§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I now propose to make the motion which, for many years past, has been made at this season of the year, with a view to bringing to a close, as rapidly as possible, the remaining business of the session. I need not delay the House as to the particular terms in which the motion is couched, because they follow precisely the formulæ usual on these occasions; and I shall, therefore, come at once to a brief statement of the present position of public business, especially in reference to what has yet to be got through. The first class of Bills to which I have to call the attention of the House are those general Bills as distinct from departmental Bills, which it is necessary we should dispose of before separating for the holidays. All of those are already introduced but two, of which I will say a word directly, and their character is familiar to gentlemen in all parts of the House. The first on my list is the Loans Bill, which has passed the Second Reading, and as in the nature of the case there cannot be much discussion on it in Committee; I hope it will not delay us long from the remaining stage of the Third Reading. The Education Bill and the Rating Bill are the two controversial Bills, in the party sense of the word, which we have to dispose of. I am sorry to have to say that these Bills are controversial in the party sense of the word, but the fact is notorious, and I quite realize that hon. Gentlemen opposite 1137 desire to give them a very bitter opposition. Luckily, the Bills are not very long. They do not embody any very great complexity of detail, and, therefore, I trust, in the interest of hon. Gentlemen themselves, the debates upon them will not be of a very prolonged character. The Military Works Bill and the Naval Works Bill are to be introduced and passed for reasons familiar to the House. At all events, so far as the Naval Bill is concerned, I am not aware of any subject of controversy arising out of it, except that of which we have already had a foretaste in connection with the works at Gibraltar. The Yeomanry Bill is down for to-night, and I need not say anything more about it. The Factory Bill, I am given to understand, is making very satisfactory progress in Grand Committee. It has been discussed there in great detail; but I hope the length of the discussions does not indicate that the Bill is to be debated at any length in this House. Probably we shall find that all the more difficult questions have been dealt with satisfactorily upstairs. The only remaining Bill in this class is one not yet introduced, dealing with an addition to the Royal style and title of His Majesty. I cannot, of course, explain to the House the nature of the Bill. It is an addition called for by the great expansion of the colonial Empire during the reign of the late Queen, and if I am at all a good prophet in the matter, there is nothing in the Bill which need arouse the susceptibilities of any gentlemen in any part of the House, or which may be expected in any degree to provoke hostile or embittered criticism. That completes the list—a not very formidable one—of the general Bills we have to deal with. The departmental Bills which must also be passed are the following:—The Great Indian Peninsula Railway Bill, the Light Railways Bill, the Berwick shire County Town Bill, the Marriages Legalization Bill, the Customs Duties (Isle of Man) Bill, the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, the Pacific Cables Bill, the Public Works Loans Bill, and the Bill dealing with the rating of Belfast. I believe the great majority of these Bills will excite no great discussion or comment at all.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am sorry to hear that. There is, I believe, a general wish to forward the Light Railways Bill. The Marriages Legalization Bill is intended to remove all doubt with regard to the legality of certain specific marriages contracted in all good faith, but about which doubts might arise. Naturally that is not controversial, and the Customs Duties (Isle of Man) Bill is in the same category. I am sorry to hear an hon. Gentleman say that the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill is controversial, because the Government has been most careful to put the two Rating Bills into a separate measure, in order not to introduce any controversial element into that Bill, and it will be brought before the House in precisely the same form in which it has been produced for many years past. The Pacific Cable Bill must be passed in order to carry out our part of a contract in which this country, Canada, and New Zealand and the Australian Colonies have entered into for the purpose of constructing and managing a cable in the Pacific Ocean, which will give increased facilities of communication, not merely to Australia and New Zealand, but to India also. That, also, I hope, will not require any detailed commentary. There remains only the Public Works Loan Bill, of which I need say nothing, and the Belfast Bill. I gather that the last-named Bill will be regarded as more or less controversial, but I hope there is no settled desire to oppose the Bill. It is absolutely necessary, because at the present moment Belfast can neither make a rate on its old valuation nor on its new valuation. It is precluded altogether from raising a rate to carry on the necessary municipal business of the city, and, of course, the House cannot allow that state of things to continue any longer. So much for the general and departmental Bills which must be passed before we separate. There is a class of Bills in a sort of middle state—Bills which certainly cannot pass if they meet with any serious opposition, but which possibly the House may wish to see passed. They include the Supreme Court of Judicature Bill, the Teachers' Tenure Bill (not yet introduced), and two Irish Bills (one connected with the Bank of Ireland and one connected with the local government). Then there is 1139 also the Prisons (Scotland) Bill. Some of these Bills, at all events, the House will, I think, desire to pass without any sort of discussion; but there are certain Bills which I cannot hold out any prospect of being passed into law in the course of the present session. There is the Justices' Jurisdiction (London) Bill, the Summary Jurisdiction (Ireland) Bill, the Trout Fishing (Scotland) Bill, the Burial Grounds (Scotland) Bill, the Prevention of Corruption (No. 2) Bill, the Drunkards Bill, the Solicitors Bill, and the County Courts (Ireland) Bill. The remaining Bills I hope we may get through very easily, but I should certainly not consider it right to ask the House greatly to prolong its labors in order to see them passed into law. I do not know that I need say anything—indeed I have nothing to say beyond what I have said about the two private Bills still before the Grand Committee—namely, the Sale of Intoxicating Liquor to Children Bill and the Beer Bill. I have already stated to the House that the Government desire to see them passed. There remains, then, only the question of Supply to be considered, and with regard to Supply I may remind the House that we have already had seventeen allotted days, and we have just received the assent of the House to three more days. Therefore there now remain five days for Supply and one for Report of Supply. But in addition to these allotted days there are two Estimates, not of the ordinary kind, one for a grant to Lord Roberts and another for the Estimate towards the cost of civil administration and other purposes in the Transvaal. I do not think it would be in accordance with the spirit of the Supply rule to require the House to dispose of these Estimates within the limit of the twenty-three allotted days, and I shall therefore take care that they are brought forward in a manner which will enable the House to give them adequate discussion without trenching on the number of days fixed.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No, Sir; I understand there is no supplementary Estimate for that purpose. I think I 1140 have now sufficiently described to the House what we have got to get through before the happy time of our dispersal to our private avocations. I do not think the programmer I have sketched out need be a very laborious or long one. I am afraid it cannot be finished by the week ending on Saturday, August 10th, but if the House will only second the efforts of the Government, I think there probably will be no difficulty in our rising for the holidays in the week following.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, for the remainder of the session, Government business be not interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the sittings of the House, and may be entered upon at any hour though opposed, and that at the conclusion of Government business each day Mr. Speaker do adjourn the House without Question put."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
I rise for the purpose of opposing this motion root and branch. It has been customary at this period of every session for the House of Commons, in order to close up the work of the session, to grant special facilities to the Government to conclude their business, and I am sure that under ordinary circumstances the House of Commons would not hesitate for a moment in passing the resolution which has been moved by the right hon. Gentleman; but I rise for the purpose of calling the attention of the House to the fact that the circumstances under which this motion has been moved this afternoon are not ordinary circumstances. I venture to say that never has there been in the memory of the oldest members of the House such an absolute waste of parliamentary time by the Government of the day as there has been this year, and in my view and my experience there never has been a session in which the Government business and the business of the country has been more completely mismanaged. There never has been a session in which there has been such a complete failure on the part of the Government to do any useful legislative work for the country, and I will say such neglect of the work of Supply, which is 1141 Supposed to be the first and most important duty of the House of Commons, as this session has witnessed—what I take leave to call an absolute breakdown of the parliamentary machine, and I say that the House of Commons will be wanting in self respect if it does not refuse the demand which has now been made. The Government has been conducting the affairs of the country this session with an almost unparalleled majority. It has had at its disposal greater power over the time and business of the House than any Government on either side. I know of no Government in the past which has used the closure so remorselessly, and which at the end of it all has had to make the confession of failure that has been made by the First Lord of the Treasury this evening. There never has been, furthermore, a Government which has appropriated so much of the time of private Members and deprived them of so many of their rights and privileges. Notwithstanding all this, I assert again that there never has been a Government in modern times which has done so little.
Let me dwell for one short moment upon these points. Admittedly there never has been for many a long day a Government with so strong a majority numerically as the present one. I say numerically, because one of the extraordinary things which we have witnessed this session is that the Government, fresh from the constituencies with a majority of 150, have found it difficult from time to time to whip up their Members to give them over twelve, twenty, thirty, and forty of a majority in the division lobby. This Government has had greater power over parliamentary business than any Government of modern times. What do I mean? I mean that there have been new rules passed by this House to assist the Government in the conduct of business—new rules never known before in the British Parliament. Not only that, but the Standing Orders have been changed, and one of the most valuable rights of private Members taken away, namely, the raising of discussions on the Speaker leaving the Chair and the House going into Committee of Ways and Means. I asserted that the closure has been more often used. I have taken the trouble to go through the figures, and I find 1142 that this session already the closure has been moved and carried more than twice as often as last year in the whole session. [Conservative cheers.] Yes, but do not let hon. Gentlemen cheer too soon. The moving of the closure does not mean the smooth progress of business. Does anyone deny that? [Hear, hear.] "Hear, hear," says an hon. Member, who forgets the experience in this House of the Finance Bill. Why, the one great measure of the Government this session was the Finance Bill. Around that Bill surged more angry passions and greater dissension than any other measure introduced. It dealt with the Budget of nearly £200,000, 000, and it dealt with the war, in connection with which the fiercest passions were aroused in different sections of the House, and it necessarily lasted a considerable time. But what was the experience of the House? By the exhibition of a little human nature in the management of business—by the exhibition of a little of the spirit of conciliation and of good temper and of consideration for the feelings of those who were opposed to it, the Chancellor of the Exchequer piloted that Bill through the House without ever once using the closure. I was one of those most bitterly opposed to the right hon. Gentleman, and I am sure that he often felt impatient with me during the progress of that Bill, and also with my hon. friends; but now that is all over I am sure he will congratulate himself that he met what, from his point of view, he may have regarded naturally enough as unreasonable opposition in certain quarters of the House, not with the brutal weapon of the closure, but with the fair exercise of toleration and good humor, which enabled him in the end to bring this Bill successfully through the House of Commons without ever using this weapon. That is, in my humble judgment, the best test of party management and the best test of party leadership, and I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the contrast which his portion of the session shows to the other portions, when matters not half as controversial were dealt with in a totally different spirit, with the result that this brutal weapon of coercion was used time after time, and, as I venture to point out to hon. Members, without 1143 conducing to the smooth progress of business, but rather to the exacerbation of feeling in all parts of the House, and in reality to the slow progress of the business of the Government. Now this Government which comes forward with this request has not only so mismanaged the business of the House, has not only used the closure more often than any Government in the past, has not only taken more of the time of private Members at an earlier portion of the session, but it has produced no legislative progress.
