Standing Order No. 21 read.
I think I shall best consult the interests and the dignity of the House if in introducing the Amendment to the Standing Order which is in my name on the Paper of the House I abstain wholly from any irritating topics, and, as far as possible, from anything in the nature of unnecessary comment. The unhappy incidents of Tuesday night, or Wednesday morning, are so fresh in the recollection of the whole House that it would be superfluous were I to recall them to the House, or to dwell upon them at any length. It is sufficient for me to say, and it is the justification, after all, of this proposed change of the Standing Order, that there was at that time an offence committed which, if not a new offence, certainly was never committed to the extent and with the aggravation which attended it on that occasion, and that this offence under our Standing Orders as they now are meets with no summary punishment at all. The Members of this House who were named by you, Sir, and were suspended by the House, are at this moment suffering from the week's expulsion from this House, which is the penalty inflicted by the Standing Order. But the fact that after they had been so suspended from their service in the House they resisted, even to violence, your directions that they should leave the House is a crime against the order of this House which receives, and can receive under our system of summary jurisdiction in this House, no punishment at all. The House is aware that up to a comparatively recent period the power of the House to deal with those of its Members who had offended seriously against its rules depended on what I may call the traditional powers of this House—the common law powers, if I may so call them, to borrow a phrase from the law of the land. Those common law powers, however, are rather cumbrous and elaborate in their application; and although they still exist in their full force, and although I think it is very undesirable in any way to interfere with them, the House has felt from time to time that it is absolutely necessary in the interests of order in this House that its powers of summary jurisdiction should be increased. There are two Standing Orders on which that power of summary jurisdiction depends. There is Standing Order No. 27, which deals with disorderly conduct. Under that Standing Order it is in the power of Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman of Committees, to order any Member who is guilty of disorderly conduct at once to leave the House, and the Member so ordered is suspended from the service of the House during that sitting. No division is taken; the judgment of the House is not called upon to confirm the judgment of Mr. Speaker, or the Chairman; and, as a consequence of that order, as the natural result of it, the sentence is in itself of the lightest possible description. The other Standing Order which deals with this matter is Standing Order No. 21, which is the Standing Order I propose to amend by the resolution standing on the Paper. Standing Order 21 differs from Standing Order 27 in this, that before any penalty is inflicted upon a disorderly Member he is named by the Speaker of the House, and the House has an opportunity of expressing its opinion as to whether he should or should not undergo the consequent penalty. The House being thus called on to back up the authority of the Chair, the penalties described in Standing Order 21 are of a more severe description than those Standing Order 27. A Member may be suspended, is suspended, for the first offence in a session for a week, for a second offence for a fortnight, for a third or any subsequent offence for a month. It is that Standing Order which I propose to amend by adding a clause which shall provide a penalty—I do not say whether an adequate or an inadequate penalty—but a penalty which, as it seems to me, is the most proper we, can fix upon. This is a new penalty for the further offence of resisting Mr. Speaker's direction. This contingency that Mr. Speaker's direction should be resisted was not prominently before the House, happily, at the time when these Standing Orders in their prevent shape were framed. Our subsequent experience has been of a kind to bring that possibility very prominently before us, and I do not think, having regard to what occurred on Tuesday last, we can leave that offence wholly undealt with. It will be observed that unless some change such as I propose is passed in the rule, the existing penalties almost stand in the way—they are a certain obstacle in the way—of dealing adequately with the punishment of physical resistance to Mr. Speaker's order, because a Member having been suspended is relieved of any further attendance in the House for a week. You could not proceed next day to deal with these Gentlemen who are now suffering from their suspension, because they cannot be in their places. They are necessarily and by our order absent; and we think it would not be proper to deal in their absence with men who have no opportunity of alleging any extenuating circumstances. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that we should provide some immediate summary and, if possible, adequate and proper punishment for tins additional offence. This does not pretend to be a general reform of those Standing Orders which deal with disorderly conduct, Those Standing Orders I think in some particulars deserve revision. I think the time of the House might be well devoted at some period less crowded with necessary businesss than the present to a re-survey of the Orders. But I make no such proposal at the present time. I merely come forward with an immediate method of dealing with an immediate evil. I do not ask the House to regard the Standing Order as it will be amended as a perfect embodiment of the expedients we should take for dealing with disorder. I only say it would be very greatly improved, and would not be wholly insufficient to deal with the evils which experience has shown us we have to fear. I trust the House will unanimously agree to this. [Nationalist laughter.] I do not know whether I am to interpret that interruption as indicating that hon. Gentlemen, that any hon. Gentlemen in whatever part of the House we see them, think we ought to be quite helpless in the face of any member who commits a crime against the order of this House more aggravated in its character, I think, than any other crime of which we have knowledge. Disorderly conduct may take many forms; it may be more or less aggravated, but when disorderly conduct reaches the pitch of absolutely refusing to obey the direction of the Speaker to leave the House, everybody will feel that a discredit is cast upon our proceedings which it is impossible for us patiently to tolerate. Even those hon. Gentlemen who most sympathise with—or, let me put it, least condemn—what took place on Tuesday night, even they, I think, will feel that the Government and the House would show themselves unworthy of their traditions and unworthy of the duty which is cast upon them to keep the proceedings of this House orderly if they did not take the first occasion of providing a punishment—an adequate punishment—for an offence the danger and reality of which have been so painfully and so impressively brought to our notice by the unhappy events of two days ago. I beg to move this motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Standing Order No. 21 be amended by inserting, after line 27, the words, 'Provided also, That if any Member, or Members acting jointly, who have, been suspended under this Order from the service of the House, shall refuse to obey the direction of the Speaker, the Speaker shall call the attention of the House to the fact that recourse to force is necessary in order to compel obedience to his direction, and the Member or Members who have refused to obey his direction shall thereupon, and without further Question put, be suspended from the service of the House during the remainder of the session.'"—( Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
Questions proposed, "That those words be there inserted in Standing Order No. 21."
The right hon. Gentleman has acted wisely and has set a good example to all Members of the House in the calm, dispassionate, and moderate tone in which he has spoken of this very delicate question. We all speak with a perfect consciousness of the heated atmosphere which might easily arise, and which we have seen within but a few hours existing in this House; and I trust that, whatever view we may take of the proposal of His Majesty's Government, we shall endeavour to imitate the example which the right hon. Gentleman has set us. What strikes me principally in looking back on the deplorable events of the other night is this, that it is an instance of what may often happen to us in the course of our lives—that we are to a large extent oblivious of the degree to which many of the circumstances of our life and the conditions of society rest upon physical force. It is rather a humiliating fact when one comes to recognise it. Although we must be more or less aware of it, it is not the less odious a thing when it thrusts itself in its naked power upon us. Undoubtedly it is the ease that, after all, the rules of this House, which usually work so quietly and equally, rest for their ultimate authority upon force. It seems to me that the other night we had that force displayed to us in a way which was very repulsive to the feelings of every one of us, and which certainly did not add to the dignity and the credit of the House of Commons. To that we were reduced by the grossly disorderly conduct of some Members. I am finding no fault whatever with the action of the authorities of the House, or of you, Sir, in authorising the introduction of the police; but I con fess frankly, and I think I shall he approved in this by many Members of the House, if they will be frank in acknowledging their own feelings, that it is this introduction into the House of a body of police for this painful duty that has struck so heavy a blow at our dignity. What we have to do, it seems to me, in any rule that we pass is to make our rule such as to avoid the necessity of any such display of force in the future. In criticising or passing some observations upon the particular proposal of the Government I would wish, in the first place, to make one thing clear—that a somewhat unusual course, as I think, has been followed in this matter. This is not a thing affecting party or political divisions. It affects the honour and dignity of the House; and I am much mistaken if it is not a fact that on all similar occasions in any Government, when the Leader of the House had a proposal of this sort to make, not in the interest of the Government, but in the interest of the dignity of the House, there was some consultation beforehand with those who sat opposite him, with those who did not share his views in all political matters, and who are not entitled to be consulted where it is a mere question of the mode of prosecuting Government business. This was not done on this occasion, and the first that my friends and I knew of this proposed rule was when the right hon. Gentleman read the terms of it at the Table yesterday. In coming to the actual proposal I would point out some respects in which, at all events, the new rule might, I think, be amended. I think the House will follow me in this—that where a Member behaves in a disorderly fashion and is named, and is suspended from the Chair, in the usual and recognised manner, there are three separate stages, as it were, possible. There is first of all, the possibility of a Member of his own accord, under the compulsion, of course, of the decision of the House, but under no other compulsion, removing himself from the House. A further stage is when the public officer appointed for the purpose—the Serjeant-at-Arms—goes up to a Member and calls upon him to obey the order of the House and remove himself from the precincts of the House. He subjects himself, no doubt, in one sense, to force, but it is only constructive force. The Serjeant-at-Arms may touch the Member lightly on the shoulder and formally ask him to leave. That is legal force, but not physical force. Then with a friendly sign. hon. Members have obeyed without a murmur. Their idea of their own independence of action was vindicated, but they obeyed under compulsion. Up to that point, I think, a member is within his right, as it were, if he choose to take that course. The other night we came to a further stage, to which we have not been accustomed. There was actual physical resistance to this legal compulsion; and there lies the danger to the order and decency of our proceedings against which we ought to guard. Now I think that there ought not to be any intervention of a new rule previous to the occurrence of that last stage; and I would suggest, not by way of moving an Amendment or suggesting even that I should move an Amendment to the rule, that after the first word "Speaker" in the third line there should be inserted —I have jotted the words down hurriedly—"if a member shall refuse to obey the direction of the Speaker and disregard the action of the Serjeant-at-Arms in enforcing that decision." The rule would then read—
and so on. That is the point at which we pass from a perfectly orderly proceeding to that which is necessarily disciplinary. I think it is there that the new provision, which would guard us against this sort of proceeding of which we complain, should come in. I think the adoption of the addition I suggest would make a great difference in the way in which the Rule would be regarded by a large number of Members of the House—if the new provision did not intervene too early, as it were, and if it was only after there was clearly a danger of actual physical force being required that we should proceed to the strong measure contemplated by this Order. I think that would sufficiently guard against a recurrence of such a scene as we all deplore, and at the same time it would leave Members free to adopt a certain form of protest, which they may consider a dignified form of protest, against the enforcement of the rule of the House. Another point upon which I think the debate will probably disclose some difference of opinion is as to the extent of the punishment inflicted. The whole of a session is a very long time—[HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!]—when the occurrence takes place at an early period of the session; you practically disfranchise a constituency. Well, I name it as a point upon which I think difference of opinion will be found amongst men who are just as anxious as any hon. Member opposite to prevent such scandals as we saw the other night, and to vindicate the dignity and honour of the House, I leave it there. Of course there is not a word to be said, and I am not one to say a single syllable, by way of excuse for what happened; there can be no excuse, much less justification or palliation, in one sense. But there may be, circumstances when there has been an unnecessary occasion given for a state of feeling leading and contributing to such conduct, and I venture, before, I sit down, merely to point out, in a word or two, that when you have a Vote on Account, which you take by the closure in one night, for a, sum large enough to carry over the Government till the end of the session, that is rather a strong order."If any Member, or Members acting jointly, who have been suspended under this order from the service of the House, shall refuse to obey the direction of the Speaker, and disregard the action of the Serjeant-at-Arms in enforcing that decision, the Speaker shall call the attention of the House to the fact that recourse to force is necessary in order to compel obedience to his direction,"
On a point of order, Sir. The right hon. Gentleman is, I will not say criticising my conduct in moving the closure the other night, but saving it was a very strong order. [An IRISH MEMBER: So it was.] I have no objection to that if I have the right of reply, but I do not think the charge ought to be made if I have not the right of reply.
The right hon. Gentleman has the right of reply.
On a specific charge?
I was going to say that it is not relevant to go into the question of the history of the debate through which this disorder arose.
All I argue for is this, that in framing and applying a rule of this sort we must not forget that there may even be a series of circumstances in the conduct of the business of the House which lead to a very great exasperation of feeling, and, therefore, make it not unnatural that hon. Members should sometimes take up a strong position in opposition to the ordinary course of business. I go no further than that. We must bear that in mind when we are laving down rules of this kind, which have the effect of preventing disorder, yet may do so in such a way as to appear to interfere with the privileges of Members and their constituents. That is all I wish to say in reference to what you, Sir, have said, I had no intention of going into the question of the circumstances which led to the incident before us. Of that incident I have nothing but condemnation to express, and my only object is to assist the Government, if they will allow us to do so, in framing such a rule as, without being unnecessarily severe, may have the effect of preventing the development amongst us of those scenes of violence which we all so deeply deplore.
On a point of order. I have some Amendments to move which I think will come in before the right hon. Gentleman's.
Dose the right hon. Gentleman move?
I wish, to associate myself with both the right hon. Gentlemen who have spoken in the expression of a desire to discuss this matter calmly, and not to import any heat into the discussion, it is my intention to follow that line. I do not know whether I shall succeed or not. [A laugh.] Yes, because the House must in fairness recognise, that I come to the consideration of this question from an entirely different standpoint to that of either one or the other of the right hon. Gentlemen. From the point of view of the calm consideration of this matter, I think the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House would have been well advised if he had postponed for a few days bringing this matter before the House. However, I trust that none of what I may call that bad blood which arose the other night still exists, and that we may be able to discuss the subject with calmness. This new rule is of course directed against the Irish Members; but I desire to say that in my opinion it is a matter which concerns the House of I Commons and the Parliament of England and its British Members far more than it concerns the Irish Members. I have risen to protest against this rule, and, leaving aside just for a moment the peculiar Irish aspect of the question, I would venture to impress upon the House that in a free assembly, or what professes to be a free assembly, the enactment of penal provisions such as these is a hateful and degrading proceeding, which is not to be tolerated unless in the first place it is absolutely necessary, and, in the second place. I suggest he had the duty thrown upon him of seeing that the particular proposal that he made was the least oppressive and the least degrading he could devise to effect the object he had in view. Let me ask, is any change of this kind in the Standing Orders of this House necessary in order to prevent proceedings such as those which took place on Tuesday? The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman is justified in his mind, and in the mind of the majority of this House, by the proceedings of Tuesday night; and it will be in your recollection, Sir, as no doubt it will be in the recollection of the right hon. Gentleman, that yesterday afternoon, when I desired to discuss the whole circumstances connected with that event, I was unable to do so on a motion of privilege, but the Leader of this House said—
And then he went on to say that he would make a statement and a motion which would give me that opportunity."Now the hon. Gentleman desires that there should be an opportunity for discussing what has occurred; I suppose for considering also what means may be taken of preventing its recurrence."
I think the hon. Gentleman is unintentionally misinterpreting what I said, or it may be that I expressed myself badly. The point raised was whether there would be an opportunity of discussing the case of the hon. Member for South Fermanagh and the case of another Gentleman which the hon. Member for East Mayo desired to raise yesterday. When Mr. Speaker explained that it could not be raised yesterday, I got up and said that, although it could not be raised yesterday, I understood from Mr. Speaker's ruling that it could be raised on some subsequent occasion. I then added that there would be an opportunity given for discussing how such scenes could be prevented. That is all I intended to convey.
I do not wish to raise any conflict of recollection between the right hon. Gentleman and myself, but be will forgive me perhaps if I read the, words in The Times report. The right hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that I had raised the narrow point of these two Members; but my hon. friend the Member for East Mayo asked an additional question with reference to the discussion of the whole subject. Then the Leader of the House spoke as follows—
And he goes on—"I understood from the question of the hon. Member for Waterford that what he desired was an opportunity of discussing the case of these two gentlemen who regard themselves as being aggrieved. That opportunity will be granted as soon as they have put themselves in communication with Mr. Speaker. Now the hon. Gentleman desires that there should be an opportunity for discussing what has occurred, I suppose, for considering what means may be taken for preventing its recurrence."
I have only alluded to that matter to explain the line I intend to take in the few remarks with which I shall trouble the House. Admittedly this proposed rule springs out of the proceedings of last Tuesday; and I feel that if the proceedings of last Tuesday are to be used as an argument justifying the passage of this proposal, I am entitled to consider what those proceedings were. In the first place, I say to right hon. Gentleman that, speaking generally, if the government of this House is in the future to be carried on by closure, by the suppression of adequate discussion, upon large Estimates, then not the most stringent rule which the wit of man can devise will save this House from a recurrence of scenes which no man in any part of the House desires to see interrupting the course of business here. For the proceedings of Tuesday last I say there is no precedent. The right hon. Gentleman may tell me that there have been other occasions in recent years when the discussion on Votes on Account for large sums of money was confined to one night. I say that within recent years there is not one single precedent of a Vote on Account of this magnitude being passed after one night's discussion; and especially there is no precedent of such a Vote, covering a multitude of subjects, including millions of money affecting Ireland and Scotland, being passed after only one topic of discussion had been raised. I saw in the Daily News to-day—["Oh, oh!"]—I give it for what it is worth. Hon. Gentlemen will perhaps allow me to remark that what I am going to quote from the Daily News is not an impersonal statement in a leading article, but a statement from the well-known House of Commons correspondent of that paper. In that he states that he was aware of his own personal knowledge that the Leaders of the Opposition were approached by the Government as to the Votes to be discussed on Tuesday, and were asked to select the first Votes; and the Opposition selected the Education Vote and the Board of Trade Vote; that the education discussion went on and that the, closure was moved, cutting out the discussion on the Board of Trade as well as other things, without any word of explanation being given here to the Leaders of the Opposition with whom this understanding had been arrived at."I think it possible—although I can make no statement at the present time—I shall be able to make a statement within a few hours for an opportunity to be given to the House to discuss both these questions."
There was no such understanding.
Oh yes, there was.
I am not making this statement, of my own authority. If it is wrong, of course it can be corrected. But what I do want to say on my own authority is that, having taken particular pains myself to make inquiries in every unofficial quarter of the House. I ascertained, I satisfied myself at any rate, that it was the universal impression that no attempt would be made to closure the Vote on Account. Under these circumstances very many Members left the building. I left and a number of my colleagues also—a number of Members from all sides of the House, under this impression, left. And then suddenly, after twelve o'clock, after only the one subject had been discussed, the closure was moved, and there occurred what I will say, with a full sense of my responsibility, was a natural ebullition of feeling on the part of a number of Members in this quarter of the House. They have been told since that they ought not to have objected to this procedure because all the items mentioned in the Vote on Account could be discussed afterwards in Committee of Supply. But those who make that statement forget that it was only the other day that an additional day for the discussion of Irish Estimates was refused by the right hon. Gentleman, and that we are confined to three days out of the whole session for the discussion of the multitude of questions arising on Irish Supply. It has been stated that, what I have called the ebullition of feeling on the part of a number of my colleagues —as I venture to assert with great malice in some of the newspapers of the country—was a premeditated and deliberate action on their part. I desire to give that the most unqualified and absolute denial. I am sure that even those who are most bitterly opposed to the line I take in the House will believe me when I say that it was absolutely unpremeditated, and that no one was more astonished than I was next morning when I opened my newspaper. I say it was a natural ebullition of feeling on the part of a number of Members of this House, and if it was an isolated instance of the closure I would not use that epithet. But this procedure on Tuesday night was part and parcel of a deliberate system of closure which has been put into operation this year. We are told that the discussions on Estimates must be scamped because certain financial arrangements must be completed by 31st of March, the House having met on 14th February. Is that an argument? Next year, perhaps, the House will not meet until 1st March, and then the same argument will be used—"You must have less discussion this year because there is less time." No, Sir, that is no answer, no argument. The fact is there is and there has been on the part of the Government and of the majority of the House for a number of years a deliberate attempt put on foot to stifle the voice of independent criticism of the Estimates, and to reduce to an absolute nullity what is the first and greatest constitutional right of this House—namely, discussion of grievance before the voting of money. I assert deliberately that the whole, moral responsibility for what occurred on Tuesday last rests on the Leader of the House. The Leader of the House of Commons has a post of great responsibility—not merely responsibility to the Government, whose business he is trying successfully to manage, but the higher and wider responsibility for the freedom and efficiency and the dignity of the House of Commons. And I say from the double point of view, both of the interests of the Government and the wider interests of this deliberative assembly, he is morally responsible for what occurred. I have been in this House now for a considerable number of years, and my experience has been that Government has never in the long run gained by what I may call Parliamentary sharp practice, by an attempt to use constant closure and by an attempt to deprive the voice of independent criticism of free utterance. Any such attempt that I have ever witnessed by either of the great English parties has recoiled upon itself, and this is a case in point. What has the Government gained by, without the slightest intimation or notice, closuring this seventeen millions of money? It was done, we are told, in the interests of time. What is the result? You have dislocated entirely your programme of business, and you have had to give up to another thorny and most dangerous subject time, which could be usefully and quietly employed in the further discussion which was necessary. And from the point of view of the House of Commons as a great deliberative assembly, which boasts that it is the mother of Parliaments, which boasts that it is a free assembly, what is the result? I regard the action of the right hon. Gentleman from the point of view of the English Parliament as absolutely fatal. Does the saving of a few hours, even if you had succeeded in saving a few hours, to convenience the Government in the passage of Supply, compensate you for having the credit and renown of this assembly dragged in the mire as it was on Tuesday night, and, as I venture to assert, dragged in the mire as it is being dragged to-night, when you are proposing this monstrous resolution? Year by year you have been lowering and degrading the status of this Parliament; step by step you have been depriving it of its historic rights, privileges, and freedom. If I were to regard this solely as an Irish Nationalist, I might perhaps find in that fact some consolation, because, after all, having robbed Ireland of her Parliament and having compelled us to come across the water to your Parliament, it cannot but be some consolation to us to find that the price you have to pay is so high and bitter. Is there no remedy possible for the state of things that has arisen except the enactment of these penal regulations? I will say respectfully to the House of Commons the remedy is to be found, not in these penal regulations, which, however you may devise them, may be broken, and, if this system goes on, no doubt in the future will lie broken—the remedy lies in the more considerate government of the affairs of the House, and the abstention from tyrannical interference with the fair liberty of discussion. I believe that this proposal is unnecessary, and that yon can deal with the situation that has arisen better by leaving the rules as they are and showing more consideration to private Members. Therefore, on the ground of want of necessity, I say the case for this resolution has broken down. Apart from that, the resolution itself is, in my opinion, a most extravagant one. I remember well when, in 1880, Sir Stafford Northcote, then Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House, was proposing the original very moderate rule dealing with the suspension of private Members for a day or a week, he recognised the danger of leaving it in the power of any person, no matter how highly placed, by naming a number of men to suspend them from the exercise of their function as Members. He said on 28th May, 1880—
That was the original view expressed when the resolution was first introduced. I well remember coming down to the House in 1882, when the proposal was made to extend that Order and make it more oppressive—I well remember how Lord Randolph Churchill fought this proposal line by line. I remember well his phrase, which rang through the House when he denounced the proposal to suspend Members for one month, as a last resort, as "a ferocious and savage" proposal. Now it is proposed to leave in the hands of the Chairman of Committees or the Speaker—because that is what it comes to—the power of naming any number of men for disorderly conduct, and then following on that comes their suspension practically. [Cries of "No."] Yes; the interruption is puerile. The Speaker or the Chairman of Committees names the men and the House then votes for or against their suspension. That is quite true. But have we not had the experience this afternoon of how docile the House is in accepting the motion to expel men whose names are read from the Chair, even although some of those men have not been in the premises at all? I take the constitutional ground that you have no right to suspend the action of a Member of Parliament for a whole session. It is a penalty in very many cases not inflicted upon him. I know that a great number of the Members of this House do not regard their attendance here as any great pleasure or privilege. I know a number of Members whose attendance in this House means for them practically ruin in their professions, and who come here simply from a sense of public duty, and' who would not suffer in the slightest degree if you suspended them for the remainder of the session. But you are inflicting a penalty on the constituency, and a penalty upon the constituency for an act to which the constituency cannot possibly be privy in any way. If you answer me by saying that the constituency ought not to elect men capable of such conduct, then I say—"Have the courage of your convictions and expel the men." Ah, Sir, the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich is the only man I have come across so far who is perfectly frank and honest in this matter. He has the courage of his convictions. He is going to move a proposal to the effect that instead of being suspended indefinitely we should be imprisoned indefinitely. I congratulate the noble Lord in being thorough in this matter, although I confess I am rather surprised that he did not put into his Amendment not imprisonment, but the block. From the purely Irish point of view I desire to say that the Irish Members regard this rule with indifference and contempt—with indifference because no penalties you can devise, will have the effect of deterring us from doing what we believe to be our duty, and with contempt because the penalties inflicted in this way we regard not as a reproach, but as an honour. I say that if you go on, if the House of Commons goes on, upon the lines on which it has embarked in this matter, the logical result, and the only logical result, is the disfranchisement of Ireland. I am not sure that that would not be far better. I am sure it would be a far honester system than the present one. As long as you deprive Ireland of the substance of constitutional government and preserve the empty form by bringing us here to this Parliament, where we are always in a permanent minority as compared with the representatives of another country and another nation—so long. Mr. Speaker, as that is the case you will have in your midst a foreign element. There is something deeper in this matter than mere ebullitions of temper on the one side or mere new rules on the other. There is something deeper, something that goes right down to the bed-rock of this Irish question. The Irish Members, brought as they are to this House, are a foreign element in this House, and just like a foreign substance in the human body, when they are here—"They recognised the importance of giving the. Speaker and Chairman of Committees an opportunity of putting a stop to an offence on the spur of the moment but they did not deem it right to give to any authority, however high, acting upon short notice, the power of suspending Members for a considerable time."
