dangerous questions, and he was convinced that this was a course of action which it would always follow. The House would also assent to the suggestion that in the case of a difficult question opportunity should be given to consult the Secretary of State upon the wording of a certain answer. But at present the Under Secretary was placed in a humiliating and almost ridiculous position. He was placed in a position which weakened his office in the House of Commons, and he was deprived of that authority which he would naturally wish to exert with the House and his colleagues.
* MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
said that what appeared to him an unconstitutional doctrine had been propounded under which a distinction was sought to be drawn between the head of a Department and the Minister representing it in the House of Commons, and it had been contended that it was desirable that an Under Secretary should have an opportunity of communicating with his chief before giving an answer to a particular question. This contention, in his judgment, struck at the root of Ministerial responsibility. He well remembered being told by Mr. Disraeli when he was Under Secretary, "You are responsible in this House for your Department if you are 342 in a difficulty come to me"; and no doubt the present Under Secretary could be trusted in the same way as Mr. Disraeli trusted his Under Secretaries. It seemed to him that the Government had shut the door after the horse had gone. It might be true that the Viceroy of India did from time to time give answers which occasionally startled his colleagues, but the practice followed by that Minister seemed to have led to an embargo being placed on his successors. He hoped, however, that the ukase of his right hon. friend would not be pressed further, as he had no doubt that his noble friend could be fully trusted to observe all necessary discretion. In fact, the only complaint he had to make with regard to the present representation of the Foreign Office in that House was that the present Under Secretary, being one of the best of their independent Members, had been stolen from them. He thought that Ministerial responsibility would receive a shock if the Under Secretary could not be trusted according to his own discretion, which he must always be allowed to exercise, to decide what were the questions he was justified in answering at once, and what were, the questions of which notice must be given.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
I am extremely glad that the hon. Member for East Mayo has brought this question before the House, and I think the House of Commons is under an obligation to him for so doing. It would be impossible for us to exaggerate the importance which attaches to this matter. The effect of this new rule that has been made is another step in the campaign which has been going on for a considerable time to deprive private Members of all opportunity of discussion and of obtaining information. Indeed, the object of the movement seems to be to gag the House and to degrade it. It is true that the practice with reference to questions has changed, but that change is the result of the deprivation of all opportunity on the part of private Members to discuss subjects on other occasions and to obtain information in other ways. The inevitable result of decreasing the opportunities of discussion by private Members has been to force them to increase the number of questions. I 343 think the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has entirely misrepresented, if I may say so without offence, the real point taken by the hon. Member for East Mayo. No one denies that it must remain always in the discretion of the Minister for Foreign Affairs to decline in the public interest to answer certain questions. No one denies that there may be many questions addressed to the Under Secretary which he cannot answer without consulting his chief. No one denies that these occasions may constantly occur, and certainly I have never heard any complaint made by any Member of the House when such an answer was given. The Leader of the House, forsooth, says that if the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs replies either that the question ought not to be answered in the public interest, or that he must refer it for information to his chief, he may thereby create a wrong impression in foreign countries. If the supplementary question is one which he cannot answer in the public interest, that will be proved when it is put down on the Paper as a question. If it is a question which he cannot answer because he must refer it to his chief for information, he will be forced to answer it when he has got the information, and the complaint we make is that the Under Foreign Secretary in this House should be a mere dummy, that he should come here with his mouth closed and not be allowed to answer any question. As the Leader of the Opposition pointed out, questions of the most innocent and necessary character may have to be asked as the result of a misunderstanding of an answer which has been given. But it is proposed that there is to be a hard and fast rule that under no conceivable circumstances is the Under Secretary of State to be allowed to answer any supplementary question at all. That is an absurd position to put a Minister in. After all, Ministerial responsibility is Ministerial responsibility to the House of Commons. The House of Commons is, after all, the ruling body in this country, and it is not only humiliating that the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs should be put in the position that he dare not and cannot, even if his judgment tells him otherwise, answer a supplementary question, but it is degrading the House of Commons, 344 and is certainly another step in what I believe is a deliberate campaign which has been going on for a number of years, the object of which is to deprive this House of proper opportunities of discussion and obtaining information, and a desire to gag the House of Commons. It is a question affecting the rights of the House of Commons. It is surely a strange thing in matters of this sort, upon which we are told the safety of the Empire depends, to find a sharp division between the two Front Benches. Why, if this practice, which has existed so many years, was really injurious to the safety of the Empire, was it never found out until two years ago? This practice has been going on during the twenty years I have been in the House. How is it that those who were responsible for the late government, and who in the ordinary course of events will some day or other be responsible for the government again, took a different view and believed that the practice which prevailed up to two years ago was not injurious to the safety of the Empire? I think my hon. friend deserves the thanks of the House and of the poeple of the country for having brought this question forward, and I confess it is a source of satisfaction to me that it is one of the Irish party who has come forward to heap coals of fire upon the heads of the English House of Commons by taking this stand in defence of its liberties, its independence, and its rights.
§ MR. STUART WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
said, the question really to be considered was: What is in the public interest? Supposing the proposal of the hon. Member for East Mayo were adopted, no really substantial change would be effected. The answers to the questions would still be refused. The only thing that would happen would be a change in the form in which the refusal was given. The responsibility for the refusal would be laid not on the inconvenience of the questions, but on the rigidity of a rule. He did not think that that would be a change for the better. The present system at any rate got rid of the possibility of the misconstruction of silence; and it was in consequence of that misconstruction that men of the most highly trained 345 minds, finding themselves in the face of an increasing volume of business, arguments, and complexity in foreign affairs, had arrived at the conclusion that the answering of these supplementary questions was one which could not be endured any longer, as being fraught with danger to the State. This practice had been arrived at for the protection of private character, and why should it not be adopted where the national interest was concerned? It had been laid down from the Chair that no supplementary questions could be asked imputing anything to an absent man or a private individual, because of the injustice of asking questions under circumstances which prevented their being answered. Was the protection given to private character not to be given to the national interest? The protection of the Chair, upon which the House was asked to rely, was one which was regarded with constantly increasing dislike and diffidence. How was discretion with respect to the right to put supplementary questions to be exercised by the Chair, and the Chair alone, without dragging the Chair into questions of public policy as distinguished from questions of order and procedure, and thereby degrading the Chair itself?