What is the experience of this session? We are told that the Education Bill is to be proceeded with to-morrow. I may be allowed to say that I for one am heartily glad to hear that the Chairman of Committees has recovered from his illness. Although, perhaps, I have been in conflict with the Chair very often, I certainly will not be the least glad to see the right hon. Gentleman back in his place. [An HON. MEMBER: Not the least sorry !] [Laughter.] I will not be the least sorry to see him back in the Chair. [Laughter.] To make it perfectly clear I will say that I will be heartily glad to see him back
This brings me to the question of the Education Bill. What an extraordinary position the House of Commons and the Government have got into! Here is a measure introduced after the great measure of the session had to be withdrawn and abandoned! The measure, we were told, was a comparatively small one, and it was simply to be of a temporary character, but on examination it turned out to contain the very contentious principle which hon. Members above the gangway, especially on this side of the House, objected to. And then the extraordinary spectacle is afforded to the House of Commons where this weapon of the closure is a novelty, where, until the other day, it was the boast of Parliament that while Continental Parliaments had the closure, you had nothing of the kind—we had the spectacle here represented of the Leader of the House standing up and saying that the Government were obliged to suspend the progress of their most important Bill this session because the Chairman of Committees unfortunately was unwell and unable to take 1144 the Chair, and therefore they were unable to move the closure. It amounts to this, that the Government of the day, with their 150, or 135, majority behind them fresh from the constituencies, is not able by their own admission to pass into law the chief measure of the session, although it is a one-clause measure and of a temporary character, without the use of the closure. The House of Commons has been brought to a pretty pass by the kind of party management of the Leader of the House which we have had. [Cheers.] Hon. Members may cheer ironically at that statement. It is not a matter to be treated lightly. You have published the admission by the Leader of the House that the English House of Commons can no longer conduct the simplest part of its business without the use of the closure. That admission would be a fatal one in my opinion for the honor, the prestige, and the power of Parliament were it not that the honor, prestige, and power of this session will be saved and redeemed solely by the experience we have had of the conduct of the Finance Bill.
Now I pass from legislation, and I come to what the Leader of the House said with reference to Supply. I have looked into the figures, and I find that there are 144 Votes to be passed; of these only forty-six have been disposed of up to the 22nd of July, leaving ninety-eight Votes still to be discussed. Last year things were far better. Last year on the 22ndof July out of 150 Votes there were only 49 remaining to be disposed of. Far more days have been allotted to Supply early in the session, and the management of Supply in Committee has been of a different character, and the result is that this year you are more backward with Supply than ever in my experience in the past. The whole of our experience with regard to Supply shows the utter absurdity of this new Supply rule which the right hon. Gentleman invented and put upon the Paper. Consider what has happened. You are now within three or four weeks, according to the sanguine estimate of the First Lord, of the end of this session; you have ninety-eight Votes of the ordinary Supply to obtain, and yet what do you do? When you moved a Vote on Account for 1145 £17,000,000, extending over all the departments of Supply, you closured it after one night's discussion. And that upon the first night of the new rule. That is taking an absolutely unprecedented course. You did that early in the session to help you on with the work, but to-day you come down to the House of Commons worse off than any Government has ever been in the past. Not only that, but you introduced a new precedent in another matter of a serious character. When the Supplementary Civil Service Estimates were before the House, the Government took a step which never had. Been taken before in the whole history of the House of Commons. At a certain stage of the discussion they consolidated all these Votes into one, and forced the House of Commons to accept that situation, and closured them all in one Vote. That is, at an early part of the session this Government took that unprecedented and brutal course to forward the rapid progress of Supply, and the result is, notwithstanding, that on the 22nd of July they come here, as they have come to-day, with this confession of absolute failure.
It must not be supposed that I say the fault is entirely the fault of the Leader of the House. I do not take that view. I have indicated clearly enough, I think, that by other methods and by approaching the work in another spirit the right hon. Gentleman might have been able to do his work far better and more smoothly, but I am not so foolish as to imagine that any mismanagement, any want of the spirit of conciliation and toleration on his part is entirely responsible for what has happened. I am not going to be guilty of the offence of repeating what I said on another occasion in this House. I will pass from the subject in one sentence, by reiterating my conviction that to a great extent what has happened was inevitable, that the whole character of the work which year by year is being thrown on this Assembly has changed, and that the volume of work is naturally increasing, and that what is happening under the new conditions is that the parliamentary machine is over-weighted and is breaking down. My further view is that nothing can save the House of Commons—that no hew rules you can devise to endeavor 1146 to suppress Members here and to silence Members there—no new devices for interfering with the rights and liberties of private Members will be of any avail. The only remedy—and I am convinced there are many men on the other side of the House listening to me who believe in their hearts the truth of what I am saying—the only ultimate and final remedy will be in the devolution of business from this Assembly to local bodies, wherever they may be situated, in various parts of the United Kingdom. But still, making all allowance for that, I yet blame the right hon. Gentleman for the state of confusion into which he has brought the business of the House of Commons this session, and I say that for a Government which has been guilty of this mismanagement, and on the 22nd of July makes the confession of failure that the First Lord has made this afternoon, to request us to give the further time which is asked in this resolution is the height of political impudence.
Having said so much on the general question, the House will not I am sure be impatient with me when I address a few brief observations on this matter looked at from the purely Irish point of view. From the Irish point of view what does this session mean for Ireland? What use has the Government made of its majority and its great power and command over the time of the House? So far as the work of this Parliament this session is concerned, the Government have done absolutely nothing for Ireland. It has done something most injurious to Ireland: it has forced on a poverty-stricken and a dwindling population a system of additional burdens of unjust taxation; and has forced these burdens on Ireland to support a war against which the entire conscience of Ireland revolts as not for the benefit of Ireland. The treatment of Ireland by the Government has indeed been adding insult to injury. What I mean by that is, that we have not been met this session by a denial of our chief grievances. I do not speak just now of our national grievance which goes under the name of Home Rule; but in respect to all other Irish matters brought before the House, we were met by the Chief Secretary with the statement that there was a great 1147 deal in what we said, and if only Parliament had time, the Government would seriously consider the question as to whether these matters could not be dealt with. Now, that was adding insult to injury. By universal admission the Irish land question must be dealt with again. The last speech of the Chief Secretary for Ireland on the subject wound up with the statement that all that had taken place in the debate had convinced him more than ever that another Irish Land Bill was a necessity. [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] Yes, and it was admitted in the King's Speech and in every declaration which the Government had made in regard to Ireland. And yet Ireland had to go on, while the Government wasted the session, living without the slightest glimmer of hope that next year or the year after they would be able to deal with this all-important question. It was the same with the necessary Amendments to the Local Government Boards Act; the same with reference to the Congested Districts Board; the same with reference to the Irish Laborers Acts and the Irish Railways. With regard to all of these necessary reforms we have been told in soft and soothing tones by the Chief Secretary that he largely agreed with us; that there was a need for legislation on these matters, but that there was no time. This session from first to last has been a conclusive argument in favor of Home Rule for Ireland. The Government admits they have the power; they have got a great majority, and the House of Lords is on their side. They admit the existence of these grievances, but they say that owing to the multiplicity of work in this House it is impossible to deal with them. Prom the Irish point of view we would be fools and madmen if, in these circumstances, we agreed to give the Government any further facilities. I wish to say a word or two in regard to some phases of the Government programmer. The right hon. Gentleman omitted all mention of one or two Irish Bills which I have been consulted about, and which, while they are not Bills that are so controversial in principle as to necessitate our opposition to their Second Reading, are still Bills which require a certain amount of discussion 1148 in Committee. These Bills are the Congested Districts Bill, the Local Government Bill, the Trawling Bill, and the Lunacy Bill which has come down from the House of Lords. There are one or two other Irish Bills, but these are the chief measures to which I wish to direct the right hon. Gentleman's attention. First of all, I wish to enter an emphatic protest against this system of attempting to legislate for Ireland. There is not one of these Bills that ought not to be fully and freely discussed by the House and especially by the Irish representatives. But what have the Government done? They have refused to introduce large measures for the benefit of Ireland owing to the want of time, but they introduce three or four small measures—so small that they wish to get them through without discussion. I have been approached through the ordinary channels with the suggestion that as these Bills contain some little grain of good, some one or two matters that we want to put right in Ireland, I ought to give the Government an undertaking that they will be allowed to go through without discussion, and that if I do not give such an undertaking the Bills will be dropped. Now I protest with all the vehemence at my command against such a system of legislation for Ireland. It reduces the Irish representation to a farce; and it is impossible to imagine a more dangerous or a more improper mode of legislation for Ireland. I have said that these Bills are not controversial in principle, and we do not want a long time for discussion.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman has misunderstood what passed. It is perfectly true that these Bills cannot pass if any great time is occupied in their discussion. But certainly neither my right hon. friend nor I ever intended to convey the idea that they were to pass sub silentio.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I am glad to hear the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. But I object to a system of legislation for Ireland which approaches the Irish Members saying to them, "If you promise us you will not prolong discussion we will introduce 1149 certain Bills." The Government have the responsibility for the government of Ireland, and on that responsibility they ought to introduce the Bills necessary to that end, and they ought to subject them to full, free, and open criticism, and circulate them to all the Members of the House. In regard to the four measures—the Congested Districts Board Bill, the Local Government Bill, the Lunacy Bill, and the Fisheries Bill—I shall be delighted if the right hon. Gentleman will afford the Irish Members sufficient time for their discussion. By that I do not mean that we would require a whole sitting for each Bill, but a fair time for the discussion of reasonable Amendments. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we will use that time in a business like spirit, for we desire to get the measures passed; but if he attempts to rush these Bills without proper discussion it will be our duty undoubtedly to prevent them passing into law. I now come to the question of Irish Supply. I asked a question of the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon as to whether his attention had been called to the fact that out of twenty-eight Irish Votes only three had been passed—the Education Vote, the Criminal Prosecutions Vote, and the Land Judges' Court Vote. I asked the right hon. Gentleman what suggestion he has to make for another opportunity of discussing the remaining Irish Estimates, and he replied to me by what I suppose he intended as a joke. The right hon. Gentleman has a pretty wit when he chooses to exercise it, but I must say that the joke which he made this afternoon was a very sorry one. He said that he could not undertake that Irish Supply should be set down first on any of the remaining allotted days, but he hoped further opportunity would be given for Irish Supply when all the English and Scotch Votes had been carried. The right hon. Gentleman knew that that suggestion was an absurdity.