I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I do not consider myself a foreign substance.
I hope I am more experienced and more sensible than to take any notice of the interruption. I say that, just as in the human body the presence of a foreign substance is a constant source of irritation and a constant source of danger, so the presence of a foreign element in this Parliament is the same, because the foreign element is made up of a body of men who are with you, but not of you; a body of men to whom the ancient glories and the great traditions of this House have no meaning; a body of men who regard this House and this Parliament simply as instruments for the oppression of their country; and in dealing with such an element I assert that no rules the wit of man can devise can possibly save your Parliament from being injured and degraded in the eyes of the world. Sir, that is the penalty that this country is paying to-day for the Union, and will continue to pay for it as long as it lasts. I say, therefore, that we treat the whole of these new rules with indifference and with contempt. I say that every such rule as you are proposing to-night is a weakening and degrading of your own Parliament, and the passing of every such rule as this amounts to the turning, if I may so say, of a searchlight upon the system of government in Ireland, which will expose the system to the knowledge and criticism of the nations of the world. It discloses to the world the fact that, with all your constitutional forms, you hold one portion of the so-called United Kingdom simply by brute force. I say to you, under these circumstances, speaking for myself and, I believe, for many, many Irish Members, go on with your new rule, suspend, expel, and imprison Members, we will not be in the smallest degree deterred. So long as we are forced to come to this House to endeavour, in the midst of a foreign majority, to transact our Irish business, we will use every from of this House, every right, every privilege, every power which membership of this House gives us—we will use these things just as it seems to us to be best for Ireland, quite regardless of the opinion and so-called dignity of British Members, and absolutely careless of the penalties you may devise for our punishment. In conclusion I would only say that my own strong feeling is this, that if in your effort to hold Ireland, according to your present system of government, by force, you degrade and paralyse, and in the end destroy, this famous Assembly, it will be but a just retribution upon you for the baseness and the cruelty with which you destroyed the free Parliament of the Irish people.
I think it is necessary for me to reply on the main question to the two speeches before we go into Amendments to this resolution. I shall deal very briefly with the two speeches to which we have just listened. The Leader of the Opposition made some complaint against the Government that they had not consulted hon. Gentlemen opposite. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that nothing could give me greater pleasure than to ask his co-operation in matters concerning the common interests of the House; but what was done yesterday was done rapidly, and I am sorry there was no opportunity for consultation. The right hon. Gentleman has suggested an Amendment to the rule, which I think in substance would be an improvement, and if he will move it we will accept it, or if he prefers that it should be moved from this bench my hon. and learned friend or some other Member of the Government will move it, or something substantially identical with it, at a later stage of our debate. I now turn to the speech of the hon. Gentleman, which was going to be pitched, as he told us, in a calm key of dispassionate discussion.
I said I would do my best.
It is true the hon. Gentleman said he would do his best. The hon. Gentleman is a great ornament of debate in this House, and I can hardly believe from what I know of him that a person of so great oratorical ability could so completely and so disastrously fail in carrying out the intentions with which he set out. If the hon. Gentleman intended to be conciliatory, that intention most certainly evaporated under the influence of his own oratory at a very early period of his remarks.
I said calm, not conciliatory. It is not an occasion in my view for conciliation on my part.
If the hon. Gentleman says he was not conciliatory, I can hardly describe his speech as "calm." The hon. Gentleman was good enough to say, among other calm observations, and amid the vociferous cheers of his friends, that the whole burden of responsibility for the unhappy incidents of Tuesday last rests upon my unhappy head. The hon. Member has described me as attempting to play the tyrannical master to the House, as unduly curtailing debate, and as consequently affording, if not a justification, at all events some excuse for the strange and unhappy proceedings with which Tuesday night's discussion terminated. Let me remind the House, by giving a bare statement of facts, what the situation is with regard to Supply. The hon. Gentleman said the excuse the Government put forward for moving the closure at twelve o'clock was that it was necessary to get Supply by 31st March. Sir, that is not the main reason why I moved the closure on Tuesday night, nor was that proceeding of so strange and unprecedented a character as the hon. Gentleman appears to suppose. The hon. Gentleman talked as if we were voting seventeen millions for the services of the year in a manner which would abstract the subjects to which the money was to be devoted from any further discussion by the House. The hon. Gentleman knows that that does not represent the facts. The old practice of the House was that a Vote on Account, as it was merely in anticipation of the Estimates, was not an occasion on which subjects could with advantage be raised. For reasons which I need not go into, discussions in Supply became longer and longer, more and more inconvenient to the Government of the day, and more and more were carried on until late in August, under what were admittedly impossible and disastrous conditions. Now, the result was that two or three Votes on Account were at different times put forward, and the House, being deprived of legitimate opportunities for discussion, naturally took advantage of the Votes on Account to raise matters of importance. All that was subsequently altered, with the approval of the House, and new Supply rules were introduced allowing a maximum of twenty-three days for Supply, distributed evenly over the session, so as to give Gentlemen on both sides full opportunity for discussion of the actions of the Government. A division on a Vote on Account on the first night is an almost necessary corollary of that rule, because as long as the Vote on Account is included in the twenty-three days, if it goes over two days it takes away one day from the regular discussion of the Estimates. To the Government that matters nothing, as the total amount of time taken for the Estimates cannot exceed twenty-three days. Feeling that that was so, I did, with the approval of the House, move the closure on the first night of the debate, not merely in 1901, but in 1900, 1899, 1898, and in 1897; and I venture to say that every man who occupies my position, so long as the Supply rides continue, will feel himself driven, in the general interest, to do the same, so that miscellaneous and vague discussions on Votes on Account shall be ended as soon as possible, thus allowing as much as possible of the twenty-three days for genuine discussion on the items in the various Estimates laid before the House. That is a simple, straightforward statement of the motives which animated me, acting with my colleagues, not only this year, but last year and the years before, as I have stated. I have never suggested in any of the discussions on the Supply rules that the Vote on Account should take more than one day; on the contrary I have always said that in order to carry on the business of the House decently and in order it was entirely inexpedient that we should give more than a day to that preliminary stage. The hon. Gentleman accuses me of trying to burke discussion. I do not want to be egotistical, but I say that this Government has done more to make discussion in Supply a reality than any previous Government has done, and the freedom of debate of which the hon. Gentleman complains has never been so largely enjoyed in Supply as during the last Parliament, and as I hope it will be during the remaining sessions of the present Parliament. The hon. Gentleman says that he and his colleagues come to this House as citizens of an oppressed nationality, and that when they do come here they are not allowed a fair share of debate. Has the hon. Gentleman sat here through all the debates conducted by his friends in the course of the present session? Does he know that this oppressed nationality has taken up one- fourth of the whole time which has been occupied in debate during the present session? The session is not old, it is still young, but the hon. Gentleman and his friends had two Amendments on the Address, and they occupied the greater part of the time on every other Amendment to the Address. Since Supply was brought in they have made endless speeches. If I remember rightly, they have made no less than eighty-four speeches, and forty-three of these were made in Committee of Supply. This is the gagged nation! These are the Gentlemen who are not allowed to open their lips by a tyrannical Minister! The House has listened with weary patience to attacks made, not upon politicians, for they are indifferent to those things, but upon the honour and courage of our troops and their conduct in the field. Can anybody say, even the most fanatical partisan, that this House has not proved itself, in this session as in all previous sessions, tolerant to views, however opposed to them and however expressed, so long as they are believed to represent opinions honestly held by even the smallest section of the Opposition? The hon. Gentleman did not disguise from us towards the end of his speech, when the calmness with which he began had completely disappeared, that he regarded with pleasure, or without displeasure, the fact that his countrymen had inflicted by their conduct a great injury upon the honour and the tradition of this House. He told us that he and his friends were foreigners in a strange land, and that, like any other foreign body introduced into an organism, it produced inflammation, disease, and, as he almost hinted, ultimately death. I will venture to urge upon the House that these concluding words of the hon. Gentleman are ample justification of the rule which, he says he is going to treat with contempt. He does not wish that the traditions and the honour of this House should be maintained. Sir, I confess that there is no Member of this House from whom I should have heard those sentiments with greater pain. The hon. Gentleman is endowed above his fellows, above. I had almost said, any man in this House, with the talents which would enable him to be, what so many of his countrymen have been in the past, a distinguished ornament and Member of the greatest free assembly in the world. If he elects deliberately, and for some unknown motive, to use those talents or encourage others to use their talents in a manner destructive of the honour and dignity of this House, I can only say that the hon, Gentleman is not only doing a great disservice to the Empire of which he is a citizen, and of which, I imagine, he still wishes to be a citizen—he is not only doing a great disservice to that Empire, but he is doing the greatest of all disservices to that portion of the Empire in which he professes to be particularly interested. He tells us that scenes like that on Tuesday night are the penalty we pay for refusing Home Rule to Ireland—a scarcely veiled threat—and are at intervals to be used, if we permit them to be used, to force us, as by a process of torture, to dismember the Empire which we are guarding. Sir, the hon. Gentleman forgets that under the Home Rule scheme which he accepts the blessing of freedom from the presence of Irish Members, as he would describe it, is not to be vouchsafed. The foreign body is still to be in the organism.
I assure the right hon. Gentleman that we have no such desire. When that was proposed, it was proposed by an English party, and was accepted by us, because we thought it was not worth while—[Cries of "Order."] My point is, we do not want to be here.
I am not going into a discussion on Home Rule. I did not start it; I do not wish to continue it. But I hope hon. Gentlemen above the gangway, if they still take any interest in that question, will take note of the view expressed by the hon. Gentleman of the form in which alone Home Rule would be agreeable to the Irish nation. Sir, I have said sufficient, I think, to defend us who sit on this bench, on whom the responsibility of guiding the House finally rests, to absolve us from the charge so recklessly levelled against us of having unduly curtailed the liberty of Members. I hope I have answered that fully. And as for the main subject of our discussion to-night, I venture to say that if any stranger had come into the gallery for the first time, not knowing what occurred on Tuesday except by report, after hearing the hon. Gentleman's speech, he would have said that that speech, especially its closing portion, was the amplest justification for the measure we are proposing from this side of the House.
The right hon. Gentleman has wandered over a very wide field in his speech, and I. have no intention of following him, but perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words in this debate upon the proposal immediately before the House, namely, the Amendment to the Standing Order No. 21. I share the pain and humiliation that must have been felt by every Member of the House when I read the record of those proceedings on Tuesday evening. I think the introduction of the physical element on that occasion was a degradation to this House of Commons—I was about to say it was a crime, but it most certainly was a blunder. We who recollect the late Mr. Parnell and the discipline that he maintained in the Irish ranks, discipline without which no party in this House can be effective—we who remember Mr. Parnell recollect that when he found occasion to protest against the proceedings of this House, even to the extent of refusing to obey the orders of the Speaker or Chairman, he did so in a dignified manner. In cases of this kind the late Mr. Parnell was content to retire after a tap on the shoulder from the Serjeant-at-Arms. I venture to say that hon. Members from Ireland would have been better advised if they had followed that example. I have no sympathy whatever—on the contrary, I condemn it root and branch—with anything in this House that requires the introduction of the police within this Chamber. I hope I have made myself clear in that matter. That, however, does not exhaust the question. I notice that, as the discussion has gone on, other circumstances of that night have been dealt with, although there was an attempt earlier to narrow the discussion. Before a Vote on Account of £17,000,000, carrying the Government on through many months, is put from the Chair such an arrangement ought to have been made as would have enabled the different items to be discussed, but in this case the whole evening was consumed by the interesting discussion on education. Then the Leader of the House came in and moved the closure on that £17,000,000 at the close of the evening, and I say without fear of contradiction that such action is reducing our proceedings to a perfect farce. The right hon. Gentleman has said something about the history of Votes on Account; but, if be will allow me to say so, I do not think he was quite accurate in that history, and no doubt he is relying for the statement upon information supplied to him by some other person. Everyone knows that a Vote on Account is dealt with in an exceptional manner, and it ought not to be included in the twenty-three days allotted to Supply. The proceedings of the other evening are sufficient to illustrate that point. I for one complain that the scene of the other night was led up to, and was the consequence of the manner in which the business was conducted. There certainly was a want of method with regard to the arrangement of the business of the House. The right hon. Gentleman himself had to apologise because he had not taken the usual courteous step of consulting the Leader of the Opposition. Was there ever such a state of things before? The amendment of our Standing Orders is a most serious thing, and when this omission on the part of the right hon. Gentleman was referred to he gets up in an airy way and says that time did not permit him to do so. There was ample time for the Leader of the House during the whole of yesterday to consult the Leader of the Opposition. That argument will not stand a moment's examination. All our Standing Orders have been drawn up with very great care, and this particular Standing Order No. 21 was the subject of a great deal of discussion in the year 1882, and it was protested against at the time by a man who knew this House better than most Members who have ever sat in it—I allude to the late Lord Randolph Churchill. He protested against it in the strongest manner, and I think it is absurd for the right hon. Gentleman to come down here to-night and move this addition to the Standing Order in the way he has done. As it stands on the Paper the Amendment is drawn in the most slovenly fashion. The Leader of the Opposition has pointed out already one defect in it, and his suggestion has been accepted. When you have previously amended these rules the Amendment has always been made on the motion of a Committee. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was chairman in the year 1886 of a very important Committee, which examined into the rules of our procedure, and he knows very well how much every recommendation of that Committee was discussed before arrived at. I should not think for a moment of voting for the Amendment now on the Paper. I pass from this point, and I say boldly and unhesitatingly that what you have to rely upon for the preservation of dignity and order in the proceedings of this great assembly are the personal qualifications and the character of those who are elected to the position of Chairman and Speaker and the general spirit and sense of the House. No Standing Orders will bind men who are determined to disobey them. Moral force is the only force that is effective in this case. The right hon. Gentleman pointed out at the beginning of the session that it is on the spirit that pervades the House that you must rely for preserving the efficiency and the dignity of its proceedings. I can find no word strong enough to express my alarm and disapproval of the rashness of this proceeding on the part of the right hon. Gentleman, and, as the Leader of the Opposition has pointed out, there is great danger in the words as they stand on the Paper. For my own part, as a Member of this House who yields to no man in the desire to maintain the dignity of this great place as an instrument of public good, I do not feel myself at liberty to vote for the proposal put forward in its present form.
I rise to propose an Amendment to the motion.
On a point of order. I have an Amendment on the first line which is of very great importance, and I may be shut out from moving it if the Attorney General moves his Amendment now.
If the hon. Member is prepared to move his Amendment now, I have no doubt the Attorney General will give way.
I have another point of order. I am sure that there is a very general feeling that the general discussion on the main question should go on and a vote be taken upon it. I want to know, if the Attorney General moves his Amendment now, will we be precluded from continuing the general debate?
The hon. Member will not be precluded from entering into the general question now. There is no Amendment before the House.
May I ask, on a point of order, whether, if hon. Members desire to continue the general discussion, they will be shut out from so doing by the Attorney General moving an Amendment at this stage?
If there is a desire to continue the general discussion, it would be more convenient that it should take place before an Amendment is moved. I had no information of any such general desire.
I wish to ask whether it is not in accordance with our usual practice and custom that, when a number of Members desire to move Amendments on different parts of the main motion, the proceeding should be so adjusted as that these Members should not be deprived of the opportunity of presenting their Amendments? Some of us feel very strongly in regard to this question.
The proper and more convenient course would be if the Amendments were laid on the Table. There is no Amendment on the Table. I have every wish to accommodate hon. Members.
If there is a general desire that my Amendment should come further on in the discussion I am prepared to give way.
I wish to say a few words on the main question, and they shall be brief. I think, however, that the great majority of the House is agreed that if any possible means could be adopted to prevent a repetition of the deplorable scenes of Tuesday night they should be taken. Although I would be glad to sec the resolution amended in certain respects, I certainly should support it in the main. The great majority of the House is so agreed on the point of general regret for the scenes that have occurred that it is hardly necessary for me to dwell upon them. My purpose in rising, mainly, is to express my deep regret that the closure was moved the other night. I do not think the moving and the carrying of the closure were any justification for what happened, but I want to say a very few words with regard to the defence made by the First Lord of the Treasury for moving the closure on a Vote of Account. I do not believe that there is any precedent for closuring a large Vote on Account when only one single item on that Vote had been discussed. At all events, I do not recollect such a closure before. My memory may be in error. Possibly the only precedent for it was during the discussion on the Jameson Raid, which of course was a matter of great interest, and caused much excitement in the House. But even on that occasion there was a, two nights debate on the Vote on Account. What was the, defence of the First Lord of the Treasury? He said that every single item of the Votes would be open to discussion on a future occasion. If that happened in practice it would be a very good defence, but no one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman that it never does happen. This is not a charge which I bring against the present Ministry alone. Over and over again it has been proved that discussion in Supply of the most important subjects has been constantly burked. Therefore that is a strong argument against closuring the Vote on Account. This is one of the few occasions on which we can discuss everything. [Mr. BALFOUR was understood to dissent.] Well, this is one of the very few opportunities of discussing most important questions. What was the course of procedure that night? A special subject was brought forward, a very important subject, no doubt; an Amendment was moved, and the result was that no other subject could be discussed; and hon. Members were encouraged to speak in order to keep the debate going [HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!] I make this general statement, which I am quite able to prove. I simply say that this was an occasion on which above all others the closure ought not to be have been applied. There were many subjects of great importance that ought to have been discussed. I do say that the rights of private Members have been so grossly infringed upon within the last few years, and the discussion of great public questions has been so frequently burked, that it is time independent Members made a protest. The idea that by closuring the debate on the Vote on Account you thereby ensure discussion of most important subjects in Supply is a purely fantastic idea of the Leader of the House. I blame the Leaders of the Opposition very much on this point; for of recent years Members on the Front Opposition Bench have not fulfilled their duly in insisting that important subjects should be discussed. They might have done a good deal to support independent Members in this respect. I think this is an occasion on which, in view of the turn which the debate has taken, independent Members are justified in making protest. I venture to enter that protest, because I feel very strongly the taking away from the House as a whole what I regard as one of its greatest privileges—namely, the insistence on the discussion of grievances before granting Supply.