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES
My right hon. friend who has just sat down has entirely confused the matter before the House. He has been dealing with the advisability or in advisability of putting supplementary questions. The House is dealing with the advisability or inadvisability of having these questions answered. That is quite another question. He forgets that at this moment the right of putting the question exists. What is denied—all that is denied—is the right of getting an answer. Questions are constantly being put to which no answers are given. What my right hon. friend the First Lord says is that when you put supplementary questions to the Under Secretary and no answer is given, the silence itself will be the answer. But that is so now. I have myself repeatedly put questions to which silence was the answer. My right hon. friend who was until recently Under Secretary 346 for Foreign Affairs will remember that on one occasion I asked if the Foreign Office was absolutely ignorant of everything, and his answer was silence—from which the House drew the natural inference. I wish to join in the appeal of my right lion, friend below the gangway that the First Lord of the Treasury should reconsider his non possumus attitude on this subject. The question is really very important. We have been deprived—I am not complaining of it at the present moment—we have in the public interest been deprived in this House of numerous opportunities for bringing matters before the House which previously existed. As a matter of fact, we have practically only left to us now questions, the Estimates, and Amendments to the Address, which is, of course, an opportunity to be taken in extremities—such an extremity to which I myself have been reduced. There are the Estimates, and when these are under discussion the Under Secretary is bound to answer question after question. He has no protection there. If the First Lord is going to throw a shield over him with regard to questions put at the commencement of public business, what about the questions that are showered at him on the Estimates? There is no gag there. No relief is given to the poor noble Lord in that respect. Why, surely the thing has gone too far or not far enough. If you are going to forbid the answering of supplementary questions before five o'clock you must forbid him answering them from five to twelve o'clock, and I think he will be pleased at that. Questions are constantly being answered—inadvertently, no doubt—so that the answer is either unintelligible or ambiguous. The answers are often so ambiguous that it is impossible to comprehend their full scope and purpose, unless they are to some extent explained in replies to supplementary questions. The former Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs felt himself compelled to reply to supplementary questions.
§ MR. BRODRICK
The only occasions on which I answered supplementary questions were occasions when it was alleged that I had not fully answered the question on the Paper
* MR. GIBSON BOWLES
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his testimony, which has proved what I have stated. I said that an answer might be ambiguous or insufficient, and might necessarily require an answer to a supplementary question. My right hon. friend is honest enough to admit that he, has given them. My point is that an answer may be so manifestly incomplete or ambiguous, or, for some reason, so incomprehensible as to absolutely require that a supplementary question should be asked. The First Lord of the Treasury gives as a reason for maintaining this entirely new order with respect to the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs that it is two years old. I say that two years is a very small time in the history of a House like this. For hundreds of years elucidatory questions have been answered, and we have had only two years' experience of this order, which is there fore very modern indeed. But why cannot the First Lord leave it to the discretion of the Under Secretary himself? Why cannot he leave him to say, as in the case of every other Minister on that bench, "I want notice of the question," or "I must in the public interest decline to reply," or, as we have seen tonight, to make neither of these answers but sit still in his seat This new order did not exist during the tenure of office of Lord Curzon, or that of any but one previous Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. I do not know why it has been imposed on the noble Lord. It seems to me to be a most unmerited reflection—most especially on the noble Lord who has been brought into the Government to strengthen it. Why should he be told that he is not to answer supplementary questions when Lord Curzon was allowed to do so? Is it to be suggested that you can trust a Curzon and not a—not the noble Lord? The Under Secretary of State in this House is the only medium by which we can get any knowledge whatever of foreign affairs, and to say to him that he is not to answer supplementary questions, and that he cannot be trusted, is to my mind to say that he is not fit for his post. I must say that I believe he is fit for his post. I believe that he is perfectly capable of taking care of himself—quite as capable as Lord Curzon. Let me remind the 348 Leader of the House that it was precisely in answering supplementary questions that Lord Curzon made his great reputation. It was not in answers that he brought down from the Foreign Secretary in another place; it was in those which by his quickness, readiness, and brilliancy he invented himself in the face of this House. I am perfectly convinced that my noble friend is capable of the same thing. Why should he be prohibited from making here the great reputation which led another noble Lord to the Viceroyalty of India? I think it perfectly cruel of the First Lord to maintain in conference and in concert, as he tells us, with the rest of the cruel Ministry this shocking prohibition that is placed on the noble Lord. But this is really a very serious matter. I regret that it has been brought forward in such a shape as this, for this motion for adjournment raises a false issue. But this is another illustration of the necessity of questions. The matter has been brought forward on a motion for the adjournment of the House, because it could not be brought forward in any other way. Would my right hon. friend have given us a day for this question? Not he. [Laughter.] He laughs. It is a matter for merriment! I think on the contrary that it is precisely one of those matters on which not only the liberties and the rights but the very efficacy of this House depends. It seems to me that unless this House is to have the opportunity of raising matters by the questioning of Ministers for information its use will be very nearly disappearing. Therefore I join in the appeal to my right hon. friend to reconsider the situation, and to see if he cannot give us some hope that now at least the noble Lord will have his muzzle taken off, and be enabled to answer supplementary questions with that ease and fluency which distinguished his predecessor.
