§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith)
I beg to move,
"That the decision of this House on the Amendment moved on the 11th day of November, 1912, by Sir Frederick Banbury, by which it was proposed to insert certain words in the Government of Ireland [Money] Resolution as reported to the House, be rescinded, notwithstanding anything in any Standing Order of this House, and that the Order of this House in respect to the Government of Ireland Bill (Allocation of Time) shall take effect as if the proceedings with respect to the Government of Ireland [Money] Resolution on the 11th day of November, 1912, had not taken place, and that accordingly the 2004 next day after this Order comes into operation on which the Bill is put down as the first Order of the Day, or any stage of any Financial Resolution relating thereto is put down as the first Order of the Day, followed by the Bill, shall be taken to be the Sixteenth allotted day."
It is within the knowledge of the House that on Monday last an Amendment moved by the hon. Baronet, the Member for the City of London, on the Report stage of a Resolution passed in Committee on the Government of Ireland Bill was carried against the Government by a majority of twenty-two—[HON. MEMBERS: "Twenty-one"]—by a majority of twenty-one. Of that Amendment no notice had been given. It was, I think, very briefly debated, and it was not supported in Debate by any Gentleman sitting on the Front Opposition Bench opposite, and although it was carried by the House I think there is some doubt even now whether hon. Gentlemen either upon the one side or upon the other thoroughly appreciated its importance. I am not going in any way to discuss its merits. The effect of the Amendment so carried is that £6,000,000, which it was proposed—£5,500,000 plus £500,000—to hand over to the Irish Government as a Transferred Sum under the Bill was reduced to £2,500,000. In other words, if that Amendment were incorporated into the Bill the Imperial Exchequer, instead of having to provide, as it has at present, a deficit of something like £1,500,000 in regard to Irish Government, would have had a profit of very nearly £1,500,000, and the Irish Exchequer would have had a deficit in its first year of £3,000,000 instead of a surplus of £500,000, and to that extent they would have had to increase the taxation of Ireland. I am not for a moment going to comment upon the merits of the Amendment, but I simply mention those facts to show of what a vital and far-reaching character it was. On that point, I am sure I shall have the assent of hon. Gentlemen in every quarter of the House. It follows that if the decision came to by the House on Monday last remains unreversed, or if upon reconsideration it were found to be the deliberate judgment of the House, it would be impossible for the Government to proceed further with the Bill, and for two quite obvious reasons. In the first place, a mortal blow would have been struck at the financial arrangements of the Bill—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Next, a matter to which I attach no less importance, the consideration which we have always put forward and which I strongly hold myself, that in order that a Bill passing through this House should become law under the operation of the Parliament Act, it should receive upon all substantial and vital points the assent of a majority of this House. It follows that one ought, critical as the circumstances are, to consider—I think it is the duty of the House to consider—whether or not the ordinary presumption which I agree, under normal conditions apply, that a decision of the House is the considered judgment of the House, is applicable to this particular case, and I am going to submit to the House strong reasons for thinking it is not. In the first place, since we reassembled at the beginning of October and under the Order for the allocation of time, we have, I think, spent fifteen days in Committee upon this Bill; we have had no less than fifty-five Divisions; and in those fifty-five Divisions the normal average majority of the Government has been 106—a pretty clear indication, I submit, to all reasonably minded men—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
A pretty clear indication, at any rate, that there is no strong movement in the way of revulsion of opinion or feeling either inside or outside the House. That which makes this a really unique case, I think absolutely unique, in our Parliamentary annals is this: that four nights before, on the Thursday night in last week, the Resolution in Committee to which the hon. Baronet on Monday proposed an Amendment, was carried by a majority of 121. I do not know what hypothesis is going to be advanced to account for the change. Is it supposed that a rapid process of conviction and conversion had taken place between Thursday and Monday that had transformed—and I am looking at the considered opinion of the majority of this House—a majority of 121 into a minority of twenty-one? I do not know anything that had taken place in the interval, either inside or outside the House except, indeed, the Taunton by-election. [HON. MEMBERS: "It had not taken place."] It was taking place; I agree the result had not been declared. And we are told the main issue presented at this great crisis in our history to the electors of that 2006 borough was whether or not the persons, engaged, I think, in the shirt-collar industry, had or had not been injuriously affected by the Insurance Act. By the judicious, manipulation of that particular topic the Conservative majority was raised, I think, by fifty-two. That does not seem to account for the suggested change of opinion in this House. Having regard to those remarkable and I believe absolutely unique circumstances, it appears to the Government the House ought to have an opportunity of saying whether or not they adhere to the judgment which they pronounced on Monday or to the judgment, the entirely opposite and contradictory judgment, which they had pronounced on the previous Thursday. It is quite true, as the proceedings which have been going on for the last hour show, that there are technical difficulties in dealing with a matter of this kind. [HON. MEMBERS: "IS that all?"] I am going to express my opinion upon that point. It is stated in the passage which has been cited already more than once from Sir Erskine May's work:—It is a rule, in both Houses, … that no question or Bill shall he offered that is substantially the same as one on which their judgment has already been expressed in the current Session.But, as Sir Erskine May goes on to point out, if that is the general rule, a Resolution of the House may be rescinded, and Resolutions of the House have been repeatedly rescinded in our past experience. I will give two illustrations, one a very remarkable one, to show that the House has always claimed the right, without which, indeed, it would be impotent, which is exercised in another way upon the Report stage of a Bill, when, as constantly happens, we reverse the decision which has been taken in Committee. That technically, of course, is not the same thing, because the House is sitting in Committee, with the Chairman in the Chair, and on Report the House is sitting as the House, with Mr. Speaker in the Chair. That is a technical difference, but, in point of fact, it is exactly the same set of people deciding on the same matter under different conditions, apart from the opportunity of reconsidering and reviewing. I will give two illustrations as regards Resolutions. It is quite true these are not cases of Resolutions passed during the course and in relation to the operation of a Bill, but in point of principle I confess I cannot see any distinction of any sort or kind. I am only citing two cases by way of illustration. The first case 2007 happened in 1834. On 13th February, 1834, Mr. O'Connell, having charged one of the Irish judges, Baron Smith, with grave neglect of duty, moved a Resolution, "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the conduct of Baron Smith in respect of the discharge of his duties and the introduction of politics into them," and that was carried by a large majority, the Ayes being 167, and the Noes 74. It was carried by a majority of 93. Eight days later, on 21st February, 1834, Sir Edwin Knatchbull, a well-known Member of this House in those days, proposed, as he said:—To do that which, though very unusual, was not without precedent. He was about to call upon the House to consider the propriety of rescinding a vote to which they had come on a previous evening;and Sir Robert Peel, than whom there was surely no higher authority on procedure said:—The Motion gives the House the opportunity of revising what they had once determined.Thereupon, the Resolution "That the Order that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the conduct of Baron Smith be rescinded" was put, and agreed to, and the Order discharged. [An HON. MEMBER: "Was there a Division?"] Yes, there was a Division on the Question which was then put.
§ The House divided on the original Motion, "That Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair." The Ayes were 165, and the Noes 161.
§ Mr. BUTCHER
Was there any rule of the Speaker on that occasion as to the competency of the House to rescind this Resolution?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No one raised the point; it was so clear. I am quoting the authority of Sir Robert Peel, who, at that time, was the Leader of the Opposition, who assented to the Motion, and who, I presume, voted for it. In the same way, the House thirty years later, on 12th April, 1864, passed by 101 to 93 a Resolution condemning the mutilation of the reports of Inspectors of Schools, and in the same Session three months later, on 25th July, a Motion was carried rescinding that Resolution. Therefore, it is perfectly clear that in regard to ordinary Resolutions the House has always retained and has not infrequently exercised its right of rescinding a Resolution come to imprudently, or which, on further consideration, it was thought ought not to have been passed; and apart 2008 from the technicality—because it is a mere technicality—that this happened to be the report of a Resolution from Committee—apart from that technical difference—there is no distinction in substance whatever between the course the Government are asking the House to take to-night and the course which has previously been taken. Any other rule or law would really reduce the House to a condition of almost ludicrous impotence. To say that this House is not able, if it is so minded, under any circumstances whatever, to rescind a Resolution which upon reconsideration it thinks ought not to have been passed is to deny to the House the first quality of a really deliberative Assembly. I ought to say one word on the question of these words inserted in the Resolution:—
"Notwithstanding anything in any Standing Order to the contrary."
Personally, I doubt very much whether those words are necessary.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
They are put in, as Mr. Speaker has said, and as lawyers say, ex abundanti caūtēlâ. I doubt if they are necessary. That they are constantly inserted in Resolutions passed by the House is proved by the history of our procedure of the last twenty years. There has not been a single one of the so-called guillotine Resolutions, from the first proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Balfour), by a Government of which he was a Member, down to the last proposed only last Friday, going over the whole of my Parliamentary history, a period of twenty-five years, which has not contained these words. There is nothing in any way contrary to the procedure of this House in the Resolution. The remainder of my Resolution—that part which you. Sir, have indicated if it should be the desire of hon. Gentlemen—I need not say I do not quarrel in any way with that—you will put as a separate Question from the Chair, is merely consequential and ancillary to the other part. If we are to rescind the Resolution of last Monday and to resume the consideration of the Government of Ireland Bill as though that Amendment had not been carried, it seems obvious we ought to start at the point at which we were on Monday last, and to begin the next day on which it is put down as the first Order as though it were the allotted day of Monday last. I quite agree that a Resolution of this kind raises larger and wider questions. 2009 The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition asked yesterday whether we ought not to be entitled, on the consideration of this Resolution, to enter upon those larger questions. I welcome his invitation, and, inasmuch as we are asking the House to rescind a Resolution at which it has arrived, I think it is not only right but respectful, even without waiting to hear what may be said on that point from the benches opposite, that I should offer one or two observations upon what I agree is a very serious situation. This is, I think—I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but I believe I am right—this is the first time in the seven years, or very nearly seven years, the present Administration has held office on which the Government has been defeated in the House of Commons. That is a unique record. I shall be corrected if I am wrong, but certainly upon any matter of any moment it is the first time they have been defeated, and the question which undoubtedly this Resolution raises is what, in these circumstances, it is our duty to do. We have indicated, for reasons I have stated, that, in our view, our duty is to ask the House to reconsider what it has done. If they reaffirm, on consideration, the judgment they pronounced last Monday, I, for my part, shall have no hesitation whatsoever.
But we must go back in this matter, as in all such matters, to the precedents of the past, the wisdom of our ancestors. We need not go into the very remote past, for we have the wisdom of our predecessors. Of course, the classical case in this matter is the not very remote case of 1905. [An HON. MEMBER: "What did you say then?"] I adhere to every word I said in 1905, and if other people will do the same I shall be very glad. Let me state the case of 1905. In July of that year the Government of that day was defeated by, I agree, a small majority on a very important Vote in Supply. I will not go into questions of snap Divisions. They were defeated, having a large working majority in the House, on a very important question, after a prolonged Debate, and it a late hour of the evening. I lay no stress upon those facts. But they were defeated, and it was not the first time they had suffered a similar defeat in Committee of Supply, which they had ignored, and, I think, very properly ignored. What was the state of things at that time? We were then living under a Parliament which was very nearly five years old, and which had been elected, in 1900, under very 2010 peculiar conditions. It was elected when the war was going on, and on appeals which were fervently made, and I dare say and believe in some quarters responded to, to subordinate all domestic questions to the important and, as it seemed to the Government of the day, the vital duty of prosecuting the war to a conclusion with the assent of the people of the United Kingdom. The Government had been in office in a Parliament so elected five years. The Cabinet had been completely reconstructed two years before—I will not say whether for better or for worse—and the Government had been continuously unsuccessful in their by-elections. [An HON. MEMBER: "So have you."] I will deal further with that topic in a moment. They had just sustained a very substantial—I will not say a humiliating—rebuff over the projects which they had adumbrated for the redistribution of seats.