I think if anything could justify the complaint which has been made to-night it has been the heated passion displayed in the course of the debate by the Leader of the House. He made a most passionate appeal to his followers to support this motion, by a reference to subjects which had not been mentioned in the debate—I mean, the speeches of hon. Gentlemen from Ireland parties to Army affairs in South Africa. We have evidence sufficient to-night to show us that the decision to move this Amendment on Standing Order No. 21 was taken on the high-tide of excitement of the Government in regard to the proceedings the other night. The right hon. Gentleman had to admit to the Leader of the Opposition that he had not consulted him because he had not time. Why, to come down to the House and move an Amendment to the Standing Orders which will disfranchise constituencies for six months at a time, is a proceeding which ought not to have been taken in heat and hurry, and without proper and due consideration. Now, I was here the whole of the night on Tuesday, and of course I never took part in supporting any Member of this House in disobeying the Orders of the House. But had you, Mr. Speaker, been here during the whole of that evening, had yon been a witness to the accumulating indignation of the House between ten and twelve o clock, you would not have been so surprised that something irregular should arise before the House closed. Those of us who were here at the time were discussing a subject of the utmost importance to the interests of our country, the question of education; and many of us had no opportunity of taking part in the debate because of the short time at our disposal. Then, the only member of the Government who was present for the greater part of the night was the Vice-President of the Council, who was left without the patronage and sympathy and support which he might have received from other members of the Cabinet during the debate. That was the condition of things that led up to the excitement which culminated in the unfortunate and regrettable incident on the benches below the gangway. The Leader of the House has, with all the marvellous skill of which he is so great a master, tried in the two or three speeches he has made to-night to locate this as a question between the Members for Ireland and his own party. No, Sir, this is a House of Commons question. I would like, if the Leader of the House will permit me, to take the liberty to remind him that there are still other parties in the House than that which owns allegiance to his sway and great power. There are still a few Liberals left, and we as well as Irishmen are con- cerned for the liberty of the House and the freedom of action of its Members. I am here to-night to say that we have known occasions when disobedience to the orders of the House by an hon. Member has borne great fruit, and produced great results for the welfare of a large section of the community. I remember when the late Mr. Plimsoll, then Member for Derby, came down to the House and gave an exhibition of his earnestness almost amounting to a threat of violence to the Leader of the House. And the immediate result was the passing of the Shipping Act of 1876, which formed the basis of many Acts which followed, and which have saved the lives of thousands of British seamen.
The hon. Member is going beyond the limits of discussion on the point before the House.
Probably I am, and I am not surprised. I took an active part in the proceedings in those days. Although not at the time a Member, I was within the precincts of the House and saw the whole proceedings, and I know, from my subsequent official connection with the work, what was the great blessing that resulted from it. I say that it is our duty to resist any inroads on the liberties of the House, or upon the freedom of Members, to take such action as they may think proper before granting Supply to the Government. I rather think that the disposition so prevalent in a distant part of our Empire is travelling with great rapidity towards our own country. I have heard it rumoured that some hon. Members desire to strengthen this sentence of exclusion which the Leader of the House has proposed by imposing a sentence of penal servitude, or something of the kind, for disobedience to the rules of the House. What we want is more tact in the general control of the business of the House. In the great Parliament of 1880, with which the First Lord of the Treasury is so intimately acquainted, and of which I am sure he has the most lively recollection, many scenes and incidents took place. I admired the skill with which he and his friends succeeded on those occasions in drawing attention to themselves and to the subjects which, for the time, they espoused. Sir, not- withstanding the high state of obstruction in that Parliament, of which the right hon. Gentleman was one of the leaders, some of the greatest measures of our time were passed; and it is only a want of skill in the management of business on the part of the Front Government Bench that has produced that state of things which led to the revolt on Tuesday night. I hope sincerely that we shall have an opportunity of voting upon the main question before Amendments are introduced on it. I am sure we shall take a large number of Members into the Division Lobby against tampering with our liberties, and I hope the motion will be defeated. When the passions of the moment have cooled down, let the Leader of the House take counsel with the Leader of the Opposition, and then take the House into his confidence, We are all concerned for the honour and dignity of Parliament, and if there is any good ground for mending or modifying the present rules of procedure let it be done with due consideration, and with the advantage of the experience of men in all parts of the House. In that way we might arrive at a discussion of the subject with something like reason, and with some hope of doing something effective for the better control of the Members of this House. I do think that the Leader of the House must admit that he has been most ill-advised in taking this hasty step. He himself has had to admit already that he was so hasty that he had not time to think of the Opposition. He had got it into his mind that there was only one side in the House besides the Irish Members; but he has learned to-night that there are other parties in the House, and that he has shown a want of consideration of the due proportion of things. As I have said, I hope we shall have an opportunity of voting against the main question, and that we shall have a majority against the motion. We might then refer the matter to a Committee representing the whole of the parties in the House. We should not then run a further risk of impairing the authority, the dignity, the honour, and what respect is left to the House of Commons after ten years mismanagement by the Tory party. There should be no attempt to patch up for party purposes and party conveniences the ancient rules and customs of this great House of Parliament, the mother, as it has been called, of the free institutions of the world. Then we should allow time to consider the proposed changes in moments of coolness, and not rush helter-skelter at express speed through the destruction of our liberty such as is proposed by the Leader of the House.
It is my intention to vote against the resolution of the Government, not for the reason that it goes too far, but that it does not go far enough. The proposed Amendment to the Standing Order will not prevent a recurrence of the disgraceful scenes of Wednesday morning. In my opinion, when any Member defies the authority of the Chair after being called upon to leave the Chamber, the sitting of the House should be suspended for a quarter of an hour. The galleries—the strangers', the ladies', and the reporters'—should be cleared, and the contumacious Members or Member should be forcibly removed in the presence only of the police. I think that in that case there could be no advertisement for any Member wishing to be turned out of the House, and the Members would walk out quietly. I think that to suspend to the end of the session, which may be only a week or a fortnight, a Member who has been guilty of conduct that would disgrace any parish council in Great Britain, does not cover the case. The resolution does not go far enough, and will prove a mere farce. Hon. Members from Ireland have definitely stated that it is their intention to repeat these scenes and these tactics of Wednesday morning. (Cries of "No" from the Irish benches.) I do not wish to advertise the paper, but hon. Members will no doubt know to which one I refer. In that paper several Members of the Irish party who were removed from the House on Wednesday morning bad been interviewed, and they stated that they proposed to go on again with these disgraceful proceedings. The hon. Member for Waterford stated that the most stringent rules which the wit of man could devise will not prevent a repetition of these scenes. Something must be done if we wish to maintain the dignity of a Parliament ruling four hundred millions of human beings under just and equitable laws.(Cries of "No" from Irish benches.) If you have any laws in Ireland which are not just, there is a desire on every side of the House to remove them. But when you come here and say that you are a foreign element, and intend to bring disgrace on everything connected with Parliament, you must remember that when you do so you insult not only Parliament, but the Empire.
Off with our heads!
The first Lord of the Treasury has referred to the attacks made by hon. Members sitting on the Irish benches on the soldiers of the Empire. Let me say to these hon. Members that in behaving as they have done they are damaging the interests they wish to serve. In the course they have taken these Irish Members are the worst enemies of Ireland. If they would only come here and present their case to the House with moderation, I am certain the House wishes to do what is right. I trust my fellow countrymen will never he coerced into doing what is wrong.
Neither will we.
While hon. Members choose to defy the authority of the Chair, and attempt to make this House nothing more nor less than a pot-house, not only lowering Parliament, but the nation at large. I say that the time has come when a protest should be made against it. Members should have the courage of their convictions, and never mind whether Ireland be disfranchised or not. If Ireland chooses to send representatives to this House who refuse to obey the laws and rules of order, then let Ireland be unrepresented. There is no injustice done to them by that, if the decencies of law and order are not observed in this House by hon. Members from Ireland. If they will not conform to them, then let them remain away. No injustice whatever would he done to Ireland, and the course I suggest would be merely following the dictates of common sense. Attention called to the fact that forty Members were not present. House counted, and forty Members being found present—
The House of Commons has in its long and splendid history witnessed many strange sights. It has seen its privileges invaded by a monarch, its doors have been barred and locked, and access refused to Members by a soldier, and I have myself seen a Member duly elected to this House dragged across the lobbies and the corridor, and ejected from the building, although the House was glad enough and willing enough to admit afterwards that they were wholly wrong, I have seen a free fight on the floor of this Assembly, originated not by the Irish Members, but by English. Members; but I think that a sadder or more terrible sight was never witnessed in this occasion I voted against the First Lord or any other legislative Assembly in Europe than the scene of Tuesday last. I am one of those Irish representatives who deeply deplore what took place, and who sincerely regret the dishonour done to this House and the injury that I believe has been done to Ireland by it. Feeling that, I shall vote for any reasonable resolution that will make a recur rence of such scenes impossible in the future, and that will punish any offender who violates to that extent the order and rules of this House. I desire, having said so much, to state two things. I am with those who have said to-night that there is some responsibility for this trouble elsewhere than on the Irish benches. Let me say that I voted on Tuesday night for the closure. I say that frankly, but I did not vote for the closure because I thought it ought to have been applied. I voted for it simply because of the exigencies of Supply, and because of the difficulty of the position in which His Majesty's Government was placed as to time. That was the real reason that made me vote for the closure, and if I had had the opportunity I should have voted for the granting of this £17,000,000 on Account. But I do think that the First Lord of the Treasury has gone a little out of his way to vindicate the closure on the Vote on Account after one day's discussion. I remember that in the year 1892 I was engaged in discussing the Chief Secretary for Ireland's salary, and he was a Home Rule Chief Secretary. I was engaged discussing it on a Vote on Account, and when the discussion had lasted one day the Vote was closured, and the present First Lord of the Treasury supported me in resisting the closure. It is all the same whatever Government is in power, for they will use the rules upon the Order Book to secure their own purposes, and the House of Commons may make up its mind that these weapons now used against Irishmen may be used against Englishmen as well. As I stated before, my objection to the closure was on account of the exigencies of Irish Supply. I made a strong appeal to the First Lord of the Treasury for Irish Supply, that is, to give us four days instead of three. That appeal of mine was refused, and on that occasion I voted against the First Lord of the Treasury, and I was not the only Ulster Member on this side who voted against him on that occasion. It was refused, and the Vote on Account was put the other night. I am bound to say that it was a startling proposal to vote £17,000,000, £2,000.000 of which were for Irish services, without a word having been said upon anything in the Vote but an English subject. There are a great many new Members in this House, and the Irish party is to a large extent made up of new Members. I was a close observer of what took place the other night, and on the question of the closure being put an Irish hon. Member desired to speak upon the motion, but he was pulled down to his seat by those sitting near him. What I want to point out is, that there are a great many hon. Members in the Irish party who are new to the House, and who are not aware of the strictness of the closure rule, and who in ignorance of that fact took opposition to that rule, which, had their leaders been present, they would not have taken. I heard the speech of the hon. Member who spoke last with great pain. What is the use of any English Member coming down to the House of Commons and lecturing Irishmen? Of course, I know that it was a new Member who did it, for no man who had been in this House for years would have ever have dreamt of doing it. It is one thing to address sound arguments to the House, but quite another thing to lecture Irish Members and tell them that England would do this and that. Irish Members do not care a row of pins for that sort of argument, which, instead of doing good, does harm. What I rose principally to state to-night is this. This House of Commons must never forget one important fact—that when they are dealing with Ireland and with the representatives from Ireland who sit on the opposite side of the House they are dealing with a country and with men who pay an unwilling allegiance to it. I say that the statesman who leaves that out of sight, the politician in this House who refuses to recognise it, misses the whole fact of the situation. We are governing in Ireland a people without the consent of the over whelming majority of those people. In all our dealings with Ireland, and in all our dealings with hon. Members opposite representing Ireland, I. say that we ought never to lose sight of this fact, and in everything we do we ought to try to conciliate and to meet the arguments and the desires of those representatives, so far as they can be met within the principles professed by the Government on this side of the House. We ought to conciliate and try to meet these men as far as it is possible to do it. Conciliation will go a long way where coercion will break down utterly. My point is that it is no use for English Members sitting on these benches to lecture Irishmen, and they had better recognise at once that the Irish Members in this House are fighting England in the only way in which they can fight her. They have their constituents at their back, and the sterner the fight the better the constituents will like it. It is a lamentable thing, a hundred years after the Legislative Union, that this spirit, this reckless spirit, should still prevail. Disorder cannot be tolerated; disobedience to the Speaker and the rules of the House must be put down with a stern hand; and I shall vote to-night to do it; but the disorder is tar deeper seated than Members on this side of the House appear to think, and it will require far different treatment than the imprisonment suggested by the noble Lord to remove it. The treatment will have to be far different. The House, recognising the fact that these men are unwilling guests there, that England destroyed their own Parliament, must first of all try to conciliate them, and meet their wishes so far as they can be fairly and honourably met consistently with the principles the Government were placed in power to support.
On behalf of the Nationalist Members I think I will be expressing their feelings when I thank the hon. Gentleman for the remarkable speech to which we have just listened. He is one who has been a great opponent of ours in the past, and he is still a champion of the Union, arid I warn the members of that party in this House that if they are wise they will listen to the voice of an Irish Unionist who knows something about the subject. For my part, I do not believe in the possibility of maintaining the Union, but I believe if it had a chance it would be on the lines of the speech of the hon. Member—in making an attempt to prove to the Irish people that we are wrong in our contention. For if the people of Ireland come to believe that their representatives here will not get a fair hearing, and are subjected to treatment that would not be meted out and a spirit displayed to them which is not displayed to any other section in the House, then you will increase the disaffection in Ireland, and convince the Irish people that they have been quite right all along, and have no reason to look here for justice. I listened to the speech on this side of the House to which the hon. Gentleman alluded in his speech; that was the speech of a Liberal Imperialist, and I gladly accept him as an example of that abominable creed. The Tories opposite are Liberals compared to him, and in the course of this debate, so far, I have heard nothing from Members opposite of insult or of a desire to increase the severity of this "scandalous and ferocious rule"—to adapt the words of Lord Randolph Churchill. It has been reserved for a Liberal Imperialist to turn round and talk to Irish Members in the fashion that we used to hear in '80 and '81. There are some of us who remember those days, in which we were patriots. Time vindicated our efforts, and the measures we were then howled at for advocating have been placed upon the Statute Book, and the spirit which existed in those days has died completely out, and I for one, who passed through them, know this, that there are men who are now ashamed of the part they took in them. In the opinion of the hon. Member to whom I allude, the wording of the motion is much too mild. I have a great deal more experience than he, and when he comes to my age he will have learnt that the tone and spirit which he, displayed is precisely the tone and spirit which would make the maintenance of order and decency in any assembly in the world absolutely impossible. Nobody knows, Sir, better than yourself that without some good feeling, without some sense of respect for every Member, without that sense which makes every man feel in his own person the humiliation of a colleague, no rules ever devised in any assembly in the world would preserve decency or order. I maintain—and I have been twenty years in the House, and I have never taken part in such a scene as that which took place on Tuesday night last—that if the Government think that by tightening the bond more and more every day, by cutting off year after year, as they have done for the last five years, what I might call safety valves for the expression of opinion, and trusting to and relying alone upon coercive legislation—if they think they will improve the order and decency and respect of this House, they are preparing for themselves a most painful disappointment. There was a time, comparatively recently, when this assembly contrasted very favourably for the order and decency of its debates with any legislature in the world. That day has gone by. The scene of Tuesday night could not be paralleled in the French Chamber, nor in the Reichstag at Berlin, and if the spirit displayed in the ludicrous and absurd Amendment of Lord Hugh Cecil was to govern the proceedings of the House the time would soon come when the British House of Commons would occupy the same position in the opinion of Europe as the Austrian Reichsrath does to-day. I do not desire to see that. I believe, and always have believed, and I have governed my conduct for twenty years in that belief, that within the rules of order in this House the power of an organised Irish Party, supported by our people at home, is sufficient to win the rights of Ireland, and, believing that. I do not want to have a recurrence of these disgraceful scenes in which we suffer; but if you rely on coercion, if you drive any large section of the House into a repetition of Tuesday night's scenes, we will not be the greatest sufferers. I would ask hon. Members in all seriousness when they are addressing themselves to the consideration of this question, which seems to have been put before the House by the First Lord of the Treasury with singular callousness and want of thought, whether this rule is not important in its wording? I think it is an odious thing to hear the Leader of the House talk about the "punishment" of Members. The House, of course, must insist on maintaining its rules of order, and whatever measures are necessary to enforce the authority of the Chair and the order of debate the House is entitled to take, but you must always remember that it is your colleague who is subject to disciplinary action, and having purged his conduct he becomes your colleague again, and you must not forget that men who are guilty of breaches of order are not criminals, and we are bound to assume that they are incited, whether right or wrong, by some conviction of public duty, and so long as they are going to be your colleagues in future, in going upon this theory of punishment you are on the wrong road, which will lead only to disaster. It should not be a question of punishment; it should be merely a question of such discipline as may be necessary to enforce the ruling of the Chair. Now, I listened with astonishment to the speech delivered by the First Lord of the Treasury. When he was introducing this rule he made a statement which I am compelled to characterise as an absolutely inaccurate statement. He said that this scene the other night was an outrage on the part of the Irish Members without parallel. I challenge that statement, and say it is absolutely contrary to fact. No doubt the scene of policemen promenading up the floor of the House was unparalleled. Since the day when Oliver Cromwell marched into the House surrounded by soldiers and seized the mace and carried it away, no such scene has been seen, but when the First Lord of the Treasury said it was an unparalleled outrage committed by Irishmen I absolutely deny it. I will take two cases where outrage committed by hon. Members not Irish were infinitely greater than that of last Tuesday night. The Irish Members last Tuesday night are regarded as felons. I say that statement is absolutely contrary to the facts. No doubt the bringing of a large body of police on to the floor was unparalleled, but the Irish Members offered violence to nobody until they were assaulted by a large body of police. What happened in the Committee of this House in 1893? It is within the recollection of many of the older Members of the House. The case is very analogous to the present one. The closure had been moved by Mr. Gladstone. When the hour was coming when the automatic closure was to operate, the Opposition of that day put up Mr. Chamberlain, the right hon. Gentleman who is now Secretary for the Colonies, and at ten minutes to the hour he made a speech of the most ferocious and inflammatory character I have ever listened to. He was put up with the deliberate object of exciting passion. He compared Mr. Gladstone to Herod upon his throne calling to be adored. What was the result? Twenty Members of the House refused to leave their seats and to clear the House for a division. The clamour and the disorder far exceeded what, according to what I have heard, occurred on Tuesday night. They defied the Chairman of Committees. Who were those twenty Members? They are all Ministers and officials since. Amongst them were the hon. Member for East Worcestershire (the son of the Colonial Secretary), the hon. member for South Tyrone, and the hon. Member for Fulham, who is now a Lord of the Treasury. These men refused in precisely the same way, and committed the same offence which the Irish Members committed on these benches, but they were under less provocation—because on that occasion in 1893, they committed it as the result of a cold-blooded conspiracy. They were not taken by surprise, their leader was not absent; their leader was there goading them on to the fight. They had full warning that the closure was coming. Irish Members are held up to execration in connection with the incident of two nights ago. But what happened in the case of the English Members on the occasion to which I have referred? The House was in a wild state of confusion, and Englishmen of the Tory and Liberal Unionist Party were openly defying the authority of the Chair. One hon. Member seized another hon. Member by the collar and endeavoured to throw him on the floor. It was the greatest outrage I have ever heard of in the House. It was an outrage because an English Member committed that violence on an hon. Member of this House without any provocation. That hon. Member is a Lord of the Treasury to-day. That outrage was the worst ever committed in the House of Commons in my memory, and, so far as my reading goes, the worst ever perpetrated in the history of the House.* It led to a free fight on the floor of the House. Mr. (now Lord) Peel, who was then Speaker, when he returned to the Chair, and Mr. Gladstone, a man who had at heart the honour and dignity of the House and of the humblest of its Members, and whose leader-ship was very different from that under which we sit to-day—Lord Peel and Mr. Gladstone spoke words of conciliation and of soothing. What did Lord Peel say? He said, "Let there be no recriminations and let the incident cease." Now, Sir, one of the things I complain of in the proceedings of the other night is this. I was not here, but I understand there were no words of conciliation, and I am told that the tone of that bench [the Ministerial Bench] was one of insult and contempt. I say deliberately that I do not care in what part of the world you have a large assembly of men, whether it be in Vienna, Berlin, New York, or London, if you attempt to govern a body of free men forming the Members of legislative assemblies on these lines, if you throw away conciliation, and abandon the
policy of give and take, it is impossible to carry out that rule which we all desire. I thought it necessary to make that protest, because I repudiate again in the most emphatic manner in reply to the statement of the First Lord of the Treasury that this was a gross outrage perpetrated on the House. It was nothing of the sort, because no Irish Member offered violence of any kind until the police came in and endeavoured to pull them out of the House. Their resistance up to that time was passive resistance, which has again and again been indulged in by other Members of the House. Your own Members have done it, and, of course, they were treated in a different manner because they were English. I repeat again, that the reason of the feeling which has been displayed in regard to this resolution is because the offence on this occasion was committed by Irishmen. If it had been committed by Englishmen, or by any other section of the House, an attempt would have been made at conciliation, and no such penal rule as this would have been proposed. I come to another case almost equally in point. Some of us remember the days of Charles Bradlaugh, a man I learned to like and have a respect for. Those who were responsible for his maltreatment came to regard him with respect. The case of Mr. Charles Bradlaugh is an instructive case from two points of view. First of all in regard to the different way you treated an English constituency. I desire to associate the privileges of the constituency with those of the Member. You cannot dissociate them. Charles Bradlaugh for two or three years deliberately and repeatedly defied the Speaker and the rides of order in this House. He marched into this House and sat on the cross-bench when an unsworn Member, and over and over again he walked up to the Table and stood there defying the Speaker. He was again and again conducted down by the Serjeant-at-Arms. He himself administered the Oath in defiance of rule and the repeated ruling of the Speaker. This was done deliberately and not as the result of excitement, a sudden impulse of passion, or as a protest against the action of the Ministry. At last the Speaker ordered the Serjeant-at-Arms to remove Mr. Bradlaugh from the precincts of the House. That was an occasion which few of us who witnessed it will ever forget. It was in 1881. Mr. Bradlaugh was seized by a great number of messengers in the House, and just outside the door of the House he was dragged with great violence, while he was kicking, struggling and using his gigantic strength to the utmost extent of his ability. He was dragged across the lobby in presence of crowds of people, dragged down Westminster Hall, and expelled into Palace Yard. No doubt he had been guilty of much worse and more persistent breaches of the rules of the House and the authority of the Chair than any Member on these Irish benches. After this dreadful scene a question of privilege was immediately raised, and Mr. John Bright, an honoured name in this House, came back after witnessing the spectacle, and used the following words—*There is an instance, in 1678, of "giving of blows" between two Members on the floor of the House. See The Parliamentary History, vol. iv., page 1045.—ED.]