Now, can anything be more serious than the condition of Irish Supply? Just let me read to the House a few of the great Votes of public money that are now to be closured at the end of this session without a single word of discussion. Public Works, £20,000; Railways, £113,000; Lord Lieutenant's 1150 Household; Department of Agriculture, £148,000. This new Department ought certainly to have been discussed this year—a Department which, whatever view may be taken of the value of its institutions, certainly is a most important Department in the public life of Ireland, and a Department which is no longer answerable to the House of Commons, as it was understood it would be through its vice-president. Yet the Vote for it is to be closured without a single moment's discussion. Then there is the Local Government Board, £500,000. It is only necessary to state these things to show the monstrous injustice from which we are suffering as to the innumerable questions arising from the recent introduction of the local government system in Ireland. Then there is the Land Commissioners' Court Vote. Could anything be more farcical than the position of the right hon. Gentleman in pretending that the Government are fulfilling the duties of the government of Ireland when not a moment's time is given to the discussion of these important Votes? There are the Votes for County Courts of £110,000, and of a million and a half for the Royal Irish Constabulary. I wish it were possible for me to adequately convey to the House the serious view I take of this matter. How can the House of Commons go on before the country seriously maintaining the farce that they are governing Ireland when the House of Commons is not allowed one moment for the discussion of these great Departments, which spend millions of money? The Chief Secretary's Office Vote was only discussed for a couple of hours, and the right hon. Gentleman himself will admit that that was not enough. Under this precious Supply rule Irish had only got three days, and no one could justly say that these days had been wasted or misspent.
I think this state of affairs with regard to the business of the House constitutes, so far as Ireland is concerned, a conclusive argument in favor of Home Rule, and I would suggest to hon. Gentlemen, as this kind of thing cannot go on indefinitely, and as they are casting about for remedies, that there is one remedy, apart from Home Rule (which I will not at present discuss), which would commend itself to their intelligence—I 1151 am sure it has commended itself before now to the acute mind of the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich. I have read in the newspapers of the intention of the party opposite to diminish Irish representation. I would suggest something far better—abolish Irish representation. I am not now suggesting Home Rule; for the moment I put that on one side. I am suggesting the disfranchisement of Ireland. Put an end once and for all to this dismal and dreary farce of bringing Irish Members to an Imperial Parliament where they are not allowed an opportunity of discussing Irish Supply. [Ministerial laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite, if they reflect for a moment, will do me the justice to believe that I am not stating an absurdity. We have only had three days in which to discuss Irish Votes, and there are twenty-five of them to be discussed; if you have not the time to give for their discussion—and that is what you state yourselves—disfranchise Ireland and convert her into a Crown Colony. I have always held that the only logical alternative to Home Rule is to convert Ireland into a Crown Colony. The present absurd system cannot continue. It has broken down year after year, and this year it has broken down worse than ever before, and you cannot hope to keep on very much longer with solemn faces this farce of pretending that you are governing Ireland by this House when, as a matter of fact, you have not the time to give for the discussion of serious questions.
I oppose this motion. For my part I am in no hurry to end this session, although I suppose we have felt this to be as exhausting a session as other hon. members of the House; for myself I may say I have felt it to be the most exhausting session that I remember, and I am as anxious as anybody to take a holiday. But this is a serious matter, and if we have to choose between sitting here on the one side and abandoning our duty of discussing Irish Supply on the other, I say we ought to sit here. We say we ought to continue the session. Give us, not three extra days for Supply, but ten days for Supply, and give the Irish Members seven, which would be their proper share. Instead of closing your Education Bill, as you are going to try 1152 to do, to-morrow, instead of scamping through your remaining business, and endeavoring to give a new title to the Sovereign on the last day of the session, take pause. Take your time and consider these matters, and let those who consider their own private interests more important than their public duties go away. Surely the overflowing patriotism of a party which came into office upon a war cry will have no difficulty in keeping a majority here. I do not know whether the question of Ireland will be powerful enough to keep hon. Members on this side of the House in their places, so that you will be able to vote us down. Strike if you will, but hear. I protest against this House of Commons abandoning its functions by proroguing when there is so much important business to be discussed, and I sincerely hope the motion of the right hon. Gentleman will be rejected.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
The hon. Member for Waterford, with his usual energy, has dealt with this question from the Irish point of view; but there is also something to be said regarding it from the point of view of English and Scotch Members. It is usual, of course, for a Government at this time of the session to make a request for the abrogation of the rules which give us some little respite from our parliamentary efforts, and save our health from the effects of prolonged sittings. But when Government make a request of that kind they are bound to show that they have used their time well, and are going to use well the facilities they ask for. The proposal of the Government is that we should consent to give them the facilities they ask for in order that they may launch the House on a course of business which, if properly dealt with, will enable us to prorogue, not on the 17th August, as the right hon. Gentleman suggests, but somewhere about the middle of September. I have gone carefully through the list of measures, and I venture to say that, instead of the twenty days which remain between now and the 17th August, they will take twenty-five days without the Appropriation Bill, the minor departmental Bills, and the Irish Bills, which the hon. Member for Waterford says the Government will not be 1153 allowed to rush through, and if we add five or six days for these measures we have ample work for six weeks still lying before us. This is not an extravagant estimate, if these Bills are to be dealt with with anything like the care and attention which Parliament ought to give them. The Government is going to bring in several Bills which we have not heard of before, and we cannot tell how contentious they may be until they are introduced. They are also bringing in two new Estimates, one of which is certain to be highly contentious, and to involve very long discussion. They are going to omit several other Estimates which ought to be fully discussed, and they have made no provision for the discussion of one Estimate of the highest importance which requires very full discussion, namely, the Education Estimate. Moreover, they have not given any reply to the appeal addressed to them from this side of the House—an appeal whose supporters are not at all confined to opponents of the Government—for proper discussion of the new Minute which has been suddenly forced on our attention, and which has introduced a new and dangerous principle, needing thorough investigation, because it brings about what may turn out to be an evasion of the law. It has already been pointed out that Supply is in a very backward state, and that more Votes remain to be discussed now than at this period of the session last year; and when we consider how many contentious questions remain, I am of opinion that the proper course for the Government to adopt is to throw overboard all but the absolutely necessary Bills, and allow us to devote proper care and attention to the discussion of the very important, indispensable matters which have to be disposed of. I want the right hon. Gentleman to throw over all Bills which it is not absolutely essential should be passed in the present session. I can only say we gather that some of them are likely to take time and to be controversial, and Parliament ought not to be asked to sanction measures of importance without adequate discussion.
Just let me contrast for a moment what the result of this session is going to be with the programmer originally laid before us. On the discussion of the King's Speech I said that it was a comparatively 1154 slender programmer. The Government laid before us three large measures, which they looked upon as the principal business of the session—namely, a scheme of military organisation, a scheme for the constitution of the Court of Appeal, and the Education Bill. The Education Bill has been dropped, or rather reduced to an attenuated and miserable fragment, which settles nothing except for the year, and gives rise to controversy out of all proportion to the magnitude of the issue. Of these three Bills two are gone, the Education Bill and the Court of Appeal Bill; and as for the scheme of military reorganisation, if the Government look upon that as an adequate result of the labors of the session, or as a real contribution to the solution of an important problem, they are the only persons in the House who entertain that belief. Then there were the Factory and Workshops Bill, a Bill for the better administration of the law respecting lunatics, a Bill to amend the Public Health Acts, a Bill to prevent drunkenness in licensed houses, and a Bill to amend the law of copyright. Every one of these Bills, except the Factory and Workshops Bill, is gone, and that Bill is still in the Grand Committee, so that the scheme of military reorganisation remains the only fruit of all the promises in the King's Speech. That is a wretched and scanty result for an unusually laborious session; and when we are asked by the Government to give them facilities and to consent to the suspension of the twelve o'clock rule, we are entitled to look at the work of the session and to ask whether the time of Parliament ought not to have been better spent. I would make even at the last moment one more appeal to the Government to shorten our labors by doing what they might have done a week ago, namely, consent to a reasonable compromise on the Education Bill, which will save us from long and exasperating discussion, and which would not settle any principle in the sense the right hon. Gentleman wants, because it would be a mere prolongation of the status quo, but it would save a great deal of the friction, irritation, and trouble which will necessarily arise. If the First Lord of the Treasury would say that he would consent to the prolongation of the status quo 1155 under proper securities, he would save several days debate, and enable us to get rid of the most irritating question now before us. When I regard the state to which the Government has brought us, and the way in which the time of the House has been spent during the session, I feel bound to make my protest against the conduct of the Government, and as the only way in which I can make that protest is to record my vote against the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman, I am prepared to adopt that course, and to express the opinion that, however necessary it may be in all the circumstances to grant the suspension of the twelve o'clock rule, we ought not to do it for a Government which have shown themselves incapable of conducting the business of the House, and insensible to the obligations under which they are to wind up the business in a proper manner.
§ MAJOR RASCH (Essex, Chelmsford)
I do not intend to criticise the proposal of the First Lord of the Treasury. I only wish to make a humble suggestion and a small protest, and I do it from perfectly altruistic motives. I was in this House in 1887, when it used to be "sitting when we went to press," as the newspapers said, and when we were discussing what hon. Members opposite then called the Crimes Bill. In 1888 the Government of the day, which was practically the same Government that is sitting on the Treasury Bench this afternoon, told us that that sort of thing was all over, and that we should not have to sit up all night. I myself believed what the Government told us, and many of us fought our elections, and some of us happened to win them, and we managed to keep a Unionist Government in office, including the noble family so well represented on the front bench. Now we are told that we are back again to the bad old times. Fourteen years ago sitting up all night killed many a good man. My predecessor in the representation of Mid Essex died of it, and many another Members found that the game was not worth the candle, and retired from public life. I have no intention of criticizing the motion of the First Lord, but I should like to make a humble suggestion to him. I would like to remind him, as Mr. Gladstone once 1156 said, that the resources of civilization are not absolutely exhausted. A proposal was made by the hon, Member for the City of London, and was supported by an agricultural Member two months ago, which had reference to the waste of the time of the House caused by the duration of speeches. If that motion had been carried, it would not have brought about a millennium, nor would it give us a new heaven and a new earth, but it would tend to economic the time of the House. Of course it is not for a humble agricultural Member like me to make an important suggestion of that kind to the Government. I know perfectly well, as a right hon. Gentleman once said of himself, that I am a mere child in these matters; still the suggestion is worth considering, and perhaps it will be carried out in a future session.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
The First Lord of the Treasury has sketched a most ambitious parliamentary programmer. In three, or at the outside four, weeks he proposes to pass thirty Bills, most of which have not yet been introduced, and to bring in a Supplementary Budget involving two immense Votes of a most contentious character. If the First Lord of the Treasury really expects to get through that programmer in three—or, at the most, four—weeks of parliamentary time, he must be really more childlike than the hon. and gallant Member supposes who sits behind me. How long are we to go on with this farce of pretending that the proceedings of this House are regulated by the Standing Order? The Standing Order gives three-fifths of the parliamentary time to the private Member, and two-fifths to the Government—six-tenths to the private Members, and four-tenths to the Government. Since I have been a member of this House the Government has never taken less than eight-tenths, and has more often taken nine-tenths, and the residue only has been left to those unpaid unplaced members who are most properly called the House of Commons. The Standing Orders do not regulate the proceedings of this House. What regulate our proceedings is the convenience and sometimes the caprice of the Ministry. What present occasion is there for the suspension of the 1157 twelve o'clock rule? Let me remind the House that this rule, as has already been stated by an hon. Member, is in the nature of a pact. This House in 1888 agreed to meet at three instead of four, an hour earlier, on the condition that it stopped its sittings at midnight. It would be only fair that, if the right hon. Gentleman desires to upset one part of the arrangement, he should upset the other. I should have expected the right hon. Gentleman to suggest that we should meet an hour later; that we should meet again at four o'clock. But what right have the Government to ask for the indulgence of this House? What indulgence, what consideration have they shown to the House itself? They have taken every Friday; they have taken every Tuesday; they have taken every Wednesday—they have taken all our days, and now they want to take our nights. Sleeping or waking we are to do the work the Government puts before us; we are not to be allowed to initiate anything ourselves, and we are not to be allowed to discuss the measures initiated by the Government, but at a given moment if the health of the Chairman of Ways and Means serves, all discussion is to be closured. Do the Government ever examine their own consciences? First, they shorten the session at both ends, and prolong the holidays in the middle—it is absolutely true that this Government have doubled the holidays as compared with any other previous Government—and as if that were not enough they have deprived the House of its rights and privileges by altering the Standing Order and abolishing the rule which allowed us to raise a discussion upon the motion that you, Sir, leave the chair on going into Committee of Ways and Means. They lumped up the Estimates into one large sum while I was on the seas on my way to Gibraltar; they have deprived us of all opportunity of having a most interesting debate upon the Education Bill by bringing it in under what is called the "ten minute rule," but what should be called "the brief explanatory statement Order." They have deprived the House of a similar privilege with regard to the Agricultural Eating Bill, and, to my mind, by the lateness of the period at which they have introduced these mea- 1158 sures they have deprived themselves of all chance of carrying them through by fair argument and fair debate, and, if they pass at all, they must pass by the most odious use of the most odious method of closure.
