HC Deb 08 May 1905 vol 145 cc1257-64

I beg to move that the House do now adjourn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."

MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs

said he would like to take advantage of this opportunity of asking the Patronage Secretary whether he could give the House any idea when the post of Junior Lord of the Treasury was going to be filled. This matter was becoming a public scandal. This office of public profit under the Crown had now been without an occupant for two or three months. He had put a Question to the Prime Minister on the subject and the Answer was that it was under consideration. Was, at this moment, the post of Junior Lord of the Treasury really vacant? That was a matter on which there was a difference of opinion. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Patronage Secretary, with his usual lucidity and practical experience, would give the House some information on the point. If Mr. Gerald Loder was not at this moment Junior Lord of the Treasury, when was the post going to be filled up? Were the Government going to make a declaration in the face of the whole country that they were unable to find a safe seat for Mr. Gerald Loder or some other supporter. He presumed that the right hon. Gentleman the Patronage Secretary must have been looking up Whitaker's Almanack to see where he could find a constituency where the Government had a majority of 2,000 or 3,000. The Government were not treating the House fairly in this matter. It was not fair to the Patronage Secretary himself. They all recognised the splendid service he rendered in the House, and the amount of anxiety ho had in keeping his Party together at the present time. This was a stage when the right hon. Gentleman ought not to be short-handed in his staff and, from considerations of humanity, the right hon. Gentleman ought not to be so overworked. He should have a full staff, for he required more scouting done than at any previous period in the history of the present Administration. It was probably true that the general election was so close at hand that the right hon. Gentleman was willing to perform this extra duty so as not to put any constituency to the trouble of an election. If that were the case the right hon. Gentleman ought to tell the House so. It seemed to him that the sooner this post was filled the better it would be for the Government, and he could not see any reason for delay. Were the Government afraid of a by-election, or had they appointed some Gentleman to the post and so created a feeling of dissatisfaction on the part of others of their followers?

MR. BLACK (Banffshire)

said he desired to associate himself with his hon. friend in his wish for further information in regard to this very important matter. Were the Government considering the appointment of a Scotsman to this vacant post? That was the constitutional usage. There was, for instance, the hon. Member for Partick who would make a most suitable occupant of the office. Would the Government not give him a look in? There might be reasons, which it would not be becoming in him to mention, why the Government should not; but there was the hon. Baronet the Member for East Renfrew who had been so consistent in his support of the Government. He hoped, in any event, the Government, in this matter, was determined to adhere to constitutional usage and appoint a Scotsman.

MR. JOSEPH DEVLIN (Kilkenny, N.)

said he disagreed altogether with the hon. Member for Banffshire that Scotland should receive this appointment. Everybody knew that the Government was more shaky in Scotland than in England; and it was highly desirable that they, in Ireland, who were philanthropists with tender hearts, should come to the assistance of the Government in this delicate situation. There was no excuse whatever for this vacancy. They had in Ireland thirteen representatives, supporters of the Government, who were lawyers. Since he came into the House he had noticed that they made themselves extremely disagreeable on the other side of the House until they were taken into the Administration. Nearly every Irish Member of the Administration had been a keen critic of his predecessor. There was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Belfast, who applied his critical and analytical mind to the problems of the Army, and he became Minister of War. Then, the Ulster Tory Party had not got what they desired, although they had been unsparing critics of the Government. The hon. Member for North Antrim had raised five votes against the Government. Surely he deserved some recognition from the Government. The hon. Member for North Antrim would be satisfied with a very small place; but, now that the chance of the Government retaining power for a much longer period was diminishing, the hon. Gentleman might meet with the same fate as the hon. Member for Brighton, because he understood there was not much chance of his being re-elected. There was the hon. Member for Belfast. He represented the Tory democracy, and he ought to have a show! There was no excuse for the Government keeping this vacancy open in view of the many candidates who believed themselves qualified to give their services. For his part, he was sure that hon. Members on the Irish Benches would be glad, in co-operation with Scotch Members, to do something to get the Government out of the difficulty. They invited some explanation from the Patronage Secretary, and the suggestions they had offered, he was certain, would be useful to the right hon. Gentleman.


said that, of course, he could only speak with the permission of the House. He had already expressed his views on this subject without undue warmth, and at no unnecessary length. He could only say that, strongly as he held these opinions, he would not at that period of the night weary the House by making a further statement.

