HC Deb 28 March 1905 vol 143 cc1502-8

in moving the adjournment of the House, said that supposing Votes A and 7 of the Army Estimates were carried by 6.30 p.m. to-morrow night, the next order would be the non-effective Votes of the Army and Navy.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— (Sir A. Acland-Hood.)

MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)

asked whether the guillotine rule did not prohibit any business not included in the guillotine rule.


"No business than Supply" are the words.


said he would submit that the words referred only to Supply governed by the guillotine rule.


said he desired to ask whether there was anything in the health of the Prime Minister to cause anxiety to the right hon. Gentleman's friends, as the right hon. Gentleman had not been in his place to defend the policy especially associated with his name. He should be glad of an assurance that there was no reason to prevent the right hon. Gentleman attending. The Prime Minister was now never present except to propose some gagging Resolution. Had the Patronage Secretary to the Treasury been authorised to declare the intentions of the Government with regard to the Resolution which had just been passed? After the passing of such a Resolution, framed deliberately as a vote of censure, and supported by the official Opposition, did the Prime Minister consider it consonant with his public duty and personal honour to continue in his present position? The situation would raise a storm of execration and contempt in the country. [An HON. MEMBER laughed.] An hon. Member, who had been paid for his obsequious loyalty by some miserable post, laughed. Why was the hon. Member not in his place before? Anything for place! That was exactly the policy which the hon. Member's great leader set him. To keep in office for a few more weeks and months there was no principle which the Government was not prepared to abandon, no friend or colleague that they were not prepared to betray, and no quantity of dirt and filth that they were not prepared to eat.

*MR. J. H. LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)

asked whether, seeing that the Government had declared their intention of paying no regard to the proceedings of the House on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, and that a decision arrived at in the early hours of morning and evening sittings was to be ignored on the ground that it was taken by a "snap" division, the Patronage Secretary would inform the House on what days and between what hours the decision of the House of Commons was to be treated as binding upon the Government?

MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

asked whether the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would, in view of the absence of his colleagues, circulate the speech of his hon. friend.

MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

said he would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to give an answer, seeing that the Government had been unanimously condemned. It was the worst vote of censure he had ever seen carried in the House—not a voice contradicting it. Surely it would be courteous to the House to say what the Government intended to do. He remembered a somewhat similar occasion in 1805. The then Government had some sense of honour and the moment a Resolution was carried by a majority of eight it was announced that the Government would consider its position. The present Government ought to state now what course it intended to pursue.


said he had heard of an actress in Paris who, when hissed by her audience, remarked, "Well, I put my salary in the box." That was the position of the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman was such a great family man that he had packed the Treasury Bench with his relatives.


said he hoped the rign[...] hon. Gentleman would make some explanation. He was the only representative of the Government; he was a member of the Privy Council; and surely he would not treat the House of Commons with discourtesy. He sympathised with the Prime Minister. He did not blame him. The right hon. Gentleman was not merely a Prime Minister but a Minister who had passed his prime. He asked the Patronage Secretary to state whether the House of Commons would be in the same position to-morrow. It was very important, because the time of some hon. Gentlemen was valuable even though they were not paid official salaries.

MR. TENNANT (Berwickshire)

said he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give some explanation regarding the absence of the Prime Minister. He had never hoped to live to see the House of Commons flouted and treated in this manner. The Under-Secretary of State for the Home Office was now present. [The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME OFFICE (Mr. Cochrane, Ayrshire, N.) left the House.] He did not think the hon. Gentleman would show him such discourtesy, as he had never said anything disrespectful of him or his Department. He thought the Government had treated the House of Commons very disrespectfully and their action was deserving of the severest condemnation. The House of Commons was suffering all through the action of one person.

MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)

said that the Chief Whip had been described as a bold man struggling with adversity—an adversity thrust upon him by the colleagues who had deserted him. The right hon. Gentleman had been forced into a position which could not be acceptable to him; especially as they knew the manner in which he performed his public duties. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to communicate a message to the Prime Minister. He had never seen a London vestry or borough council who had been called upon to discuss elementary public business flouted with contempt in the way the House of Commons had been by the Government. This kind of conduct brought discredit on Parliament, and could not continue. And the right hon. Gentleman might even go further and tell His Majesty the King that there was a Prime Minister who neglected the elementary duties of his position. It was significant that the only Minister who arrived to give furtive support to the right hon. Gentleman was one of the gentlemen responsible for looking after the criminal classes. He asked the right hon. Gentleman to note the exit of his hon. friend, and above all its rapidity. These proceedings could not continue much longer without discredit and perhaps disorder accruing from the studied flouting and contempt of the Opposition by the Treasury Bench last Wednesday and that evening. He urged the hon. Baronet to pluck up courage and tell the Prime Minister that he had either got to do his duty or clear out, and they would rather that the Ministry should resign than that the fine metal of an institution like the House of Commons should be blunted. The Speaker presided over the House with great dignity, but if the House was to be treated in this manner the day would come when from the Chair, as well as by the House itself, the Government would have to be reminded of its scandalous behaviour. The front Opposition Bench had treated the Ministry too leniently. He appealed to the Chief Whip to say something, if it was nothing more than a courteous "Good night." For heaven's sake let him say something.

MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottinghamshire, Ruschliffe)

said that no hon. Member who had sat in the House for a number of years could have listened to the discussion without great feeling. He did not associate himself with every word that had been uttered, but he associated himself with the spirit which had been manifested, and he earnestly hoped that the Patronage Secretary would faithfully represent to the Prime Minister the feeling which had been evinced in the House. This thing could not go on. The Prime Minister might vote them down; but a spirit was rising in the House and in the country, not perhaps adequately represented in the House, which would need their consideration. He most earnestly implored the right hon. Gentleman, speaking as one who desirous to maintain the high traditions and dignity of that Assembly, to convey to the Prime Minister the feeling which had been aroused.

MAJOR SEELY (Isle of Wight)

said he wished to ask whether the Government intended to repeat the same despicable manœuvre to-morrow evening. Surely the right hon. Gentleman, if he retained any particle of respect for the Opposition, should see that this state of affairs could not continue. He knew the right hon. Gentleman was the last man who would run away from a discussion because it was inconvenient; but unfortunately he was mixed up with a Government which believed that discretion was the better part of valour. The incident, he would repeat, was a despicable manœuvre without parallel.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

said that the right hon. Gentleman was not prepared to reply to the Question put to him. That Question was whether the Government intended to resign or dissolve. He would answer for the right hon. Gentleman. The Government would remain in office as if nothing had occurred. They recognised the manœuvre they had recourse to was not a very honest one; but they were in a difficult position; and there was no other course for them to pursue. Last week they agreed to run away from a Motion with reference to the policy of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham; this week they ran away from a Motion against the policy of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister said that he was essential to the country; but why not dissolve and see the result?

Adjourned at half after Twelve o'clock.