I do not know, but I suppose the House will agree to this motion; if it does, it will simply have to carry on its business by hurry and closure. The closure is not a decreasing evil, but an increasing one. In 1898 it was moved twenty-three times; in 1899, thirty-three times; in 1900, twenty-six times; and this year it has been already moved forty-five times, and would have been moved much oftener but for the illness of the Chairman of Ways and Means, an accident which we all regret. To my mind the number of times the closure is moved is the measure of the incapacity of the Minister. A horseman who can ride does not require throwing his horse down every time he mounts it. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer managed to pass a very important Finance Bill, involving serious new principles and increased taxation, through this House without using the closure once. Cannot the Government manage to do the same with the Education Bill and the Agricultural Rating Bill? Surely my right hon. friend is not less competent than the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. With regard to Supply, the Leader of the Irish party gave an absolutely accurate account of it. You have this year at this day still 98 Votes to get. Last year at this time you had forty nine to get; therefore you have exactly double the number of Votes to get this year that you had last year. Of course I know it does not matter, because there is the guillotine, and these Votes will be got by its use. But suppose you have ninety-six Votes left to get under the guillotine. At the rate of a quarter of an hour for each division, it will take twenty-four hours to get them, and the same with regard to their Report. So that to get the necessary Supplies for the Government will, if divisions are challenged, entail forty-eight hours continuous walking. Sir, the scandal of getting Votes in this way is manifest. It 1159 restricts the power, authority, and importance of this House. This House is being slowly destroyed before our eyes—it is treated with contempt. We ought to have the Prime Minister here, but he is not here; we ought to have the power of practical debate here, but that is not here; we ought to have the power of rectifying grievances before Supply, and that is not here. It has almost all gone, and looking forward, what a prospect rises before us! It seems to me that this House will soon be composed only of two component parts, the Treasury Bench and a registry office. The greatest of our political writers, Bolingbroke, said—Corruption alone could not destroy us; we must want spirit as well as virtue to perish.I sometimes think that all spirit has gone out of this House; it is only on the Irish Benches that there is any indication of it. Where is the resistance, where the criticism that an opposition would make? Where, indeed, is the opposition? A week or two ago I formed some expectation of an Opposition being created, but since reading the speech of the possible leader, who complains with great bitterness of being left to plough his furrow alone, and who also complains of his own party, my hopes have disappeared, and I am irresistibly reminded of the similar case of Alexander Selkirk, who said:—I am out of humanity's reach.I must finish my journey alone;Never hear the sweet music of speech,I start at the sound of my own.And then, as if turning to his own party, he proceeds:—The beasts that roam over the plainMy form with indifference see;They are so unacquainted with man,Their tameness is shocking to me.Yes, Sir, their tameness is shocking—shocking to me too, and serious to this House also. There may be amateur critics of the Government, who do their little best on this side, but no effectual criticism of a Government can come except from a united Opposition, and, if I may venture to say so, the criticism we have had from the sole representative of the Opposition who has spoken to-day has not been highly effectual. Coincidental, as we 1160 know, with the decreasing authority of this House, is the increasing power and authority of the Ministry. They propose an immense standing army; they have very large revenue, now amounting to £109,000,000 a year, for which they need not come annually to the House. If a Tudor had had such a revenue, or a Stuart such a standing army, we should never have retained a House of Commons at all; yet it is this House, and this House alone, which stands between us and arbitrary government, not even the arbitrary government of a permanent monarchy, but that which is far more dangerous, of a casual minister; and I cannot see this House destroyed without anxiety.
These are dangers, and I cannot regard them with equanimity. I would beg the Government to take a wider view of this matter and of their relation to this House than is bounded merely by considerations of their own momentary convenience, a more worthy view than one founded on a desire for holidays, and a more statesmanlike view than that which consists in bringing forth successive strings of expedients the only object of which is to continue to live from day to day. This Government has lasted so long that it begins to think itself eternal. But that is not so. The present Ministers will not always be on this side, and when they are on the benches opposite they will perhaps regret the loss of the liberties which they themselves have put forth their hands to destroy. I know not what sort of Minister, with what plans, aims, or ambitions, may one day sit on that Treasury Bench. He may be a socialist, or a revolutionary, or a cynic, with so great a contempt for the people and the Parliament of this country that, having, perhaps in a moment of national crisis, appealed to the country for, and obtained, a large majority, he may use it for the aggrandizement of his own family, and seek to confirm his position by a free distribution of the public taxes among his own supporters. But, Sir, one word of warning. It is never quite safe to flout the House of Commons. This House has found means to survive and to deal with the menaces of princes, the use of military force—aye, and even the rack, the scaffold and the prison, and I do believe that, some time or 1161 other, sooner or later, parliamentary resources will be found which may overcome even the lassitude of the right hon. Gentleman below me, and convince the Government of which he is a member that the House of Commons is stronger and can show itself more powerful than any ministry that ever existed.
These few remarks I assure the House I have made out of respect for this Assembly—out of the enormous reverence I have learnt to feel for it, for its traditions, for its very forms, and the work it does for the State, and they are made also not without some regard for His Majesty's Ministers and some anxiety to see them take a course in some future session—I suppose this session is past praying for—which shall be more creditable to themselves and to the House. I expect the right hon. Gentleman will sharply rebuke me. ["Hear, hear."] Yes, I thought so. I can foresee what is coming. The hon. Member for West Somerset, the hon. Member for Westminster and I have already experienced the anger that the First Lord of the Treasury showers on those who do not agree with him. I shall probably be told that I am attacking the honor of somebody who is not in the House, or who is at the Table, or in the Chair. Well, Sir, some of us who do not sit in such exalted places have ourselves a rough work-a-day notion of honor. There are certain things that we, too, would not do, that we should think unbecoming. We would not ask a general to re-write his dispatch, or even a Committee its Report; we would not sacrifice our country to our party or our party to our family or so much as the efficiency of a single Department to the urgency of a relative. We have our little notions of honor, even if we cannot rise to the transcendent heights attained by the right hon. Gentleman, who sees in every criticism of the Government an attack on the honor of somebody else.
I do protest that I believe in everybody's honor and especially in the honor of His Majesty's Government; and if I would see them adopt other methods of procedure in this House, and a more generous course of action in regard to it and its rules, it is because of the great 1162 importance I attach to their retaining their present position. I do not doubt their honor. What I doubt is their discretion. They have not shown a vast. Amount of that quality in their conduct of business this session, and, for my own part, I do not think they have made out a case for asking the House to give up the last rag of its time to the prosecution of an amount of work which can not possibly be concluded in the short space of time allotted to it.
§ MR. POWER (Waterford, E.)
It is usual at this time of the year for the Government to ask that the twelve o'clock rule shall be suspended and certain facilities granted to enable them to carry on their business. But it should be remembered that on previous occasions when that request has been made the Government have had before them a large programmer of interest to all parts of the kingdom. That, however, cannot be said on this occasion. The King's Speech contained very little of interest, and the few parts that were of interest to the vast majority of working men have been either dropped or truncated in such a way as to be unrecognizable. I heartily join in the protest of the hon. and learned Member for Waterford against the manner in which the Government has treated Irish affairs. I have never thought the British Parliament had the will to legislate fairly for Ireland; but even if they had the will, such Orders as we are now discussing would show that they had not the power to give Irish Members an opportunity for debating measures of interest. With regard to the Bills enumerated by the First Lord of the Treasury, in which Ireland takes a certain interest, the right hon. Gentleman hopes the Fisheries Bill and three others may be passed this session. I protest against this habit of coming down at the fag end of the session and saying to the Irish Members, "Here is the Bill, be it good or bad; take it or leave it; we shall not give you time for discussion, and if you attempt to discuss the measure it will be lost. "With regard to the Fisheries Bill, ten years ago Mr. Madden brought forward a Bill dealing with the question, and the late Mr. Biggar expressed the opinion that it was a wretched measure, which ought to be killed unfortunately, we did not take 1163 his advice, but allowed the Bill to pass, with the result that nothing else has been done, and, so far from doing good to the Irish fisheries, the Bill has, in many parts of the coast, destroyed them. The programme of the Government has been small. The time has been taken up by their own incompetency. They have used the closure to a greater extent than any other Government has ever done, and yet there have been more late sittings this session than in any session since the twelve o'clock rule was instituted. The proper use of the closure may sometimes facilitate business, but its improper use certainly impedes progress, and when I remember that the First Lord opened the session by closuring a Vote of £17,000,000 before we had said a single word, and then spent days afterwards in endeavouring to change the forms of the House in order to hit Irish Members, I certainly come to the conclusion that, to use a horseman's term, he has no hands, and that so far from using the snaffle properly, he is always pulling on the curb. That way of doing business is naturally resented.
Another thing which has hindered business is the way in which Supplementary Votes have been brought in. Formerly such Votes were comparatively unknown; now they are particularly frequent. As was pointed out would be the case when this rule as to Supply was brought forward, the system of allotting a number of days to Supply, with the closure to follow, has taught Ministers to scamp their work. They come down with little or no preparation to reply to criticism; they rely on the closure to get the Votes. The other night we had an important debate on Uganda. The noble Lord who represents the Foreign Office delivered a long speech founded on a Report presented to the House three years ago, and yet he confessed that there was at the Foreign Office a Report about ten days old, but he had not taken the trouble to look at it; his chief had not seen it, and the House of Commons had to vote the money without having had an opportunity of reading it. That is merely an example of the state of carelessness and indifference into which Ministers lapse under this system.