Undoubtedly it was the opinion of the Liberal Opposition of that day. I expressed it; my late lamented friend the then Leader of the Opposition (Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman) still more emphatically expressed it, and it was expressed, in the course of debate, by not a few of my colleagues on this bench, by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was then in a position of great freedom, by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, who was then in a position of still greater detachment from the ordinary obligations of party—[An HON. MEMBER: "Are they muzzled now?"]—No—and by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. We all severally and jointly expressed the opinion, in which I think we were right, that, in the circumstances of the time to which I refer, it was the duty of the Government of the day either to resign or dissolve. I, for my part, do not recede by an inch or by a hair-breadth from any statement I made at that time. But how were we met by the Prime Minister of that day, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Balfour), whom I am glad to see in his place? He delivered one of the most interesting speeches I have heard in this House. It contained the whole ethics and philosophy of this very vexed disputable question of resignation, dissolution, or remain where you are. The right hon. Gentleman—I am sure he will be glad to be reminded of one of his happiest dialectical efforts—passed in review the history of all the leading Administra- 2011 tions of the last thirty or forty years. He left out, properly, those administrations of which Lord Derby and Mr. Disraeli were at the head, and which admittedly held office in this House in a minority. These were abnormal cases, with which no comparison could fairly be made. The right hon. Gentleman came to Mr. Gladstone's Administration, and he took first of all what he called, perhaps rightly, Mr. Gladstone's first and greatest Government, the Government of 1868, which lasted from 1868 until 1874. The right hon. Gentleman said:—As the House is well aware, that Administration began to lose by-elections at once, and they suffered Parliamentary defeat I think no less than nine times.And yet they retained office, and the right hon. Gentleman did not blame them for doing so. He then went on to Mr. Gladstone's Government of 1880–1885, and he said:—I pass lightly over the defeats suffered by Mr. Gladstone's Government. They were numerous and important, hut for five years and a half they were ignored.Here is an important passage in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He says:—I think it is evident … that the only Parliamentary issues which, taken in isolation from these attendant circumstances, have always been regarded as conclusive, are those in which there has been a trial of strength between the parties with all the circumstances of notice find other attendant incidents required to make it clear that the issue to be decided is one of confidence or no confidence.He then went on to refer to what happened in 1873–1874. Mr. Gladstone first resigned at the time he was defeated in this House on the Irish University Bill, but he was compelled to resume office because Mr. Disraeli refused to do so. But later in the year, when the by-elections were going against him, he dissolved. That was in January, 1874. The right hon. Gentleman went on:—Compare these circumstances with ours. I do not think it will be denied that at this moment the Government does actually possess the confidence of the HouseIs that denied to us to-day? The right hon. Gentleman pointed out that their Bills, whether good or bad, had suffered less change at the hands of the Housethan, so far as I know, any great measures brought in by previous Governments.Hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway will be shocked to hear that there were Opposition cries of "Gag" and "Guillotine." I cannot forebear quoting it although I know it is only incidental. The right hon. Gentleman continued:—When I hear hon Gentlemen opposite indicating that this result was obtained by the use of tyrannical 2012 measures, I am not concerned at the present moment to defend myself against the implied charge. But I would remind the House that a tyrant in this House owes his whole power to the confidence of the majority of this House.[An HON. MEMBER: "£400 a year."] The right hon. Gentleman went on to say, and I am sure that the House will agree with me it is a very interesting and important issue, that of course there were circumstances, although a Government still ostensibly enjoyed the confidence of the House of Commons, which would justify and indeed compel it to resign its office. He said that one of the commonest causes of resignation was disunion in the Cabinet, and, he added, that without betraying Cabinet secrets, he could say that no such state of things existed at that time. I will be equally frank with the House, and also, without betraying Cabinet secrets, can say that no such state of things exists now in this Cabinet. But here we come to a point of great importance, and one which is very relevant to this discussion. The right hon. Gentleman went on:—But there remains one collateral circumstance which appears to assume gigantic proportions in the speeches and conversations of hon. Gentlemen opposite.Not so gigantic as I think it does to-day. Speaking of the then Opposition the right hon. Gentleman said:—But they say 'that is all very well so far as the House is concerned. But the House does not represent the country and it is not the voice of the House but of the country, as determined by by-elections, which, in these circumstances, should determine the policy of the Government.'The right hon. Gentleman went on to brand, as what he called a common superstition on the other side of the House, the ideathat a Ministry kept in office by a majority in Parliament ought to consider, in addition to the views of that majority, precisely how the tide of public opinion is flowing, so far as the direction and strength of that tide can be judged by the course of by-elections.[An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] The hon. Gentleman agrees with me. I will tell him what the right hon. Gentleman went on to say.I assert this is an absolutely novel principle—a principle which, so far as I know, has never been suggested by any responsible Minister of the Grown either in public or in private.I confess I agree with the hon. Gentleman who interrupted me that the right hon. Gentleman stated the case in much too crude a form. I think we are entitled to say, as we did say on that occasion, that there may be such an irresistible and continuous stream of evidence afforded by by-elections that the policy of the House of Commons and of the Government, is no longer in accord with that of the country, 2013 particularly when a Parliament has lasted very nearly for the length of its original mandate, that no Ministry is entitled to disregard it or to leave it out of account. But what was the state of the facts in this matter then, and what is the state of facts now? In the month of July, 1905, there had been, during the five years, or nearly five years, for which that Parliament had sat, sixty-six by-elections. Those sixty-six by-elections showed twenty-one Liberal gains and two Conservative gains, or a majority of nineteen Liberal gains.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Yes, practically five years. What is the state of things now? I had to deal with this matter the other day when I was speaking in the country, and, as my figures have not been challenged or controverted in any way, I venture to repeat them here in this House for the purpose of seeing whether anybody has any complaint to make of them. I pointed out then, and I point out again to-day, that since this Parliament was elected, about two years ago—the General Election was in the month of December, 1910; Taunton had not then appeared, and I make you a present of Taunton—there have been forty-one contests. In these forty-one contests in two years, we on this side have lost eight seats. In the case of three of the eight seats, Oldham, Crowe, and Midlothian, there were three-cornered contests, and the combined progressive vote, certainly the vote for Home Rule, was substantially larger and greater than that of the Conservative Members returned. I have had added up for me the actual voting strength which was shown in those contested elections. The total Liberal and Labour votes—and mind you, every Liberal and Labour candidate was in favour of Home Rule—was 250,000. The total Unionist vote was 209,000, or, in other words, there was a majority of 41,000 in favour of the condidates who supported Home Rule. Even if you leave out the Labour vote altogether, and contrast the Liberal vote pure and simple with the Unionist vote, it will work out at a majority of 14,000, so that the total result of these by-elections is this: that in the course of two years we have lost eight seats, and in three cases out of the eight the present Unionist Member is a minority Member, and in each of these three cases an overwhelming majority of the electors voted in favour of Home Rule. Therefore, without taking the extreme view of the 2014 right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London, that by-elections can be and ought to be completely disregarded, treating by-elections, as I think they ought to be treated, as a factor, and a serious factor in determining whether or not a Government and the policy of a Government has behind it the support of the country, I say that as compared not only with the right hon. Gentleman's Administration in 1905, but with any previous Administration you like to name, the result of our experience goes to show that we have, as undoubtedly we had two years ago when we appealed to the electorate, the support of a great majority of the electors of this country.
This is a Parliament which was only elected two years ago. The normal majority of the Government, particularly as shown in the discussions in Committee upon this Bill, has been not a dwindling but a growing majority, and if public opinion outside is against you there is no surer barometer of it—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"]—yes, we have often been told, we were constantly told, for instance, last summer—than slack attendances and poor Divisions in this House. I say the majorities in this House, even during the last six weeks, have not been dwindling but growing majorities. By-elections, as I have shown from figures which I do not believe will be controverted, afford no evidence that there is any revulsion of feeling or opinion against Home Rule in the country at all, and in these circumstances—quite apart from other reasons upon which I do not dwell at all, which would make a change of Government at this moment in the public interest perhaps embarrassing and inconvenient—for the reasons I have given, and applying with due modification and abatement the principles laid down by the right hon. Gentleman opposite in the year 1905, I venture to say that if the Government were now, in consequence of the Division that took place on Monday night, to resign their trust, they would be false to the best traditions of our public life, to the obligations and responsibilities which they themselves have undertaken, and to the trust which the nation has imposed upon them. [An HON. MEMBER: "Trust the people."] I have ventured upon this general review, though it may seem outside the terms of the Motion, because I desire the arena of controversy to be as wide as it can possibly be made. Upon these grounds it appears to us, and I hope it will appear to the majority of the 2015 House, that the only course open to us was to give the House an opportunity of reconsidering the judgment it pronounced on Monday, and by that reconsideration we shall be willing to abide.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The greater part of the speech to which we have just listened consisted in quotations from the speech of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Balfour). I do not think I can do better than to begin the observations I have to make by a quotation from a speech made at the same time by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking of my right hon. Friend, said:—The right hon. Gentleman rose amid the remorseful cheers of the penitent unpaired, and he sat down, so far as I can discover, amid a general sigh of relief from that still larger number of his supporters who know that dissolution means to them a sentence of death.[HON. MEMBERS: "So it did."] The right hon. Gentleman deserves to be congratulated for another reason. He has had in this House a unique experience. He has been cheered far more heartily on his defeat than he ever was on any victory. That is, perhaps, a tribute to the right hon. Gentleman, but it is possibly due to that self-preservation which is the first law of nature. I think that, as I have reminded the House, the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, or so much of it at least as dealt with the question which is before the House, consisted of quotations from the speech of my right hon. Friend, and I think it is a sufficient answer, and that it would be enough if I did not say another word but to remind the House that when that philosophical speech, as he described it, was delivered, he and every one of his colleagues poured contempt upon the views expressed and put themselves in direct opposition to every one of those views. I consider that the Resolution which we are discussing deals with two perfectly distinct subjects: tie one is the position in which the Government now stands in the House of Commons and in the country, and the other is the method of procedure which the Government have adopted to reverse the decision of the House on Monday. As regards the method of procedure, I would remind the House that when my right hon. Friend in 1905 referred to precedents during the Ministry of Lord Melbourne, he was met with the criticism, "Why trot out these musty precedents?" and the right hon. Gentleman goes, amid the cheers of his followers, six years further back than my 2016 right hon. Friend went. More than that, when the right hon. Gentleman was challenged as to the precedent of 1834, and was asked if the Speaker ruled upon it, he had to reply that he did not, yet there is no one who has been any length of time a Member of this House who does not know that Speakers have over and over again ruled—I think you, Sir, have done it yourself many times—that unless the question is specifically put to them the fact that a course was taken without a decision of the Speaker has no bearing at all as to what the decision of the Speaker would be.