§ SIR EDWARD GREY (Northumberland, Berwick)
This question has already been considered from more than one point of view, but I think there is one element which might be eliminated from the discussion. That is the point of view of the interest of the Chair. I do not see how the interest of the Chair, 349 which, was used as an argument by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Hallam Division of Sheffield, is really germane to the matter. As I understand, both you, Sir, and your predecessors have controlled supplementary questions solely on the ground of whether they arose out of the answer given by the Minister or whether they came within the rules of the House. The control of the questions addressed to the Foreign Office, in so far as it is exercised on these grounds, places no strain upon the Chair which does not rest upon it in dealing with questions addressed to other Departments. In fact, I understood you, Sir, when the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean was speaking, to deprecate any idea that the authority of the Chair was exercised on the ground of public policy. The question of public policy surely must rest with Ministers. Let us consider this matter from the points of view of the public interest and of the convenience of the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. Those, I think, are the only two things which are really germane. The public interest is by far the more important, and I only notice the other because no one could have been in the position of Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs without being conscious of certain inconveniences. There are, no doubt, certain inconveniences in regard to questions, especially in regard to questions addressed to the Foreign Office; but, if alterations are to be made, this is not the one I should have chosen from the point of view either of convenience of the Under Secretary to the Foreign Office or of the public interest. The real inconvenience which I found when I was at the Foreign Office was not supplementary questions; it was the question at short notice. It was the question which appeared on the Paper in the morning and which was to be asked in the House in the afternoon that undoubtedly caused inconvenience in the Office. One was unwilling, as the question was on the Paper, not to attempt to answer it. But I think there are certain inconveniences and sometimes, perhaps, danger likely to result from the attempt to get the 350 information up in the Office at a few hours notice, and the giving of an answer, a written answer in most cases, which could not be modified afterwards and which, if important facts had been overlooked or considerations had not been thoroughly discussed in the Office, might lead to danger afterwards. The answering of questions at five minutes or a day's notice, I think, is the real inconvenience, but that does not require any rule, because if it is explained to Members they will always give longer notice. The real inconvenience and the real danger lies in that fact, because if due notice had been given the Under Secretary would come down having got up the subject thoroughly. We have been debating this matter rather as if any question addressed to the Foreign Office might be asked without notice. That cannot be done now. It must be a supplementary question germane to the subject, and if the Under Secretary has had ample notice of the question which appears on the Paper then, I think, his familiarity with the subject will be such as should enable him to answer the supplementary question, if it is a simple one, on the spot, or to decide whether danger lurked in the question. I think that, when a question appears on the Paper and the Under Secretary is considering what answer he is going to give, the knowledge that it is desirable to avoid supplementary questions, or to anticipate them, is undoubtedly an element in making the original answer as clear and as full as possible. I believe that, in the public interest, what the House ought to do is to insist upon, or at all events in every way to encourage, the giving of long notice of the original question to the Under Secretary, in order that he may be fully prepared on the whole subject. If that is done I do not believe that any danger lurks in the asking of supplementary questions. Some things connected with the Foreign Office, no doubt, are exceedingly difficult to deal with and require much consideration. Take, for instance, what is happening in China, where many Powers are concerned in concert. I can quite understand that there any answer to supplementary questions might be a very risky 351 matter. But take the administration of Uganda, Any question addressed to the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs upon that subject is as purely a departmental question as any question that is addressed to the War Office or any other Government office. There are quite a large number of questions addressed to the Foreign Office which deal with matters as purely departmental as those addressed to Ministers representing other offices, and yet this alteration is to apply to the whole of the questions. I think it is an unnecessarily rigid rule. The Under Secretary has to run in this House a very severe gauntlet from time to time, but the most severe is not in answering supplementary questions; it is in the debate on a Vote on Account. He cannot always have warning of everything that is to be raised. Things occur to hon. Members in the debate, and questions come up covering the whole range of foreign affairs. The Under Secretary then not only has to give answers, but he has to deal with these questions exhaustively in debate, and sometimes with the most important of them without any opportunity of preparation. With the most important, of course, he ought to be familiar, but he cannot have time to prepare any speech on those particular subjects on these particular occasions; and I think that the Under Secretary who is capable of getting up on a Vote on Account and of dealing seriously with the whole subject of foreign affairs in unprepared speeches is capable of deciding on the spur of the moment whether it is advisable to answer or not a question on a matter which he has already prepared in the office. There can be only one justification for this rule, and that is if the House had pressed questions without notice upon the Under Secretary. But the House never does so. When it asks questions, especially in connection with the Foreign Office, the House has always had the good sense and the patriotism to recognise that, if the Under Secretary asks for further notice, that must be accepted as final. It has always so accepted it, and over and over again, before this rule came into force, Under Secretaries have continually asked for further notice of supplementary questions, even when they arose out of the answer 352 given to the main question. If that is so, and as all in the House are reluctant to increase and multiply restrictions more than is absolutely necessary, I do think, considering the temper which the House has always shown in previous years, it would have been better in this matter to rely upon the discretion of the Under Secretary to ask for further notice when the question was inconvenient or where the answer was to his mind doubtful. I am sure that the Government might have relied now, as they have always done in previous years, upon the good sense and the patriotism of the House, especially in connection with foreign affairs, not to press those questions.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I do not desire to trouble the House at any length, but as two of those who have held the position of Under Secretary to the Foreign Office have given their experience, and as my experience in this respect has been a peculiar one, perhaps I might be allowed to say a few words. I should honestly have been glad to have been able to agree with what has fallen from the hon. Baronet opposite. The hon. Baronet has treated this question as if the House had a record so admirable with regard to its treatment of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs that no possible cause could exist for the change which my right hon. friend the Leader of the House has made. That is not only not the fact, but I venture to say it is the exact reverse of the fact. Take the experience of my noble friend Lord Curzon. The House, the hon. Baronet said, had never pressed questions on the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs without notice. I say, without fear of contradiction, in the presence of those who recollect the circumstances, and after frequent conferences on this very subject with Lord Curzon, who was the last man in this House to complain of any attack upon him, and who had, as everybody knows, an adroitness and ability to meet attack which caused him rather to court it than to shirk it, that that is not so. I was rather amused to hear my hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn pay Lord Curzon the high tribute that he did a few minutes ago, and I felt inclined, when I remember the way 353 in which he used to allude to Lord Curzon's answers to supplementary questions, to ask, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" For now, what he used to term insolence is brilliancy, and all the morasses into which I remember my hon. friend used to take such credit to himself for having immersed Lord Curzon are now referred to by him as avenues to the highest distinction. I cannot help recalling this fact, that when the question of Crete was under discussion Lord Curzon, who had never complained, and who was not one of those who thought that supplementary questions should be altogether abolished, because he was himself rather fond of the game, told me that on one occasion he had fifteen questions addressed to him, and that to each of them there were one or two supplementary questions. Although he felt, over and over again, that he should not be pressed in the public interest, he was pressed by speaker after speaker, until at last you, Sir, intervened and preserved him from further questions.