One of the measures the Government hope to pass is that for conferring a new 1164 title on the King. I am unaware whether or not it is a controversial Bill, but, as far as Irishmen, and especially Catholics, are concerned, we are not inclined to view very favourably anything connected with the King, as we cannot forget that he opened his reign by insulting us—
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member must not comment in those terms on the action of the Sovereign.
§ MR. POWER
I am very sorry to hear that some of the time of the House is to be asked for at the fag end of this session in order to vote a large sum of money to Lord Roberts. Many hon. Members may think that because Lord Roberts is an Irishman hon. Members from Ireland ought to support this proposal; but if there were nobody else in the House prepared to support me, I should oppose it myself. I do not think that anyone who has followed this war can say that Lord Roberts has added to his reputation in South Africa.
§ MR. POWER
As an Irishman I say that Lord Roberts could not have put his great abilities to a worse cause. I join in the protest made by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford against the way the business of the House of Commons is being conducted. This session has been practically wasted, for we have had no Irish legislation, and the taxation of our already impoverished country has been increased by leaps and bounds.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
I do not rise for the purpose of prolonging this debate, but there is just one thing which I should like to say. I am one of the oldest Members of the House of Commons, and I have been very proud to be a Member of this House so long. During that time I have had many opportunities of seeing the House in different phases and under different managements, and I should just like to say what has been the result of my experience. When the excep- 1165 tional system of the closure was introduced, it was intended by those who introduced it that it should be used with moderation, and only under extreme pressure. What was intended as a powerful drug is now treated as the daily bread of the House of Commons. The figures given by the hon. Member for King's Lynn show how this power has been abused, and it has only had an irritating effect upon the House—and perhaps I may be permitted to say without offence that I think it has had a demoralising effect upon the Government. I only desire to say that, according to my experience and observation, the extreme use of the closure is the most futile and the most fatal form of obstruction that can be adopted.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
I rise for the purpose of asking my right hon. friend two questions. I wish to know in the first place if there are any private Members' Bills which he intends to "star." I wish to know in the second place exactly where we are. I want to know whether the Government intend to go on with the Bill introduced in the House of Lords with regard to the King's Declaration. Do the Government intend to press that Bill through this session? I also desire to say a word or two with regard to Irish Supply. Criticism is cheap, and therefore easy; but, after all, a parliamentary day is only nine hours, and it is impossible to get everything into it. I am not going to make any attack upon the Leader of the House, but I wish to direct his attention to Irish Supply. Where do we stand in regard to the matter? Unquestionably the business of Supply is the most important work of the House of Commons, for it is the only constitutional way we have of discussing the Estimates of the great spending Departments of England, Scotland, and Ireland. As a matter of fact, no institution has less control over those great State Departments than the House of Commons under present arrangements. Only three days out of twenty-four are allotted to Irish Supply, although I did my best at the beginning of the session to get four days. It may be that Members do talk too much upon one given subject. [Ministerial cries of "Hear, hear."] I 1166 do not plead guilty to that charge myself, and I do not think that the Chief Secretary himself will make that charge against me. What Irish Members have got to look at is the fact that only three out of twenty-eight Votes have been passed relating to Ireland, and those already passed are by no means the most important. There is the Vote for the Irish Land Commission. By extraordinary pressure the Chief Secretary has managed to get the Report on the subject laid upon the Table of the House. That Commission employed a great staff, which costs the country £150,000 a year. That staff has only dealt with some 13,000 rents, while some 33,000 still remain to be fixed. According to present arrangements we are not to be allowed to say a word as to how those rents have been fixed or about the slow progress made. We cannot even refer to a single scandal connected with that Department. Agriculture is the chief industry of Ireland, and yet the representatives of Irish agricultural constituencies are muzzled and closured when they wish to deal with the machinery for fixing those rents. The Leader of the House ought to see that this is a thing which will not bear repeating another year. Then there is the Irish Local Government Board Vote. A great scheme of local government has just been successfully brought into operation, but everybody who knows anything about local government in England knows that after the Act of 1888 was passed a great many questions arose which had to be settled afterwards. That has also proved to be the case in Ireland. There is an enormous Vote of £500,000 connected with this Act, and many mistakes have been made, for the difficulties have been enormous. For the House of Commons and the Government to say that that great Department and its work is to go unchallenged and undiscussed is little short of an outrage. Take the Constabulary Vote—I have known that Vote take nearly a week, in the days when the Leader of the House and myself were in Opposition. The constabulary has been breaking up meetings in Ireland, and I ask the House to recollect what they have done in regard to myself. I thought that I should have been regarded as the most harmless man alive. 1167 I held a large number of meetings during the last recess, and what did the Chief Secretary do?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member will not be in order in discussing these matters now, although he may discuss them upon the Constabulary Vote.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
This furnishes us with the object lesson of the whole business. The Constabulary Vote will have to be passed sub silentio, and it will be closured in a night or two without anybody being allowed to say a word upon it. [Ministerial cries of "Hear, hear."] My hon. friends on the Government side do not like me rising from this side of the House—["Hear, hear."]—but I do not represent them upon this question. I represent a loyalist and an agricultural constituency in Ireland which is profoundly interested in land, in local government, and in everything Irish, and I am not going to consult the taste of hon. Gentlemen from Belfast in dealing with this question. What is the position of hon. Members opposite? The Government blame them for wasting time, but the Nationalist Members do not want to come to the House of Commons at all. England has taken the government of Ireland upon its own shoulders. She took over the government of Ireland unbidden and unasked, and are we to be told after she has taken that great burden over deliberately that Irish Supply is to be closured, and that the Irish Members will not be able to discuss their methods of government in Ireland? That is what it amounted to. ["No, no."] The supporters of the Government know perfectly well that I have been trying my best to get an opportunity to say a few words upon the Land Commission Vote. If the Government are going to continue the present system of government in Ireland, they must provide means for discussing their methods fairly. My hon. and learned friend the Member for Waterford says he does not care how long the system goes on, because it is a grand object lesson for Home Rule. That is the Member for Waterford's position, and that is his compensation. O'Connell and Gladstone both tried to end this controversy during the last century and both failed. We have got neither a Gladstone nor an O'Connell now.
MR. RENTOUL (Down, E.)
But we have got you.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
Therefore my position is that time, at all events, need not be wasted upon that issue at the present moment. The constituents of East Down who have the honour of being represented by the hon. and learned Member are exceedingly anxious to get rid of him.
At the instigation of the hon. Member a meeting was called by advertisement. [Cries of "Order."] As a personal explanation I desire to say that in reply twenty-eight individuals—
The hon. Member for South Tyrone made a remark about my constituency and myself. I simply desire to explain that a meeting was called by my constituents by advertisement, and that twenty-eight persons—
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
I rise to a point of order. According to the universal practice of this House a personal explanation is an explanation made after another Member has made his speech, not in the course of the speech.
§ MR. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member in possession of the House had not chosen to give way to the hon. Member he could not have spoken. But the hon. Member did give way, and the hon. Member for East Down is entitled to explain, provided he does not go beyond moderate limits.
I have simply to say that at the instigation of the hon. Member for South Tyrone a meeting was called by advertisement in the press of my constituents to request me to resign. Twenty-eight individuals—Nationalists and Unionists—attended that meeting. It was treated with absolute contempt. It was not the Conservative Association of my Division, as happened in the case of the hon. Member for South Tyrone.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
The House will bear in mind that the hon. and 1169 learned Gentleman interrupted me first. I did not even know that he was present until he practically identified me with hon. Gentleman opposite as a Home Ruler. That was his object, and I made my retort. I can only say that I was present at a meeting of five hundred when a resolution such as I have described was passed. Hon. Gentlemen opposite think this is a case for Home Rule. I do not think so at all. What it is a case for, clear and explicit, is for the devolution of the work, but that does not necessarily mean an Irish Parliament. The case for devolution, however, is complete, and it is perfectly impossible for this House to go on attempting to carry a load that is entirely beyond its powers. I should imagine that instead of getting better it is much more likely to get worse. It is really of no use for hon. Members on this side of the House to complain of hon. Members on that taking up time or, as they say, wasting time. They have their own commission from their constituents. Their constituents do not quarrel with their methods of doing business here, and I fancy that so long as that is the case they are not likely to pay much attention to anything that is stated on this side of the House. Therefore we were absolutely wasting time in complaining of hon. Members opposite. We have to face the situation—this House is attempting to carry a load which it is utterly unable to carry, and the time has arrived for some man of initiative on either Front Bench to give a lead in the devolution of work within the compass of this Parliament—not by setting up others—that will enable us to go through our business in a legitimate and orderly manner. I do not complain of the First Lord of the Treasury. I do not think anybody would have done better in his place; at all events, we have always courtesy and civility from him. That has been my experience. I am not going to criticise any of the men who are attempting to administer what had become an impossible system. The twelve o'clock rule has been referred to. I have been for sixteen years a Member of the House, but I never remember a session when we have had less of the twelve o'clock rule. I had come to believe that it had gone out of existence 1170 altogether. What have we done? Can any sane man in the world imagine such a thing? By the time Supply has been closured we shall have run up between 400 and 500 divisions. Allowing ten minutes for each division—and that is a short average—by the time the session is closed we will have spent eight parliamentary days walking round the lobbies. And we are all sensible men! That of itself stamps the whole system as effete and played out. What is really wanted is someone of initiative among the leaders of the House to face the question, if a session should have to be devoted to it, and so arrange the procedure of the House that matters affecting mere localities should go upstairs, and that this great Assembly should not be occupied with petty details. What have I seen this very session during the last month? I came here one Wednesday afternoon, when the Mediterranean Fleet was going to be discussed. Surely that is a question of sufficient importance to occupy the House and the nation. We had to wait until half a dozen Irish Members spoke about whether there was to be a level crossing or a metal bridge in some place in the county of Kilkenny. [A NATIONALIST MEMBER: That is important.] It is very important for Kilkenny. Surely it is a perfect absurdity that matters of trifling detail of that kind should occupy the time of this great Assembly when a matter such as the condition of the Mediterranean Fleet is awaiting discussion. There is nothing to hinder the House in giving a real session for the revision of our procedure. The First Lord of the Treasury will find it much more difficult to pass this Supply rule next session than he has ever done before, because, if anything has ever broken down, that rule, drawn with the very best intentions, has utterly failed. In attempting to carry a load it cannot carry the House will get worse rather than better, and if we are not to have the House discredited in the eyes of the world we should see that it is set in order, and that we have liberty to do the business of the nation.
§ MR. ASQUITH (Fifeshire, E.)