I consider that the method the Government have adopted is one of the most serious parts of this scheme. What distinguishes, in my opinion, more than anything else a mob from a Parliament, is the framework of safeguards which have grown up to protect the liberties of the House and the regularity of its procedure. This framework does not consist merely or chiefly of Standing Orders. It consists far more of the unwritten law which has grown up by the practice of the House. That framework depends on precedent, and it always has been considered one of the glories of the British House of Commons that its Members have respected the past and have been guided by precedent. It is a commonplace among historians, for instance, that in the great revolution in this country, the men who were framing that revolution, actually studied with anxious care the precedents of centuries before, so that in what they did the changes should as little as possible depart from the practice of the past. The result of that is that, as the right hon. Gentleman himself in a speech which I well remember in connection, I think, with the Parliament Act pointed out, in a speech which showed that facility of diction and dignity of expression which in his speech, but in nothing else, always distinguishes him—I do not remember the exact words, and I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for attempting to paraphrase them, but in substance this is what he said. The constitutional forms under which we live have come down almost unchanged for centuries. The body is old, but the spirit is ever new, and in consequence of that method it is true, as was said by Louis Napoleon, that "in France we make revolutions, in England you make reforms." As the result of our methods our system has been adopted in every 2017 Parliament in the world. They have adopted not merely our Standing Orders, but they have adopted our rules of procedure. There are handbooks, framed on ours—in Colonial Parliaments, for instance; I have seen them—which lay down the rules of procedure precisely on the lines on which they have been carried out here. It is not an easy thing to preserve the traditions of the House of Commons. It never could have been done amid the strife of parties which has always existed but for one reason, that the Government of the day to whatever party it belongs, not only did its best to discourage a breach of those traditions in others, but was scrupulous never to interfere with them itself. Of the defence of the right hon. Gentleman about his precedent it is enough to say, after what I have already submitted to the House, that your statement to-day that the course they are taking is without precedent, that this House has to decide whether it is to go back on the whole experience of the past, is the best answer to the attempted justification of the right hon. Gentleman.
I would remind the House, if it wants another answer, of what happened in the experience of many of us during the time you yourself, Sir, were in the Chair. In the Government of my right hon. Friend Resolutions were introduced to deal with redistribution. You ruled that they could not, as my right hon. Friend had supposed, be discussed as one question. He accepted the ruling. For want of time that killed the Bill and did great damage to the prestige of the Government, as we all remember. But if my right hon. Friend had chosen he, just like the right hon. Gentleman could, the next day, have moved a Resolution that notwithstanding anything in the Standing Orders these Resolutions were to be considered as one, to be discussed as one, and to be voted upon as one. I was not a Member of the Cabinet at the time and I do not know what discussion took place, but I am sure that such an idea never occurred to my right hon. Friend. I think there is no one who doubts that if it had been possible there is no one in the House who would have arrived at it quicker. It never occurred to him as possible, and if he had happened to have had a colleague like the present Chancellor of the Exchequer who had suggested to him a course which would have destroyed once and for ever the best traditions of this House, he would have rejected it with the contempt 2018 which it deserved. It is not the House as a whole, it is the Government which to-day is setting up a precedent which does destroy the whole of the framework of safeguards which have been created by this House. Does anyone doubt that? One of the precedents which is most firmly rooted is that a decision once come to cannot be reversed in the same Session. It goes back to the beginning of the seventeenth century. I ask the House to look at the effect of what the Government are doing. They are deciding that if in this House any vote adverse to them takes place they shall at once reverse it. What is the meaning of that? They have a majority, and we all know it, if they are all here. Then, why vote? Why discuss? Why have Divisions? If this Resolution is not only in order, as technically it is, but if it is justified, there is no Resolution which could not be justified on the same ground. The right hon. Gentleman, to avoid a similar accident, might bring in a Resolution that there was to be no Division except at a specified time. It would have to be put according to your ruling, and under these circumstances the House of Commons ceases absolutely in any sense to be a legislative Assembly. Tyrannical Governments, and, above all, revolutionary Governments, have always chafed against restriction. They have chafed against the restriction of the Law Courts and they have chafed against the restrictions of their own forms of procedure. We have a precedent for what the right hon. Gentleman is doing. The Long Parliament acted precisely as we are acting today. The conditions of Debate are precisely the same. I noticed to-day in a journal I do not always read, the "Daily News," a sentence which so exactly expresses the position that I shall repeat it to the House. This is the sentence:—The Prime Minister has struck a blow worthy of old Cromwell himself.The tribute from that enthusiastic admirer of the right hon. Gentleman is deserved. The men were different, their methods were different, their motives were different, the necessity was different, but the effect was the same. They both destroyed Parliamentary government.
Now I should like to turn to the other aspect of this question, the position in which the Government find themselves today after their defeat. In 1905, in the Debate to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, every one of his colleagues, as he himself has pointed out, 2019 from the late Sir Henry Campbell-Banner-man down to the First Lord of the Admiralty, all took the view that in circumstances similar to those of to-day, but not identical, for my right hon. Friend was defeated by a majority not so large in a smaller House and on a comparatively unimportant issue, without qualification such a defeat left to the Government of the day two honourable courses only—resignation or dissolution. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman made that distinct statement that these were the alternative courses open to the Government. I do not accept that as a full statement of the position. I do not go so far as that, but they all did. I say it depends on the circumstances and conditions at the time. It depends upon the situation in the House of Commons and in the country, and taking these circumstances into account I express the view, and I shall try to give grounds for it, that to-day the Government have no honóurable course open to them except one or other of those alternatives. I make a qualification. The right hon. Gentleman referred to the foreign situation. I admit at once that that is vital I do not desire a change of Government or a dissolution under present conditions, and if that were the ground on which this Government still cling to their posts, they could count on having the whole-hearted support of my hon. Friends behind me until the crisis was over, but that, of course, would involve that when it was over there should be an appeal to the people of this country. With that qualification I say the Government have no alternative. What is the position in which we stand? The Prime Minister, not in a hasty speech—if he ever indulges in hasty speech, his language never shows it—but in a written document, said this:—It is of the essence of the Parliament Act, both in its letter and spirit, that a Bill which becomes law under its operation must have commanded during three consecutive Sessions the unswerving support of the House of Commons, dependent directly in its turn upon a stable and consistent public opinion in the constituencies.I will deal with public opinion in the constituencies in a moment. But in the meantime I should point out to the House—it is instructive—that in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman has said to-day about by-elections, he found it necessary in the country to alter that formula, and in addressing his constituents to say that, in spite of by-elections, so long as by any means he had the support of the people here, he would go on with his programme. 2020 I say that the Government have not had the unswerving support of the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman, with that want of stating the whole fact which must happen to anyone who has a hopeless case, referred to the Divisions upon the Home Rule Bill since it came under the guillotine. There is not a man in the House who does not know, and nobody knows it better than the Prime Minister, that the moment the guillotine is set up interest is diminished, that the attendance falls off, and that it is no test to compare that with free discussion. That is well-known to the House. He did not tell us what happened while there was still free discussion. Again and again on important Divisions his majorities fell and fell until they were far below the normal majority which he ought to have in this House He had not then the unswerving support of the Members of this House, and on Monday he was defeated—defeated not on a snap Division. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] The Prime Minister did not claim it as a snap Division. If anyone else does, I shall show why it is not a snap Division. There was talk in the papers of an ambuscade. I made inquiry about it, and there is not a word of truth in it. The fact is, although perhaps we may be reduced to imitating their methods sooner or later, we have not got that length yet. The fact is that an urgent Whip was sent by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury asking his supporters to be here at four o'clock. There was a Whip sent by our Whip asking our supporters to be here at 4.15, but our supporters obeyed the summons and his did not.
That is the extent to which it was a snap Division, and there is something else I must point out. On the discussion of the very subject of Customs relations which came up in connection with this Resolution, Members on the Government side of the House told us—I forget the constituency of the hon. Member who made a most definite statement—[An HON. MEMBER: "Monmouth."] The hon. Member told us that a very large number of the supporters of the Government were opposed to the Customs proposals of the Home Rule Bill, and I saw in a paper that the number was seventy. I do not know whether that is true or not. That indicates what the feeling was on that subject. I do not suggest that these Gentlemen, on a Vote of Confidence, would not have voted as the Government chose, but that argument, whatever it is worth, was discounted in 2021 advance by the Foreign Secretary. The Foreign Secretary said this in the famous Debate in 1905:—The Prime Minister (referring to my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London says he can still get a vote of confidence from his party that if the Government come down and ask deliberately a vote, 'Aye' or 'No'—whether they prefer him or ns they will vote for him. Yes, if they are given plenty of notice. They will do that on a set occasion, but they do not care for his policy enough to be here to support him regularly. What are votes of confidence worth on those conditions?I would add something to what the Foreign Secretary said. I quite agree that if the Prime Minister puts to his followers this question, "Do you prefer to support proposals of which you disapprove or a dissolution, and a dissolution under circumstances which make it certain that many of you will not get back, and doubtful if any particular one of you will get back?" under such circumstances they will vote against a dissolution. The real truth is that the reason the Government were defeated is that they have put a strain on the House of Commons which is intolerable. That strain is due to the fact that they are trying to carry three great measures in a single Session. There are two reasons why that strain has been put upon Members of this House, and both reasons are discreditable to the Government. Let me point out—I have pointed it out before, but it is worthy of notice—that there is nothing in your Parliament Act which necessitates this. Under the Parliament Act, if you had an election and were returned by a majority, the Act goes on as before, and you have lost no time. By insisting, therefore, that all the Bills should be in one Session, you are declaring in a way nobody can misunderstand, that you know you have not got the confidence of the country, and that you cannot rely upon the support of the country for your programme. The other reason I think is equally remarkable. It has to do with a pledge given by the Prime Minister. Broken pledges are so much part of our daily experience that one more or less makes no difference, and I should not refer to it but for its direct bearing on the subject we are discussing. When the Parliament Bill was going through the House an hon. Friend of mine, who is now Lord Peel, moved an Amendment to prevent more than one big Bill being discussed in a single Session. The Prime Minister resisted the Amendment, but he resisted it on this ground. I will read his exact words:—The hon. Member has drawn an alarming picture of a future Government trying to carry through in a single 2022 Session a number of first-class controversial measures. It is difficult enough to pass a single controversial measure and no one knows that better than the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Banbury)—in the course of one Session.…And this is the pledge:—There is not the least fear or prospect of the difficulty to which the hon. Member refers being realised."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, 1911, col. 85, Vol. XXV.]"There is not the least fear," said the Prime Minister only a few months ago, practically of the state of things which is now going on being realised. That quotation was made on Friday last. One of the colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman attempted to get over it. I was not present, but I read the Debate. He was not very successful. I am sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he replies will do better. He has had more practice. I do not know what his explanation will be. I am sure it will be interesting; I am sure it will not be edifying. It is because you are imposing against the principle of your Bill and against a solemn pledge this intolerable strain that you have been beaten. I say, these two facts taken together—the falling off of the majorities before the guillotine was setup, and that the Government have been beaten in a House which was nearly two-thirds full on a vital question—show that they had not obtained what the Prime Minister claims—the unswerving support of the House of Commons.