§ MR. BRODRICK
By question after question; and this inquisition went on sometimes for ten minutes on a single question, and that at a moment when a single slip might have had a serious effect on the conduct of negotiations on diplomatic questions. I wish to call the attention of the House, above all, to the experience of the last two years. If this restriction had acted either unfairly or had been resented by the House at large, surely it must have had one of two effects during the last two years—either it must have led to a large increase of the number of questions put on a subsequent day, or it must have led to the exercise of the undoubted right of Members who were not satisfied of moving the adjournment of the House. I was Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs during at least as exciting a period in regard to China as we have had on any question during recent years, and I did not answer supplemental questions, though I did endeavour to give to important questions the fullest and clearest answer, to which I think the House is entitled. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. I had less 354 questions during that vexed period on China than any other Under Secretary ever had in much less troublous times; and as regards adjournments, I will undertake to say that a study of Hansard will show that since 1880 motions for the adjournment of the House were never fewer than during the time that I was unable to answer supplementary questions as Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. These are not uninteresting facts which bear on the present situation. May I say one word more? This matter has been treated as if it were a question simply appertaining to this House. I do not think my right hon. friend's argument on public grounds has altogether received the force which ought to be attached to it. I have had an opportunity of knowing, not only what was the feeling of our Ambassadors abroad with regard to this change, but also what was the feeling of foreign Ministers who are friendly to this country; and it is a curious fact that, although I have never introduced the subject, nearly all of our Ambassadors, and in several instances Ministers of Powers friendly to this country, have congratulated me on the change, and have informed me how greatly it had simplified their duties.
§ MR. BRODRICK
Of course there must be questions. That is inevitable. If a question appears on the Paper in the morning, there is time for deliberation, but it is an absurdity to suppose, in these days, that you can safely put a chance question to an Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. I can give instances in which an expression which was taken back the next moment has been telegraphed all over Europe. I do not think that you can compare any other office to this.
§ MR. BRODRICK
I will take an instance of the Colonial Office. My noble friend happened to misquote a despatch in the hurry of a reply to the hon. Gentleman. What harm did he do by mis- 355 quoting this despatch? The correction was made to-day. It was not a diplomatic question immediately pressing, and it is not at all likely that harm would be done. That remark could not be made in regard to the negotiations going on in China. In every Chancellery in Europe a misquotation of that kind would be taken up. We should hear of it in the negotiations in Peking, and we should probably hear of it in every capital in Europe. Obviously, when you are dealing with foreign affairs you are dealing with much more delicate questions, and in regard to which a slip is much more difficult to recall. An hon. Member has said that we wait until the House of Lords has spoken. I do not think you will find a single occasion in the last two years in which a statement was made in the House of Lords which was not simultaneously made in this House. It is not a matter of supplementary questions. It is only a question whether any hon. Member chooses, at the time a question is put in the House of Lords, to put down a question here. I know by experience how varied are the questions which are brought before us in Committee of Supply, but I would say that it happened to me, over and over again, to have an opportunity of consulting my right hon. friend the First Lord of the Treasury, or of deciding in the hour or two which intervenes between the speech and the reply whether it is desirable or not to touch on a particular topic. Everybody knows that in the brief interval which takes place between a question and the time of reply deliberation is impossible. It is because I think that we ought to have in this House, in the public interest, something like the protection which is afforded in the House of Lords, and in every other Assembly throughout the world, that I trust the House will continue this most salutary reform, which has long been desired by all connected with foreign affairs, and which, I think, in its justice and in its expediency, as well as in its working, it is desirable to continue.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I think it is singularly appropriate that this debate should have arisen upon a motion which arose out of the question of the suicide of certain Ministers of State. Certainly, 356 if the position taken up by the Government is not receded from, the Minister of Foreign Affairs in this House will be degraded to the position of an automaton in which a phonograph is concealed. Ministers themselves have frequently been asked to introduce the innovation of printing their answers to questions on the Paper, but they have always refused—for their own protection, as they have said; but now the Government have declared that all the Minister for Foreign Affairs will do is to give his answer, and nothing more is to be extracted from him. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said that this innovation was greatly approved of by the Ambassador to the Sultan of Turkey. I have no doubt that by the Sublime Porte this innovation is very hopefully regarded, because it will greatly lesson the number of supplementary questions as to the exact numbers of Armenians who are massacred at any time. There is no doubt that the Sublime Porte fully recognises the importance of the change; but is it by arguments of that description that a rule of this kind is to be recommended to the free House of Commons and the free people whom we are supposed to represent? Let me put another point. It is admitted by the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for the Hallam Division of Sheffield that an important, serious, and momentous change has been made in the rules of the House of Commons. Whenever before were the rules of the House of Commons changed except by Standing or Sessional Order? If hitherto there has been a right in a Member to put a supplementary question and you take away that right, can the right of any Member of this House be taken away except by formal and recorded rule? Now, for the first time, we are told that the Prime Minister or the First Lord of the Treasury can of his own motion, by a mere Ministerial order, make a permanent and momentous change in the practice of the House of Commons. We acknowledge, Sir, that the Chair can do that. The Chair is the representative of the House of Commons at large, and it is your duty and privilege to protect