That is the question I put to Ministers to-night. That question was received with jeers and contempt by the Gentlemen who were the majority in those days —the vast majority in this House. They bad, of course, the idea, which has been expressed here to-night, that Mr. Bradlaugh had inflicted a gross outrage on this House. But Mr. Bright, with the true instinct of a constitutional statesman, saw behind Mr. Bradlaugh the constituency that sent him into the House. He saw that the constituency was struck at and wounded through the Member who was dishonoured. You are struggling now not with one constituency but with several constituencies. At the end of that struggle—which was maintained for four years and ended in the capitulation of the Government—every Member admitted in his soul that Mr. Bradlaugh was right. Apply the lesson to the position of to-day. Rules, orders, and regulations are of no avail to deal with this evil. The real master factor of the situation is that we have the constituencies at our backs. The Irish people will not think worse of the Irish party for what has happened. The noble Lord's proposal is to imprison us all, while the Liberal Imperialist would disfranchise Ireland. If you expelled the Irish Members from this House you would at once have an Irish Parliament in Dublin, and the Irish Secretary would find we are more trouble in Dublin than we are here. The Gentlemen who make these proposals are novices in this business. Bigger men than they will ever be have tried their hand at crushing the Irish representatives; Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Forster, and Mr. Trevelyan did their best, but were finally converted. The First Lord has tried and seems inclined to try again, but I do not think he will listen to the proposal which has been made. The truth of it is, we are old hands at the game. I was suspended within a week after I took my seat twenty years ago. You will never preserve order and decency by brutality and coercion, nor by such insolence as we have listened to—"I will put the question to hon. Members opposite and also to some hon. Members on this side of the House—Where are they leading us?"
Order, order! That is not the way in which to refer to the speech of another hon. Member.
I withdraw the word "insolence" and substitute "offensive-ness." The experience of twenty years ought to have taught the Leader of the House that in dealing with Irish Members you can do infinitely more by a little give and take than by any amount of coercion. I say with confidence that if on Tuesday night the sitting had been suspended and two or three hours given to the discussion on the Vote on Account on Thursday, the scene would have been entirely avoided. Would not a small concession of that character have been an infinitely less evil—if we are discussing an evil at all—than the dreadful introduction of a large body of police into this House for the first time, and the scenes of violence which occurred? Another very important point is that you have a new House to deal with. As regards our own Irish Members it is very important. Dozens of Members are not accustomed to the sudden closure of debate; they do not understand the machinery of a Vote on Account. It is all very fine to give us a long history of the procedure with regard to Votes on Account. The First Lord ought to have looked at these benches and seen that accidentally a great many of the senior Members of our party were absent, and that the benches were crowded with young men who were inexperienced in the ways of the House. He would have taken all these circumstances into consideration if he had been a man fit to lead the House. The hon. Member for Waterford was perfectly justified in saying that a large share of the moral responsibility for Tuesday's occurrences rests, and will in the opinion of a great body of this House rest, on the shoulders of the First Lord of the Treasury. I propose to move an Amendment raising an extremely important issue. This proposed resolution is an extraordinary and enormous increase of the punitive powers of the Chair. In all our previous discussions it has always been held that the Chair should not have the power to sentence any Member of the House at his discretion to a severe punishment, but that that power should be reserved to the House itself. Then the rule was extended to Standing Order No. 21, giving to the House authority to suspend for the first offence for a week, for a second offence in the same session for a month, and for a third offence for the remainder of the session. Moreover, the House in those days had an amount of provocation which is really quite unknown to the present House. The scene which occurred here the other night would be mild compared to it; at all events, it was a scene which, though very painful, did not last long. But the House which, in 1881 and 1882, originally passed this rule had for months—I might say for sessions—suffered from a series of scenes of violence, and defiance of the Chair, and prolonged all-night sittings, of which the House now has no conception. And yet all that that House could bring itself to do was to take the power of inflicting these graduated punishments. If the House turns to Standing Order No. 27, it will see that the only power ever conferred upon the Chair without a vote of the House was the power of ordering an individual Member to withdraw for the remainder of the sitting, and that is the only power the Chair now has. Standing Order No. 27, as I interpret it, and as it always has been interpreted, gives the Chairman the right to order individual Members to leave the House, naming them indi- vidually at the time when they are disorderly. My Amendment is that in line 1 of the resolution the words "or Members acting jointly" be omitted, and then the resolution would read "provided also that any Member who has been suspended." The proposal of the Leader of the House taken in its entirety places in the hands of the Chairman an enormous power of punishment unparalleled in the annals of the House, such as would enable him without a vote of the House to disfranchise constituencies for a whole session, and suspend Members for a whole session. My Amendment provides that in such cases Members should be dealt with separately. I have already alluded to what the Speaker did on a former occasion when five Members were reported, and when each of them was named one by one. The consequence of that precaution was that no question could arise as to a mistake in dealing with the matter. My contention now is, that if you give to the Chair this enormous power of punishment you should hedge round this power with all possible precautions, so as to prevent a mistake being made, as was made the other night, the result of which we saw to-day, when the Chairman of Committees was obliged to admit that he committed a grave error. I believe it was not one mistake alone that was made. I am inclined to think that two or three other Members were unjustly suspended also; at all events there is a great deal of doubt in regard to some other suspensions which took place, and if the mistake had such serious consequences in this case, what would it be to suspend a man for the whole of the session, if it were not absolutely clear that he was guilty of the offence charged against him? Therefore I hold there should be no difficulty in applying this rule to deal with each Member separately, and that would be all the more reasonable, in view of the fact that the punishment is to be inflicted without giving the House any opportunity of expressing its opinion. I must say that I think the system of wholesale suspension is a most dangerous system to introduce in this House, for it is bound to lead to the most ridiculous and most extraordinary mistakes. I myself went home from this House one night in the session of 1881, leaving an angry debate in progress, and when I returned at six o'clock in the morning I was stopped at the door and told I could not be admitted, that I had been suspended an hour before for obstructing the House. I remember another instance where a similar mistake was made. One of my colleagues was actually named and suspended when he was in mid-Channel on his way to Ireland, owing to a mistake about his name. The same thing could easily happen now when we have so many O'Briens and O'Connors in our party. Therefore I say, that in the exercise of these punitive measures the Chairman should spare no precaution in order to be able to state to the House, from his own knowledge, and not through information supplied to him by a Clerk at the Table, that an hon. Member was an offender. I say, further, that when this House passed this Order giving you, Sir, authority to name a Member, it was never contemplated—no one even dreamt—that the Chairman would send a clerk round the House with a paper and pencil trying to ascertain the names of hon. Members who were alleged to be offenders. What happened on Tuesday night? The Clerk at the Table went down the House, took the names of some of my colleagues, and brought the list to the Chairman; then the Chairman picked out some names and omitted others. I say that sort of procedure is an outrage on the House, and one of the results of it was seen to-day when the Chairman of Committees admitted his mistake and expressed his regret for it. I say, then, with the most perfect confidence, that if the Chairman or Speaker is in doubt as to the identity of an hon. Member he should give that hon. Member the benefit of the doubt, for it would be far better to let off an offender for the time being than that an innocent man should be punished and subjected to the humiliation of being driven out of the House. For these reasons I now move the Amendment standing in my name.
Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment—
"In line 1, to leave out the words 'or Members acting jointly.'"—(Mr. Dillon.)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment."
The Government cannot possibly accept this Amendment. The whole rule was specially framed to meet the case of Members banding themselves together to resist the authority of the Chair. The proposal of the Government as it stands does not interfere with the right of naming hon. Members separately. I submit that it is clear to demonstration that, if several Member's are acting in combination, so as to render force necessary, it ought to be within the discretion of the Chair to name them.
said no explanation had been given by those who spoke for the Government as to how this new rule would expedite the business of the House. If Members in such cases were to be taken out separately, surely it would be convenient to name them separately. It was not suggested that two or three at a time, or the whole lot together, should be seized by the police at the same moment and borne out all in a group. He wished to ask, what did the Government expect to gain by this new rule? If the Irish Members were prepared to co-operate with the Government in maintaining respect for the traditions of the House, this rule might be of some use, but if the Irish Members wished to disregard the authority of the Chair could they not, after having disregarded it, go back, and in the last week of the session get suspended one by one? If they did that they would be received by their constituents with open arms. In bringing forward this new rule the right hon. Gentleman was really reducing this question to a fine art, and merely giving those Members who wished to deny the authority of the Chair an opportunity of bringing the House into ridicule and contempt at the end of every session, when they might disregard the Chair, and the whole of them might be suspended in the last week of the session. How did the right hon. Gentleman propose to deal with an hon. Member who was suspended and sent back to his constituents? There was not a single Mem- ber on the Irish benches who would not be returned again without the slightest opposition within a week of his suspension.
The question now before the House is the omission of the words "Members acting jointly." The hon. Member must confine himself to the question before the House.
said he would take the case of the Members acting jointly. If they were expelled and went back to their constituents they would be returned within a week, and then a further amendment of the rules would be necessary. Was the right hon. Gentleman prepared to receive them back? If the intention was to disfranchise certain constituencies, it would be necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to introduce a further rule, by which the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be precluded from giving the stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds to Irish Members. But even then there would be nothing to prevent these Irish Members from coining back to the House by making an interchange of constituencies. What he wished to point out was, that if there were people who wanted to cast discredit on Parliamentary institutions, this amendment of the Standing Order would put into their hands the very machinery which would bring the House into contempt.
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has given this matter his full consideration. The point made by the hon. Member is a fair one. He suggests that under this rule a whole group of Members might be suspended at one blow without the case of each, or the action of each one, being considered and proved. It is difficult to define the words "acting jointly," and that makes this Amendment absolutely necessary. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to explain to the House how "acting jointly" could be proved.
The words are already in Rule 21.
Even so; but we had the House placed to-day in the most humiliating position of apologising unani- mously to a single man, just because of those words. It was because of a hurried ruling of the Chair that certain Members had acted jointly that that humiliating apology had to be made, and we may be found in the same difficulty again if the words "acting jointly" are retained. My hon. friend wants that three, four, or five Members should not be suspended in a bunch, but that A, B, or C should be dealt with separately; and I certainly think that, if not his precise Amendment, some other should be adopted which will secure that every one shall have his case dealt with separately.
I cannot help thinking that these words are wholly unnecessary, although not from the point of view of some of the arguments which have been used. The words in Standing Order No. 21 were put in that where a number of Members had acted simultaneously the Speaker should have the power, instead of wasting the time of the House by naming and suspending one after another, to name and suspend them en bloc. But under this rule you are not going to have any action of the House or motion made which would involve any loss of time. Each man will necessarily be dealt with separately. He has to be accosted by the Serjeant-at-Arms, and he has to show that he does not yield to the action of the Serjeant-at-Arms. You cannot deal with them en bloc; that is impossible. Therefore, not for some of the reasons urged, but in the interests of unburdening the rule of superfluous words, I think they should be omitted. Another thing is that the rule as it stands is very bad grammar.
The grammar is bad, no doubt, but our objection to the rule is much more serious. The hon. Gentleman has put before the House an enormous change proposed to be made with reference to automatic action on a word from the Chair. And consequently he must recognise the greater necessity of avoiding a repetition of that which was the deepest humiliation of these whole proceedings, when the House was obliged a little time ago to acknowledge that it had taken erroneous action, and had unjustly condemned a colleague. Up to this time the question whether a Member should be suspended has had to be put to the House. On certain conditions Members might be suspended en bloc, but generally it is done separately, and always by vote. But what is now proposed is that on the simple announcement by the Speaker to the House that a Member or a number of Members acting jointly have not obeyed his directions, without the House having any opportunity of dealing with the question, they are by that mere announcement suspended, and this for the whole session. You therefore propose by one stroke to enormously increase the punishment, and enormously diminish the security for justice being done. All that we now suggest is that you should name A, B, C individually, instead of referring to them en bloc. I do think that calm and cool deliberation will lead the House to see that the Amendment is moderate, and that the rule as it stands is not only bad in grammar, but bad in principle.
The rule as it stands is capable of a very serious and unjust interpretation. Take the case that happened on Tuesday night. Twelve Members altogether were suspended because they resisted by force the order of the House. It is true they resisted nominally, but they did not resist the police men who were called in. What would be the result of an order of the kind proposed? Some Members might protest against what they regarded as an injustice, but might not be prepared to go to the extent of compelling physical force to intervene. Suppose two or three resisted the police, but forty walked out of the House on the suggestion of the Serjeant-at-Arms. Surely to suspend all these forty Members forthwith for a whole session would be a gross injustice, and the Leader of the House I cannot contemplate that result. On Tuesday night two or three Members took part in resisting the police, but there were others who did not carry disobedience to that extent. One hon. Member walked out of the House at the suggestion of the Serjeant-at-Arms, and it would be exceedingly unfair that his constituents should be disfranchised, as would be the case if you are going to deal with them en bloc.
The rule only applies to those against whom, jointly, force would require to be used.
Exactly; that is what I want to point out. The Chairman reports that a body of Members demand the interference of the police; but it may be that only two or three would persist in disobedience to that extent. This is a question of the rights of the constituencies, and not that of the Members. And it would be exceedingly unfair that some constituencies should be disfranchised, not for the offence of their Members, but for the offence of Members representing other constituencies. If the right hon. Gentleman does not see the injustice of that, he has made it perfectly clear that he does not want to maintain the dignity of the House, but that the object is to disfranchise the whole of the Irish Members and their constituencies.
We are dealing with Standing Order No. 21, which already provides, as my hon. friend has stated, that where Members are merely acting jointly it is within the power of the Speaker to name them jointly, and by one division settle the question whether or not they should be suspended. Now we proceed to go a step further. I do not see the necessity for these words being put in. The process is this. Members are suspended by the vote of the House. They are ordered to leave the House, and they refuse to leave. The Speaker directs them to leave the house, and they refuse to obey his direction, and then the Serjeant-at-Arms must go to each man individually and not to the Members jointly. He cannot possibly do that. He goes to A, who may get up and go out, and therefore A would be out of the business altogether, and there would be no necessity for calling in physical force. But B might say, "No, I wont go," and thus refuse to obey the direction of the Speaker, or the summons of the Serjeant-at-Arms. Then the Speaker, this being done in the view of the House, and the Members witnessing what is going on, says that physical force is necessary to secure compliance with his order. Then this new order; would apply only to that Member.
No, to all the rest. Why not strike out the words.?
You cannot put a dozen men out jointly.
Yes, you can. The right hon. Gentleman misunderstands me. It is not a question of putting them out. It is a question of suspending them for the rest of the session.
It simply comes to this, that the Speaker reports to the House—and the House itself is the judge at that moment—that a certain Member refuses to obey the order of the Chair, and that it is necessary to use physical force to secure that obedience. Following upon that report the individual Member is suspended under the operation of the rule.
I think that what we are discussing is a mere verbal amendment. This really means that any Member who does not obey the order of the Speaker when summoned by the Serjeant-at-Arms comes under the penalty of this Order. Under these circumstances, the words "any Member" would in themselves be quite sufficient. The words "or Members acting jointly" might well be left out, and then the new Order would be in the simplest possible form. It would cover any Member who disobeys the Order.
The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has made it perfectly clear that he means to disregard all suggestions coming from this side of the House, and to rely on his majority to carry the motion. It would appear from the way in which the new rule is drafted that the First Lord of the Treasury has not very much regard for grammar; but there is something more than slipshod grammar. It is admitted that the other night a mistake was made in regard to one Member. I can say of my own knowledge that a mistake was made in regard to two Members. Constituencies all over Ireland are to be disfranchised for acts their Members have not committed. I cannot for the life of me conceive how the Government, after what has fallen from the hon. and learned Member opposite, will stick to the phraseology of the Amendment which was hastily drafted. Surely nothing can be clearer than the fact that on Tuesday night a mistake was made by the Chair, unwittingly, no doubt. Would it not be a very great matter that the Standing Order should be so simplified that the disfranchisement for the remainder of the session of a large number of Irish Members of this House should not take place? How do the Government treat this Amendment of the hon. Member for East Mayo? They put up the English Attorney General, who in a few offhand phrases, and without paying any attention to the context of the Amendment, says that there is really nothing in the matter, and that he cannot accept the Amendment. Members get up on the Front Opposition Bench and point out the reasonableness of the hon. Member for East Mayo, and the members of the Government sit tight and keep mum, and they will call their obedient followers to support them in the lobby. This is but another illusstration of the spirit that underlay their action on Tuesday night when the closure was moved. Surely the Government have something more to say about the Amendment. The only independent Member on the other side of the House who spoke on this matter is the hon. and learned Member who recommended to the House the Amendment of the hon. Member for East Mayo. Are they going to do nothing but rely on their majority, whipped up by a fire-line whip, to carry the motion? The only reply we have from the Government on this Amendment takes the form of a conspiracy of silence.
I think the Government might very well, without any loss of dignity, reconsider the position they have taken up on the Amendment. I ask them to do so for two reasons. Their object is the same as that of Members on these benches who support the Amendment. For the life of me I cannot understand the object of the Government in refusing to accept the Amendment. Is it that they imagine themselves so much above criticism? [An HON. MEMBER: No.] Why is it? Every speech made in support of it has been reasonable, and the hon. and learned Gentleman behind them stated that the Amendment was reasonable and carried out the object the Government had in view. It seems to me that we have a strong case for protest in this matter. This is a reasonable Amendment and ought to be accepted. I say it is not the duty of the Government, and it is not the duty of the Leader of the House, to put the authority in the Chair in the position in which the resolution will place him. This Amendment might be the means of suspending fifty-Members of the House, and it might disfranchise a large number of constituencies. The House is very much divided as to the real meaning of the rule, and the exercise of it may bring about an intolerable situation and place the Chair in a position which would give rise to the greatest dissatisfaction to the House at a moment when it is least desirable that dissatisfaction should be felt. I appeal to the Leader of the House not to shut his ears to the views which have been expressed in support of the Amendment. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman in the interests of those who propose this resolution, and in the interests of the Chair, to accept the Amendment.
The hon. Gentleman has made a direct appeal to me, and I am very unwilling not to reply to it. He asks me whether the Government have come down to the House with this resolution in a stereotyped form determined to resist all Amendments and to fight the thing through without a comma or a stop being changed. I hope that we have manifested that we have not done so, for we have already accepted an Amendment—I do not say of very great importance, but certainly an Amendment of substance—proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. I do not think that any hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House who has argued this question has been able to prove that the rule as it is drafted will produce injustice.
Really I take an entirely different view. I think the rule as drafted might have this result, that the Serjeant-at-Arms might approach one or two Members said to be acting jointly, and might then report to the House that the whole body were acting jointly. Then a number of Members quite willing to go out might be suspended.
I do not think that result is possible under the Amendment suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, and we must consider the rule as if it were amended. The Serjeant-at-Arms would have to touch each Member separately.
Then why do you want the words in?
The point I was putting to the House was that nobody pretends that injustice would occur.
Yes; we all feel it.
The hon. Gentleman's own Front Bench say that they do not for a moment suggest that the words are likely to lead to injustice, nor do I see how injustice can be done.
It places on the Chair the duty of saving whether or not Members are acting jointly.
I think it extremely probable that Mr. Speaker also might make an appeal separately with regard to each individual if force was necessary, but I should imagine that in cases in which there was joint action the fact of each Member being separately touched would prevent the necessity of a separate appeal to the House in regard to each one of them. It surely is desirable that we should keep to the leading idea which governed the framers of the rule, that one of the most formidable dangers that this House runs is not from the isolated action of any individual disorderly person, but from the joint action of a number of Members. It seems clear that no substantial injustice can arise from the form in which the rule is drawn up. I think it is in conformity with the earlier part of the rule. It keeps the continuity of the drafting from one clause of the rule to another, and it keeps to the end of the rule that idea which dominated the original framers of the rule, that conspiracy or joint action to defeat the orders of the House on the part of any body of Members is one of the great dangers against which this rule is essentially directed.
The right hon. Gentleman seems to have forgotten the ordinary rule of interpretation in law, namely, that when you find words which appear to be surplusage you are bound to try to find some other meaning for them. Our contention is that these words are pure surplusage, and I do not understand the right hon. Gentleman to argue that they are necessary. He refers entirely to the rest of the rule in order to find a certain model and style. Nothing whatever is gained by keeping these words in, because all that Mr. Speaker has to do is to name each person individually. It is not a question of going to a division; it is not a question of consuming the time which divisions require; it is merely that an individual has to be named by Mr. Speaker. It is surely far better, in view of any possible accident that might occur, that Mr. Speaker should name each person individually than lump a number of people together. I agree with the hon. Member opposite, that this is purely a question of drafting. Any person, lawyer or not, who applies his commonsense to the rule and the draft order, and reads it leaving out these words, will see that all the object the Government can possibly have in view will be attained if this Amendment is accepted. Under these circumstances I make, one more appeal to them to give way on this point.
I think the rule has been framed in this form in order to cover the bungle made by the officials the other night in the case of the hon. Member for South Fermanagh. Under this rule it could be held that although a Member went into the division lobby, if he sat on these benches and some Irish Members were expelled he was acting jointly with them, and would be suspended also. These words introduce an altogether new element into the Standing Order; they import some of the conspiracy law, so that a Member who might be in any other part of the House could be held to be acting jointly with others, whereas the original rule was that they should be present together and disregard the ruling of the Chair. That is a very dangerous innovation. Even distinguished Members on the other side of the House cannot understand what the rule means in this form, and if you cannot understand it yourselves how can you expect us—uncultivated Members as we are called—to be able to follow it in all its devious windings? This conspiracy law can be stretched very far. I have been twice convicted of conspiracy myself—
Order, order! The hon. Member is making no reference to the Amendment before the House.
I was trying to illustrate the danger of the resolution as framed by the Government by a case which came under my own knowledge. [Laughter.] This may be a laughing matter for lion. Gentlemen opposite, but it is framed especially for Irish Members, although it is very probable that the worst offenders and those to whom it is first applied may not be Irish representatives at all. These words "acting jointly" are very dangerous, and the Government would be well advised to accept the Amendment.