The right hon. Gentleman then walked out of the Chamber amid ironical OPPOSITION cheers.

MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)

said he thought the right hon. Gentleman had not treated the House with his usual courtesy. This was the only opportunity they had of obtaining information on current important questions. He looked upon this matter from rather a different point of view than that of his hon. friend. He regarded it as a matter of economy.

At this point Mr. SWIFT MACNEILL, amid ironical OPPOSITION cheers, left his usual bench, crossed the floor of the House, and took a seat on the empty Treasury bench.


, continuing, said that when the Estimates came on he would see whether the salary for this post could not be removed from the Vote, for obviously it was not necessary to vote the money since it had been so clearly proved that the post could be left vacant for so long a period. He could not believe that there was not a constituency throughout the length and breadth of the kingdom which could be trusted to elect a supporter of the Government, and he hoped that the protest which had been made would be continued until the House was treated in a better manner.


said he rose to support the Chair. It was a peculiar thing that this question should be discussed from the Treasury bench by a private Member—the question of the salary of an office which the Prime Minister had allowed to be so long vacant. He had looked into the precedents and found that it was in accordance with constitutional practice, except on rare occasions, that one of the Lords of the Treasury should always be a Member for Scotland. When Mr. Anstruther resigned in 1903 on his appointment as a Director of the Suez Canal there was no Scotch seat vacant. When Ministers absented themselves from the Treasury bench, this House, so far as they could do it, was degraded into a farce. He believed that this was the first time that an Irish Nationalist Member had addressed the House from the Treasury bench in defence of law and order. He was there, with his colleagues, to support the Chair. What was the position in which the Government, whose paramount duty it was to support the Chair, had placed the House He would not show the slightest disrespect to the Chair, and especially not for its present occupant. But, let them look at the position in which, as the mouthpiece of the House, Mr. Deputy-Speaker had been left by the Government! He said without fear of contradiction that, in the present state of the House, if they chose to impute any bad motives to the Government and violated the rules of Parliamentary procedure—if they used language which infringed on the order of Parliamentary debate—Mr. Deputy-Speaker would ask them to withdraw, and if Mr. Deputy-Speaker named them on refusal, where was the Minister who would move their expulsion from the House? The Prime Minister had left the House of Commons in a condition in which anything disrespectful might be said; and there was no one who had respect for the Chair who could officially defend the Chair. He held that, with some knowledge of history, since the Union there had been no Administration which had been guilty of such moral turpitude as the present. No Treasury bench had ever been packed with so many relatives who had been slaves to the Prime Minister at the expense of the community. Noah's Ark was a most respectable institution, it only floated; on a waste of waters; but this Administration only rested on a waste of relatives.

MR. MOONEY (Dublin County, S.)

said that that night, for the first time, they had to complain of the way the Patronage Secretary had replied to a very simple Question. That Question was whether the office of Junior Lord of the Treasury was vacant, and they were entitled to have an Answer. Two different statements had been made in regard to the subject—


called attention to the fact that there were not forty Members present.


, on a point of order, asked whether the hon. Member was entitled to challenge a count on the Motion for the Adjournment.


He is in order.


, who had returned to the corner seat below the gangway on the OPPOSITION side and speaking seated and with his hat on, said that he did not in the slightest degree wish to challenge Mr. Deputy-Speaker's ruling; but, with great respect, he submitted that there was no precedent for a count on an occasion like the present. The Prime Minister or his representative should be present at such discussions when Questions of public interest might be asked. He observed that the hon. Member for Hackney had now fled, like his chief the Prime Minister. Might he ask Mr. Deputy-Speaker for his ruling on the point raised. He did not know of a single precedent for it in their whole Parliamentary history. He was sure that the gentlemen at the Table would instruct Mr. Deputy-Speaker.


counted the number of hon. Members present and, declaring that there were only thirty-six [Loud OPPOSITION cries of "Forty-two"], he said that the Question was that the House stood now Adjourned

The House was Adjourned at half after Twelve of the clock till To-morrow.