I am so far in agreement with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that I think, as I have long thought, that there are 1171 certain evils inherent in the present procedure of the House of Commons which, under the most skilful management, cannot be got rid of, but only palliated and mitigated, and the removal of which is absolutely essential if this House is adequately to perform its duties to the country. Among these reforms there is none on the smaller scale which is more urgent than that we should reform, if indeed we do not entirely abolish, our present inadequate and ridiculous system of dealing with private legislation. As regards the reforms on what I may call the larger scale, I am more convinced than I ever was that it is only by a system of devolution—a large and liberal system of devolution—consistent with Imperial unity and the supreme control of this Parliament over all parts of His Majesty's dominions—that we shall find any substantial relief from that which we so much deplore. But this is not, I think, an occasion on which we can profitably enter upon these comparatively large issues, and I should like to call the attention of the House once more to the actual position in which we stand. It is now 22nd July. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that he hopes, and apparently expects, that the session will come to an end on 17th August. In other words, we have twenty parliamentary days at our disposal. And how are those twenty parliamentary days going to be occupied? In the discussion of something like twenty Bills, many of which have not even been introduced, some of which are in their very early stages, none of which, I think, have got beyond the stage of Committee, and a hundred Votes in Supply. I think the situation only needs to be described in the right hon. Gentleman's own language for it to be seen that the House of Commons is asked, during the next three weeks, to carry on its work under conditions that will reduce discussion to a mockery and a farce. The independence of the House of Commons, both as a body whose constitutional duty it is to criticise the action of the Executive and as a body whose constitutional duty it is to consider projects of legislative reform—the independence of the House of Commons absolutely disappears. I do not think the hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member 1172 for King's Lynn, used too strong an expression when he said the House had been reduced to an automaton, automatically to register the will of the Executive of the day. Quite apart from these larger questions of procedure, what has brought about this state of things, a state of things which no one who is jealous for the honour of the House of Commons can contemplate without repugnance and alarm? The causes appear to me to be tolerably plain. In the first place, we began the session a great deal too late, and in the next place we frittered away its early days in the discussion, sometimes, I agree, unduly prolonged, of comparatively unimportant affairs; and it was only after Whitsuntide that the Government introduced to the House of Commons the two most contentious measures of the year—the Education Bill and the Rating Bill, both of which still remain to be discussed. What is the result of that arrangement of parliamentary time? It is, as my right hon. friend beside me has pointed out, that the closure, instead of being an extreme weapon to be resorted to in a great emergency for the defence of parliamentary freedom, becomes part of the ordinary apparatus of every-day parliamentary life, upon which the Government comes to rely more and more as a necessary instrument for carrying their measures. Never since the closure was introduced, certainly never during the last five years, has it been so liberally or so automatically applied as during the present session. I really do not think we could have a more remarkable or a more humiliating proof of the truth of what I have said than the proceedings which have taken place under the auspices of the Government in relation to these two contentious Bills within the last week. What happened? We had a night's discussion in Committee on the Education Bill. The Chairman, for reasons we all regret, not being in the chair, it was impossible to apply the closure. Thereupon the right hon. Gentleman avowedly puts off the further discussion of that measure until he can have by his side the only hand that can unlock the wardrobe in which the closure is kept, and the Education Bill being indefinitely postponed we have the Rating Bill put down for the Second Reading to- 1173 morrow. The right hon. Gentleman says that a favourable bulletin has been issued as regards the health of the Chairman. We are all delighted to hear it. The right hon. Gentleman positively tells us to-night that he is going to put off the Rating Bill to an indefinite date—[A MINISTERIAL MEMBER: Monday.] for another week at any rate, and that he is going to bring back the Committee on the Education Bill, because now he will be able to apply the closure. I venture to say that that method of conducting parliamentary business is not only new, not only dangerous, but it is to a large extent responsible for the condition in which we find ourselves. For my part, I hope all who sit on this side of the House will take the same course by way of protest against the mismanagement of business in the earlier part of the session and this avowed and lavish resort to the machinery of the closure. I, for my part, shall record my vote so as to prevent, as far as can be, the right hon. Gentleman getting the facilities for which he asks.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
There have been, as far as I have observed in the course of this debate, three topics of very unequal importance discussed by various members who have taken part in it. The first of these topics is my own unfortunate shortcomings as the Leader of the House; the second of these topics is Home Rule; and the third of these topics is the general congestion of business, consequent upon the over-pressure in this House. As regards the first of these questions, that connected with my own shortcomings, I really do not think it worth while occupying much of the time of the House. The hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Irish party, who took the first place in this afternoon's debate, drew a comparison between me and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which, I need not remind the House, was very much to my disadvantage. I do not object to that. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and I belong to the same Government; the stock of virtue for the Government is the same whether it is due to him or to me, and I am quite ready to hand over all praise to him and to take all the blame to myself provided the general 1174 position of the Government is not damnified thereby. I have been led to understand that if I had only irritated the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and shown what I think the hon. Member for Waterford called a little more human nature, if I could have followed the seductive methods and the persuasive tongue so characteristic of my right hon. friend, we should have got through the session without a hitch, the closure would never have been applied, hon. Members for Ireland would have hurried into their places to give the Government Votes on Supply and further Government business to the best of their ability. I have not these potent gifts of the serpent charmer. I can only lay before the House in very humdrum fashion the necessities and convenience not of the Government, but of the House, for their consideration, and if when they have considered them they do not feel inclined to adopt my suggestion, I am afraid I have no resource open to me but that of which complaint has been so lavishly made to-night. Hon. Members have declared that the Government have been unduly lavish in putting on the closure, that they have hurried debate unnecessarily. Now, does any human being really suppose—I am not talking of what we say in this House or on the platform—does any hon. Member sincerely believe, when he is neither in this House nor on the platform, that if the closure had not been moved we should have been able even to make the progress we have done? The right hon. Gentleman has said that it is a great commentary upon the bad management of the Government that we put off the Education Bill until we had an opportunity of dealing with the Committee stage of that Bill, when closure might be applied if the Chair gave leave. Does he seriously think that that was a foolish course? If he had had charge of the Bill would he have taken any other course? Why, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman knows much better. He knows perfectly well—even the experience of that night might have shown him if he was present, I am not sure whether he was—that when an Opposition, united in nothing else, are united in talking against a measure, it is absolutely impossible to deal with the situation except by that machinery the creation 1175 of which I regret as much as any other man in this House, but which, by the universal consent of every successive Government and every successive leader, is an absolute necessity under modern conditions. It would have been sheer waste of the time of this House had I adopted any other course than the one I did, and nobody knows that better than right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentlemen opposite. Observe the extraordinary inconsistency of the attacks made on the Government. We are told by one member of that bench that our legislative programme was meagre, that our legislative performances are more meagre still. The right hon. Gentleman says we ought not to have hurried on business as much as we have; and then the same right hon. Gentleman says we ought to abandon most of our Bills. What are you to do with criticisms of that kind, with speakers who in the middle of their speech forget their exordium, and by the time they get to their peroration have forgotten the middle of their speech? I wish to take this question as far as I can out of the personal category, and I regret even the amount of personal reference which I have been obliged to introduce into my remarks so far. In order that I may be absolved from touching any further on the personal aspects of this question, let me deal in one sentence with my hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn. My hon. friend the Member for King's Lynn made what I think anybody would construe to be a very violent attack upon the Government, and he anticipated, when I rose to a rejoinder, that I should make a reply as violent as his attack. I never had the least intention of doing anything of the kind. My hon. friend is in the habit of playing about a good deal on these occasions. Sometimes when he plays about he throws stones; sometimes when he plays about he throws mud. On the present occasion he preferred the mud to the stones, but I do not care to reply to either of these particular missiles, so I leave my hon. friend alone, and proceed to questions far removed from personal controversy or the merits of this or that Leader of the House, this or that Front Bench, whether in Opposition or on the right hand of the Speaker.
In the category of these important dis- 1176 cussions the most important place must be given to the question of Supply. The hon. Member for Waterford, my hon. friend the Member for South Tyrone, and hon. Gentlemen opposite have pointed out that unhappy truth—that the House is far less advanced in Supply than it was at the corresponding period of last year, and that, if ordinary signs and prognostications are to be believed in, we shall at the end of the allotted period of Supply have a very much larger number of un-discussed Votes to deal with than we have had before. That is true, and a melancholy truth it is. Are we, therefore, to consider that the Supply rule has failed? Are we, therefore, to consider that the Government is to blame? Well, how is the Government to blame? I have endeavoured in the interests, not of the Government—they are not affected in this case—I have endeavoured in the interests of the House by the occasional use of the closure—ten times, I think, in the course of the Supply of the year has the closure been applied—to aid adequate discussion of the Votes. I am attacked for having put on the closure and for the position in which business now stands—another inconsistency in the criticisms passed upon us to-night. The House must remember that the time at the disposal of Parliament is limited, and must be be limited. Even if we sat 365 days in the year our time would be limited, but I presume no man would wish that this House should sit more than six, six and a half, or seven months—personally, I think seven months is too much. [An OPPOSITION MEMBER: Why?] I am not going into that now. I should be prepared to discuss it. At present I am content to shelter myself under the sufficiently powerful ægis of Mr. Gladstone, who always held that there was no greater mistake than to attempt to throw on this House too great a burden, or to sit beyond what human capacity enabled us to do. I presume that some part of the time during which we sit must be given to Government legislation. If you are going to increase the time for Government legislation you diminish pro facto either the amount of time given to Supply or that given to private Members. There is no way out of that simple arithmetical fact.
Now, does the House think that 1177 twenty-three days is sufficient for the discussion of Supply or not? I do not pretend to say that twenty-three days is sufficient—forty-six days would not be sufficient, 460 days would not be sufficient, at the rate practised by hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is not sufficient if, for example, by discussing Supply you mean discussing it at the length at which we have discussed Irish Supply, the chief topic of discussion to-night. But that is not the question; the question is whether twenty-three days is a sufficient proportion of your six or seven months to give to mere criticism of the Government, and whether if you extend that twenty-three days, or, at all events, very largely extend it, you would not still further unduly limit the already curtailed proportion that is given to private Members, or still further limit the time given to Government legislation. It is that tripartite division of the session which I do earnestly beg hon. Gentlemen always to have in mind when they discuss whether enough time is given to this or that topic. You have only a certain amount of time to deal with, cut up into these three portions, and everything you give to one portion you take away from another. That is a very elementary statement, but it is constantly, I had almost said invariably, forgotten by hon. Members who make these criticisms, and if anybody desires proof of that let him bear in mind the speeches that have been made to-night with regard to Irish Supply. The amount of time allocated to Irish Supply in the course of the present session is, broadly speaking, about the same as has been accorded to Irish Supply since the new rule came into existence. [Mr. T. M. HEALY: No.] It amounts to three days—that is, one-eighth part of the whole time given to Supply. If the House think that insufficient, well and good—increase the time. But, as I said before, you will have to increase it at the cost of English or Scottish Votes, of private Members' time, or of Government legislation—there is no other way. I am disposed to think that it is sufficient if properly used. Has it been properly used? My hon. friend the Member for South Tyrone said, truly enough, that a great many important Votes have not been discussed. They could have been discussed had the Irish Members desired it. The Government 1178 left it entirely to the Irish Members to settle what Votes should be put down, and in what order, and hon. Gentlemen practically settled the duration of the discussion. And if it be true that one-eighth of the whole time given to Supply is enough for Irish Supply, and if it be true that twenty-three days is a sufficient proportion of the whole session to give to the discussion of Supply, then, I say, hon. Gentlemen ought to devote themselves to assisting the Government in so allocating that eighth part of the twenty-three days as to enable them to make their chief criticisms on the Irish Executive, which I am sure they could do in that time without any serious grievance. This is not the appropriate time to say whether these twenty-three or twenty-four days are sufficient. The House, after considerable experience, has fixed the number of days for Supply. It may have to enlarge it, possibly; but if it enlarges it, it will do so at the cost of the two other interests, both of which are also pleaded for on these occasions. Hon. Gentlemen insist on having their cake and eating it. All those concerned in the three subjects I have mentioned claim that they do not get enough time, and everybody is agreed that the Government have not got enough—they say that our programme is limited and our performance meagre.