What about the constituencies? The right hon. Gentleman actually tried to make out that all was well in the best of all possible worlds. He referred first in a most exulting way to Taunton, and said the majority against them has only increased by 20 per cent. This is the day of small things, and they are thankful for small mercies. Take the other big facts which have never been controverted and which the right hon. Gentleman put forth. He says that we in two years have gained eight seats, and that his party in five years gained nineteen. Work out the calculation in simple proportion and you will find that, even on the right hon. Gentleman's own showing, his case is worse than was the case of the Government at that time. It is far worse than that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Minority seats."] Take Midlothian; just before the election the candidate sent out a whip to his party, "Whatever else you do defeat the Government." Whatever else is doubtful; it is not doubtful that there was an overwhelming majority against the Government. But the right hon. Gentleman again, in 1905, has 2023 expressed the present position far better than I can do it. I will read what he said:—The opinion of the electorate is beyond dispute. You tremble for the very safest seats, and you do not affect to regard a dissolution as leading to anything else but a sentence of death.Does anyone doubt that now. Take what has happened. A junior post in the Government was vacant. [HON. MEMBERS: "Is vacant."] They selected a gentleman of ability, who was well qualified I am sure for that post, or a better one. That had something to do with his selection, but I do not think I am uncharitable in saying that they selected him chiefly because of the size of his majority. They pent him to face the electorate, and they refused to return anyone who was a Member of this Government, and from that day to this they have so trembled for the safest seat that the post has never been filled up.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Oh, I do not say we win every election. That never happens. The right hon. Gentleman gave some statistics. There are others more comprehensible and more to the point. Since the Home Rule Bill has been introduced there have been twelve by-elections. At the General Election these twelve seats were held by three Unionists, eight supporters of the Government, and one Labour Member, or a proportion of three to nine. They are now held by six Unionists and six supporters of the Government. But if you look at the figures of the poll the result is more remarkable. Taking these seats, since the Home Rule Bill has been introduced the supporters of the Unionist party have increased to the extent of 16 per cent. The supporters of the Government have fallen to the extent of 4 per cent. If anything of the same kind happens over the whole of England and Scotland, they would be in a contemptible minority in this House, and if any hon. Member opposite doubts the reality of these figures let him make the calculations himself. Let him add 16 per cent, to the votes given to his opponent, and take 4 per cent, from the vote given to him, and ask himself what chance there is of his ever again seeing the inside of this House as a Member? I say without a shadow of doubt that the opinion of the country is against this Government, and they know it; but there is another point which the right hon. Gentleman made. He tried to distinguish between the case of the Government and 2024 that of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Balfour), and there is a great distinction. The Government of my right hon. Friend was weak, we all admit, at the time the defeat happened. They were not pressing forward any great scheme. [An HON. MEMBER: "Redistribution."] They had already abandoned redistribution. They were doing nothing which could not be reversed the moment there was a change of party. But what are you doing? You are carrying through under these conditions a programme more revolutionary and more impossible to reverse than any programme which has ever been attempted by any Government. On this very subject on which you are defeated what is your position? You are proposing to give Home Rule. You are not proposing to give Home Rule to the Nationalist Members below the Gangway. You are not proposing to allow them to govern themselves. You are proposing to give them authority to force a homogeneous community, which hates their rule, to change their allegiance and accept obedience to a foreign Government.
That is the programme which you are proposing to carry through. I venture to say, though I have not looked it up specially, that such a change as that could not be made in any country with a written Constitution even by a bare majority; and you are proposing to do it when you know you have not a majority of any kind. To attempt to carry a programme like that is something which I venture to say no self-respecting Minister would attempt unless he knew that he had behind him the overwhelming support of the people of this country; and they are proposing to carry it through under these conditions. These Gentlemen sit there not as a Government, but as autocrats. The right hon. Gentleman actually had the audacity to talk of the way in which we won the election of 1900; and he knows how he has placed himself in that position—the debts of honour and all the rest of it. They claim that they are in a position so long as by any means fair or foul, by distributing honours, by giving doles and jobs, by taking off our Income Tax, by any means, fair or foul, they can retain a majority, they claim the right to do anything they please, without any regard to the people whom they profess to represent. That is their claim, and they cannot deny it. Does anyone here deny it? [HON. MEMBERS: "Of course."] Let us examine it. I say they claim the right to do any- 2025 thing they please without regard to the people. Do they deny this that they are to be themselves sole judges in their own cause; that they only are to decide whether or not what they are doing is, or is not, against the will of the people of this country? That is not constitutional Government. They are simply a body of personages, as my right hon. Friend has said, who by deception have usurped absolute power; that is their position. What are we to do? It is the case of the country against a revolutionary Committee, and how is the revolutionary Committee to be overthrown?
There is not any doubt about what right hon. Gentlemen in our places would do. We have tried with great provocation, from methods such as those which have been carried through to-day, to preserve the traditions of this House. I say, with great provocation, not only from what is done in this House, but actually a Cabinet colleague of the right hon. Gentleman went to the country, and because we had preserved the traditions of this House he said that we were insincere, and that there was no reality in our protestations. We have tried to preserve the traditions of this House, and what do these right hon. Gentlemen do? We know what they are doing. It is not conjecture. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford said this in regard to the circumstances arising from the defeat of my right hon. Friend:—I say that the continuance in office of the present Government is a violation of the spirit of the Constitution, and for my part, I believe it is the duty of all who value the Constitution to use every means that may he effective and at hand, to drive the right hon. Gentleman from the post he occupies.And he said something else which is even better.We cannot trust any number of by-elections to drive the right hon. Gentleman from his position long after he has lost the confidence of the electorate. We cannot say that that will be sufficient without any House of Commons tactics. We cannot trust public opinion to drive the present Government out. Therefore, I believe, that if is the duty of all those who are in earnest, in this matter to band themselves together to make the continued life of this Government in this Parliament impossible.I quite realise that the hon. and learned Gentleman, though he plays a very interesting
|Division No. 309.]||AYES.||[5.50 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Baldwin, Stanley||Beckett, Hon. Gervase|
|Aitken, Sir William Max||Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish|
|Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R.||Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Beresford, Lord Charles|
|Archer-Shee, Major Martin||Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Bigland, Alfred|
|Astor, Waldorf||Barnston, H.||Bird, Alfred|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Barrie, H. T.||Boles, Lieut.-Col. Dennis Fortescue|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-|
|Balcarres, Lord||Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid)|
part in our Government just now, does not exactly represent the official Government, and that he has not had in the past any special regard to our traditions. Therefore I do not quote him as proving exactly what these Gentlemen would do. Rut I quote this from the Foreign Secretary who spoke after him. He used to be considered not an extreme Member of the Government, and I think even yet he speaks with some regard to the meaning of his words. The right hon. Gentleman said this, referring to the words which I have-quoted:—
The hon. and learned Member fur Waterford spoke strongly, but not a bit too strongly.
Now we know what these Gentlemen would do in our place. They would band themselves together to make the continued life of a Government impossible. That is what they would do; they have said it. In other words, they would break the Parliamentary machine in order to compel an appeal to the people. I am going to leave it at that. The House will remember, Sir, that you gave a ruling that this Resolution ought to be divided into two parts. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister was allowed to make his speech. I have been allowed by the courtesy of hon. Gentlemen opposite, to make mine. But I say that in a vital matter like this, when the Resolution is not in the form in which it ought to be moved, we have a right to ask that we should have further time to consider it. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, I beg to move, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ The PRIME MINISTER
The right hon. Gentleman has addressed us on the merits of the Motion in a speech which shows that he is thoroughly well equipped to meet it. He says he requires more time to consider it, but he has not advanced a single reason for the Adjournment of the Debate, and I cannot accede to his request.
§ Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 218; Noes, 327.2031
|Division No. 309.]||AYES.||[5.50 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Baldwin, Stanley||Beckett, Hon. Gervase|
|Aitken, Sir William Max||Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (City, Lond.)||Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish|
|Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R.||Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Beresford, Lord Charles|
|Archer-Shee, Major Martin||Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Bigland, Alfred|
|Astor, Waldorf||Barnston, H.||Bird, Alfred|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Barrie, H. T.||Boles, Lieut.-Col. Dennis Fortescue|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-|
|Balcarres, Lord||Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid)|
|Boyton, James||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)|
|Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Harris, Henry Percy||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Bull, Sir William James||Heimsley, Viscount||Peel, Capt. R. F.|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Perkins, Walter F.|
|Burgoyne, Alan Hughes||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Burn, Col. C. R.||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Pole-Carew, Sir R.|
|Butcher, J. G.||Hickman, Col. Thomas E.||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Campbell, Capt. Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Hill, Sir Clement L.||Pretyman, E. G.|
|Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin Univ.)||Hills, J. W.||Quilter, Sir William Eley C.|
|Campion, w. R.||Hill-Wood, Samuel||Randles, Sir John S.|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Hoare, S. J. G.||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Hohler, G. F.||Rawson, Col. R. H.|
|Cassel, Felix||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Cator, John||Hope, Major J. A. (Midlothian)||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Horner, Andrew Long||Rothschild, Lionel de|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Houston, Robert Paterson||Royds, Edmund|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts. Hitchin)||Hume-Williams, William Ellis||Rutherford, John (Lancs., Darwen)|
|Chaioner, Col. R. G. W.||Hunt, Rowland||Rutherford, W. (Liverpool, W. Derby)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||Hunter, Sir C. R.||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Chambers, J.||Jardine, E. (Somerset, E.)||Sanders, Robert A.|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Jessel, Captain Herbert M.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Clay, Captain H. H. Spender||Joynson-Hicks, William||Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (L'p'l., Walton)|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Kebty-Fletcher, J. R.||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Cooper, Richard Ashmole||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Kerry, Earl of||Stanier, Beville|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Keswick, Henry||Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk)|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Kimber, Sir Henry||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Staveley-Hill, Henry|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Knight, Captain E. A.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)|
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord Ninian||Larmor, Sir J.||Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Croft, Henry Page||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts, Mile End)||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)|
|Dixon, C. H.||Lee, Arthur Hamilton||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)|
|Doughty, Sir George||Lloyd, George Ambrose||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, N.)|
|Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Thynne, Lord Alexander|
|Faber, Captain W. V. (Hants, W.)||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Falle, Bertram Godfray||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lieut.-Colonel A. R.||Touche, George Alexander|
|Fell, Arthur||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Tullibardine, Marquess of|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (S. Geo., Han. S.)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Fitzroy, Hon. E. A.||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Fleming, Valentine||Mackinder, Halford J.||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Fletcher John Samuel||Macmaster, Donald||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Forster, Henry William||M'Neill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Gastrell, Major W. H.||Magnus, Sir Philip||Weigall, Capt. A. G.|
|Gilmour, Captain John||Malcolm, Ian||Wheler, Granville C. H.|
|Glazebrook, Captain Philip K.||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Goldman, C. S.||Meysey-Thompson, E. C.||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Goldsmith, Frank||Middlemore, John Throgmorton||Willoughby, Major Hon. Claud|
|Gordon, John (Londonderry, South)||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Gordon, Hon. John Edward (Brighton)||Moore, William||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Greene, Walter Raymond||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Gretton, John||Mount, William Arthur||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Staurt|
|Guinness, Hon. Robert (Essex, S.E.)||Newdegate, F. A.||Wright, Henry Fitzherbert|
|Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Newman, John R. P.||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Haddock, George Bahr||Newton, Harry Kottingham||Yate, Col. C. E.|
|Hall, Fred (Dulwich)||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Younger, Sir George|
|Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth)||Nield, Herbert|
|Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Norton-Griffiths, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr.|
|Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||O Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)||Eyres-Monsell and Lord E. Talbot|
|Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon William|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Boland, John Pius|
|Abraham, Rt. Hon. William (Rhondda)||Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Booth, Frederick Handel|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Bowerman, Charles W.|
|Adamson, William||Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Boyle, D. (Mayo, N.)|
|Addison, Dr. Christopher||Barnes, George N.||Brady, P. J.|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Barran, Rowland Hurst (Leeds, N.)||Brocklehurst, William B.|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Barton, William||Brunner, John F. L.|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Beale, Sir William Phipson||Bryce, John Annan|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbarton)||Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Buck master, Stanley O.|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Beck, Arthur Cecil||Burke, E. Haviland-|
|Armitage, R.||Benn, W. W. (T. H'mts., St. George)||Burns, Rt. Hon. John|
|Arnold, Sydney||Bentham, George J||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Bethell, Sir J. H.||Buxton, Rt. Hon. S. C. (Poplar)|
|Atherley-Jones, Lleweliyn A.||Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Byles, Sir William Pollard|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Black, Arthur W.||Carr-Gomm, H. W.|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Henry, Sir Charles||Nugent, Sir Walter Richard|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lanes., Heywood)||Higham, John Sharp||Nuttall, Harry|
|Chancellor, H. G.||Hinds, John||O'Brien, William (Cork)|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Hodge, John||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Hogge, James Myles||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Clough, William||Holmes, Daniel Turner||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Clynes, J. Ft.||Holt, Richard Durning||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Hope, John Deans (Haddington)||O'Donnell, Thomas|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Home, C. Silvester (Ipswich)||O'Dowd, John|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Ogden Fred|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Hughes, S. L.||O'Grady, James|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rulus||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Cotton, William Francis||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||John, Edward Thomas||O'Malley, William|
|Crooks, William||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Crumley, Patrick||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Cullinan, J.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||O'Shee, James John|
|Davies, E. William (Eifion)||Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Jones, W. S. Glyn- (T. H,mts., Stepney)||Duthwaite, R. L.|
|Dawes, J. A.||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|De Forest, Baron||Jowett, Frederick William||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Delany, William||Joyce, Michael||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Keating, M.||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Dewar, Sir J. A.||Kellaway, Frederick George||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Dickinson, W. H.||Kelly, Edward||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Dillon, John||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Kilbride, Dennis||Pointer, Joseph|
|Doris, William||King, J.||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Duffy, William J.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Duncan, J. Hastings (York, Otley)||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)|
|Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham)|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rid, Cockerm'th)||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Leach, Charles||Primrose, Hon. Neil James|
|Elverston, Sir Harold||Levy, Sir Maurice||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Lewis, John Herbert||Radford, G. H.|
|Esmonde, Sir T. (Wexford, N.)||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Essex, Richard Walter||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.|
|Falconer, J.||Lundon, T.||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Lyell, Charles Henry||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Fenwick, Rt. Hon. Charles||Lynch, A. A.||Reddy, M.|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Ftrench, Peter||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)|
|Field, William||McGhee, Richard||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Maclean, Donald||Randall, Athelstan|
|Fitzgibbon, John||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Gelder, Sir W. A.||Macpherson, James Ian||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|George, Rt. Hon. O. Lloyd||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Roberts, Sir J H. (Denbighs)|
|Gill, A. H.||M'Callum, Sir John M.||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Ginnell, L.||M'Curdy, C. A.||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||M'Kean, John||Robinson, Sidney|
|Glanville, Harold James||McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Roch, Walter F.|
|Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Goldstone, Frank||M'Laren, Hon. F. W. S. (Lincs., Spalding)||Roche, John (Galway, E.)|
|Greenwood, Granville G. (Peterborough)||M'Micking, Major Gilbert||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)||Manfield, Harry||Rose, Sir Charles Day|
|Greig, Col. J. W.||Marshall, Arthur Harold||Rowlands, James|
|Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Martin, Joseph||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Guest, Major Hon. C. H. c (Pembroke)||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Meagher, Michael||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Guiney, P.||Median, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Menzies, Sir Walter||Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir C. E.|
|Hackett, J.||Millar, James Duncan||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Hall, Frederick (Normanton)||Molloy, M.||Seely, Rt. Hon. Col. J. E. B.|
|Hancock, John George||Molteno, Percy Alport||Shcehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. H, L. (Rossendale)||Mond, Sir Alfred Moritz||Sheehy, David|
|Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Mooney, John J.||Sherwell, Arthur James|
|Hardie, J. Keir||Morgan, George Hay||Shortt, Edward|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Morrell, Philip||Smith, Albert (Lanes., Clitheroe)|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Morison, Hector||Smith, H. B. (Northampton)|
|Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Muldoon, John||Snowden, P.|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||Munro, Robert||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.||Spicer, Rt. Hon. Sir Albert|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Murray, Captain Hon. A. C.||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N.W.)|
|Hazleton, Richard||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Strauss, Arthur (Paddington, North)|
|Healy, Timothy Michael (Cork, N.E.)||Needham, Christopher||Sutherland, John E.|
|Healy, Maurice (Cork)||Neilson, Francis||Sutton, John E.|
|Heime, Sir Norval Watson||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Hemmerde, Edward George||Nolan, Joseph||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Norman, Sir Henry||Tennant, Harold John|
|Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Thorne, William (West Ham)||Wason, Rt. Hon, E. (Clackmannan)||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarthen)|
|Toulmin, Sir George||Watt, Henry A.||Williams, P. (Middlesbrough)|
|Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Webb, H.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Verney, Sir Harry||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)||Winfrey, Richard|
|Wads worth, J.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)||Wood, Rt. Hon. T. McKinnon (Glas.)|
|Walsh, Stephen (Lanes., Ince)||Whitehouse, John Howard||Young, Samuel (Cavan, E.)|
|Walters, Sir John Tudor||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas P.||Young, William (Perth, East)|
|Walton, Sir Joseph||Whyte, A. F.||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Waring, Walter||Wilkie, Alexander||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr.|
|Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)||Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the decision of this House on the Amendment moved on the 11th day of November, 1912, by Sir Frederick Banbury, by which it was proposed to insert certain words in the Government of Ireland [Money] Resolution, as reported to the House, be rescinded, notwithstanding anything in any Standing Order of this House"—[The Prime Minister.]
§ Mr. ROBERT HARCOURT rose and was called upon by Mr. Speaker—[Interruption, during which the hon. Member resumed his seat].
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out all the words after the word "That" ["That the decision"] in order to insert instead thereof the words "the usage and practice of this House is that a question which has once passed in the affirmative or negative shall not be again proposed or questioned in the same Session, but must stand as the judgment of the House, and any attempt to evade that usage and practice by a Resolution proposing that the proceedings of this House which actually took place, and are recorded in its Journals, shall be treated as if they had not taken place, is an affront to this House."
I propose that Amendment, of which I have given you notice. I do not think there is any doubt whatever that the terms of my Amendment are strictly in order. I appeal to an hon. Gentleman below the Gangway, the hon. Member for South Donegal (Mr. Swift MacNeill). He is a very great authority on all questions of this House, and he wrote a letter yesterday to the "Westminster Gazette," in which he said—A Motion, no doubt, cannot be brought forward which is the same in substance as a question which during the current Session has been decided in the negative or affirmative.I ask the hon. Member which way is he going to vote and which way did he vote on the last Division. It is possible that the hon. Member may be prepared to eat 2032 his own words, as right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are eating their own words and have eaten their own words during the last two or three years. It may be that the hon. Member may say that the last Division was on a question of adjournment, but now the hon. Member is face to face with the proposition, and if he votes against my Amendment he either must admit that he was wrong when he-wrote as he did yesterday or he must be prepared to say that for the sake of keeping in office a party which have sold itself to his Leader he is prepared to sink his opinions and to support that which he does not believe in solely to keep the present Government in office. I am glad I have the presence of the Prime Minister,, and may I ask him to carry his mind back to the day before yesterday to Question-Time, when the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. G. Greenwood) drew his-attention to the fact that one day last week there was a Division in which a Question was carried by a majority of four, and that three of the Members voting in the majority had expressed their opinion to the hon. Member for Peterborough to the effect that they had voted in the wrong Lobby, and the hon. Member for Peterborough asked the Prime Minister whether that error and mistake would not be set right. What was the reply of the right hon. Gentleman only the day before yesterday, the very day on which the Motion which he is now preparing to rescind took place? The right hon. Gentleman said:—I am afraid that my hon. Friend cannot have the decision of the House altered.How is it, then, when the right hon. Gentleman has told one of his own supporters that in a case where there was an error—there was no error on Monday in my Division—and in which three Members had declared that they voted by mistake in the wrong Lobby, that that cannot be altered because it goes against the procedure of the House—how, then, has the right hon. Gentleman the effrontery to come down to this House and propose that the Resolution carried in the House of 434 Members should be so altered? I 2033 will give the reason why. It is because hon. Members and right hon. Members who sit on the Front Bench consider themselves to be different from the common Members of the House. What is good for the common Members of the House is not good enough for them. They are above all law and above all order; their will is to be supreme. I am glad that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) is present. His interruption carries me back to an episode which took place when we were discussing the Trades Dispute Bill. My right hon. and learned Friend on that occasion got up in his place and said, "What is the use of going on with this farce? Why not, instead of enacting a Bill with several Clauses, bring in a one-Clause Bill enacting, 'The King can do no wrong, neither can a trade union." Why go through all this farce of repealing this particular Standing Order? Why does not the right hon. Gentleman get up and say, "The Prime Minister and the Government can do no wrong, and, therefore, as far as Standing Orders are concerned, they are immune and above all Standing Orders," because that is what the right hon. Gentleman at the present moment is asking the House to do, and that is what I hope that the House will not do. The right hon. Gentleman alluded to the precedent of 1905. I venture to point out that the precedent of 1905 is no precedent at all. What did the Government of the day do in 1905? Did they attempt to rescind the vote which had been agreed to? No attempt of that sort was made. The Government of 1905 accepted the Resolution which the House had come to, and having done so they then said that they intended to continue in office. If the right hon. Gentleman had come down and said, "I intend to continue in office notwithstanding the hostile vote which was passed on Monday," personally, I think, especially in view of the speeches which the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues made in 1905, that he would have done wrong, but he would have done nothing to be compared with the attempt he is now making to alter the whole procedure and practice of this House which has obtained ever since 1600 or 1610.