the rights of the minority of this House. But who is it that seeks to make this change in the rules of the House? It 357 is the dominant party, and the dominant party are doing this, it is said, in the interests of the country, but admittedly against the interest and the wish of the minority. Never in the experience of the oldest Member of the House has an occasion arisen when a Minister in the British Cabinet—whether by decision in Cabinet or how we know not—has come and said, "On my own motion I will make in the immemorial practice of the House a change, and give you no opportunity of discussing it." The closure was nothing to this. I remember well that when the closure was proposed in 1882, Mr. Gladstone devoted the entire of a winter session to the matter, and the first rule took, I believe, eighteen nights debate, of which, I think, the present First Lord of the Treasury occupied the most part. But now, on this important question affecting the relations of this country, the right hon. Gentleman thinks he can make a muzzling order simply upon his own ipse dixit. It is said that foreign affairs are peculiarly sacrosanct, that there is some special reason for dealing with them in a particular manner. If so, all the more necessity for this rule being considered by the House of Commons at large. What has hitherto been the position of the Opposition? I have always understood that when foreign affairs were in question they were regarded by the Front Opposition Bench as being, so to speak, extra-territorialised; they were supposed to be something not exactly in the arena of party debate. Even when the Fourth Party existed we all remember very well that Sir Stafford Northcote, Mr. Cross, and those of that day never gave any encouragement to the incursions of the noble Lord and his efficient friends who distinguished themselves in the attacks on the foreign policy of Mr. Gladstone, the reason of that being that it had been the practice of the Front Opposition Bench to regard foreign politics as a matter upon which both sides were at one. I would ask, have the Front Opposition Bench consented to this arrangement? Have they been consulted about the matter? I remember very well when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth was Leader of this House, supported as he was by a 358 large contingent of Irish Members, who were chafing very much under what we supposed to be the obstruction of that time to Irish measures; again and again we protested against the extraordinary latitude which we conceived he allowed to the then Opposition. What was always the reply we received? That he considered the position of Leader of the House of Commons to be far more important than that of a member of the Government, as he had the interests of the House of Commons as a whole to consider, and therefore he refused in any way to tamper with what he conceived to be the prerogatives of the Opposition. If, therefore, foreign affairs be, so to speak, a ruled-off paddock in which we should fear to tread, why has not a rule of this kind, if it is to be made, been submitted to the Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench who have had Ministerial experience, and who we must assume, at all events, are as anxious and as zealous for the rights and interest of the foreign policy of this country as are Members on the other side of the House? We find man after man who has held this office getting up and stating that there was no necessity for this rule. The fact of the matter is either that Foreign Secretaries in the past were too smart or else present Foreign Secretaries are too stupid. Anyone who knows the noble Lord and his distinguished career in this House would be very sorry to make that reflection upon him, because we all know his great ability. Equally we were told on the highest authority that Lord Curzon has gone off in a blaze of glory to India, although he did not do so without having been first created an Irish Peer. Why is it that the affairs of the Foreign Office have attached to them that special importance which entitles them to this singular treatment? What are the facts? When the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was the Secretary to the Admiralty, and when the British Fleet was sent to Besika Bay, the whole question of foreign affairs was discussed practically as a Navy question. You could then get at the Foreign Office by asking questions about the Navy. Take the Army, for instance. Again and again 359 if there is a question of the mobilisation of troops and despatching men abroad, can we not get the information we require about them by asking questions from the Army officials? If this goes on it will be necessary also to prevent these questions being asked from the Gentlemen connected with the Army and Navy. Therefore it seems to me that the rule! of the right hon. Gentleman has wholly and entirely broken down. What do we see in recent years? The most important questions in recent years, apart from China, have been questions affecting not the Foreign Office but the Colonial Office. Has anyone ever seen the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies so reticent as to be unwilling to answer a supplementary question? Why, Sir, on the contrary, he revels in it, and it does appear to me that it is upon questions affecting the Colonial Office that, to a very great extent, the foreign policy of England has turned. Take the question of the number of troops in South Africa. Does that question not trench upon the Foreign Office? Does the state of war in South Africa not affect your interests in China? Are the whole interests of the Empire not so interlaced and interlocked that any question may become a foreign, colonial, Army or a Navy question? I think I have demonstrated by this fact the absurdity of limiting the muzzle to the replies of the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs. Why, the whole pack will have to be muzzled, and not the leading dog. I therefore think that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government should reconsider the position that he has taken up in this matter. For myself, I do not think that, except in regard to the Armenians, I have ever put a question to the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in my life. I do not think, with that exception, that I have ever made a speech on foreign affairs, and, practically speaking, I take no interest in any country except Ireland. Therefore, I do not think that I am at all likely to infringe any privilege accorded on this question; but it does seem to me that the Government have, in order to check a particular evil, adopted a cure which is far worse than the disease. My ex- 360 perience of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government is that there is no one who is more anxious to recognise the rights of hon. Members as a whole than he is. I believe that this debate has arisen because the noble Lord seemed to have put this matter too bluntly, or, if he will allow me to say so without offence, because he blurted out too suddenly a rule which he would have done well to have embellished with more dialectic ornamentation. That being my feeling, I think that the debate will do good, and in the end we shall see the rule fall into what an American orator once called "innocuous desuetude."
