§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
I beg to ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland whether he proposes to take any steps to convene a conference of those interested in the land question, with a view to their considering the steps which ought to be taken to render the Land Purchase Acts (Ireland) Amendment Bill non-contentious, whether, assuming an understanding to be reached, he will be prepared to commit the Bill to a Committee of the Whole House, or to a special Committee consisting of the Irish representatives, and such other Members as might be agreed upon; and whether, in view of the great interest taken in the fate of the Bill in Ireland, he will now state what course the Government intend to pursue in regard to it.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. WYNDHAM,) Dover
I took the only step in my power on June 9th, when, in reply to a Question asked by the hon. Member for the Ossory Division, I stated my own readiness to confer. So far the only response has been a meeting of the Irish Unionist Members of this House, at which it was unanimously resolved that it was desirable to pass the Bill this year.
I gather that they do not object to the Government's dropping clauses deemed to be obviously contentious, with a view to that object. That I am ready to do, but only as part of any general arrangement for aiming at such a measure of agreement on essential provisions as would warrant the expectation of the Bill passing. I have no power to convene hon. Members of this House. Indeed, after the clear pronouncement made yesterday by the hon. and learned Member for Waterford, he might justifiably resent any importunity of invitation on my part. The assumption of an understanding remains, therefore, hypothetical at the best. If by good fortune it were reached, I have to say in reply to the second paragraph that any form of Committee would probably prove in itself equally expeditious. But a Select Committee to which the hon. Member presumably refers would be additional and prior to a Committee of the Whole House. A Grand Committee would obviate the necessity for that stage. I still think that the best, and a Committee of the Whole House the second best plan, provided always that the prospects of agreement on essentials had previously been gauged.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
May I be allowed to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is aware that the statement he has made for the first time today, as to his willingness to drop the contentious clauses, at all events removes my notice on the Second Reading from the Paper?
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
I want it to be perfectly understood that this is the first time the right hon. Gentleman has given us the slightest notice of his intention.