In these circumstances I would venture to ask the House to approach this matter in a common-sense spirit. I have always been anxious to have some more formal and authoritative division of the time given to Supply than the rule provides. Who has resisted that? The Opposition. I have wanted to allow hon. Gentlemen themselves to settle how the time is to be given; they have refused to accept the responsibility. But that puts them out of court when they come to criticise me as to the distribution of the time, and it only remains for them to say that the time itself should be increased, with the consequences I have ventured to put before them. I do not touch on Home Rule. I do not touch on devolution or delegation. I quite agree that this House must consent either to modify this rule still further, to be content with a relatively small amount of output of legislative work, or sit a great deal longer. 1179 [Nationalist cries of "Why not?"] I have always myself leant to a fourth alternative—that really important measures might be allowed to run on from one session to another. I am not going to discuss or to defend that now. It so happens that my views are on record in a Report made, and agreed to, I think, by a Committee of this House. They have found many opponents on this side, I think, but they have always been opposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite; indeed, I think by all the Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite. The House will have to face the fact that with these rules you can only have a small output of legislative work unless you curtail your speeches. It is a question not of argument, but of arithmetic, and though it may be convenient, for party or personal reasons, to attack the Government, to say that the Leader of the House has shown a want of human nature, or that the closure has been used too drastically, or not drastically enough—though criticisms of that sort are sure to be made, and I trust borne with toleration, the real facts lie far deeper. The House is only deceiving itself if it thinks that all that every Member wants of it—more discussion of Supply, more legislation, more private Members' time, and equally short sessions—can possibly be got while we continue to carry on our debates under our existing rules. The right hon. Gentleman opposite says that he would like to go back to the old rules under which we attempted to do our business—to abolish closure and all the other unhappy expedients which we have from time to time adopted. I tell him that will never be done, it never can be done, and the changes that have to be made—and changes I doubt not, will have to be made—certainly will not be in the direction of giving unlimited licence to every man to take up what proportion of public time he likes, even if his object be, as some have suggested it is the object of certain speakers in this House, not to further business, not to discuss measures, but to bring into contempt and impotence this great legislative Assembly.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has discussed parliamentary pro- 1180 cedure in much the style in which a beleaguered general, say at Lady-smith, discussed the amount of the provisions that he had for men and horses. He tells us that, like the beleaguered general, he starts with the proposition that he has to hold out for six or seven months, that he has so many animals to provide for, that his rations amount to so many lbs., and he is, therefore, easily able to demonstrate that, providing parliamentary business is divided into three great classes, at all events, Ireland can only have three days for Supply in any session. I think that any Minister dealing with the complaints from Ireland should put himself in the position which Pitt and Castlereagh occupied when they endeavoured to allure the Irish Parliament to give up legislative independence. Fancy Castlereagh addressing the Irish Legislature in these terms, and, instead of promising a shower of gold, saying: "Your taxation is now a million; it will be made ten millions. Now you have six months for the discussion of Irish Supply; join us in free and happy England, and instead of six months we will give you three days!" Yet that is the position to which the right hon. Gentleman, by his method of rule of thumb, has reduced the Treaty of Union.
I really cannot understand the face and the hardihood with which any British Minister—recollecting, as we must, that parliamentary promises are supposed to be kept—can address Irish Members in the same spirit and terms as he addresses British Members, or to suggest that we are bound by any one of those considerations which he was able to address to the Liberal Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman has suggested in that graceful and happy manner in which he sometimes specially indulges that the real object of the Irish Members in debate has not been the fair and free discussion of the attitude of Ministers towards subjects of commanding Irish interest, but an attempt to bring parliamentary institutions into contempt. [Cheers from the Ministerial Benches.] And that is a charge which the party behind him endorse. This is a new Parliament which contains many men of ability from Ireland, who come over here for the first time. Now, one of the main objects of the session was the 1181 passing of the Civil List Bill. You had not a Civil List Bill in the House for over sixty years, and every subject was open to us for discussion. It was a Bill of enormous magnitude even from a constitutional point of view, and involved the entire relations of Great Britain and Parliament to the kingship of the two islands. And what was the attitude of those gentlemen who want to bring parliamentary institutions into contempt, and who want to show their disloyalty of the Empire? The fact is, this Bill to grant £250,000 to the Crown was practically allowed to go through by this new Parliament—with these new Irish Members—sub silentio. The hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot have it both ways. They cannot endorse the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury that the only object of the Irish Members is to bring parliamentary institutions into contempt, and at the same time sit silent when confronted by such an argument as I have used. Our object is not to bring parliamentary institutions into contempt, but to restore parliamentary institutions to their integrity. Our object is not to destroy Parliament, but to create a Parliament; and I say that our position is really the constitutional and conservative position—namely, the restoration of a Parliament—destroyed by the British Government under conditions as vile as any committed even by the arts and crafts of English statesmen.
I rose, not for the purpose of defeating the general position of affairs, but merely with the object of stating the shiver which I experienced at one of the suggestions of the right hon. Gentleman; and in the hope of relieving the weary Tritons on the Government benches by a practical suggestion which will enable them to save a very considerable amount of parliamentary time. It has nothing to do with the rules of parliamentary procedure in the past—the good old scheme of Mr. Gladstone when they met at four o'clock, when they were tired, and continued sitting after twelve o'clock, when they were still more tired. That was a practical way of doing business, and not by the new methods of the closure. I ask what is the meaning of the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury that he made 1182 in regard to the city of Belfast. That city has already been the subject of sufficient contention in a great many Parliaments. I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the city of Belfast, for some inscrutable reason or other, is suffering from an absolute denudation of local self-government, and that it is necessary to bring in a Bill to restore to Belfast the constitution which it so highly prizes. I always understood that King William III., of happy memory, in 1688, by abolishing brass money and wooden shoes, had given to the citizens of Belfast the very fullest measure of the liberties they were entitled to enjoy. The right hon. Gentleman tells us that the Land Purchase Bill and the Local Government Bill promised in the King's Speech have to be dropped, and that in the dog days, for some reason which we have not appreciated, some special measure is to be devoted to the city of Belfast to enable it to resume the duties of local government. That is a most astonishing proposition. The hon. Member for South Tyrone actually complained here a short while ago that Irish Members took up the time of the House in discussing questions of level crossings in Ireland, when they might have been discussing the unlevel crossings of the Mediterranean Fleet; but I ask what are the portentous conditions which have suddenly rendered it necessary for His Majesty's Government to bring in a Bill at this stage of the session dealing with this important portion of His Majesty's dominions. We know that we had a private Bill this session to extend the franchise of the Harbour Board of Belfast, and my hon. friend the Member for Waterford strongly appealed to the Government to extend the franchise now enjoyed by a very small proportion of the ratepayers to the general body of the citizens of that community, but the right hon. Gentleman declined to agree to it. But now in the month of July, or in the beginning of August, the right hon. Gentleman is going to take heart of grace, and we shall rejoice if he is going to extend the scope of local self-government in Belfast. But if this Bill is going to deal with the question of the valuation of Belfast, I should like to remind him that that necessarily involves 1183 the whole question of the financial relations of Ireland. [Cries of "Oh, oh," and Ministerial laughter.] I will demonstrate that to hon. Gentlemen who laugh. I will take the case, not of Belfast, but of Dublin, and I hope that what I say about Dublin will be fully credited by hon. Gentlemen opposite. It necessarily follows that any scheme of revaluation of any community under the present Acts also involves the increase of Imperial taxation. I do not intend to go into this point at any length—
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! I hope the hon. Member will not follow this line of argument, because it is very much beyond the question before the House.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Unless it be on a question of revaluation, I am at a loss to know what the Bill is proposed for by His Majesty's Ministers. As I understand it, the Government apprehend that there is no power in Belfast at this moment, owing to some blunder on the part of the corporation, to strike a rate in the present year. I suggest that they would save an enormous amount of parliamentary time if, instead of bringing in a Bill to enable Belfast to strike a fresh rate, the Government should advance the money to the citizens of Belfast till next session. I do not know the amount of money required. It may be £20,000 or £30,000. Let us suppose that it is even £100,000. Why, the Government have this session voted £500,000 for a railway for the niggers in Uganda. Let the Government give a loan of £100,000 to this loyal community of Belfast—men of integrity and honour—who will promptly pay it back in the ensuing session of Parliament. I really make that suggestion in all good faith to the Government, instead of taking up the time of Parliament with a contentious measure. One word more and I have done. Complaints have been made by the hon. Member for South Tyrone and the hon. Member for Waterford as to the position of the Irish land question, and as to the position of the Irish Estimates dealing with the Irish Land Commission. I noticed that in another place the Duke of Abercorn has carried a motion for a Select Committee to inquire into the 1184 recommendations of the Fry Commission. It can hardly be supposed that that Committee will contain any representative of the tenants.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Gentleman's suggestion does not seem to be relevant to the question before the House.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I am going to make a suggestion that there is an omission in the programme of His Majesty's Government. We can only discuss the administration of the Irish Land Acts on Supply. But in another place they are able to bring on discussion and criticism of these matters by the machinery of the appointment of Committees; and I would say that we are entitled to have the Vote on the Irish Land Commission put down again at an early stage, so that we will be able to reply to the criticisms on the administration of the Irish Land Acts made in the House of Lords. I am strengthened in my demand by the action of Mr. Gladstone in 1882, when a motion was made in the House of Lords to inquire into the working of the Land Act, and to bring pressure to bear on Ministers and judges. Mr. Gladstone put down a resolution on the books of this House in order to strengthen the hands of the Land Commissioners and the Irish judges, and denouncing the criticisms made in another place. Sufficient time should be given to answer the criticisms made in another place, although I admit that the Government opposed the motion for the Committee. I claim that the Irish Land Commission and the judges in the Irish courts should not be executing their duty with this sort of sword of Damocles hanging over their heads.