§ * MR. DAVID MACIVER (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
said he had had the advantage of perusing a speech made in Lancashire the other day by the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond), the Leader of the Irish party, which clearly foreshadowed the proceedings of to-day. The hon. Member spoke of the union which now existed amongst Irish Members, whose new-found harmony had made itself so conspicuous that day, and which had shown itself so successful in impeding the business. The hon. Member for Waterford told his Lancashire friends that, although the good old days of obstruction had passed away, the Irish Members wore now prepared to produce practically the same result by every one of them—as he described it—"taking an intelligent interest in public affairs. That was the new name for obstruction and he (Mr. MacIver) had to congratulate the hon. Member for Waterford upon the complete success with which he had, as it were, "drawn a red herring across the track" of Parliamentary progress. He must be a proud man to-day, to have made the Front Opposition Bench follow so humbly at his heels. Everybody know that the debate was only intended to waste time. He (Mr. MacIver) suggested that it should now cease, as everything which could usefully be said upon the actual subject which was before them had already been said by the Leader of the House.
§ MR. BARTLEY
I should like to say one or two words on this matter, and I appeal to the Leader of the House to 361 reconsider the very strong position he has taken up on this subject. I think the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War was somewhat unfortunate, He said that if we did not get a proper answer to a supplementary question we could have resort to moving the adjournment of the House. I think it is very unfortunate to suggest such an arrangement, because it is a very awkward one, which leads to a great waste of time, and it should not have been suggested as a remedy for this comparatively small evil. The right hon. Gentleman also suggested that this is the practice adopted in foreign parliaments; but if there is one thing that suggests to me that we are on the wrong tack it is that foreign countries seem to approve of this action. I do not think that in this matter we should take a leaf from other countries, for the very strength of this country has been built up by the free and independent discussion of all these great subjects. I resent the idea that foreign affairs should be considered so sacred and secret that they cannot be answered in the House of Commons. If the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is competent for his position, he is quite competent to decide whether any question should be asked or answered in the House of Commons. I think the whole principle is a very small one. If he is competent to hold that great position it is insulting him to suggest that he is not fit to decide whether a supplementary question is an important one or one which he should answer, or decide whether the answer should be postponed to another day. I do think that this practice of making the Government of the country rather too slavishly dependent upon one or two Ministers is a growing evil. I have always said that it is an evil not to have independence of opinion in the various Ministers of the Crown, and if even the small supplementary questions have to be deferred to consult the head of the Department, it is an act of slavish dependence which has never been the means of making Ministers great in this country. In regard to the noble Lord himself, I am sure that we all feel that he is perfectly competent to answer these questions, and I think the best plan would be for him to make a point of settling 362 this question himself. I am quite sure he can do this if he will make it a point to go into the question himself, and, like Lord Curzon and all those who have preceded him, claim the right to decide these questions for himself. As a matter of principle I think that we, as private Members, who have so few privileges left, are bound to protest against this growing evil.
MR. BRYN ROBERTS
said he believed that a rule of this kind, if adhered to, would work more against the Government than it would help hon. Members on the other side. It was too much for them to expect that the rule would only apply when the Conservatives were in office, for no doubt when his right hon. friends on the Front Opposition Bench came into office they would take advantage of the rule, which would tell very much more against the Conservative Members than it did against the Opposition, for the simple reason that greater interest in the Foreign Office and foreign affairs was taken by hon. Members on the Conservative side than by hon. Members on the Liberal side of the House. As a rule they expected to have more questions put from the Opposition side than from the Ministerialists, but if an examination were made of the number of questions put it would be found that at least 60 per cent of them in regard to general matters came from the Opposition side of the House. If the number of questions relating to the Foreign Office and foreign affairs was ascertained he ventured to say that even in this House, while the Conservatives were in office and in power, it would be found that the large majority of questions on foreign matters came from Members on the Conservative side of the House, which showed that greater interest was taken on the other side of the House in Foreign Office questions than on this side of the House. Therefore, if the muzzle was put upon private Members he ventured to point out that it would affect hon. Members opposite very much more than the Opposition. If the House acquiesced in this rule he was afraid that it might eventually spread to other departments. He quite agreed with what was said by the Leader of the Irish party that this was only another step in the 363 increasing practice of diminishing the rights of Members of the House. That had been the policy in the past of the Government, and it would been the future, and it would be found eventually that the arguments which had just been addressed to the House with respect to foreign questions would also be applied to domestic questions. If this muzzle was put on matters affecting the Post Office, he had no doubt that the Postmaster General would come down to that House and say that the permanent officials were unanimously of the opinion that the system had worked beautifully, and that it was to the advantage of the State that supplementary questions should not be put upon Post Office business. And so, eventually, the rule might be applied to every department of the State.