I think it will be obvious to men who are familiar with the principles of drafting that the terms of description which are used in the Standing Order here proposed to be amended are Properly retained as the description of the class of Members with whom it is proposed to deal by this Amendment of the Standing Order, and for my part I agree with the Attorney General, if I may say so, in thinking that to drop in this part of the Amendment the form of words used in the existing Standing Order for the purpose of describing the persons to be dealt with by these punitive measures would involve some danger in the administration of the Standing Order. But I feel with hon. Members opposite that there is a danger that in the practice of the House the terms of the Amendment to the Standing Order would leave it open to the Speaker, or whoever might be exercising the powers conferred by the Standing Order, to deal collectively with, a body of Members who had brought themselves within its terms. I do not think that the proper mode of avoiding that danger is to omit the words of description which properly occur in the first line of the proposed Amendment. I think the proper mode would be to insert before the word "refuse" the word "respectively." Then the Member, or Members, of the House acting jointly, would be designated as persons who are appropriately to be punished by the action of the Chair, but there would be required a demand upon each Member severally for conformity to the order of the Chair. That demand would be made upon each Member for compliance and obedience, and if the individual refused to obey the order of the Speaker the penalty would follow. I am sure the Attorney General desires to have nothing in this Amendment to the Standing Order which would leave it possible for any such mistake as that of Wednesday morning to recur, and I think the suggestion I have made would leave both the principle of the Standing Order and the mode of its operation perfectly clear, and the case of each individual Member could be dealt with as might be necessary.
said the proposal appeared to him to apply to Members who were jointly resisting the application of force. The meaning of the word was not very clear, and he would like the Attorney General to give some clearer explanation.
I think that if the Government yield to the Amendment moved from the opposite side of the House they will fall into a trap. The Standing Order as it stands provides for two cases—that of a single Member behaving in an improper manner, and also the case of a number of Members acting jointly. They are presumed to have been suspended, and if they are suspended at all, then, of course, they must be suspended for a week. This proviso adds a further punishment in case, after having received the order from the Chair to leave the House, they refuse to obey that order. In that case the punishment is extended to the end of the session. The proposal, therefore, applies to two cases—single action and joint action. If the Government yield to this suggested Amendment, then the very ease which happened on Tuesday last will not be covered. The proposal clearly alludes only to such Members as refuse to obey the Chairman's direction, and I trust that the Government will not yield to this inducement which has been offered.
According to the statement of the last speaker, if Members act jointly they are suspended jointly, and afterwards you can deal with them individually. I presume that the Serjeant-at-Arms will approach each one of these Members and request him to leave, and then if they all refuse this rule comes into operation. Now, I have no wish to weaken the force of this resolution at all, but f do ask the Attorney General to consider this point, and inform us what he gains by keeping in these words. We have spent some hours discussing the point, and I do not think the words are necessary.
I agree that the discussion on this drafting Amendment has hardly been worth the time given to it. For the reasons given by the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, I should like to adhere to the words "Members acting jointly," but what everybody appears to desire can be gained if weamend the Amendment which was originally suggested by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, by inserting after "shall refuse to obey the direction of the Speaker" the words "when severally summoned Tinder the Speaker's orders by the Serjeant-at-Arms to obey such direction."
I suppose the object of this is to extend the rule to such deplorable scenes as were witnessed on Tuesday night. I think if you omit the words suggested you will be achieving that purpose, for they are admittedly surplusage. Even the Amendment suggested by the First Lord of the Treasury will not relieve the rule from the uncertainty which appears to prevail.
I have only got a word or two to say in reply to the First Lord of the Treasury. We know what happened on Tuesday night, and what is possible under the rule is that the Serjeant-at-Arms might order—
Order, order! The hon. Member has no right of reply on the Amendment.
I was simply going to say that I accept this Amendment, because I can get nothing better, and because it carries out to a considerable extent the object I have in view, although I think that object would have been accomplished better by my Amendment. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
I beg to move in the third line after the word "Speaker" that occurs first, to insert the following words, "when severally summoned under the Speaker's orders by the Serjeant-at-Arms to obey such direction." I think these words prevent any possibility of doubt as to the meaning of our proposition.
Amendment to the proposed Amendment agreed to.
I must confess that I do not find that care taken in this proposal in regard to the announcement to the House of the offending Members which I think ought under such circumstances to be taken. There is nothing to say that the Speaker shall report to the House that A, B, or C are the persons who have refused to obey his direction. There is nothing to define upon whom the axe is to fall. The Speaker is simply required to announce that force is necessary in order that his directions may be obeyed. That seems to me to be an unsuitable method likely to produce added injustice. I suggest that after the words "Member or Members" in the fifth line, the words "who have" be deleted for the purpose of inserting the words "named by him as having."
I accept that Amendment.
Amendment to the proposed Amendmend agreed to.
I propose to move an Amendment, if in order in doing so, to omit in line 6 the words after "thereupon" to the end, for the purpose of inserting, "be suspended from the service of the House for such period as the House may determine." I have not much hope of securing acceptance of this Amendment, but I do wish, before dealing with the proposed new Standing Order as a whole, to raise the issue in a clear and simple form as to whether you are going to put into the hands of any official the power to suspend a Member and practically disfranchise a constituency for possibly the greater part of a session. My proposal is that, the Speaker having reported to the House that certain Members have been named by him as having declined to act on his direction, and that force is necessary to compel them to do so, the House may proceed to deal with them as to the House seems best. I know that this will be open to the old objection that debate will ensue, and time be consumed. But I think if we are going to deal with five or six Members we should have a debate. It is, however, perfectly easy to amend the Amendment. The course of proceeding would then be, that the Leader of the House, having all the circumstances of the case in his mind, would report to the House on the report of the Speaker, and move a motion to suspend the Members for one month or six months. Consider what you are asking. It is to put into the hands of the Speaker a most unreasonable power; for, mark, towards the close of the session the punishment would be no punishment at all, but a farce. At the beginning of the session, however, there would be no alternative but to suspend for the whole of the session. I want to leave it to the House to assign the amount of the punishment, and I am prepared to accept an Amendment on my Amendment that the question should be put to the House for acceptance without debate.
Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, as amended, in line 6, to leave out from the word "thereupon" to the end of the proposed Amendment, as amended, in order to add the words, "be suspended from the service of the House for such period as the House may determine."—( Mr. Dillon.)
Question proposed, "That the words 'and without further Question put' stand part of the proposed Amendment, as amended."
The hon. Gentleman has put his Amendment before the House in two alternative forms. Under the first form, which was that put from the Chair, the House is to decide after debate on the length of the sentence of deprivation; but the hon. Member suggests another form, in which the rule would still be one of summary jurisdiction. As to the first form, the very fact that it permits debate would entirely destroy the value of the rule. It is absolutely necessary that there should be no debate. The rule must remain an addition to the summary jurisdiction of the House. The alternative form is open to this vital objection, which perhaps no one feels so keenly as I do. The idea is that the Leader of the House is to propose that "Mr. So-and-so" and "Mr. So-and-so" should be deprived of the right of sitting in the House for one, two, three, or four months, according to the sweet will of the Leader of the House, and that that proposition is to be immediately decided by the House without debate. I have been called a great many hard names in the course of the debate; and I may be the tyrant which I have been represented; but I can assure the House that my appetite for absolute power would be surfeited long before I would consent to exercise the jurisdiction with which the hon. Member wishes to entrust me. Imagine the Leader of the House having to make, on the spur of the moment, a rough estimate of the relative wickedness of a number of Gentlemen, and proposing rapidly to the House punishments corresponding to the scale of wickedness. Imagine also the position of the House having to vote "Aye" or "No," without debate or deliberation, on the proposal of the Leader of the House. In neither form is the proposal of hon. Member admissible, and I hope the hon. Gentleman will not persevere with it.
The hon. Gentleman has pointed out a difficulty attending summary jurisdiction in the exercise of a discretion as to what punishment should be imposed, whether for one, two, three, or four months. I wish to point out the bearing of these difficulties in the plan which he himself has proposed to the House. He suggests with all the weight of his authority that the punishment should always be the extreme punishment. Under the rule the Member is to be suspended for the longest period for which you can suspend him at all. The very worst is to be done. And the opportunity of making that worst a little less, and of thus making the punishment a little more proportionate to the case, is what the hon. Gentleman now rejects, because his emotions will not permit him to discharge that pleasing duty.
The supporters of this Amendment forget another fatal objection, namely, that it would involve the taking of another division, and they ignore the fact that the proceedings of the other night prove that it might be made physically and materially impossible to take a division at all. Unless that is provided against we shall play into the hands of those who organised these proceedings. ["Withdraw!"] I fully accept the statement of the hon. Member for Waterford that the proceedings of the other night were not organised, but after that experience it would be madness to assume that no such proceedings would ever be organised in the future. In making provision against such an occurrence the Government are doing no more than their duty. We must be ready for the same kind of thing being repeated, and any kind of rule which makes it possible for Members to make a division physically impossible will fail in its object. The desire of the hon. Gentleman is quite clear. He wants to have some differentiation made between offences varying in character. But the rule does that already. In any case there is an equally good way of obtaining the same object. If the rule provided that there should be this instantaneous and automatic suspension until the pleasure of the House was further known, the same object would be attained. But the rule as it stands secures that object, because there is nothing whatever to prevent the House from voting the suspension of any of its Standing Orders. The essential thing is that the House should remain master of the time and manner of taking any proceedings in the direction of clemency.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said that the question of time would be one of the matters which would lead to great difference of opinion, and I imagine that the Amendment we are now discussing is moved because it is supposed that the proposal of the First Lord is too severe. But circumstances may easily occur in which it will not be severe enough. If such an offence as this rule is aimed at should come at the end of the session, the punishment proposed will be practically nil. I quite agree with the hon. Member for East Mayo that this is not a question of punishment at all. It is a question of protecting the House from breaches of its rules. It is essential that we should so protect it, and all who have heard the speeches of the hon. Members for Water-ford and East Mayo must see that they do not hold out any hope of our not having in the future such scenes as we have had in the past, but, on the contrary, they plainly threaten a repetition of those occurrences. I consider that it is a question not so much of the individuals who make these disturbances, as of the constituencies who return men to this House who are unable to conduct themselves properly; they should be taught by experience that this House will not tolerate such scenes, and they should have the opportunity of thinking over the matter until another Parliament has assembled, so that they can then select men who are more fit to occupy positions as Members of this House than those who have so disgraced themselves. This question has nothing whatever to do with whether the First Lord acted in a grossly tyrannical manner—[Cries of "Order, order!"]
I imagine I was going beyond the scope of the Amendment, but I could not hear your words, Sir, in consequence of the uproar. I consider that the time allotted under this Standing Order may be far too short instead of too long. This is a most serious question, involving the credit of the House in the country. If the House
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F.||Carlile, William Walter||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Causton, Richard Knight||Fenwick, Charles|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Cautley, Henry Strother||Ferguson, R. C. M. (Leith)|
|Aird, Sir John||Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J (Manc'r|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst|
|Allen, C. P. (Glouc, Stroud)||Cawley, Frederick.||Finch, George H.|
|Allhusen, Augustus H. Eden||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Firbank, Joseph Thomas|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J.(Birm.||Fisher, William Hayes|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Chamberlain, J Austen (Worc'r||Fison, Frederick William|
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|Arrol, Sir William||Chapman, Edward||Flannery, Sir Fortescue|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Charrington, Spencer||Fletcher, Sir Henry|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Churchill, Winston Spencer||Flower, Ernest|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Clare, Octavius Leigh||Forster, Henry William|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Cochrane, Hon. T. H. A. E.||Foster, Sir M. (London Univ.)|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Coghill, Douglas Harry||Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
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|Hartley, George C. T.||Craig, Robert Hunter||Gordon, MajEvans-(T'rH'ml'ts|
|Bathurst, Hn. Allen Benjamin||Cranborne, Viscount||Gore, Hon. F. S. Ormsby-|
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|Beckett, Ernest William||Cross, Alexanler (Glasgow)||Goulding, Edward Alfred|
|Bell, Richard||Cross, H. Shepherd (Bolton)||Graham, Henry Robert|
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|Boscawon, Arthur Griffith-||Dimsdale, Sir Joseph C.||Gretton, John|
|Bousfield, William Robert||Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Groves, James Grimble|
|Bowles, T. Gibson(King'sLynn)||Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred. D.||Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill|
|Brand, Hon. Arthur G.||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton|
|Brassey, Albert||Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Guthrie, Walter Murray|
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|Brown, Alexander H. (Shrop.||Duncan, James H.||Halsey, Thomas Frederick|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Hambro, Charles Eric|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Dyke, Rt. Hn. William Hart||Hamilton, RtHnLordG.(Mid'x|
|Bull, William James||Edwards, Frank||Hamilton, Marqof(L'nd'nderry|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Harcourt, Rt Hon. Sir William|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph D.||Hardy, Laurence(Kent, Ashfrd|
|Burt, Thomas||Emmott, Alfred||Hare, Thomas Leigh|
|Butcher, John George||Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan)||Harmsworth, R. Leicester|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Faber, George Denison||Harris, F. Leverton(Tynem'th|
|Caldwell, James||Fardell, Sir T. George||Harwood, George|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Haslam, Sir Alfred S.|
does not mark with sufficient severity its sense of what has taken place, it will lose its position in the eyes of the country. On that ground I think the Government, if they make any alteration in the resolution, should make it in the direction of increased severity rather than of leniency.
The House divided:—Ayes, 413; Noes, 79. (Division List No. 43.)
|Haslett, Sir James Horner||M'Iver, Sir L. (Edinburgh, W.)||Richards, Henry Charles|
|Hay, Hon. Claude George||M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon.CharlesSeale-||Majendie, James A. H.||Ridley, Hn. M. W.(Staly bridge|
|Hayter, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur D.||Malcolm, Ian||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Heath, Arthur H. (Hanley)||Manners, Lord Cecil||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Heath, James(Staffords, N. W.||Maple, Sir John Blundell||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Heaton, John Henniker||Markham, Arthur Basil||Robertson, Herbert(Hackney)|
|Helder, Augustus||Martin, Richard Biddulph||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Heltne, Norval Watson||Massey-Main waring, Hn W. F.||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Henderson, Alexander||Mather, William||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Hermon-Hodge, Robert T.||Maxwell, RtHnSirHE (Wigt'n||Ropner, Colonel Robert|
|Hickman, Sir Alfred||Maxwell, WJH(Dumfriesshire||Round, James|
|Hoare, EdwBrodie(Hampstead||Melville, Beresford Valentine||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Hobhouse, C. E. H.(Bristol,E.||Middlemore, J. Throgmorton||Russell, T. W.|
|Hobhouso, Henry(Somerset, E.||Milner, Rt. Hn. SirFrederickG.||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-|
|Hope, J. F (Sheffield, Brightside||Milton, Viscount||Sadler, Col. Sadler Alexander|
|Horner, Frederick William||Milward Col. Victor||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)|
|Horniman, Frederick John||Molesworth, Sir Lewis||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Sandys, Lieut.-Col. ThosMyles|
|Hoult, Joseph||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Howard, Capt J. (Kent, Favers.||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)||Saunderson, Rt. Hn. Col. Edw. J|
|Howard, J.(Midd., Tottenham||More, R. Jasper (Shropshire)||Scott, Sir S.(Marylebone, W.)|
|Hozier, Hn. JamesHenry Cecil||Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow)||Seely, Charles Hilton(Lincoln)|
|Hudson, George Bickersteth||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen||Seton-Karr, Henry|
|Hughes, Colonel Edwin||Morley, Charles (Breconshire)||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||Morrell, George Herbert||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)|
|Hutton, John (Yorks, N.R.)||Morris, Hon. Martin Henry F.||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew|
|Jackson, Rt. Hon. Wm Lawies||Morrison, James Archibald||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Morton, A. H. A. (Deptford)||Sinclair, CaptJohn(Forfarshire|
|Johnston, William (Belfast)||Morton, E. J. C. (Devonport)||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Moulton, John Fletcher||Skewes-Cox, Thomas|
|Joicey, Sir James||Mowbray, Sir Robt. Gray C.||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford,East)|
|Jones, David Brynmor(Swansea||Muntz, Philip A.||Smith, HC(North'm bTyneside|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.||Murray, RtHnAGraham (Bute||Smith, James Parker(Lanarks.|
|Kearley, Hudson E.||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Smita, Samuel (Flint)|
|Kenyon, Hon. Geo. T. (Denbigh||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Kenyon, James (Lancs.,Bury)||Newdigate, Francis Alexander||Soares, Ernest J.|
|kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop||Newnes, Sir George||Spencer, Rt. Hn CR(Northants|
|Keswick, William||Nicholson, William Graham||Stanley, Hon Arthur(Ormskirk|
|Kimber, Henry||Nicol, Donald Ninian||Stanley, EdwardJas(Somerset|
|Kinloch, Sir John G. Smyth||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Kitson, Sir James||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Stevenson, Francis S.|
|Knowles, Lees||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir JohnM.|
|Lambert, George||Palmer, SirCharlesM. (Durham||Stock, James Henry|
|Lambton, Hn. Frederick Wm.||Palmer, George Wm. (Reading)||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Law, Andrww Bonar||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)||Stroyan, John|
|Lawrence, William F.||Parker, Gilbert||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Lawson, John Grant||Parkes, Ebenezer||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier|
|Layland-Barratt, Francis||Partington, Oswald||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Lecky, Rt. Hn. William Edw.H||Paulton, James Mellor||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G.(Oxf'dUni.|
|Lee, CaptA H(Hants. Fareham||Pease, Herb.Pike (Darlington)||Tennant, Harold John|
|Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington)||Peel, Hn. WmRobert Wellesley||Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)|
|Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Pemberton, John S. G.||Thomas, F. Freeman-(Hastings|
|Leigh, Sir Joseph||Penn, John||Thomas, J A(Glamorgan, Gow'r|
|Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie||Percy, Earl||Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.|
|Leng, Sir John||Pilkington, Richard||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|Leveson-Gower, FrederickN.S.||Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.||Plummer, Walter R.||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Tomkinson, James|
|Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)||Pretyman, Ernest George||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|Long, RtHn Walter (Bristol,S.)||Price, Robert John||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward||Tufnell, Col. Edward|
|Lowe, Francis William||Purvis, Robert||Valentia, Viscount|
|Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)||Pym, C. Guy||Wallace, Robert|
|Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert||Walton, John L. (Leeds, S.)|
|Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)||Randles, JohnS.||Wanklyn, James Leslie|
|Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Rankin, Sir John||Warner, Thomas C. T.|
|Macartney, RtHnW. G. Ellison||Rasch, Major Frederick Carne||Warr, Augustus Frederick|
|Macdona, John Cumming||Ratcliffe, R. F.||Wason, Eugene(Clackmannan)|
|Maclver, David (Liverpool)||Reckitt, Harold James||Webb, Col. William George|
|Maconochie, A. W.||Reid, James (Greenock)||Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E.(T'unt'n|
|M Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Remnant, James Farquharson||Welby, Sir C. G. E. (Notts.)|
|M'Arthur, William (Cornwall)||Renshaw, Charles Bine||Wharton, Rt. Hon. John L.|
|M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim,E.)||Rentoul, James Alexander||Whiteley, Geo. (York, W. R.)|
|M'Crae, George||Renwick, George||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Williams, Col. E. (Dorset)||Wilson, John (Glasgow)||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Williams, RtHnJ. Powell-(Bir.||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh, N.||Young, Commander (Berks, E.)|
|Willox, Sir John Archibald||Wilson-Todd, Wm. H.(Yorks.)|
|Wills, Sir Frederick||Woodhouse, Sir JT(Huddersf'd||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Wilson, A. Stanley(York, E. R.)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-||Sir William Walrond and|
|Wilson, F.W. (Norfolk, Mid.)||Wrightson, Sir Thomas||Mr. Anstruther.|
|Wilson, John (Falkirk)||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Hardie, J. Keir(MerthyrTydvil||O'Kelly, Jas. (Roscommon, N.)|
|Ambrose, Robert||Harrington, Timothy||O'Malley, William|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Mara, James|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Chas. H.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Black, Alexander William||Jordan, Jeremiah||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Blake, Edward||Joyce, Michael||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Boland, John||Kennedy, Patrick James||Reddy, M.|
|Boyle, James||Labouchere, Henry||Redmond, John E. (Waterford|
|Brigg, John||Lloyd-George, David||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Lough, Thomas||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Burns, John||MacDonneli, Dr. Mark A.||Roche, John|
|Caine, William Sproston||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Scott, Chas. Prestwich (Leigh)|
|Cameron, Robert||M'Dermott, Patrick||Sullivan, Donal|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Taylor, Theodore Cooke|
|Carew, James Laurence||Mansfield, Horace Kendall||Tully, Jasper|
|Carvill, Patrick George H.||Mooney, John J.||Weir, James Galloway|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Murphy, J.||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Cogan, Denis J.||Nannetti, Joseph P.||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Nolan, Col. J. P. (Galway, N.)||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.|
|Delany, William||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)|
|Dillon, John||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Duffy, William J.||O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Elibank, Master of||O'Connor, Jas. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Ellis, John Edward||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Farrell, James Patrick||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)||Mr. Patrick O'Brien and|
|Flynn, James Christopher||O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)||Mr. Haviland-Burke.|
|Hammond, John||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)|
Perhaps I ought to apologise, being of such junior standing and experience in the House, for introducing an Amendment of so much importance in the discussion of a question which is necessarily so delicate and in my opinion of the utmost gravity. I only venture to do so because my feeling in the matter is a very strong one, and if there be, as doubtless there may be, Members of longer standing who are inclined to criticise my action, I hope I may mitigate their ill opinion by the studied moderation which I desire to display. I have listened with great interest to the greater number of the speeches delivered in this debate, and I think only that of the lion. Member for the Mansfield Division reflected the view I am anxious to urge upon the House. What is the feeling of the great body of sober and well-judging people in this country about violent disorder? I am not speaking of the past, I do not desire to speak of the past, I am speaking of the future—the disorder that has to be dealt with should it arise under the Amendment of the Standing Order which has been proposed I am satisfied that the great body of sober, well-judging people of the community, who are, let us not forget, the true governors of the country, entertain feelings of repugnance against violent disorder which are not to be described by milder terms than abhorrence and contempt. If this House as a body were to show itself unable' to deal with that kind of disorder, it would pass away as a body enjoying any moral authority, it would cease to be what the House of Commons has been in the past. I will not dilate at any length on the moral authority of the House of Commons. I will only submit two aspects of it. We hear often of the infringement of the rights of private Members, and it cannot be denied that there is going on a transfer of political power from the House of Commons to the Cabinet. I am not thinking of this Cabinet or of that, but of the Cabinet as an institution. The Cabinet is apparently an institution which is grow- ing in influence and in repute with their countrymen; it is the House of Commons which is apparently losing it. Why is it that appeals for the rights of private Members fall, outside the walls of this House, on deaf ears? Why is it that nobody cares outside these walls about the rights of private Members? Because there is a deep-seated feeling that the House is an institution which has ceased to have much authority or much repute, and that when a better institution, represented by the Cabinet, encroaches upon the rights of a worse one, it is a matter of small concern to the country. But there is another institution in the country which the Members of the Opposition are accustomed to regard with great jealousy—I mean the House of Lords. Hon. Members opposite are accustomed playfully sometimes to remind us that, whereas we employ the closure or encroach on their rights now when we are in a majority, we will suffer when we are in a minority. I will venture to address a similar argument to them. The time may come when hon. Gentlemen opposite will be in a majority and they may be anxious to rally popular support in a contest or dispute with the House of Lords. In such a case, of course, the active matter in dispute is of great importance, but there is also the element of the moral authority of the two Assemblies that are in conflict. Is the moral authority of the House of Commons growing stronger as against that of the House of Lords? I would remind the House how the House of Lords was employed on Tuesday evening. There was a debate in which men of great eminence took part. There were sharp divisions of opinion and even sharp criticisms, but they were expressed with the utmost dignity and decorum—attributes which the great body of English people admire and expect in a Senate.