§ MR. BROADHURST (Leicester)
I would repeat to the Leader of the House a suggestion which I have made on a former occasion in regard to the rearrangement of the meeting of Parliament. I think that we should have part of the session in the autumn, and the finishing part in the early months of the year. What should be avoided is any sitting during the months of July, August, and September; during 1185 these months Members suffer much from the long night sittings, and the work is inefficiently done. The result is that many Acts of Parliament are passed in a manner highly unsatisfactory. What is the present position? The Standing Committee on Trade meets at eleven and continues on till four in the afternoon, then we come into the House, and with the twelve o'clock rule suspended, we never get home till the small hours of the morning, although we have to meet again early in the forenoon. In my judgment the months for the sitting of the House could be so arranged as to conduce to the advantage of the country, the business of the nation, and with far less physical suffering to hon. Members engaged in Committee work. I wish the Leader of the House would give some promise that he will apply his mind to this question, and see whether he could not suggest some alteration of the Rules of Procedure that would bring about the readjustment I have suggested.
§ MR. O'MARA (Kilkenny, S.)
said that no adequate information had been given as to several matters which had been brought before the House. The House was now apparently called upon to do unlimited work in a limited time, and the real solution was a devolution of its business. It was very easy for the First Lord of the Treasury to say that the matter was merely a mathematical problem; but the fact remained that in
§ whatever way the time of the House was divided up, it still remained insufficient to deal adequately with the business submitted to it. [Several HON. MEMBERS: Divide, divide.] He had no intention of unduly taking up the time of the House, but if he were interrupted he could speak for quite a long time. If, however, he were permitted to proceed, he would not speak very long. The First Lord of the Treasury had named twenty or thirty Bills, including the Light Railways Bill, to which he stated there would be very little opposition, but he could tell the right hon. Gentleman, speaking for himself and his friends, that any Bill which proposed to vote half a million of money solely to English purposes while Ireland was overtaxed would be very strongly opposed by the Irish Members, and that they would use the forms of the House to the very utmost in offering a strenuous opposition to any such Bill. He very much doubted whether the sanguine intentions of the First Lord of the Treasury with regard to the work to be carried out would be fulfilled before the end of September, and he suspected that the right hon. Gentleman would have to cut down his programme still further, and announce another massacre of the innocents in a week or two.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 249; Noes, 172. (Division List No. 346.)1189
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Boulnois, Edmund||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Bousfield, William Robert||Colomb, Sir John Chas. Ready|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex)||Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Brassey, Albert||Compton, Lord Alwyne|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Bull, William James||Corbett, A. Cameron(Glasgow)|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Bullard, Sir Harry||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline Fitzroy||Burdett-Coutts, W.||Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Butcher, John George||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Campbell, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Glasgow)||Cripps, Charles Alfred|
|Balcarres, Lord||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r||Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Crossley, Sir Savile|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey||Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds||Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Dalrymple, Sir Charles|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Davenport, William Bromley-|
|Bartley, George C. T.||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Davies, Sir H. D. (Chatham)|
|Bathurst, Hon. A. Benjamin||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm.||Denny, Colonel|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Bristol||Chamberlain, J. A. (Worc'r)||Dewar, T. R. (T'rH'mlets S. Geo|
|Beckett, Ernest William||Charrington, Spencer||Dickson, Charles Scott|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Churchill, Winston Spencer||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.|
|Bignold, Arthur||Clare, Octavius Leigh||Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-|
|Bill, Charles||Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Dimsdale, Sir Joseph C.|
|Blundell, Col. Henry||Coddington, Sir William||Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred D.|
|Bond, Edward||Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Lawrence, Joseph (Monmouth)||Reid, James (Greenock)|
|Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Lawrence, Wm. F.(Liverpool)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Dyke, Rt.Hn.Sir William Hart||Lawson, John Grant||Renshaw, Charles Bine|
|Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Lecky, Rt. Hon. Wm. Edw. H.||Rentoul, James Alexander|
|Fardell, Sir T. George||Lee, A. H. (Hants., Fareham)||Renwick, George|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Man.||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Finch, George H.||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Leveson-Gower, Fred. N. S.||Ropner, Colonel Robert|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Llewellyn, Evan Henry||Round, James|
|FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose-||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Russell, T. W.|
|Flower, Ernest||Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-|
|Foster, Philip S. (Warwick, S. W.||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Bristol, S.||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse|
|Gardner, Ernest||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Garfit, William||Lowe, Francis William||Seton-Karr, Henry|
|Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H. (City of Lon.||Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew|
|Gordon, Maj Evans-(T'rH'ml'ts||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Gore, Hn. G.R.C. Ormsby-(Salop||Lyttelton, Hon Alfred||Smith, Abel H.(Hertford, East)|
|Gore, Hn. S. F. Ormsby- (Lincs)||Macdona, John Cumming||Smith, James Parker (Lanarks)|
|Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Eldon||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Maconochie, A. W.||Spear, John Ward|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Stanley, Hon. A. (Ormskirk)|
|Greene, Sir E. W. (B'rySEdm'nds||M'Iver, Sir Lewis (Edinb'rgh W||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Greene, W. Raymond-(Cambs)||Malcolm, Ian||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Grenfell, Wm. Henry||Manners, Lord Cecil||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Greville, Hon. Ronald||Maple, Sir John Blundell||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Hain, Edward||Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfriessh.||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'dUniv.|
|Hall, Edward Marshall||Melville, Beresford Valentine||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord G. (Midd.||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Hamilton, Marq. of (L'nd'd'y)||Mitchell, William||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robt. Wm.||Molesworth, Sir Lewis||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Hardy, L. (Kent, Ashford)||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward|
|Harris, Frederick Leverton||Montagu, Hon. J. S. (Hants)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Haslett, Sir James Horner||Moon, Edw. Robert Pacy||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Hay, Hon. Claude George||More, Robt. J. (Shropshire)||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Heath, Arthur Howard (Hanley||Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow||Webb, Col. Wm. George|
|Heath, James (Staffords, N. W.)||Morgan, Hn. F. (Monm'thsh.)||Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E. (Taunton|
|Heaton, John Henniker||Morrell, George Herbert||Welby, Sir Chas. G. E. (Notts)|
|Helder, Augustus||Morris, Hon. Martin Henry F.||Whiteley, H. (Ashton-u.-Lyne)|
|Henderson, Alexander||Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford||Williams,Rt.HnJPowell-(Birm|
|Hoare, Edw. B. (Hampstead)||Mount, William Arthur||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Hoare, Sir Samuel (Norwich)||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.||Wills, Sir Frederick|
|Hope, J. F. (Sheffield Brightside||Muntz, Philip A.||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Murray,Rt.HnA.Graham(Bute||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Hoult, Joseph||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Howard,John (Kent,Faversh.)||Nicholson, William Graham||Wilson,JW.(Worcestersh., N.)|
|Howard,J.(Midd., Tottenham)||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)|
|Hozier, Hon. James H. Cecil||Orr-Ewing, Chas. Lindsay||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath|
|Hudson, George Bickersteth||Pease, Herbt. P. (Darlington)||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Jessel, Capt. Herbert Merton||Peel, Hn. Wm. Robt. Wellesley||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Johnston, Wm. (Belfast)||Percy, Earl||Wylie, Alexander|
|Kenyon, Jas. (Lancs., Bury)||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Younger, William|
|Keswick, William||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Kimber, Henry||Purvis, Robert||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|King, Sir Henry Seymour||Pym, C. Guy|
|Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert|
|Laurie, Lieut. General||Randles, John S.|
|Law, Andrew Bonar||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Abraham, Wm. (Cork, N.E.)||Boland, John||Buxton, Sydney Charles|
|Ambrose, Robert||Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Caine, William Sproston|
|Asher, Alexander||Brigg, John||Caldwell, James|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Broadhurst, Henry||Cameron, Robert|
|Asquith,Rt.HnHerbert Henry||Brown, G. M. (Edinburgh)||Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Carew, James Laurence|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Causton, Richard Knight|
|Bell, Richard||Burke, E. Haviland-||Channing, Francis Allston|
|Blake, Edward||Burns, John||Clancy, John Joseph|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.)||Price, Robert John|
|Craig, Robert Hunter||Joyce, Michael||Rea, Russell|
|Crombie, John William||Kay-Shuttleworth,RtHnSirU||Reckitt, Harold James|
|Cullinan, J.||Kearley, Hudson E.||Reddy, M.|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Kennedy, Patrick James||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan||Kinloch, Sir J. G. Smyth||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Delany, William||Kitson, Sir James||Reed,Sir Edw. James (Cardiff)|
|Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.)||Labouchere, Henry||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Lambert, George||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Doogan, P. C.||Langley, Batty||Rigg, Richard|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Duffy, William J.||Leigh, Sir Joseph||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||Lewis, John Herbert||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Dunn, Sir Willam||Lloyd-George, David||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick, B.)|
|Elibank, Master of||Lough, Thomas||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Emmott, Alfred||Lundon, W.||Sinclair, Capt John (Forfarshire|
|Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Fenwick, Charles||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Spencer,Rt.Hn.C.R.(Northants|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||M'Dermott, Patrick||Strachey, Edward|
|Ffrench, Peter||M'Kenna, Reginald||Sullivan, Donal|
|Field, William||M'Laren, Charles Benjamin||Taylor, Theodore Cooke|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||Mansfield, Horace Rendall||Tennant, Harold John|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Morley, Charles (Breconshire)||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Morton,Edw.J.C.(Devonport)||Thomas,Alfred(Glamorgan, E.|
|Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Moulton, John Fletcher||Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)|
|Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Murphy, John||Thomas, F Freeman-(Hastings)|
|Fuller, J. M. F.||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Tomkinson, James|
|Furness, Sir Christopher||Newnes, Sir George||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Gilhooly, James||Nolan, Col. J. P. (Galway, N.)||Tully, Jasper|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Wallace, Robert|
|Grant, Corrie||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Walton, John Lawson (Leeds, S.|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Haldane, Richard Burdon||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipper'ryMid||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Harcourr, Rt. Hn. Sir William||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Hardie, J. K. (Merthyr Tydvil||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||Weir, James Galloway|
|Harmsworth, R. Leicester||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Harrington, Timothy||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Whiteley, George (York, W. R.)|
|Harwood, George||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Hayden, John Patrick||O'Dowd, John||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Hayne, Rt. Hn. C. Seale-||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Wilson, Chas. Henry (Hull, W.)|
|Hayter, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur D.||O'Kelly,James(Roscommon, N.||Wilson,Henry J.(York, W. R.)|
|Healy, Timothy Michael||O'Malley, William||Woodhouse,SirJ.T.(Huddersf'd|
|Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||O'Mara, James||Young, Samuel|
|Hobhouse, C.E.H. (Bristol, E.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Holland, William Henry||Palmer, Sir Chas. M. (Durham)|
|Horniman, Frederick John||Paulton, James Mellor||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Herbert Gladstone and Mr. M'Arthur.|
|Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)|
|Jacoby, James Alfred||Philipps, John Wynford|
|Joicey, Sir James||Power, Patrick Joseph|
§ Ordered, That, for the remainder of the session, Government Business be not interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the sittings of the House; and may be entered upon at any hour though opposed, and that at the conclusion of Government Business each day Mr. Speaker do adjourn the House without Question put.