§ LORD HUGH CECIL (Greenwich)
said he believed that as a rule the Under Secretaries of the Foreign Office were quite as competent as any other Ministers, but no Ministers were infallible. It was a peculiarity, however, attaching to the administration of the Foreign Office that an indiscretion there would be likely to do very much more harm than if it wore committed anywhere else, and that was really the whole matter. They were told that the Opposition were so patriotic that they would never use any advantage of that kind or press a question which it would be against the public interest to answer. How silly and idle were such pretences, which nobody practised and which nobody believed in. Every Opposition, when they saw a party advantage in a question, wore always inclined to press the Government hard whenever they had the opportunity. He did not blame the Opposition for doing that, because that was what they were there for, but the danger was that in the peculiar region of Foreign Affairs a little indiscretion on the part of a
§ Minister in regard to a question or an answer might produce a national calamity. In the British Museum or the Bodleian Library they were not allowed to use matches. Still, they might argue that they were all perfectly competent to use matches and strike them all over the building without danger. The reason for such a regulation in the British Museum or the Bodleian Library was not because those buildings were more likely to be burned by the indiscreet use of matches than any other public institution, but because if they were burned it would amount to a national catastrophe. And that was the case with the subject under discussion. The object of the rule in this House was clear and straightforward, and undoubtedly it would guard the national interest of the country against aggressive indiscretion on the part of the Opposition, and the defensive indiscretion of a Minister. What consideration would an Opposition exercise in such a matter? The Cabinet made a rule two years ago, and they based it on grounds of public policy. No one believed that it was based upon any other ground. The Government put forward this rule, and now consideration for the national well-being was to be brushed aside by the Opposition, and entirely lost sight of, in order to secure a party advantage. They should not delude themselves by supposing that an Opposition would be so patriotic that they would not always take advantage of this. He earnestly hoped that the Government would, in the interests of the country, be supported in this matter. If ever there was an occasion on which the House of Commons ought to rise above partisan motives it was this occasion, and in the national interest he made this appeal.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 204; Noes, 249. (Division List No. 2.)367
|Abraham, William (Cork,N.E.||Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Brown,George M. (Edinburgh)|
|Allen, CharlesP.(Glouc.Stroud||Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson|
|Ambrose, Robert||Bell, Richard||Bryce, Bight Hon. James|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Black, Alexander William||Burke, E. Haviland-|
|Ascquith,Rt.Hn.HerbertHenry||Blake, Edward||Burns, John|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Boland, John||Burt, Thomas|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Bowles, T. G. (King's Lynn)||Buxton, Sydney Charles|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Boyle, James||Caine, William Sproston|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Brand, Hon Arthur G.||Caldwell, James|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Jacoby, James Alfred||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Jameson, Major J. Eustace||Perks, Robert William|
|Carew, James Laurence||Joicey, Sir James||Pickard, Benjamin|
|Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton||Jones, David Brynmor(Sw'nsea||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Jones, William(Carnarvonsh.)||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Cawley, Frederick||Jordan, Jeremiah||Price, Robert John|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Joyce, Michael||Rea, Russell|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Kearley, Hudson E.||Reckitt, Harold James|
|Cogan, Denis J.||Kennedy, Patrick James||Reddy, M.|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Kinloch, Sir John George S.||Redmond, John E.(Waterford)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Labouchere, Henry||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Craig, Robert Hunter||Lambert, George||Reid,SirR.Threshie (Dumfries|
|Crean, Eugene||Langley, Batty||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Cremer, William Randal||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Crombie, John William||Leamy, Edmund||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Cullinan, J.||Leese,Sir Joseph F. (Accrington||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Daly, James||Leigh, Sir Joseph (Stockport)||Roche, John|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Leng, Sir John||Russell, T. W.|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Lewis, John Herbert||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Lloyd-George, David||Scott, Chas.Prestwich(Leigh)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Lough, Thomas||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)|
|Doogan, P. C.||Lowther, Rt. Hon J. (Kent)||Shipman, Dr. John|
|Douglas, Chas. M. (Lanark)||Lundon, W.||Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarshire)|
|Duffy, William J.||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Duncan, James H.||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Dunn, Sir William||M'Arthur, William(Cornwall)||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Edwards, Frank||M'Fadden, Edward||Spencer, Rt. Hn C. R(Northants|
|Elibank, Master of||M'Govern, T.||Strachey, Edward|
|Emmott, Alfred||M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Sullivan, Donal|
|Evans, Samuel T.||M'Kenna, Reginald||Taylor, Theodore Cooke|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Mansfield, Horace Rendall||Thomas, Abel(Carmarthen,E.)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Mappin, Sir Frederick Thorpe||Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Mather, William||Thomas,F.Freeman-(Hastings|
|Ffrench, Peter||Mooney, John J.||Thomas J A (Glamorgan,Gower|
|Field, William||Morgan, J. Lloyd(Carmarthen||Thompson,E. C. (Monaghan,N.|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||Morton, Edw. J.C. (Devonport)||Thomson. F. W. (York, W.R.)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Murnaghan, George||Tomkinson, James|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Murphy, J.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Tully, Jasper|
|Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Newnes, Sir George||Ure, Alexander|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert J.||Nolan, Col John P.(Galway,N.||Wallace, Robert|
|Grant, Corrie||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Walton, J. Lawson (Leeds, S.)|
|Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick)||Norman, Henry||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T|
|Gurdon, Sir Wm. Brampton||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Wason, Eugene(Clackmannan|
|Haldane, Richard Burdon||O'Brien,Kendal (Tipper'y Mid.||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Hammond, John||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm.||O'Connor, James(Wicklow, W.||White, Patrick(Meath,North)|
|Hardie, J. K. (Merthyr Tydvil||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Whiteley, Geo. (York, W.R.)|
|Harmsworth, R. Leicester||O'Doherty, William||Whiteley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Harwood, George||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Hayden, John Patrick||O'Dowd, John||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Hayne, Rt. Hn. Charles Seale-||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)|
|Hayter, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur D.||O'Kelly, J. (Roscommon, N.)||Wodehouse, Hon. A. (Essex)|