They have no closure.
The issue is of the greatest possible importance. If this House fails in moral authority, the whole balance of the Constitution is upset. If it decays, another set of institutions will take its place which we may live to regret, and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite perhaps more than anyone else, if they do not make a stand against that disorder which must destroy an institution in the esteem of the country. It may be said that the Amendment I intend to propose is of a more drastic character—that it militates against legitimate opposition, or might be used improperly against those who oppose a measure, perhaps with some extravagance, but still substantially fairly and properly. Let me remind the House of the most celebrated opposition of recent times—that to the Home Rule Bill. It may be held by hon. Gentlemen opposite that that Opposition was unreasonably, obstructively conducted, but in no solitary case did any of those who were opposing the Home Rule Bill come in conflict with the Chair. In the last Parliament the Voluntary Schools Bill was vehemently opposed, but no Member was suspended during the proceedings upon it. On the Agricultural Rating Bill it is true that during an all-night sitting a large number of Members were suspended. But these cases would be beyond the scope of and would not be affected by the Amendment. The Standing Order as framed is not adequate to the gravity of the occasion in my view. Suspension is a remedy which varies in effect with the period of the session in which it is imposed. At the present time it would be very severe, later in the year less severe, and in July hardly a penalty at all. So it is not a good remedy. Violent conduct in the House is not only an offence against Parliamentary orders and manners, but an offence against the ordinary law of the land; it is a criminal offence. If the violence were done in the street those who committed it would suffer imprisonment. Why should violence when it is aggravated by a gross Parliamentary offence be more leniently treated here? Sober, well-judging people do not draw a distinction between Members of Parliament and other persons; if they do, it is to expect a higher degree of morality and orderliness from their legislators. "Why," they ask, "if a Member of Parliament is violent and assaults those acting in the execution of their duty, should he not be punished with the imprisonment which would overtake one of ourselves?" I think the punishment of imprisonment will express our indignation against the offence, and that is one of the great objects of punishment. Sir, I will end as I began, by appealing to the opinion of the community. In our country the constitution is not written in a document. It is not amended by formal legislation. It grows in one direction or another. It is hardly possible for an observer to trace its growth, A custom grows up one hardly knows how, and there is a change. Be sure of it, that if we neglect disorder it will gain a hold on the House, and the usefulness and power of the House will be gone never to return. Though we have conducted ourselves in a light vein, we are engaged in the gravest constitutional question which has been before us since the Home Rule Bill. It goes to the vitals of the Constitution. I have no scruple in moving that imprisonment should be assigned for the offence of violent misconduct. Imprisonment for such an offence in the House is not unknown. It was formerly the chief punishment for disorderly conduct in the House. On Tuesday night it would have been perfectly lawful for the Speaker to have committed every Member who was then guilty of disorderly conduct. What I am proposing is that the authority of the Chair, which may be exercised under the order of the House, should be exercised without the order of the House. A more constitutional proposal could not be made. I beg to move the Amendment of which I have given notice.
Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment—
"In line 6, after the word 'put,' to insert the words 'shall be committed to prison until the further order of the House, and shall.'"—(Lord Hugh Cecil.)
Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the proposed Amendment, as amended."
My noble friend has moved an Amendment and he has made a speech. I draw a distinction between the speech and the Amendment. With the great body of the speech I agree. I thought his speech an impressive statement of fact. I think many of the dangers which he has signalised are real dangers. I think it is true that if this House is to retain, as I believe it still retains, the great position which it occupies of authority in the country, it can only do so by seeing that its rules are respected and that order prevails within its walls. I do not go into certain, aspects of the question brought forward by my noble friend. Ho travelled into far regions. I feel that I could not with advantage, on the present occasion, follow him into the respective developments to which he referred of Cabinets and Parliament in the way of a balance, or the growing or waning influence of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. These are considerations which lead far beyond the necessities of the occasion, but they were not out of place in the speech of my noble friend, because he desired to present his own strong and earnest convictions of the vital interests with which we have got to deal in discussing the Amendment of the Standing Order now before the House. Therefore, though I cannot comment adequately in the space of a speech on his proposal, with the general trend of his argument I have no particular desire to quarrel; but when I look into his speech I find a lack of cohesion, a certain want of rigid political logic, between the means and the ends. Though the ends aimed at by my noble friend are excellent, the means are not, I think, likely to achieve them. My noble friend took objection to our proposal on the ground that the punishment to be meted out will diminish as the session goes on, so that towards the end the punishment would be very small. My noble friend forgot to notice that that objection—and I think it is a weakness in the Standing Order—attaches as much to the Standing Order as it stands as it attaches to the Standing Order proposed by us. My noble friend is under the impression that a Member in prison towards the end of the session would not be released when the prorogation arrives.
Even a short period of imprisonment would be an improvement.
Send for two resident magistrates.
My noble friend does not quite follow me. I was not touching on that part of his speech in which he seemed to indicate that the punishment we propose would be unequal. I was arguing that our punishment was unequal, and that the inequality attaches both to imprisonment by the House and to suspension. I leave that argument, because I understand my noble friend now abandons it. I am not at all sure that there may not be cases of disorder and violent acts for which the punishment provided would be totally inadequate; but remember we are dealing with a summary and automatic procedure, and that in dealing with that procedure it is essential that the punishment should not go beyond a certain amount. Now, Sir, let it be noticed that the House maintains all the powers it at present possesses. Nothing in this rule affects the existing powers, but it strengthens the action of the House in ordering suspension for the session. It is open to the House to amend the rule and inflict severe punishment. It is also conceivable—I trust it is only conceivable, not probable, not measurably probable—that criminal proceedings might have to be taken against a Member of this House. After all, the immunities of this House do not extend to committing with impunity a crime in this House which out of it would be a punishable crime. But when my noble friend suggests that as part of an ordinary rule we should have this procedure, let me call the attention of the House to a few considerations. I gather that he feels that imprisonment is not a punishment that can be inflicted without the power of revision by the House. How would that work in practice? Let us suppose for the sake of argument that a deplorable scene, similar to that of last Tuesday night, again took place. If this rule were passed, the Members who were guilty of taking part in that scene would be at once sent to prison. For the rest of the session the question would conspiracy always be arising, Is the House to release them or is it not to release them? How is that question to be decided? Is any Member to have the power of raising the question when he likes as a question of privilege? Is it to be brought forward, let me say, by the hon. Member for Water-ford whenever he thinks his friends have been sufficiently long in prison? Is he to have the right to say to the House that the sentence should be brought to an end? If it does not rest with individual Members, is it to rest with the Government? If it is to rest with the Government, I have to say to my noble friend that we cannot take upon ourselves this duty of considering and reconsidering how long the sentence ought to be of any Gentleman who has been imprisoned by the House. It is not a fair responsibility to put upon the Government. It is not a responsibility which, as part of the ordinary procedure, I should recommend the House to adopt, and it is inconsistent with the automatic and summary character of the whole of these proceedings. I therefore think that the machinery my noble friend proposes is open to the gravest objections. There is another objection. My noble friend regards imprisonment as a very severe punishment. I have known cases where a great deal of cheap martyrdom has been derived from imprisonment.
The Jameson case.
I have known cases when a great deal of cheap martyrdom was very easily obtained by confinement as a first-class misdemeanant, and of course it is only as a first-class misdemeanant that this House has the power to confine anybody. And there have been those who have been cynical enough to suggest that a time might come when, as part of a conspiracy to excite sympathy outside the walls of this House—outside, perhaps, even the four corners of the United Kingdom—there might be a scene got up within the precincts of the House. I cannot imagine, if such a scene were got up with this dramatic intention, how that intention could be more admirably fulfilled than by committing to prison as first-class misdemeanants those who took part in that let me say, for a week at the end of the session. I strongly urge my noble friend to consider whether his own view would be furthered were we to accept his Amendment. For my own part, I feel quite clear that the House, in adopting this rapid, ready system of administering justice and meting out punishment, would be very ill-advised if it were to inflict a sentence, possibly perfectly proper in itself, but which would only be proper after all the precautions of an elaborate trial. When I add to these considerations the fact that imprisonment itself may be a punishment more in appearance than in reality, and that it may call forth a stream of sympathy with the offender to which he is not entitled, I think all these considerations taken in their cumulative effect make a conclusive case against the proposal of my noble friend.
I cannot help feeling a certain measure of respect for the manner in which the noble Lord, a new Member of this House, has lectured this ancient assembly. The House of Commons has become democratised, and there are hon. Members in it of all classes. It is the fashion of the class to which the noble Lord belongs to speak in somewhat supercilious contempt of the democratised House of Commons. But the noble Lord will permit me to say that through the vast multiplicity and complexity of the duties of Parliament there has been a tendency in recent years to concentrate power in the hands of Ministers, and to trench on the reasonable rights of private Members. There is none the less growing up among Members—at any rate, among thoughtful Members—the opinion that the abstraction of the time of the House of Commons by the Government is approaching something of the nature of a public scandal, which will have to be resisted at no distant date by very definite action on the part of private Members. Although I have been fifteen years in the House, I have never ventured to touch on questions of procedure previously, because I thought that such matters should more properly, be relegated to the care and discretion of the experienced and older Members. I approach this subject with the greatest reluctance, but with reference to the Amendment of the noble Lord I may say at the outset that I do not think he has given due consideration to the practical effect of the operation of any such rule as he suggests. For my part, I believe with a distinguished Member of the Conservative party now gone—Sir Stafford Northcote—that the greatest security for the decorum and dignity of this House is the placing of the fullest responsibility on the Members of the House, and that the more you apply restrictions and punishments the greater will undoubtedly be the sense of weakened responsibility, and the greater the risk of confusion. Does the noble Lord really suppose that he is going to raise the standard of honour and dignity of this House, and increase the sense of self-respect of its Members, by keeping permanently—or more or less permanently—a considerable contingent of its Members in prison? The idea is as fantastic as it is absurd. Further, let me ask the noble Lord not to test this question by his own fastidious notions of what imprisonment may mean. Does he suppose that the Irish Members are likely to be deterred from doing what they believe, rightly or wrongly, to be their duty by imprisonment? On the contrary, it would be an additional incentive. It would not be from any desire for cheap martyrdom, as the First Lord of the Treasury cynically observed. It would be from a desire to show that they are willing, in spite of any dangers and penalties, to serve what they conceive to be the interests of their country. In conclusion, I desire to say that I have at heart, as much as any hon. Member opposite the maintenance of the decorum and dignity of this House. I will go further, and say that I believe that the bulk of the Irish Members have the honour and dignity of the House equally at heart, [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but I cannot forget—having been a long time in this House—that there was no man more jealous of maintaining proper discipline among the Irish party than the late Mr. Parnell. He resorted to obstruction, but never did be tolerate, encourage, or permit any deviation from the strict course of gentlemanly, honourable, and Parliamentary conduct. That is a view which I know will be shared by the older Members of the House. I consider that no greater stain or slur has in my humble judgment, been ever inflicted on the House of Commons—and I fully associate myself with what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition on the subject—than when it was invaded, no doubt in obedience to proper authority, by the police. By all means maintain the dignity and prestige of this House; but I for one believe that that object can best be secured by increasing and not by diminishing the sense of individual responsibility.
I do not think this is an occasion on which I can usefully serve any purpose by dividing the House against the Government. I would therefore ask to be allowed to withdraw my Amendment. [Cries of "No."]
The noble Lord having introduced this startling proposition ought certainly to allow the Members of the House to have the advantage of discussing it at some reasonable length. The noble Lord seems to have been greatly influenced in his decision by the speech of his relative the First Lord of the Treasury. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman must wish that all his speeches would have an equally ready effect on all Members of the House. But as the noble Lord has been kind enough to propose that certain Irish Members should be sent to prison because they perform what they conceive to be their duty in this House, I think he will admit that it is reasonable that Irish Members should be allowed to say a few words on the subject. Personally I should not have intervened in the debate were it not for what I undoubtedly thought was a rather ill-natured remark which fell from the First Lord of the Treasury on the question of imprisonment. He spoke of having some knowledge of cases—where they occurred he did not say, but we all know where he was alluding to—
Not in Ireland.
The right hon. Gentleman now says that these cases were not in Ireland, and I am very glad to have that disclaimer, because I and a number of other Irish Members suffered imprisonment under the right hon. Gentleman's rule in Ireland, and the hard labour we had to perform, and the bread-and-water diet to which we were subjected, ought, at least, to have protected us from the cheap taunts of the right hon. Gentleman.
I was not thinking of anything that occurred in Ireland. The cases which I had in mind were not Irish but English cases, and cases of first-class misdemeanants.
I at once accept the disclaimer of the right hon. Gentleman, but it does not altogether impress me, because the right hon. Gentleman knows what a number of Irish Members suffered in the way of imprisonment for doing what they considered to be their duty. Now the noble Lord is really very hard to please. We know that the historical records of his noble house are stern and grim records in many respects, but surely he might have allowed the Irish Members to carry out what they conceive to be their duty in this House without subjecting them to imprisonment. What does the noble Lord mean? He belongs to a great family, which dominates every single great Department of the State—the Admiralty, the War Office, and the Foreign Office—and now it appears that nothing will satisfy him except to put everyone in prison who does not agree with him. All I can say is, that if this proposition is carried out it will not in the slightest degree deter any Irish Member from acting in the way he considers he ought to act, and further, I believe that there is not a single hon. Member in this House who imagines that there is any Irish Member who would be deterred by the paltry threat of a few months imprisonment from doing what he conceived to be his duty. A more outrageous and, at the same time, a more ludicrous proposal was never heard in this House. The noble Lord spoke at some length of public opinion and its effect on this House and on the House of Lords. I think his proposal to-night shows to some extent the state of abject panic into which public opinion in this country has allowed itself to drift in connection with the proceedings of Tuesday last. We hear of good feeling having been outraged, and of acts having been committed within the House which would not have been tolerated outside it. If illegal acts were committed by the Irish Members, it was to protest against what would be protested against by every portion of the community, against what I would call little short of the robbery of the taxpayers by imposing millions on millions of taxation at one sitting, without allowing a single representative from Ireland to say a word as to whether he thought that the taxation was to be expended justly or not. We are entitled also, in considering this Amendment, to consider the causes which led up to the scene which took place. I say that if a fair limit of time had been allowed for discussion no scene would have taken place, and I tell the noble Lord that there is no Legislature in Europe—
Order, order! The question before the House is whether imprisonment should be ordered. The causes of the disorder last Tuesday cannot be gone into.
I have no desire to stray in the slightest degree from what is appropriate to this Amendment, but I thought I was entitled to answer the noble Lord and the references he made. I will pass from the subject by saying that there is not one of these legislatures which would have tolerated the closure which took place in this House. The noble Lord referred at length to the House of Lords. Some hon. Members seemed to think that that was not altogether relevant to this Amendment, but I should think that on a question of imprisonment a reference to the House of Lords would be always quite in order, for it is a proposal that might be more reasonably looked for from the House of Lords than from the democratic House of Commons of Great Britain. The noble Lord has not gone far enough, and I submit to him that instead of withdrawing this Amendment he should do what I have no doubt he would like to do, what I have no doubt many Members opposite would like to do, and what I know their forefathers did in days gone by with the Irish people's representatives, and that is to cut this matter short by making a rule that hon. Members who may disobey under any circumstances shall be committed not to prison, but to the Tower of London and forthwith decapitated.
said that such an Amendment as they were now discussing should, he fancied, have come from those responsible for the conduct of the business of the House, and not from so close a connection of the head of the Government. The noble Lord who moved the Amendment was treading on somewhat dangerous ground. The hon. and gallant Member did not for a moment say that disobedience to the orders of the Chair was not a serious offence, but the punishment that had been proposed by the Government was political and it was very severe, for the suspension of a Member for possibly six months practically meant the disfranchisement of the constituency. But that was not a personal punishment. It was reserved for a near relative of the Prime Minister to propose for the first time in that House that a period of imprisonment should be given. He hoped that most of the hon. Members, even on the other side of the House, would not try to push their opponents too hard. He hoped they would not thirst for, he would not say the blood, but for the imprisonment of offending Members.
Although the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich has asked leave to withdraw his Amendment, still he has presented an exceedingly grave issue to the House, and has done good service by proposing the Amendment. He is the only hon. Member who seems to appreciate in full the gravity of the situation. It is true that his view is different from that of his relative the First Lord of the Treasury. He proposes that the Member guilty of the offence should be punished; the Leader of the House proposes that the constituency should be punished. Of the two, I must say that I think the noble Lord the more logical. At the same time he has presented an exceedingly important issue, not merely to the House but to the country. The noble Lord says there is a decline in the influence and authority of the House of Commons. He might have gone further, and said that that decline was contemporaneous with the two Unionist Governments which have been in power. This is really a very important matter. I think the House of Commons will pause even at this hour and consider really whether either the noble Lord or the First Lord of the Treasury has hit upon the real cause. The noble Lord says that certain disorderly Members must be punished. He says that the Amendment proposed by the First Lord of the Treasury is inadequate. I say it is not merely inadequate, but it is absolutely irrelevant to the cause of the whole disturbance. Let me take the three cases instanced by the noble Lord, and they are most singular cases. The first case was the Education Bill. Let us examine that for a moment, and the House of Commons can easily discover who is at the bottom of this decline in its authority. What was done in the case of the Voluntary Schools Bill? A Bill was introduced of a most important character, which created a perfect revolution in the educational machinery of this country. It proposed to hand over to the ecclesiastical authorities the management of half the schools of the Kingdom, and what did the First Lord of the Treasury do? He came down and said he would carry the Bill. He would listen to no Amendment, not a single comma was to be disturbed. The House of Commons was not allowed to deliberate and criticise. It had nothing to do but to register the decision of the First Lord, who himself did not understand the Bill. All I can say is that this is reducing the business of this House to a farce.
The noble Lord referred to two or three cases in which there was great feeling. That does not entitle the hon. Member to discuss the merits of the Bills.
I was simply going to point out that the Amendment of the noble Lord had nothing whatever to do with the cause of disorder. The cause of disorder is not to be found in anything he referred to. The same thing applies to the Agricultural Rating Bill, which is another of the cases he referred to.
said it would not be in order to discuss the merits of the Bill.
Then, I shall be in the position of not being allowed to substantiate what I have stated. As long as it is perfectly understood that I shall not be in order in pursuing that matter, I shall not carry that further. There is the last illustration, which I think will be absolutely relevant. The noble Lord said they had there the gravest constitutional question of modern times, but there was no conflict with the authority of the Chair. The noble Lord has not acquainted himself with the history of that particular transaction. I have just been consulting Hansard about it. An order was given to clear the House for a division, which is exactly analogous to the present case—the very thing that has precipitated this rule. I One Member—and I believe he is a Member who has to-night been denouncing the disorderly conduct of the Irish Members, who has been saying that they are not fit to be Members of the House, and should be expelled—turned round and said, "Do not let us go out," and stimulated his colleagues around him to acts of disorder. What happened in that case? After all, we are supposed to be here on a basis of equality, but I am not clear that it is anything beyond a mere supposition. There are hon. Members here from Ireland in a permanent minority, belonging to a different race, and with a different attitude towards the Imperial Parliament. They have not yet been reconciled to the Imperial Parliament. I think they represent a country which has suffered a good deal at the hands of the Imperial Parliament. That is acknowledged by both parties in the House. Nobody denies it, and both parties endeavour to effect a remedy, each in its own way. I say, in a case of that kind it is the business, and it ought to be the pleasure, of the Imperial Parliament to treat the Irish Members with even a greater amount of indulgence than Members belonging to other portions of the United Kingdom. But what happened in the case? am referring to, when English Tory Members of Parliament grossly and openly defied the Chair? No one got up and moved that Mr. So-and-So be named. The First Lord of the Treasury talks very solemnly to us about the dignity and honour of this House. Where was he then? He was present. Did he rebuke the Members? Did he get up and dissent—
The hon. Gentleman is entirely misrepresenting history. He is not stating the facts.
I beg the First Lord's pardon. I have been acquainting myself with the history within the last few minutes. I am simply giving a case which is strictly analogous—
The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. I was not in the House; he says I was.
Order, order! There is an Amendment before the House, and this detailed discussion with regard to the Home Rule Bill is not in order.
I am sorry if in replying to the First Lord's observations I was disorderly, but I think I am entitled to reply to the challenge of the noble Lord to Members on this side of the House by that precedent. He says. "This is how we conducted ourselves."
My argument was that no one was suspended.
That is exactly my point. The only difference between the two cases is that nobody interferes with English Tory Members; they are not punished; but the First Lord makes them Ministers at the first opportunity. More than that, there was not a single Irish Member sitting here on Tuesday night who offered violence to anybody. But in this other case the Member for Fulham did that.
I hope the hon. Member will make some approach to accuracy. I altogether deny that I offered any violence to any Member— [An Hon. Member: We saw you.]— until the hon. Member for the Harborough Division came across the floor of the House and made an attack upon me.