The right hon. Gentleman carefully made no allusion to that of any sort or kind. An hon. Member behind him endeavoured to read or did read, when he raised a point of Order, a statement by Sir Erskine May on page 300. That 2034 statement was perfectly well known to every Member of this House who followed the rules of its procedure. When the hon. Member read that he was apparently unaware that what he was referring to was an ordinary Resolution of the House, that is a Resolution which has only one stage and which only says that in the opinion of this House such and such a thing ought to occur. That is merely a pious opinion of this House, and has no effect of any sort or kind. It has no binding effect, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite knows perfectly well. There is no way to carry it into effect if it is not carried out. This Resolution which we are now seeking to amend is a totally different Resolution. First of all, it differs from an ordinary Resolution, inasmuch as it has two stages. Secondly, it is a part of the formation and the very foundation of a Bill. It is the Report Stage of a Resolution on which the Bill is founded, and as you, Sir, have already told the House, there is not any precedent in the history of this House under which a Resolution founded in that manner, has ever been rescinded. It may be that hon. Members on the other side of the House do not think that this is striking a blow at Parliamentary Government. They are, I presume, going to vote in favour of the Motion, but before they do that let me urge them to consider the real position, and what will happen if that is done.
We are now starting a new precedent, and there is nothing as far as I can see to prevent, if this is done, the following Motion. Supposing a Bill is defeated on Third Reading, there is nothing whatever to prevent the Prime Minister coming down to the House and stating that he has been lately in possession of a majority, and that he does not believe that the majority which rejected the Third Reading, really reflected the genuine opinion of the House, and that therefore he proposes that that should be rescinded. I do not think that is an impossible contingency. On the contrary the appetite grows in eating, and the moment we begin to do this sort of thing, there is not a single man in this House or in the country, that can tell where it may not lead to. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will believe me when I say I am not dealing with him and his Government; but there are going to be other Governments. What is to prevent another Government saying, "We have been defeated on the Third Reading of this Bill, and we have got to put it right. We 2035 must put it right by arranging that a certain number of our followers, who did not choose to come down to the House, are forced to come down, and we will force them by offering them honours or contracts and a variety of other things. I have said that I did not include the right hon. Gentleman in that category, but I must say everyone knows that the distribution of honours during the last two or three years has been of a very prodigal character, and it is possible, and I venture to say it is likely, that with another Government a little lower in degree than the present Government—[HON. MEMBERS: "Impossible"]—that that might occur. Everyone knows that the danger of a democracy is its corruption. We are now going into democratic government governed by a tyranny of Gentlemen sitting upon that bench, who are absolutely unscrupulous as to the methods they employ to keep in office. Therefore I say that it is more than likely that something of that sort will occur. I want to point out to hon. Members opposite that unless they support my Amendment they are striking a vital blow at Parliamentary government. We talk sometimes in a light-hearted way about Parliamentary government. Hon. Members opposite say that they are democrats. I have never called myself a democrat, but I have always been a hearty supporter and a great admirer of the House of Commons. I have sat in it for twenty years, and during that time I have seen various changes—changes of which I have not always approved—but never in my Parliamentary experience have I seen a change of this sort, which will have such far-reaching results, proposed solely in order to keep a moribund Government in office. As regards the question of Home Rule, as was stated by the Leader of the Opposition, under the Parliament Act there is no necessity for this House. If the right hon. Gentleman had taken the honourable course, if he had resigned, gone to the country, and been returned, he would not have lost a single Session. Owing to the terms in which the Parliament Act is couched, the Session in which the Second Reading was carried would count.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
What the hon. Baronet said was that the Government had got the Second Reading, so that if they put an end to the Session now it would not interfere with the Bill, but that it would count just the same. I am pointing out that that would not be so.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
It is three successive Sessions. That is what I meant to say. The result would be the same. The only effect would be that the country would have been consulted, and hon. Members opposite would have been able to say, "All your prognostications and statements are wrong. We have taken the constitutional course; we have appealed to the country, and they have returned us." But the Government do not take that course, and everybody knows why. In order to keep themselves in office they are now going to destroy this great House of Commons, which has been in existence for centuries, which has been copied by every other Assembly in the world, but which to-day will, in my opinion, and I believe in the opinion of many Members opposite, have been dealt a blow from which it will never recover.
I beg to second the Amendment.
As our Leader has already said, many of us are in a very awkward position in connection with the whole of this dirty business from start to finish. We had to decide as to the action which we Ulster men would take with regard to the methods adopted by the Government, and rightly or wrongly we came to the conclusion that as far as possible we would conform to the dignity and rules of this House, and preserve our attendance in order by constitutional methods eventually to drive the present Government from power. But as the mesh of the net was made smaller and smaller, so that no outlet whatever should be given to us to circumvent the Government at any point, not alone we ourselves, but those whom we represent in Ulster, began to get nervous and disturbed. They naturally look to us to keep them right in whatever tactics are necessary from the Parliamentary point of view. But success crowned the efforts made by us and our English and Scotch colleagues—a deliberately hostile vote which struck at the very heart of the Bill which we 2037 were so anxious to defeat, secured entirely by constitutional means, on a Money Resolution necessary to permit the Bill to go forward. The Prime Minister then says that even that victory is to be snatched away from us. But he is not going to do it constitutionally; he is going a step further in shattering a Constitution which I thought he had already brought down to the very gutter. What does it mean? It simply means that the attendance of hon. Members on this side is useless while the Government have behind them a party subservient to the last degree, and are supported or led by Irish Members below the Gangway.
Picture the situation. The Prime Minister may come down some morning and go even further, and say, "We will take one Vote. I will find out what is the most convenient day for my party to attend; it does not matter what the Opposition think; they may go their way; they may outvote us on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, but on Friday I will put down an omnibus Resolution saying that all their votes during the week are of no avail."
My right hon. Friend has taken the peroration out of my mouth. I was about to ask that question. It is a perfect farce. The Minister for Agriculture the other day twitted us on our good behaviour, and he did the very thing which, more than anything else, would stir up the people in Ulster. He cast aspersions on their sincerity, and said that we who represent them in this House were cowards, because, if we had any convictions, we would bring the whole Parliamentary machine to the ground. That was the sum and substance of the speech of a Cabinet Minister, speaking in the country on behalf of His Majesty's Government. How long do the Prime Minister and his colleagues expect us to go on in a constitutional way, when Cabinet Ministers recommend us to take a different course? This is an example of the new conciliatory spirit of devolution throughout the country, with small Parliaments harmoniously working together, and returning Members here, to do what? To work under a caucus, to be instituted by the present Government. If ever a 2038 Government did an absurd thing, they are doing it to-day. They have done so many wrong and cruel things in the past that I suppose one cannot blame them for going further down the precipice against which we warned them. I speak in all sincerity. Personally, I am not easily moved to anger. I am rather inclined to peace, and, if possible, to carry on in a constitutional way. But apparently the Prime Minister and the Government have so degraded this ancient House of Commons that they have brought down the spirit of fair play to a depth to which I cannot follow. We are told that we must obey the law. Imagine being told to obey the law by right hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is absurd when they themselves are breaking what is more sacred than the law, namely, the traditions under which laws are made.
That being so, I myself am getting tired. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I know that hon. Members opposite are so tired that they could not turn up to vote on Monday. They are not here during the Debates. Nearly every one of them has got some sort of honour or emolument. Many of them are here under the most disgusting and degrading circumstances. [An HON MEMBER: "They take it lying down."] If hon. Members behind the Government do not obey the party Whip, and the Government find themselves in a difficulty, it simply means that the shower of favours and emoluments must be increased, if that be possible, in order to get the Government out of their difficulty. That is so sordid and so well known throughout the country that I shall not say any more in that direction. The duty of Ulster Members is apparently no longer in this House. We do not get fair play. The protection of minorities is gone. Not only so, but we lay ourselves open day by day to the grossest taunts and insults from Members on the other side. The spectacle of a small minority doing its best by constitutional methods to stand up for what the people at home hold dearest in their hearts, is met in the most flippant and jeering way, with Members of the Cabinet sitting there grinning like apes at us. It is revolting, and we are almost driven past standing it any longer. What does it mean? This is the serious aspect of the whole matter to which we always come back. Under this Bill the Government, who have received such a shock, propose not only to throw us out of the Empire, but to compel us to 2039 serve masters whom we are determined we will never serve. If we are to be, as I said, daily and hourly grossly insulted in this Mother of Parliaments; if when the Government are constitutionally beaten we are to be told that it is of no account; if we are to be told in effect, "You may beat us fifty or a hundred times on the most crucial parts of this Bill, but do not for a moment think that those defeats mean victory for you, because they do not, our answer to you is that we will, if necessary, draw tighter the meshes, so that under no circumstances—whether by-elections in the country go against us, whether our majorities of this House fall to vanishing point, whether we are out-voted in Committee or on the Third Reading of a Bill—do not for a moment imagine that you are yet victors in this great fight. We will see that our party is drawn more closely together, and we propose to stay here so long as we have one single man to stand behind us and make a majority in the House." The North of Ireland will be forced from under the shelter of Great Britain and from under the British flag, and will have to go. In future we will have to take our orders from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Waterford and the Nationalist rebels. That is the position. I say, so far as I am concerned—and this is a serious statement—I am tired: I repeat it, I am tired. I believe that my proper place, and the proper place of all the other Ulster Members, is among their own trusty friends in the North of Ireland, for I believe that this Government is not to be treated as a Government, but is to be treated as a caucus, led by rebels. The only way to treat them is for us to go back quietly and assist our loyal friends there to make what preparations are necessary. Although you may do your worst here in this House, thank God the North of Ireland will be more than a match for you.
§ Mr. JAMES HOPE
May I ask whether it is not possible to put the Question, "That certain words stand part," in order to save later Amendments, as in the case of ordinary Bills?
§ Mr. POLLOCK
I desire to support the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for the City of London. As briefly as I can I will give reasons why the adoption of the Amendment is essential to the 2040 dignity of this House. I do not suppose that a single Member on this side of the House cares a single bit for the contemptible position which the Government stands in to-day, but we do care very much for the contempt that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen pour upon this House, and the contemptible position into which they have brought all possibility of Debate. We have listened this afternoon to the eloquent speech of our Leader on this side, who has gone over the precedents and positions taken up by the Prime Minister when he was in Opposition. The Prime Minister and his colleagues, who were in 1905 in Opposition, by every possibility of administration and argument, contended that it was impossible for a Government to continue to hold office after it had met with a defeat far less important and far less vital than the defeat the present Government met with on Monday. Yet we find Members of the Government still sitting on the Front Bench prepared, for their own purposes, to eat all the words they used in 1905, and also to invite the House to reject as worthless all their arguments on that occasion. They ask us, while they still are at the head of a coalition obtained in manners that we know how, to accept a Resolution of this sort which is absolutely as you, Sir, have said from the Chair, without precedent.