|Healy, Timothy Michael||O'Malley, William||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Helme, Nerval Watson||O'Mara, James||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Hemphill, Rt. Hn. Charles H.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Hobhouse, C. E.H.(Bristol,E.)||O'Shee, James John||Mr. Dillon and Mr. John|
|Holland, William Henry||Palmer, George Wm(Reading)||Ellis.|
|Acland-Hood,Capt. Sir Alex.F.||Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r)||Bowles,Capt. H. F.(Middlesex)|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Balfour. Rt Hn Gerald W. (Leeds||Brassey, Albert|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Balfour,Maj.K.R.(Christchch.||Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Banbury, Frederick George||Brown, Alexander H. (Shropsh.|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M.H.(Bristol||Bull, William James|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Beckett, Ernest William||Bullard, Sir Harry|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Bignold A.||Burdett-Coutts, W.|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Bigwood, James||Carlile, William Walter|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Blundell, Colonel Henry||Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lanes.)|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Cavendish, V. C. W.(Derb'shire|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Bousfield, William Robert||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh(Greenwich||Hogg, Lindsay||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Chamberlain,Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)||Hope, J. F. (SheffieldBrightside||Purvis, Robert|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen(Worc'r||Horner, Frederick William||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Radcliffe, R. F.|
|Chapman, Edward||Hoult, Joseph||Randles, John S.|
|Charrington, Spencer||Howard, J. (Mid'x, Tottenham||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Churchill, Winston Spencer||Hozier, Hon. James Hy. Cecil||Reid, James (Greenock)|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H.A.E.||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Coddington, Sir William||Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles R.||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Ridley, Hn. M W. (Stalybridge)|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Ridley, S. F. (Bethnal Green)|
|Corbett, T L (Down, North)||Kennaway.Rt.Hon.SirJohnH.||Ritchie, Rt. Hon. Charles T.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Kenyon, James (Lanes., Bury)||Ropner, Colonel Robert|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Kenyon-Slaney,Col.W(Salop)||Round, James|
|Cust, Henry John C.||Keswick, William||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford.|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Kimber, Henry||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Dewar, T. R. (Tower Hamlets)||Lambton, Hon.FrederickWm.||Saunderson, Rt. Hon.Col.E.J.|
|Dickinson, Hubert Edmond||Laurie, Lieut.-General||Seely, Charles Hilton (Linc'n)|
|Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Lawrence, William F.||Seton-Karr, Henry|
|Dimsdale, Sir Joseph Cockfield||Lawson, John Grant||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Dorington, Sir John Edward||Lecky, Rt. Hn. Wm. Edw. H.||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lee,Capt A.H (Hants,Fareh'm||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Duke, Edward Henry||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Carrie||Smith,Abel H. (Hertford, E.)|
|Dyke, Rt. Hon Sir Wm. H.||Leighton, Stanley||Smith,HC.(North'mb.Tyns'de|
|Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Leveson-Gower,FrederickN.S.||Smith, J. Parker (Lanarks.)|
|Faber, George Denison||Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)||Smith, Hon. W. F. D.(Strand)|
|Fardell, Sir T. George||Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Bristol,S.||Spear, John Ward|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Ed.||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Spencer, E. (W. Bromwich)|
|Fergusson, Rt. HnSirJ (Manc'r)||Lowe, Francis William||Stanley, Edward J.(Somerset)|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Finch, George H.||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Stewart, Sir Mk. J.M'Taggart|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Lucas, Col Francis(Lowestoft)||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir Jn. M.|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Lucas,Reginald J. (Portsmouth||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Fison, Frederick William||Macartney.Rt. Hn. WGEllison||Stroyan, John|
|FitzGerald, Sir R. Penrose-||Macdona, John Cumming||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Fitzroy.Hn. Edward Algernon||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Talbot,Rt.Hn.J.G.(OxfdUni.|
|Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Maconochie, A. W.||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|Flower, Ernest||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Forster, Henry William||M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim,E.||Tomlinson, Wm. Ed w. Murray|
|Foster, Sir M (London Univ.)||M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinbro',W||Tufnell, Col. Edward|
|Garfit, William||Manners, Lord Cecil||Valentia, Viscount|
|Gibbs,Hn.A.G.H(CityofLond.||Maple, Sir John Blundell||Vincent,Col.SirCEH(Sheffield|
|Gordon,Hn.JE.(Elgin&Nairn)||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W.F.||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.)||Maxwell, W.J. (Dumfriesshire)||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Gordon,MajEvans-(T'rH'ml'ts||Melville, Beresford Valentine||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir John Eldon||Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Goschen.Hon. George Joachim||Middlemore, J. Throgmorton||Wason, John C. (Orkney)|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Webb, Colonel William G.|
|Greene, Sir E. W.(Bury St.Ed.||Midward, Colonel Victor||Welby, Lt.-Col ACE(Taunton)|
|Greene,W.Raymond- (Cambs.||Mitchell, William||Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd|
|Grenfell, William Henry||Molesworth, Sir Lewis||Whiteley,H(Ashton-und-Lyne|
|Gretton, John||Montagu, G (Huntingdon)||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Moore, William (Antrim, N)||Wilson, A. Stanley (York,E. R.)|
|Guthrie, Walter Murray||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropsh.||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Hain, Edward||Morgan, D. J.(Walthamstow)||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Hall, Edward Marshall||Morris, Hon. Martin Henry F.||Wilson, J W. (Worcestersh, N.|
|Halsey, Thomas Frederick||Morton, ArthurH. A. (Deptford||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)|
|Hamilton, RtHnLordG(Mid'x||Mount, William Arthur||Wodehouse, Rt Hn E.R.(Bath)|
|Hamilton,Marqof(L'nd'nderry||Murray, Rt Hn AGraham (Bute||Wortley, Rt. Hon.C.B. Stuart-|
|Hardy,Laurence(K'nt,Ashf'rd||Myers, William Henry||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Hare, Thomas Leigh||Newdigate, Francis Alex.||Wylie, Alexander|
|Harris, F Leverton(Tynemouth||Nicholson, William Graham||Wyndham, George|
|Haslam, Sir Alfred S.||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Haslett, Sir James Horner||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay|
|Hay, Hon. Claude George||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)|
|Heath, A. Howard (Hanley)||Peel, Hon. William Robert W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Helder, Augustus||Pemberton, John S. G.||Sir William Walrond and|
|Henderson, Alexander||Penn, John||Mr. Anstruther.|
|Hermon-Hodge, Robt. Trotter||Percy, Earl|
|Higginbottom, S. W.||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Hoare, Ed. Brodie (Hampstead)||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Hoare, Sir Samuel (Norwich)||Plummer, Walter R.|
|Hobhouse, Henry (Somerset,E.||Powell, Sir, Francis Sharp|