Anything that took place between the hon. Member for Fulham and the hon. Member for the Harborough Division is surely not germane to the point under discussion.
Of course I am sorry if I. have travelled beyond the point of issue, but I have not travelled an inch beyond the precedent set me by the noble Lord, and, in justice to an absent man who is at present ill, I think I ought to be allowed to say that the hon. Member for the Harborough Division was not guilty of touching the hon. Member for Fulham.
Order, order! Whether the hon. Member for Fulham or the hon. Member for the Harborough Division was the more to blame in a transaction which took place in 1893 has nothing to do with the matter under discussion.
All I say is that I congratulate the First Lord of the Treasury, who moves this amended resolution and approves of the speech but not the Amendment of the noble Lord, that he has selected as one of those responsible for maintaining discipline in his party the hon. Member for Fulham. There is no reason why the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich should be ashamed of his Amendment; he has presented the case fairly between the two parties in the House; he resorts to the good old Tory principle that punitive measures are the only ones with which to deal with cases of this kind. We say that you ought to get at the root of the difficulty, and deal with that. The worst thing you can do is to peddle with these little Amendments of the Standing Orders instead of dealing with the real evil itself. The fact of the matter is this: You will effect nothing by this Amendment of the Standing Order. You have got to deal with the real difficulty, and that is that you are governing a nation against its will. The First Lord has referred to the precedents that occurred during the last five years. But he knows very well that during that time there was no real Opposition, and the I precedents that then occurred are of no I use at all. We have now from Ireland a resuscitation of the Nationalist movement, and what has disturbed the House is, if I may say so, the reappearance of the Irish banshee in its midst. We have here a motion for imprisoning the Irish Members for protesting against the mismanagement of the business of the House by the First Lord of the Treasury, and for standing up for the rights of their constituents. We are engaged in crushing out a nationality 6,000 miles away, and imagine that we are going to do it in a few weeks; but here we have a nation which has for 700 years protested against your rule.
The speech of the noble Lord excited in me feelings of astonishment and of indignation. He and others have spoken of the degradation of this House and the gradual diminution of its authority. I accept the statement as accurately describing the feeling of the world outside this Assembly. This degradation was partly or largely caused, at least for the moment, by the action of some of my lion, friends the Members from Ireland, and the. House has now for nearly an hour and a half, with the sanction and approval of the Leader of the House, as the guardian of its honour and dignity, been discussing the question whether or not the right of Members to exercise their duties in this House should subject them to imprisonment. Talk of the degradation of Parliament, when the son of the Prime Minister—not a young and untried man from Ireland, but a Member of this House for years—has the courage, I use the word "courage" because I wish to be polite, to come here and declare that a Member of this House because of his nationality should be subject to imprisonment because he protests against what he considers to be a wrong done to his country! I say because of his nationality, because some of those who are to night the loudest advocates of order and dignity did exactly the same thing as the Irish Members did on Tuesday night, with this difference, that they were rewarded by office, while the Irish Members were turned out of the House. Did I not see the hon. Member for Fulham sit in his seat for twenty or thirty minutes absolutely declining to leave the House or join in the division, shouting and howling at the then Chair- man of Committees, and defying his authority? Yet he was never suspended I even for one hour. I am not saying this in any spirit of rancour or bitter recollection; the hon. Member was suffering from strong political excitement—
So also was the hon. Member himself; He shouted out "Judas Iscariot!"
But he did not get the thirty pieces of silver.
I should have thought that tenderness for the political reputation and susceptibilities of one of his most illustrious colleagues would have suggested to the hon. Member that it would be just as well not to remind the House of that. But I do not find fault with hon. Members because under violent political excitement they took strong action. I do not think the worse of any man who holds strong opinions and who, when he considers those opinions are not fairly treated, expresses his views in strong words. My complaint is that because they were Englishmen they were permitted to do these acts of violence and grave political disorder without even rebuke from their own leaders or from the great and distinguished man who held the chair in the House. They escaped all blame whatever. The Speaker and that great Leader of the House (Mr. Gladstone) took what I believe was the right attitude, namely, they turned something of a deaf ear and a blind eye in that time of grave political excitement, instead of degrading the House as it never was degraded before, by the introduction of police within the walls of this Chamber.
If the hon. Member desires to blame my conduct he must do it by a substantive motion. The hon. Member is now attacking the Chair in the most unjustifiable manner.
In obedience to your ruling, which in the interests of Ireland I think it always right to obey, I will not pursue that line of argument further; but I trust I may address the Leader of the House, and contrast him with the Leader of the House at the time to which I was referring. The then Leader of the House, who was always in his place, and in that way was always able to keep order and good repute, let the incident pass, and the result was the violence and high feeling were forgotten in a few days. Therefore I have justified my statement which I made in the case of the noble Lord that his Amendment is for the purpose of imprisoning Members of this House because of their nationality, and not for any other purpose. The Leader of the House made a speech in reply to the speech of the noble Lord. I do not wish to suggest to the First Lord of the Treasury the manner in which he should discharge his duties on an occasion like this, but to treat seriously this monstrous proposition, this gross outrage upon the dignity and honour of this House, as if it were a serious proposition; to discuss for twenty-five minutes a proposal that Members should be imprisoned because they are Irishmen; to treat a speech and an Amendment like that seriously, is a reflection upon the dignity and the honour of the House. The noble Lord the Member for Greenwich makes his speeches in good taste as a rule, but to-night he has made an almost impudent motion. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has spoken of the cheap martyrdom of imprisonment, but I will tell the House what I think of this proposal. The noble Lord
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Balfour, Rt. Hon.G. W. (Leeds||Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John|
|Acland- Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.||Balfour, Maj.KR(Christchurch||Brown, Alexander H.(Shropsh.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Banbury, Frederick George||Brown, George M.(Edinburgh)|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Bartley, George C. T.||Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson|
|Aird, Sir John||Bathurst, Hon. Allen B.||Bryce, Rt. Hon. James|
|Allen, C. P. (Glouc, Stroud)||Beach,Rt. Hn. SirM.H.(Bristol||Bull, William James|
|Allhusen, Augustus H. Eden||Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Bullard, Sir Harry|
|Ambrose, Robert||Beckett, Ernest William||Burdett-Coutts, W.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Bell, Richard||Burke, E. Haviland-|
|Archdale, Edward Mervyn||Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Burns, John|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Bigwood, James||Butcher, John George|
|Arrol, Sir William||Bill, Charles||Buxton, Sydney Charles|
|Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis||Black, Alexander William||Caine, William Sproston|
|Ashton, Thomas (lair||Blake, Edward||Caldwell, James|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert II.||Blundell, Colonel Henry||Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)|
|Atherley, Jones L.||Boland, John||Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Bond, Edward||Carew, James Laurence|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline Fitz Roy||Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Carlile, William Walter|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Middlesex)||Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Boyles, James||Causton, Richard Knight|
|Baird, John George A.||Brand, Hon. Arthur (J.||Cautley, Henry Strother|
|balcarres, Lord||Brigg, John||Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)|
|Balfour,Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r||Broadhurst, Henry||Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.)|
says that one of the reasons why the authority of the House is going down is because the power is passing from the House to the Cabinet, and that is one of the reasons why the authority of the House is going down. I quite acknowledge that the repute of this House is going down in the eyes of the country. It will go down further if it is to be the duty of the House simply to register the decrees of Ministers without debate—to neglect and forego the greatest of all its duties, namely, the careful scrutiny and criticism of the expenditure of the country and its various departments. The noble Lord says the power is passing into the hands of the Cabinet. That is a very serious statement considering the composition of the Cabinet. What does it mean? The Cabinet consists practically of members of one family, and everybody knows that every family in the history of the world is governed by the Benjamin of the family. And therefore, as the House will plainly see, what the noble Lord, this young Cromwell, really has in his mind is that the one true remedy for the salvation of the House, for the restoration of its repute, its honour, and its dignity, is to entrust the liberties of the Irish Members to the youngest son of the noble house of Cecil.
The House divided:—Ayes, nil; Noes, 426. (Division List No. 44.)
|Cawley, Frederick||Gore, Hon. F. S. Ormsby-||Labouchere, Henry|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Goschen, Hon. George Joachim||Lambert, George|
|Chamberlain,Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.)||Couliding, Edward Alfred||Lambton,Hon.Frederick Wm.|
|Chamberlain,J.Austen(Worc'r||Graham, Henry Robert||Law, Andrew Bonar|
|Channing, Francis Allston||Grant, Corrie||Lawrence, William F.|
|Chapman, Edward||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Lawson, John Grant|
|Charrington, Spencer||Green, WalfordD.(Wed'sbury||Layland-Barratt, Francis|
|Churchill, Winston Spencer||Greene,Sir EW(BrySEdm'nds||Lecky,Rt. Hn.William Edw. H|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Grenfell, William Henry||Lee,CaptA.H.(Hants.Fareh'm|
|Cochrane, Hn. Thos. H. A. E.||Gretton, John||Leese,Sir Joseph F. (Accrington|
|Cogan, Denis J.||Grevilie, Hon. Ronald||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Griffith, Ellis J.||Leigh, Sir Joseph|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Groves, James Grimble||Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready||Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Leng, Sir John|
|Colville, John||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Leveson-Gower, Fred. N.S.|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Guthrie, Walter Murray||Lloyd-George, David|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Hall, Edward Marshall||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.|
|Cook, Frederick Lucas||Halsey, Thomas Frederick||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine|
|Corbett, A Cameron(Glasgow)||Hambro, Charles Eric||Long,Col. Charles W. (Evesham|
|Craig, Robert Hunter||Hamilton, Rt Hn LordG (Mid'x||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter(Bristol, S)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hamilton, Marq of(L'nd'nderry||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Hammond, John||Lough, Thomas|
|Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Hardie,J Keir(MerthyrTydvil||Lowe, Francis William|
|Cust, Henry John C.||Hardy,Laurence (Kent,Ashf'd||Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Loyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Harmsworth, R. Leicester||Lucas, Col. Francis(Lowestoft)|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Harrington, Timothy||Lucas, Reginald J.(Portsm'th)|
|Davies, Sir Horario D (Chatham||Harris, F.Leverton (Tynem'th||Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred|
|Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan||Haslam, Sir Alfred S.||Macartney, Rt Hn W.G. Ellison|
|Delany, William||Haslett, Sir James Horner||Macdona, John Cumming|
|Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Hay, Hon. Claude George||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.|
|Dimsdale; Sir Joseph Cockfield||Hayden, John Patrick||Maclver, David (Liverpool)|
|Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Hayne. Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-||Maconochie, A. W.|
|Dixon-Hart land, Sir Fd. Dixon||Hayter, Rt Hn. Sir Arthur D.||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverp'l)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Heath, Arthur Howard(Hanley||M'Arthur, William (Cornw'll)|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Heath, James (Staffords, N. W.||M'Calmont, Col. J.(Antrim, E.|
|Doxford, Sir William Theodore||Heaton, John Henniker||M'Crae, George|
|Duffy, William J.||Helder, Augustus||M'Dermott, Patrick|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Helme, Norval Watson||M'lver, Sir Lewis (Edinb., W.|
|Duncan, James H.||Henderson, Alexander||M'Killop, Jas. (Stirlingshire)|
|Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Hermon-Hodge, Robt. Trotter||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)|
|Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart||Hickman, Sir Alfred||Majendie, James A. H.|
|Edwards, Frank||Hoare, Edw. Brodie(Hampstd.||Malcolm, Ian|
|Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Hobhouse,C. E. H.(Bristol,E.)||Manners, Lord Cecil|
|Elibank, Master of||Hobhouse, Henry(Somerset, E.||Mansfield, Horace Rendall|
|Elliot, Hon. A. RalphDouglas||Hope,J.F.(Sheffield,Brightside||Martin, Richard Biddulph|
|Ellis, John Edward||Horniman, Frederick John||Massey-Mainwaring, Hn W. F|
|Emmott, Alfred||Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry||Mather, William|
|Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan)||Hoult, Joseph||Maxwell, Rt Hn Sir HE (Wigt'n|
|Faber George Denison||Howard,Cpt. J. (Kent,Faversh.||Maxwell, W. J. H(Dumfreissh.|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham)||Melville, Beresford Valentine|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil||Middlemore, John Throgm'rt'n.|
|Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Milton, Viscount|
|Ferguson, B. C. Munro(Leith)||Hughes, Colonel Edwin||Milward, Colonel Victor|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||Molesworth, Sir Lewis|
|Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Hutton,John (Yorks, N. R.)||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)|
|Firbank, Joseph Thomas||Jackson,Rt.Hon. Wm. Lawies||Moon, Edward Robert Pacy|
|Fisher, William Hayes||Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick||Mooney, John J.|
|Fison, Frederick William||Jessel, Captian Herbert Merton||Moore, William (Antrim, N.)|
|Fitzroy, Hn. Edward Algernon||Johnston, William (Belfast)||More, Robert Jasper (Shropsh.)|
|Fletcher, Sir Henry||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Morgan, David J. (Walthamst.|
|Flower, Ernest||Joicey, Sir James||Morley, Charles (Breconshire)|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Jones,David Brynmor(Sw'nsea||Morrell, George Herbert|
|Forster, Henry William||Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.||Morrison, James Archibald|
|Foster,Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Jordan, Jeremiah||Morton, Arthur H. A.(Deptf'd)|
|Fuller, J. M. F.||Joyce, Michael||Morton, Edw.J.C. (Devonport|
|Gartit, William||Kearley, Hudson E.||Moulton, John Fletcher|
|Gibbs, Hn. A. G. H (City of Lond.||Kennedy, Patrick James||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.|
|Gibbs, Hon. Vicary(St. Albans)||Kenyon, Hon. Geo. T. (Denbigh||Muntz, Philip A.|
|Gladstone. Rt. Hn HerbertJohn||Kenyon, James (Lancs., Bury)||Murphy, J.|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Kenyon-Slanev, Col. W. (Salop.||Murray, Rt Hn A.Graham(Bute|
|Godson,SirAugustusFrederick||Keswick, William||Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry)|
|Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin&Nairn||Kimber, Henry||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath|
|Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.)||Kitson, Sir James||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Gordon,Maj Evans-(T'rH'mlts||Knowles, Lees||Newdigate, Francis Alexander|
|Nicholson, William Graham||Renshaw, Charles Bine||Taylor, Theodore Cooke|
|Nicol, Donald Ninian||Rentoul, James Alexander||Tennant, Harold John|
|Nolan, Col. John F.(Galway, N.||Renwick, George||Thomas, A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Rickett, J. Compton||Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)|
|Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Ridley,Hn M. W.(Stalybridge)||Thomas,F.Freeman(Hastings|
|Nussey, Thomas Willans||Ritchie, Rt.Hn.Chas.Thomson||Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.|
|O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Thornton, Percy M.|
|O'Brien, Kendal(Tipp'r'ry, Mid||Roche, John||Tollemache, Henry James|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.||Tomkinson, James|
|O'Connor, James(Wicklow, W.||Ropner, Col. Robert||Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray|
|O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Round, James||Trevelvan, Charles Philips|
|O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S,)||Royds, Clement Molyneux||Tufnell, Col. Edward|
|O'Donnell, T. (Kerry, W.)||Russell, T. W.||Valentia, Viscount|
|O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|O'Kelly, Jas. (Roscommon, N.||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)||Wason, Eugene(Clackmannan|
|O'Malley, William||Sandys, Lt.-Col. Thos. Myles||Wason, John C. (Orkney)|
|O'Mara, James||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert||Webb, Col. William George|
|O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Saunderson, Rt. Hon.Col. E. J.||Weir, James Galloway|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay||Scott, Chas. Prestwich (Leigh)||Welby,Lt.-Col.A.C.E.(T'nton|
|O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)||Welby, Sir Chas. G. E. (Notts.|
|Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Parker, Gilbert||Seton-Karr, Henry||White, Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Parkes, Ebenezer||Sharpe, William Edward T.||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Partington, Oswald||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick, B.)||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Paulton, James Meflor||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth|
|Pease, Herb. Pike (Darlington||Simeon, Sir Harrington||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset)|
|Pemberton, John S. G.||Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarshire)||Williams,Rt.HnJPowell-(Bir.|
|Percy, Earl||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Perks, Robert William||Skewes-Cox, Thomas||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Pilkington, Richard||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, E.)||Wills, Sir Frederick|
|Pirie, Duncan V.||Smith, James P. (Lanarks.)||Wilson, A.Stanley (York,E.R.|
|Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand||Wilson,Henry J. (York, W.R.|
|Plummer, Walter R.||Soares, Ernest J.||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)|
|Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R (North'nts||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Power, Patrick Joseph||Stanley, Hon. A. (Ormskirk)||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N.|
|Pretyman, Ernest George||Stanley, Edward J. (Somerset||Woodhouse,SirJT(Huddersf'd|
|Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edwara||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)||Wortley,Rt.Hon.C.B. Stuart-|
|Purvis, Robert||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.||Wrigntson, Sir, Thomas|
|Randles, John S.||Stock, James Henry||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Ratcliffe, R. F.||Stroyan, John||Young, Commander (Berks, E.|
|Reckitt, Harold James||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley||Young, Samuel (Cavan, East)|
|Reddy, M.||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Sullivan, Donal||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Redmond, William (Clare)||Talbot, Lord E. (Colchester)||Sir William Walrond and|
|Reid, James (Greenock)||Talbot, Rt.Hn.J.G.(Oxf'd Uni.||Mr. Anstruther.|
I really wonder that the right lion. Gentleman, with his intelligence, should have wasted so much of the time of the House. As a matter of fact, the right hon. Gentleman brought on this change in the Standing Order because certain of our hon. friends resented the action of the Government, and under circumstances of great irritation insisted on remaining in the House after you, Sir, had ordered them to divide. But has it not occurred to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury that there is no earthly reason why Members should not sit here while a division is going forward? Does the First Lord of the Treasury think that the rule to oblige Members to clear out of the House into the lobby is of ancient order? It was only by a decision of Mr. Speaker Brand that it commenced; there is no Standing Order to that effect, and all that Mr. Speaker Brand's decision has done has been to keep us from coming into the House. Sometimes we find ourselves in the House, and we have to decide whether we shall vote aye or no, and, for my part, on one occasion I had the privilege of voting with my right hon. friend, although I had the very strongest objection to going into the Conservative lobby. My suggestion is that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury should now follow the example of his noble relative, and so far from anyone opposing such a proceeding, we shall all accept it with pleasure. If he were to do that, and bring in later a resolution that Members who happened to be in the House when a division is called may remain in the House, then that matter might be discussed. Why, Sir, I remember an occasion in the time of Mr. Speaker Peel when the Colonial Secretary remained in the House. At the time of the division the Colonial Secretary had disappeared, nobody could find him, and he did not take part in the division; but directly after the division he appeared again. As a matter of fact, the right hon. Gentleman was in the precincts of the House when the doors were locked, and was in the same illegal position as certain hon. Members upon the benches behind me were on Tuesday night. He was behind your chair, and in the same way, on Tuesday, hon. Members would very likely have disappeared if they had known where to go. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should put an end to this difficulty, and put an end to the clearing of the House when a division is going on. If the right hon. Gentleman does not take that course we ought to look upon this matter as one in which the offence which was committed by the Irish Members has been committed by English Members over and over again. This is making a racial question of it. I do not for a moment wish to minimise their dereliction from the rules of the House, and I do not wish to excuse it. Hon. Gentlemen opposite, no doubt, find themselves in a difficulty in this matter. We as Members here owe allegiance to the House, and as Members we are bound to obey you. Sir; but we owe allegiance also to our constituencies, and when one allegiance conflicts with the other we are in a difficult position. We must recollect that on Tuesday night those hon. Members who violated the rules of the House, at the same time considered they were unjustly treated and were not given the full opportunity, which they claimed and had a right to as representatives of large constituencies in Ireland, to discuss the Vote. I do not defend their action. What I do say is, that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury does not understand the true cause of this crisis. If you sit day after day upon the safety valve of a machine the machine will finally explode, and that is exactly what the right hon. Gentleman has done here. Day by day he takes privilege after privilege. Only last week he took away a great privilege in connection with ways and Means, so that after a few hours discussion on education all these Votes were passed without any discussion whatever. Had the right hon. Gentleman wished to consult our views he would have got up shortly after dinner and said that we had had an interesting discussion on education, but there were other Votes to be disposed of, and suggested that the discussion upon education should have been brought to an end. Had he done that, no doubt hon. Members would have assisted him, but the closure was moved upon this matter after all the time had been consumed by the Education Vote, and no discussion whatever had taken place on the many other matters included in the Estimate. I was shut out, as a matter of fact. I had gone home in the belief that the sitting would be adjourned; otherwise I should have remained here, for I had intended to move an Amendment that the Vote should be reduced by half. I gather that the right hon. Gentleman is not going to take my advice, and therefore I beg leave to move the Amendment to leave out the words, "during the remainder of the session," and insert in their place, "for two months." The right hon. Gentleman does not appear to quite realise what a session may be. A session may extend over a year, and it does seem a very hard thing that because an hon. Gentleman violates the rules of the House his constituents are to be disfranchised for over a year. It is a monstrous proposition. You have at the present time a punishment. If a Member of this House does not obey your riding he may be suspended for one week, or two weeks, or a month. I was suspended myself, curiously enough, on one occasion for a short period; but if I had been suspended for two years it would have been a very different thing. See how it would operate. Supposing the hon. Member for Westminster, one of whose constituents I happen to be, comes up and refuses to obey your ruling and gets suspended for two years, why should I, as his constituent, be disfranchised? because, after all, he may be a useful Member. I give that as an instance, and I suggest that the suspension should be for two months, which I think is far more reasonable than the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman. We have in all these matters borne very patiently the alterations in, and Amendments to, Rule 27, The first step was taken some time ago. We are now asked to go a step further, but if we are to have such a resolution as that which the House is now discussing, let us have it by degrees. Let us have the two months suspension first. Why do you take the entire session? I cannot understand your doing so. Look at the position of the Irish Members here. Do you suppose if all the Irish Members refused tomorrow to go out of the House into the division lobbies anything would be gained by such a resolution as this? There could be nothing more dangerous or more serious or far reaching in its consequences than Ireland being practically unrepresented in this House—her Members suspended going over and agitating in Ireland, holding conventions, and saying "We cannot represent you in England for they suspend us and will not let us speak." Having regard to the peculiar relations existing between this country and Ireland, I urge the Government, I urge hon. Gentlemen opposite, to support me in this Amendment to reduce the suspension for two months instead of the rest of the session.
Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment, as amended—
"In line 7, to leave out the words 'during the remainder of the session,' in order to add the words 'for two months.'"—(Mr. Labouchere).
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed Amendment, as amended."
I do not think the Amendment of the hon. Member has been supported by his arguments, and I cannot accept it.
said the important point to look at in the subject under discussion was upon whom the punishment fell. In this case the punishment fell not upon the Member, but upon the constituents he represented in the House, because if a Member of the House disobeyed the order and was suspended his constituents would be without a representative in the House. Now a constituency had a right to a representative in this House, and to take away that representative for an unlimited period by the suspension of the Member whom they had sent to Parliament, would be a very flagrant scandal. No doubt many Members on the Government side of the House were foolish enough to believe that it would be better to have no Irish constituency represented, but if this rule were carried he might point out that there would be this danger. If an hon. Member was suspended for such a period as the rest of the session it would be his duty not to allow his constituents to be unrepresented, and he would take such steps by applying for the Stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds so as to ensure that his constituency should be represented, if not by him by somebody else. He thought, under the circumstances, it would be very unwise for the right hon. Gentleman to press for the rule.
did not desire at this late hour of the night to take up the time of the House, but at the same time thought that the subject under discussion was sufficient to justify all the attention that could be given to it. What hon. Members felt who supported the Amendment was that the proposal of the Government was too severe to deal with such offences as had given rise to its being brought forward. He would be the very last person to defend what had occurred on the previous Tuesday. The ruling of the Chair must be obeyed, but at the same time he could see that in that case there were many extenuating circumstances. One of the greatest dangers that the House had to face at the present moment was the constant misrepresentations which were made in the Press and, incidentally, the mischief it did in the country by engendering false ideas of what was done in the House. In order to point out how the proposals of the Government were too severe on this occasion he would deal with what he considered the extenuating circumstances, and show why the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton was quite sufficient to meet the justice of the case. He attributed the outbreak which took place on Tuesday night, not so much to what actually occurred on that evening to bring it about, as to a system which was calcu- lated to bring about such a lamentable occurrence at any time. The opinion held by hon. Members sitting around him was that two months suspension would be quite sufficient to meet the necessities of the case. They looked with dismay on the possibility of a penalty which would disfranchise constituencies for a whole session. They considered that the policy which should be adopted in a case of this sort should be one more of conciliation than of severe treatment and punishment. If there was a revolt or a revolution against a system of Government, it was clear that injustice must have been originally at the bottom of it. He warmly supported the Amendment of his hon. friend the Member for Northampton, lie would not vote against the Amendment of the Government, but would abstain from voting on the main question, because ho did not wish it to be imagined that he impugned the authority of the Chair.
It appears to me that it would be wise for the Leader of the House to accept the Amendment, especially if he wants to impose an effective punishment. I am quite certain that under the Amendment proposed by the Leader of the House the punishment would be very small indeed. We all know quite well the hon. Members at whom it is aimed. They come from constituencies where there were not contested elections. What would be the result of this new Standing Order? We will suppose that some scene occurs similar to that which took place the other night, and that a dozen Members come under the rule. They are suspended for the remainder of the session. They would accept the Chiltern Hundreds, they would go back to their constituencies, and they would be immediately re-elected. What would be the position of the hon. Members when they came back? Would they be allowed to take their seats? I do not believe anyone would venture to contest their election. The punishment, therefore, would be extremely slight. I sincerely trust that we may now adjourn the debate in order to give reasonable time for the consideration of the rule. I cannot vote at all on this Amendment, and yet I would like to vote upon it. There is nothing I dislike more than to leave the House without voting. I move the adjournment of the debate.
Motion made and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned."—( Mr. Caine.)
We have had very ample discussion of the motion. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not persist in his motion for the adjournment.
The reason why I moved the adjournment was that we may have time to consider the Amendment as amended.
The right hon. Gentleman will admit that we on this side have addressed ourselves to the debate in a, very praiseworthy and industrious spirit. I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that two hours have been wasted in a perfectly futile and meaningless Amendment moved on the other side of the House. It was a shocking proceeding; I might almost say, I have never seen it equalled in the House. The noble Lord who moved it had not the courage to vote for his own Amendment. ["Oh, oh!"] I am afraid I am introducing a little heat, and I do not want to do that. I wish to make a reasonable appeal to the right hon. Gentleman. I think we might have another day to discuss the subject. There is no urgency about the matter at all. By accepting this proposal the right hon. Gentleman will, on the whole, lose no time, and he will do something to allay the bad temper which has been aroused.
May I join in the appeal to the First Lord of the Treasury? He dismissed the question as to whether the suspension should be for two or six months in the most airy manner. We have sat here now for something like eleven hours continuously, and that is more than any hon. Member ought to be called upon to do. I do say that it is most unseemly that at this hour of the morning [2.10] the House should be called upon to continue the consideration of a subject of this importance. We have certainly not had time to realise the importance of the Amendments that have been introduced. I support the motion for the adjournment of the debate, and I hope the First Lord of the Treasury will see how reasonable it is both in the interest of himself and Members who are exhausted.
I agree with the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich that the matter which the House has been discussing to-night is of infinitely greater importance than hon. Members have any idea of. It occurs to me that the noble Lord, although not very successful with his Amendment, was the first Member who really placed this question in its true light before the House as regards its importance, because up to the time he spoke the subject had been treated in a light and airy fashion as if it were only a matter, if I may use the expression, of hammering the Irish Members. It is a very large question. I think this question affects the very essence of the power and prestige of this House, and it is of vastly greater importance than hon. Members appear to understand, because it is only a step on the road. You are only taking the first step to-night. Whatever other qualification I may have I can speak of this. I do not suppose there is a man in the House who has greater experience of this than I have, and I warn the First Lord of the Treasury and the Members of the House that this rule will do no good. It will be ineffective, and you will be called upon to take another step. The question has been discussed by us reasonably and with application to the point. The only time that has been wasted was that taken by the noble Lord in moving a bogus Amendment and by the First Lord in delivering a prolonged eulogium on the noble Lord's speech, whereas those of us who are defending our rights have addressed ourselves strictly to the matter under discussion throughout the evening. I myself have a further very important and eminently reasonable Amendment to propose later on, and it is not fair to ask us to go on with this discussion at two o'clock in the morning.
As one who was concerned in and associated myself with the protest made the other night against the use of the closure, I wish to urge the House to vote for the adjournment. This matter has been altogether too hurried. Before the passions which were aroused on Tuesday night have been given an opportunity to cool, this matter has been, brought before the House and is being forced through without adequate discussion. I am an entirely new Member, but I must say that the way the procedure of the House and the closure are used to force matters through has surprised me. I did not come here to do penance for the occurrences of Tuesday night, but in the heat of the moment—
Order, order! I must remind the hon. Member that the only question before the House is the motion for adjournment.
I am merely explaining how this method of forcing business through the House strikes a new Member. We have a right to discuss these matters fully and entirely, and we are going to avail ourselves of that right, but I protest against having to discuss them at two o'clock in the morning. My past life has not fitted me to be here considering such questions at this hour. These coercive measures are the only measures we get from the Treasury Bench, and I rise merely to suggest that time should be given us to collect our thoughts and to allow the angry passions aroused by Tuesday night's proceedings to cool down.
I think one of the reasons why the adjournment should be granted is that so few Irish Members have spoken in the course of the debate. This is a measure aimed directly at the Irish representatives, and those whose rights are imperilled ought certainly to have an opportunity to discuss the matter thoroughly. We want to know how this rule would apply in the case of an hon. Member who, if he were expelled from the House for the remainder of the session, resigned his seat. That point ought to be considered by the right hon. Gentleman.
That point does not arise on the adjournment.
I am only giving reasons for the adjournment.
The hon. member might claim to argue every Amendment and every line of the Amendment upon that ground.
Well, Sir, I think we on these benches have not been treated fairly as so very few of us have spoken, and the First Lord ought to accept this motion.
It seems to me, personally, that this motion is a reasonable one under the circumstances. I shall vote for the Amendment of the Government when it is finally put, but I think the House ought to recollect that this Notice appeared on the Paper only this morning. It is a very important motion, affecting every Member of the House. We have considered it, as I think the right hon. Gentleman will admit, with good temper and without any attempt at obstruction or improper discussion, and the speeches have not, at all events, been confined to this side of the House. Seeing that we had not seen the rule in print until this morning, and that in the course of the debate certain Amendments have been accepted, so that it is now in a different form from that in which we have it on the Paper, I think a reasonable compromise, and one which I venture to suggest, would be that we should dispose of the Amendments to-night, and then have the motion reprinted for some future occasion. We should then be able to judge more properly whether the rule as amended required any further alteration, or whether it could be accepted as it then stood.
In consequence of this motion appearing on the Paper only this morning, we have been unable to put down any Amendments, and consequently we have had to move Amendments without notice, which have been very difficult to understand. This is a very important alteration in the rules governing the procedure of the House, and we ought certainly to see the resolution in print as it is proposed to be adopted before we give our final vote upon it. That surely is a very moderate demand to make. At the same time I would point out that by suspending the Twelve o'clock Rule the House did not necessarily commit itself to an all-night sitting. The interpretation of such a suspension has always been that about half-past one or two o'clock the House should review the situation according to the circumstances of the case. Suppose we agree to divide upon the Amendment which has been moved and then adjourn. To-morrow the Army statement is the first Order. In the ordinary course of things that would be over before dinner. This motion could be put down as second Order, and we should then have an opportunity of calmly reviewing the whole question. Another course would be to dispose of the Amendment now before the House, and put the motion down as first Order to-morrow, with the understanding that it shall be disposed of before dinner. I imagine the former would be the better alternative for the right hon. Gentleman, and without delaying the House further, I hope he will see that there is at any rate a strong case for full consideration before this alteration is finally adopted.
I think the suggestion is a reasonable one, and I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he should favourably consider it. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can seriously desire to force this rule through at one sitting by the use of the closure. When this rule was originally proposed in its modified form in the year 1880 it took severa days to pass. In the year 1882, when it was extended not nearly so much as it is now proposed, it took several days discussion. If the right hon. Gentleman desires that any real moral weight should attach to the decision of the House he would be wise, I think, to accede to the proposal which has been made by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy. What is that proposal? It is not that he should give us a complete Parliamentary day for the purpose of this discussion, but it is that after the Secretary of State for War has made his statement and unfolded his scheme to-morrow, and after the debate upon that subject is adjourned the remainder of the day should be voted to finishing the discussion on this matter. That is not a large claim to make, and as it affects the business of the House so little, I suggest that it would be a wise thing for him to accept that suggestion and agree now to the adjournment of the debate on the understanding that it can be taken up to-morrow after the Army debate has been adjourned.
I. hope the right hon. Gentleman will accede to this appeal which has been made to him, and I think he ought to do so when he reflects I that the original piece of work which he put before the. House is now almost unrecognisable. I have some further criticisms to offer to the House on the Amendment as it stands now, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that my criticisms will not be directed towards defeating the object of this Amendment, but will be in favour of making the new Standing Order a better piece of workmanship, and I would recommend the right hon. Gentleman in the interval to consult with his friendly opponents on this side of the House in order that we may come to some friendly understanding. I think I may promise the right hon. Gentleman that my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition will be willing to take part in a friendly discussion, and if this course is adopted we may arrive at an improvement upon the Amendment as it now stands. I do desire that this Standing Order shall reflect the care and wise thought of this House, and that no Order shall be put upon our books in haste.
A large number of hon. Members have appealed to me to adjourn this debate, but I think that in one respect they have treated me rather ungratefully. I have accepted their Amendments, and now they are using that as a reason for adjourning the debate by saying that they wish to see the rule printed. It is perfectly true that Amendments have been accepted, but I think it is impossible to consider this rule in isolation from the general condition of business before the House. If I could consider it in isolation I should be glad to meet the wishes of hon. Members, whether they agree with me or not. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy threw out a suggestion that we should take it after the statement of the Secretary for War to-morrow. I suppose that my right hon. friend's statement will be opened early in the evening, and if the House can come to some arrangement by which we can be assured of a substantial amount of Supply to-morrow I shall be willing to make the sacrifice. I see that the hon. Member for Waterford smiles at that.
My smile means that if the right hon. Gentleman desires to facilitate the business of Supply the best way to do it would be to try and conciliate hon. Members by making a reasonable concession such as we ask.
I am always desirous of being as conciliatory as possible, but Supply must be got through. I believe there are eighteen Votes to be got through, and unless I can get a satisfactory assurance that substantial progress will be made with the Estimates I am afraid we must proceed with the debate. I hope hon. Gentlemen will not think that I have approached this question in any tyrannical spirit, but the reason is that we have to absolutely get through the Estimates by a certain day.
Unfortunately the Civil Service Estimates, to which, the First Lord of the Treasury referred, are of considerable importance, and I should say that it is very difficult to enter into any sort of arrangement regarding them. They include such subjects as Uganda, Ashanti, business in South Africa, and other matters of very considerable importance, and I do not think it will be a good thing to enter into an arrangement to burke discussion on South Africa. It would be an exceedingly bad arrangement, and there has been really too much of that sort of thing. I think the First Lord of the Treasury should consider this on its merits. Here we are discussing an Amendment of our procedure of the most vital importance. We have only got to interpret it with what has happened this week in order to see its importance. If this rule had been in operation last Tuesday twelve constituencies would now have been disfranchised for the rest of the session, and such a proposal is to be rushed through after only twenty-four hours notice, before there is a full opportunity to discuss it. This is perfectly unprecedented. I should have thought that two sittings of the House would not have been too much for a matter of this kind, and I do ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider this matter on its merits. We have still one Amendment not disposed of, and some other Amendments have to be moved.
It would be very difficult for anyone to give a pledge as to what would take place to-morrow. I think we all recognise in the right hon. Gentleman's last observations a most reasonable spirit, and, before speaking of what may happen on other days, I would venture to press very strongly upon him that whatever we may say of this now Order I do not think anyone who is interested in, and who has the good feeling of the House at heart, can contemplate very pleasantly the hurrying through of this proposal in an all-night sitting. I do not think that any time has been wasted upon it except a certain waste of time for which those on this side of the House have not been responsible. I never knew a more unnecessary expenditure of time than that which was devoted to the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich. I think the whole of that episode was so much lost time. Therefore, I think we have a strong claim upon the Government for a postponement of this debate. As to-morrow is a nondescript day, with nothing definitely announced for it after the statement by the Secretary of State for War, I should have thought that the remainder of the day might be taken up by resuming the debate upon this rule. I do hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to come to an arrangement of that sort, and I can assure him that I shall use every influence I possess, if he agrees to this course, to keep the discussion of the various topics within reasonable limits, and I do not think I can do any more.
I quite admit that it is a disagreeable thing to have to do business in these hours of the morning, but business must be done even in these hours in order that the necessary financial business may be finished before 31st March. Of course if hon. Members will consent to make some arrangement of a definite character in regard to the business to-morrow I would be disposed to adjourn the debate.
The only arrangement that can be made is that suggested by the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy; and that is that after the Secretary for War makes his statement tomorrow the debate should be adjourned, and the rest of the sitting should be devoted to the discussion of this rule. It is absurd to imagine that half an hour would suffice. If the Government do not agree to this suggestion, let them closure the whole discussion now and take upon themselves the discredit of passing a penal law of this kind without fair and proper discussion.
A most reasonable proposal has been placed before the House by those who have moved the adjournment of the debate. We have been at this discussion for eleven hours, and if it concerns anybody in this House in particular, it concerns the Members from Ireland. The rule is directly aimed at their liberty, and at the liberty of their constituents; and we maintain that it is only just and right that those whom it most affects should have a proper opportunity of studying the rule and seeing its bearing in every aspect. It only appeared on the notice Paper this morning, and most of us have not had the opportunity of carefully studying the rule. If we had we possibly might be ready with some Amendments. I maintain that the House is at a disadvantage in not having these Amendments in print before us. For that reason alone I think the motion for adjournment is essentially a reasonable one. The right hon. Gentleman seems to think that the time has been wasted on these benches; but I venture to say that very few of us have up to this time taken part in the discussions, although some of us are bound to express our views in regard to the new rule. If there has been any unreasonable consumption of time it has not been on these benches. The Amendment proposed by the hon. Member for East Mayo was most germane to the subject, and that was even recognised by the action of the Government. The waste of time has taken place on the other side of the House in connection with the motion of the noble Lord who had not the courage to vote for it. It was a bogus motion, and the First Lord delivered a speech in reference to it which I think was unworthy of him in his position. I think I may say that the conduct of the business of this House does not depend upon rules, but on the tact and courtesy of those who lead it. And certainly we have reason to complain on all grounds of the manner in which the business has been conducted. The right hon. Gentleman would meet the convenience of all the Irish Members if he would accede to the motion for adjournment, and give us an opportunity of considering carefully this punitive motion, and not pass it in a hurry or panic. This is a far-reaching rules and Amendments of far less moment have taken weeks of discussion before they were passed. Our desire is therefore most reasonable.
I rise to support the motion for adjournment. There is too much hurry about this motion. What is all the hurry for? Has not this House existed for 800 or 900 years without this regulation? Why, then, should you hurry this rule after only eight or nine hours debate? The First Lord of the Treasury has made the urgency of Supply a reason for special expedition, but he has given no reason why this alteration in the Standing Orders should be carried before Supply is got through. I venture therefore to suggest that the debate on the rule should be adjourned until after Easter or Whit-Sunday, and then taken up with the coolness which the importance of the subject requires.
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House has been the prime mover and cause of all this trouble. I read in The Times of this morning that this was deliberately planned to prejudice the Irish Members. I had not the honour of being named the other night, but I consider that when the First Lord of the Treasury came into the House and moved the closure—
Order, order! The question before the House is that of adjournment.
I was going to say that we have a good many Amendments to move yet. In fact, I have an Amendment to propose, namely, to suspend the Leader of the House for two months on the ground that the right hon. Gentleman has caused the whole of the trouble. It seems to me, from the attitude of hon. Gentlemen opposite, that they have made up their minds to rush the rule through to-night; but I appeal to them to give us an opportunity of impeaching their conduct to-morrow.
I do not agree with hon. Gentlemen opposite. We can sit here till sunrise to-morrow while they pursue a policy which is of no good to the Ministry and is no credit to the House. I have had several years experience of this House, and my opinion is that no practical progress is made with public business at these hours unless the Ministry give way. Members get exasperated on both sides and enter into foolish competition to show most endurance, like the man who fasted for forty hours. The Parliament is comparatively young, and when there is a long life before us, the conduct of public business should not be permitted to get into this impasse. It is somewhat tyrannical on the part of the Government to force the pace at present. No doubt as the Parliamentary year rolls on and we get into the summer months, when the sun rises earlier than now, we shall be treated to this kind of thing at greater length. This is a most important motion. If it had been a Sessional Order a short debate might have done. But a few Irish Members have taken part in the debate yet. If the right hon. Gentleman had had more regard for the convenience of the House he would not have made an academic speech on an unsubstantial motion which had nothing behind it, as the division showed. The waste of time has come not from these benches, but from the Government benches, and that at an hour when we should have been at our rest. I speak on behalf of the officials of the House, and of the policemen, who have had a most trying experience during the last few days, particularly the members of the A Division. The Government will gain nothing by continuing to oppose the motion for the adjournment. Some consideration should be had for private Members who are interested in private Bills. I am myself very anxious to come down here early to-morrow to get a draft of a Bill, but if we are kept sitting so late I will not be able to give my mind to the work. If the discussion is prolonged it certainly will not conduce in the smallest degree to the despatch of business, and I trust the First Lord of the Treasury, who is not insensible to reason, will recognise the plain and obvious facts of the situation.
There is perhaps one argument which may appeal to right hon. Gentlemen, on the Treasury Bench, and especially to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. It is that there are a great number of junior Members in the House who are not accustomed to rules of procedure, and to whom it is extremely necessary that they should have an opportunity of seeing the healing of this new rule. I consider further, not only in the case of junior Members but also in the case of senior Members, that some period should lie allowed to elapse during which hon. Members might have an opportunity of considering carefully what would be the effect of this new rule. All Members from Ireland have special reason to demand that such a period should elapse before an important motion of this kind is carried, and therefore in our opinion the present is essentially an occasion on which the adjournment of the debate should be agreed to. A proposal has been made that as regards to-morrow the Army statement should he taken first and this motion, afterwards. I am perfectly convinced if that course is pursued the House will have no occasion to regret it. To-morrow we will he able to discuss the matter carefully and without undue haste, and in a manner which will redound to the credit of the House of Commons and make a favourable impression on the new Members of the House. Unless you treat new Members with consideration and allow them time to master carefully new proposals of this kind, I do not for my part see how you can expect us in the future to look upon measures that may he introduced with that care, and thought which are naturally expected from all Members of the House.
The Leader of the House must know, as every hon. Member who has been in the House a few years known, that no good is done by going on with a discussion of this kind at three o'clock in the morning. It is perfectly useless to continue keeping us here m this way. If I wanted another argument for the adjournment it would be the appearance of right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench, many of whom appear to he physically in a state approaching collapse.
I desire to support the motion for the adjournment. If the House will consider the matter dispassionately I am sure hon. Members will see that the claim now put forward is reasonable and moderate, especially when they consider that the right hon. Gentleman's motion is directed against the Irish Members. As a new Member of the House, knowing nothing of its rules, but anxious to conform to them as far as an Irish Member can, I rise to ask English Members honestly to say to us Irish Members whether they are prepared to treat us justly, and not disregard or treat with contempt our appeals for fair play. If hon. Members will consider the seriousness of the question before the House—that it is proposed to introduce into the rules of this House an innovation which I cannot characterise as otherwise than unheard of, and that the First Lord of the Treasury is trying to repress freedom of speech and to deprive Irish Members by the closure and his huge majority of their only opportunity to express their views—then it will be seen that the appeal for the adjournment of the debate at this late hour is reasonable. I was present at the scene which occurred on Tuesday, but we Irish Members are not ashamed of our action on that occasion. We felt that it was our duty to our constituents—
The hon. Member must speak on the adjournment of the debate.