What is the Amendment of the hon. Baronet? He invites the House to consider the ancient usage and practice of this House. The Amendment goes even deeper. It goes to the very question of what is the meaning of a deliberative assembly. Is not a deliberative assembly a place where we can have some debate, with the possibility of altering opinion, of changing votes, with the opportunities which a Member, as representing his constituency, has of having some influence upon the measures which are brought before the House, so that ultimately all Members may record in the Division Lobbies their vote, "Aye" or "No," upon a particular question? The whole of that procedure is absolutely flung aside by the Prime Minister. A master of constitutional practice, and with a complete knowledge of the law he is quite ready to throw aside every possible precedent in order to maintain his own contemptible position. Some of us have looked into precedents to see what the usage and practice of this House has been. It is not only a question of Standing Orders. There is what I may call the common law of this 2041 House; there is the usage of this House. It is plain to anyone who looks at the first book that so long ago as 1610 it was "resolved and determined to be a rule of this House, and held to be a rule, that where the House has determined a matter of substance one way, it shall not be determined again in another way in the same Session." Simple words are used, but they speak all the more eloquently because of their dignity and their antiquity. That Rule the Prime Minister is prepared to cast aside and tear up because it suits his own particular purposes. [An HON. MEMBER: "Traitor!"] That is the ancient ruling given over two and a half centuries ago. Let me come to the period of 1840. What happened then? An occasion arose in 1840 when the same point was put, and the question that then arose was on two Bills that were brought into this House for the purpose of relieving certain people from Church rates. Your predecessor in the Chair, Sir, said that—It occurs to me that these two questions are substantially the same, and as the House is aware that according to the rules the same question cannot be twice entertained in the same Session, I apprehend that they will be of opinion that I cannot put the Question.There, again, the laws and rules held good, were in force, and were held by the Chair and the House. In the year 1834 a similar question arose once more: the point as to what was the common law and rule of the House was raised. On that occasion, a Motion had been made that a certain Member of the House should become a Member of a Committee. That question had already been decided in the negative on a previous vote a day or two before. "But, Sir," said the hon. Member, "may not a Motion be renewed under new circumstances?" It was declared that the House having once given a decision upon a specific Motion, that that Motion could not be renewed; that when a proposition was made and negatived, the House could not entertain one to the same effect. New circumstances are suggested in these days. It was held that these did not justify any alteration or any modification of the Rules. What are the new circumstances relied upon to-day by the Prime Minister?
Sir WILLIAM BULL, Colonel CHALLONER, and other HON. MEMBERS: "Traitor, traitor!"
§ Mr. CHARLES CRAIG
How can hon. Members be expected to use Parliamentary expressions under circumstances such as these?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
However strongly hon. Members may feel, they are not entitled to use expressions of that kind.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
However abominably hon. Members may consider they have been treated, they are not entitled to use that particular word.
§ Mr. CHARLES CRAIG
I echo every thing that has been said by the hon. Member. [HON. MEMBERS: "Traitor!"]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
If the hon. Member persists in defying my authority, I must ask him to leave the House during the remainder of this day's sitting.
§ Sir WILLIAM BULL withdrew from the House.
§ Question again proposed. Debate resumed.
§ Mr. CHARLES CRAIG
I do not think it will be very long, Mr. Speaker, before you will be required to send other Members out.
§ Mr. POLLOCK
However much I regret your ruling, Sir, I am quite sure that all sides of the House and every Member must regret that the constitutional methods of deciding matters are passing away, and that we are becoming a House that has not to have the opportunity of expressing the views of the Members in ordinary and simple language. We cannot therefore be surprised that men should feel strongly and speak strongly. But to go on with the Amendment with which I was dealing, 2043 and the question as to whether any new circumstances have arisen; what are the new circumstances in the present case? It would be possible to take two or three of the courses which have been taken in the past when, what is called a snap Division has gone against the Government. But these steps cost time, and the Prime Minister, rather than give the necessary time for the purpose of putting the matter right according to the rules and laws and ancient usages of this House, is prepared to take a short cut and to abolish the ancient rules and laws of this House in order to try and gain time. The work, it is said, is so great and the time in which the right hon. Gentleman wishes to get through all these Bills is so short, that he cannot afford a little time, or spend a little time in trying to preserve the ancient usages and rules of this House. He proceeds with three big measures, each of them sufficient to demand attention during a long and busy Session, and determined to try and make use of the Parliament Act in a way he himself has deprecated. He told the hon. Member for Taunton that it would be hardly possible to do in any circumstances what that hon. Gentleman suggested. The Prime Minister has now come down and asked the House to pass a Resolution unparalleled in its procedure and cutting vitally into the whole system of our proceedings. I find that from the years 1844 until 1873 no similar point arose. Then on 11th February, once more Mr. Speaker interfered, and said that inasmuch as last night a particular Amendment of the then hon. Member for West Essex had been negatived by the House, it was out of order to propose by another Amendment that such a course should be taken, and so I might go on piling up authorities. All the way through they are absolutely against the Prime Minister.
But there was another course open; but a course which would have taken a little more time, and it is just indicative of the straits in which the Prime Minister finds himself; it is just indicative of the sort of care he has for the minority, and it is just indicative of his cold-blooded determination to put an end to what he would call obstruction because his measures are not passed, that he comes down here and asks the House to reverse by this Resolution the practice maintained in this House during the previous century. My hon. Friend the Member for the City of London 2044 (Sir F. Banbury) asks this House, in this Amendment, to say that the Prime Minister's policy and usage and practice is nothing more than an insult to this House. It is an insult to Members, and it prevents any possibility of Members from this side of the House undertaking and endeavouring to give on behalf of their Constituents their best ability in this House, and it prevents hon. Members on the other side from offering criticism upon measures proposed by the Executive Government; and we come back to the root difficulty that once the Cabinet has decided that a certain measure has to go through, then it is to be forced through by means of the guillotine, and if any adverse vote takes place at all, the Prime Minister of the day can say, "We will wipe that out entirely. We do not care for your deliberations or your criticisms; we are going to annul them;" and although a large body of Members may have voted, criticising the Government on an essential Amendment, the Executive of the day can sweep all that aside and say, "We are determined to establish the law sic rolo sic jubio." We ask why we have no Constitution. The Prime Minister knows that. We know of his debt of honour and we have heard of it before, and now we are asked to abandon all our privileges.
Let me remind the House that under the Parliament Act the shape the Home Rule Bill takes now is the final shape so far as this House is concerned. Hereafter, if it is rejected in another place and so on during the period of two years, no Amendment can possibly be moved in this House, and therefore, when dealing with the Home Rule Bill, we are dealing with it for the last time, and it becomes, therefore of the greatest importance that we should have this one opportunity and final opportunity for criticism and for expressing our views. Is it worth while to stop here at all? [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Is it worth while to go into the Division Lobbies? Is it worth while and care to see what opportunities are given in the time-table? If the Prime Minister finds things are not to his taste, then by a Resolution, notwithstanding Orders or usages, he will say, "Away with them!" Does the Prime Minister hope that by passing this Resolution he is going to facilitate Parliamentary proceedings, and that he will really succeed in getting nearer his desired end of passing three heavy measures in the course of this Session? I venture to say if he thinks that he is very 2045 wrong. I think there will be a certain number of Members, I hope on both sides of the House, who will deeply regret what they are asked to do by the Prime Minister's Resolution at the present time. However they vote they really need not care what the figures are, they must be in favour of the Prime Minister. But I believe if hon. Members go home and consider what they have done, if they pass the Prime Minister's Resolution, they will realise that they have done something far more than save the Government from what they called a snap Division on Monday last, because they will have declared that in this House neither old practice, nor Rules, nor Standing Orders are of any effect. They will have declared that we are no longer a really critical deliberative Assembly, but that we are all sitting here merely to register the decrees of the Executive of the day.
May I remind hon. Members that the House of Commons was at its best when working as a free Assembly, as, for instance, yesterday on the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, when on both sides of the House there was a considerable effort to try and improve the Bill, and to make its provisions such that would make it a working measure. Then we saw the House of Commons at its best. We see it at its worst when the guillotine falls at 7.30 and at 10.30, when Members who have taken no part or interest in the proceedings come into the House merely to support the Government. They will of course be able to remain away now with far greater freedom, because, whatever the figures are at 7.30 or at 10.30, it will not matter. If the Government are defeated on any occasion, the Prime Minister will come down with a similar Resolution to this and wipe out the record. Hon. Members will be told, "Do not bother about being absent; do not trouble about coming to the House." Let every Member opposite remember that the Prime Minister is prepared to set their faults and omissions right by asking not merely by the ordinary methods of this House to remedy the effect, but by taking short cuts by which he is prepared to put an end to the privileges and the rights and the usages of this House. I believe, however little the Government of the day may think of it, this is of importance. In the country deep interest is being taken in our proceedings to-day. It is not only men in this House that revere and respect the House of Commons. I 2046 agree that many criticisms and unfair criticisms are offered on this House by people who really know little of its difficulties, but I claim there has long been, and still is, deep-seated veneration for the House of Commons in the country. In many local Parliaments and deliberative assemblies they have endeavoured to fashion their procedure upon our procedure, and I say it will be a shock to many men of all political parties when they find that an end is put to our procedure and our deliberative system and rules which so far have governed our Debates.
If this Resolution had been brought forward in an ordinary county council by some man determined to carry his measures as quickly as he could, I believe it would be scouted as unworthy of a local body, and unfair to the minority, however small that minority might be. There is deep-seated in the Englishman's heart a desire for fair play. There is also a deep-seated belief that men ought to play the game, and that if they are beaten they ought still to play the game. However a man may dislike the decision of the umpire, if he turns round and in a fit of temper kicks his wickets down, he never secures the approval of this country. That is what the Prime Minister is doing to-day. In his fear of the domination of the hon. and learned Member for Water-ford, he has not hesitated to take what he calls a short cut. Yes; but it is a short cut which involves so much, and I am quite sure I am right in saying that he will earn discredit in the country, and for generations he will be known as the man who broke up our Parliament as a deliberative Assembly.
§ 7.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CROFT
I desire to say a few words in this the most important debate which this House has ever had. I say that, because if I see correctly, the action of the Government to-day sounds the death-knell of Parliamentary Government and of representative Government. The happenings of last Monday are the final words on the page of dishonour which has unfortunately recently been written across the affairs of the Government which holds office to-day. When we remember that throughout, the length and breadth of the country there is uneasiness; when we remember that the name of this Government stinks in the city of London; when we remember that grave questions of importance are referred to Select Committee to be left over to the days to come; when we 2047 remember that in this House every principle of Liberalism has been violated, I think there is some excuse for the feeling on this side of the House, because the Government have reduced this House to nothing but a sham and a fraud. There is not a single Member on the opposite side of the House who does not sit there by trickery. There is not a single Member opposite who was not elected on a pledge to destroy the hereditary principles of the House of Lords. They were undoubtedly elected on that issue, and no other, at the last election. It is not necessary to remind the House that that pledge has not been redeemed. I ask the Prime Minister, will it ever be redeemed? He knows it can never be redeemed so long as he sits in that place and so long as he is dependent upon the groups that assist him in this House. It is a well-known fact that a large number of Liberals dislike this Home Rule Bill so much that on many occasions they have failed to support the Government. It is an open secret that some fifty or sixty hon. Gentlemen opposite regard the proposals under this Bill in regard to the Post Office as one which is grotesque and absurd and opposed to the whole teaching of business experience and the example of every other country in the world. It is also admitted that there is a very considerable proportion—it is suggested that there are as many as half of the Nationalist party who dislike and intend, if they have any courage left whatever, to vote against the Customs Duties when they come before this House. On the top of that it is suggested that there was a snap Division on Monday. I think it is perfectly true that hon. Gentlemen opposite hate this Bill so much that they stay away, and they have only come here to-day because they know their salaries are at stake. This vote to-day is a vote for the conscience money which they are paid to relieve them of those uneasy feelings when they are not found in the Lobby. We read in every Government paper, when they were trying to find excuses for their defeat, that it was caused by an ambuscade of Members of the Unionist party secreted in St. Stephen's Club. I think it is only right that every Unionist Member should write to his local paper informing the electors that that statement is absolutely untrue. That is the kind of thing which is published to deceive the people of this country. It has been suggested that the hon. and learned Member for Waterford 2048 was also snapped. I will read to the House the Nationalist Whip:—Urgent. Monday, November 11th. The Home Rule Bill. Your attendance is urgently requested not later than three o'clock. Throughout the sittings divisions are certain.Then he telegraphed:—It has come to the knowledge of the Whips that some hon. Members had left for Ireland without communicating with them. Telegrams were sent by me summoning them back.When you read that it must be recognized that there was no snap Division in this House on Monday. Now we have the extraordinary policy put to us to-day that this House is to rescind what it did on Monday, because it happened that on Monday twenty-three Members of the party opposite went partridge shooting, and therefore what happened in this House in their absence is of no account whatever. I suppose it will be said that the people's representatives in the House of Commons on Monday did not express the opinion of the people. It will be said that the people's representatives on Monday lied, and, as a consequence, we have to tell the truth to-day. This is the last word on a page of deception and fraud such as has been evidenced from the first moment the Government failed to redeem their pledge with regard to the House of Lords. It was the Crown, first of all, and the authority of the King—
§ Mr. CROFT
Then we find the Second Chamber was destroyed, and the pledge was never redeemed, and on the top of that, when the last resort of the electors of this country was taken from them, now you are going to destroy the House of Commons by this disgraceful exercise of your tyrannical power. This is no longer a representative Assembly, because it is absolutism gone absolutely mad. There is no Bourbon who will not turn in his grave when he sees how absolutely he has been beaten at his own game by the Prime Minister. Even Metternich was at least honest. He did not pretend to be a people's man, and he would have to admit himself absolutely beaten by the Prime Minister and his colleagues in this country. He made it clear that he would not do anything to consider the opinion of the people, and we had one-man Government. Here we have had from the Prime Minister three successive pledges, or, rather, one of them was a statement amounting 2049 to a pledge. The first pledge of the Prime Minister was that he would not force this Bill through unless he was independent of the Irish Nationalist party. I admit that he afterwards told us, in trying to explain that statement, that he meant he should have a majority, which did not mean that if the Irish Nationalists voted against him he would be put out. Can he say that is the case now when he has been beaten by the Whole House, when every telegram sent begging the Irish Nationalists to come back from across the seas has been ignored, and they do not come because they realise that this Bill is dead, and they do not take the trouble to come.
The Prime Minister gave us that pledge on the Parliament Bill when he was trying to assure those who were inquisitive on this side that nothing should be done to cram through three great measures in one Parliament. Mr. Gladstone would never have ventured to take more than one of those measures in a single Session. These great measures have been crowded on the top of the Insurance Act, which was passed with the gag, and which the people are now beginning to realise is an undigested and ill-considered measure. Now we find that a Home Rule Bill, which affects the whole system of government between this country and Ireland, and which also affects the strategic position of the Empire, is being rushed through. The Government apparently think they are in the position of the Czar, and that there is no one to consult except themselves. I wish to ask this final question: Whether it is not absolutely contrary to the spirit of what the Liberal party are supposed to represent in the past that they should take this action. Is it possible for any hon. Member to go to his constituency and say that this is not a gagged Assembly? I beg to give notice that to-morrow I shall move:That the decision of this House on the Motion of the Prime Minister on 13th November to rescind the Amendment of the hon. Member for the City of London, passed on 11th November, 1912, notwithstanding anything in any Standing Order with respect to the Government of Ireland Bill itself be rescinded, and that the Amendment of the hon. Member for the City of London shall take effect as if the proceedings with regard to the Government of Ireland Resolution of 13th November in the name of the Prime Minister had not taken place.The reason I intend to move that Resolution on the earliest possible occasion is 2050 because it has come to my knowledge that some twenty or thirty Unionist Members did not know that this question was to be raised to-day, and consequently it was a snap Division that was taken. I hope it will be a final exposure of the fraud which has lowered the Government and made it ridiculous throughout the length and breadth of the country, and has reduced this House to nothing but a debating society of no importance anywhere except in the estimation of hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. HEWINS
As we are now at the beginning of a course which will not conclude until we have destroyed the Government—and, speaking for myself and all the Friends I have on this side, we intend to pursue that Government with implacable hostility—I should like to put on record, in supporting the Amendment of my right hon. Friend, some of the reasons which determine my attitude. Although I am comparatively a new Member of this House, I cannot help saying that I should have thought that the greatest possible condemnation of any course which any hon. Member of this House might want to take would be the fact that it is contrary to precedent, and I can show good reason before the conclusion of my remarks why the Prime Minister, in acting in this way, is going far beyond the conduct which is worthy of a party Leader or a Minister of the Crown, and doing that which every honest man and every citizen is bound to condemn and reject. On what did this critical situation arise? The hon. Member for the City of London moved an Amendment, which has been commented on in the course of this Debate, the object of which was to define, with some precision, where we are with regard to Irish finance. No careful information has been given to us, although Ministers have been pressed over and over again in the course of the last few months to give exact particulars and material upon which calculations could be made, but they have been grossly negligent in using those powers which the Constitution puts into their hands to obtain information. In the absence of that information, I should be willing to admit that it was not possible in the Amendment of my hon. Friend to express the situation with perfect precision. The object of that Amendment was to give precision to Irish financial relations. That was the situation. I have been in the House all the time this Debate has been going on, and I have 2051 listened very carefully to everything which has been said upon the other side, and I say, without hesitation, that one of the most characteristic features of the Debates upon the Home Rule Bill so far has been the deliberate determination of the Government to avoid vital financial issues. I could go right through the different parts of the Bill. I could take Clause 2 and every single question of importance bearing upon the finance or the fiscal relations of Ireland and show that they have been avoided. There has been no contribution, no speech from a Minister of the Crown, dealing with a single one of the vital questions raised by the Financial Clauses. When you come to the feeling on that side of the House everybody knows that there has been for a long time the greatest uneasiness about these Financial Clauses. I take one perfectly simple case. If hon. Members and right hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side vote for the Customs provision or the Clauses which deal with them under the Irish Home Rule scheme, then they will be voting openly and deliberately against the pledges they have all given on fiscal subjects in the country. There is naturally on that side a feeling of great uneasiness in regard to the whole situation. In those circumstances, Whips were sent out on both sides. Hon. Members on that side of the House knew perfectly well that critical matters would arise on the Financial Resolution, and I say the abstention of hon. Members on that side was deliberate. I do not go so far as to say they wished to see the Government defeated, but on the facts of the case, on the known and stated opinions of hon. Members on that side of the House, I say they were willing by abstaining from the Division to give the Government some slight shock in order to advance their own desires. That state of feeling on that side of the House coincided with the fact that on this side of the House, in consequence of the Whip we had and which we obeyed, we were here, and that was how the disaster to the Government was brought about.
The Prime Minister does not attempt to underrate the seriousness of that disaster. He says it is vital unless this vote is reversed. May I say, with all respect, that only makes his crime greater in introducing this Resolution. This House does not live merely for itself; this House is the type and home of representative government of all kinds, both in 2052 other countries and in other parts of our own Empire. I ask the Labour Members, supposing you create the impression in the country that you can by a vote such as the Government desire from this House to-night, trample on precedent, tear up your Standing Orders, and go back upon your Resolutions, what is going to be the situation of the great trade unions? I do not know any trade union whose procedure is not governed very much by the procedure of the House of Commons. What is going to be the position of great bodies like the London County Council and other great municipalities? I say, when you once let down the standard of honour and uprightness in the British House of Commons you destroy them wherever they are. Let me put this to the Prime Minister. He is not only the Leader of a party; he is a Minister of the Crown, and every act which he performs, and everything he does in that character is bound to have an effect far beyond the limits of the House of Commons. Why has this country in all ages of its career insisted on the maintenance of the laws and customs of the realm? It has always been considered a crime allied to treason, to violate the laws and customs of the realm, and an oath promising to observe these laws and customs has been incorporated into the Coronation Ceremony of every civilised race. Yet in trampling upon the Standing Orders of the House of Commons that is what we are doing.
If we cannot depend upon the Standing Orders of this House, and upon its established rules and procedure, and still less, if we cannot depend upon what is even more important than all those Standing Orders and rules and practice; if we cannot depend upon what I might call the genius for working representative institutions according to English traditions, then I think the country is indeed in a bad way. I do appeal to hon. Members on that side of the House before they vote in support of the Prime Minister, to remember what they are doing. They did not create the House of Commons, and the House is not their's to destroy. It is the greatest of all English possessions; it represents the quintessence of national feeling; it has been the model of every great institution of the world. You are merely trustees. You have no business to trample upon the honour of the country. I know there are hon. Members on that side and hon. Members sitting on the Front Bench opposite, 2053 who perhaps have not got that feeling about English traditions we have on this-side. We are only asking the Government to maintain those things for which our forefathers fought. We are only asking them to maintain the British House of Commons that has been the admiration of the world; and the Prime Minister, in bringing forward this Resolution is trampling, if one may say so, on his own past. He is trampling upon the traditions of the office he holds, and I do beg the Government, not in order that they may escape the destruction they will infallibly meet with in the country—they have brought it upon themselves, and directly they try and explain these things to the British working classes, do you think they will show any mercy to men who threaten the Constitution of the country?—but to prevent this disgrace and this dishonour being put upon the House of Commons, not to pass this Resolution.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Hon. Members on that [the Opposition] side of the House who have spoken have been listened to in silence, and they ought to hear what is said from the other side.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I would remind hon. Members who are in the corner [to the immediate left of the Chair], and who are calling out "Adjourn," that an appeal has been made over and over again for fair play.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
We want fair play on both sides, and they [the Government] will not give it us.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I express no opinion with regard to that. Those who appeal for fair play ought to show it.
§ Sir RUFUS ISAACS
You have ruled, Mr. Speaker—[Interruption]—… The hon. and learned Member has challenged 2054 us—[Interruption]—to quote precedents—[Interruption]—for the course we are pursuing—[Interruption.] I desire — [Interruption]—… Mr. Speaker, you have pointed out—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
In my opinion grave disorder has arisen, and, under Standing-Order No. 21, I adjourn the House and suspend the sitting for an hour.
§ Sitting accordingly suspended at half-past seven o'clock p.m.
§ Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair at Half-past Eight o'clock.
§ Viscount HELMSLEY rose—
§ Viscount HELMSLEY again rose—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It is quite obvious to the House that it is useless to continue. If hon. Members confine themselves to Parliamentary cries, I have no power to treat them as creating disorder. Therefore, in the circumstances, it is quite obvious that the Opposition having determined not to allow further business, I am compelled to say that a state of grave disorder has arisen, and, under the Standing Order, I must adjourn the House until To-morrow.
§ Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-four minutes before Nine o'clock, until To-morrow (Thursday), at a Quarter before Three o'clock.