HC Deb 14 March 1856 vol 141 cc173-7

said, he would now move that on the 17th of April, and every subsequent Thursday of the Session, the Orders of the Day should take precedence of Notices of Motion. His object in bringing forward the Motion was to facilitate the private business, and not to deprive hon. Members of a notice of Motion day. If his Motion were agreed to, hon. Members would still have the power of raising a question on any other night on the Motion for going into Supply. Already there had been thirty Bills introduced by private Members, and it was with the greatest difficulty and at long intervals they could advance them a stage. It had been usual for the House in past Sessions to pass a similar Motion to that now submitted to the House, and near about the period he had named.


seconded the Motion. He said that the present system of giving precedence to Motions on the evenings of Tuesday and Thursday was objectionable in this respect, that it had the effect of keeping a large quantity of unfinished business continually on the Votes. A private Member might easily obtain leave to bring in a Bill, but the subsequent progress of the measure was encompassed with difficulties. When set down for second reading it became an "Order," and having in that character to yield precedence to Motions, it might be postponed from night to night for weeks together. It was to be hoped that the Government would refrain from offering any opposition to the Motion, as its adoption, he considered, was necessary for the due transaction of public business.

Motion made, and Question proposed— That upon Thursday the 17th day of April next, and upon all subsequent Thursdays during the Session, Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motions.


said, it had always been the custom, as the hon. and learned Member for Greenock (Mr. Dunlop) proposed, to arrange for Orders of the Day to take precedence on Thursdays after the Easter vacation; but this year Easter came much earlier than usual; he should, therefore, move, as an Amendment, that the date when the Resolution was to take effect should be the 1st of May instead of the 17th of April.


said, he had great pleasure in seconding the Motion, as he had long seen the great disadvantage which Members laboured under in bringing on Motions. If a disagreeable Motion was on the paper, it was usual to get rid of it by there being no House on that day; but assuredly hon. Members had the remedy in their own hands.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "17th day of April," in order to insert the words "1st day of May," instead thereof."


said, he believed that much might be said on both sides of this question. If hon. Members who had Motions to make thought they were too much limited in the times at which they could be made, they availed themselves of the privilege of bringing forward Motions on Supply nights. It was true that that course was attended with a good deal of inconvenience; and if he might be allowed without offence to revert to an instance which took place recently, he should say that the speech lately made by an hon. and learned Gentleman about life peerages and the appellate jurisdiction of the House of Lords, was one that did not appear to be very much connected with a Motion to go into Committee of Supply. On the other hand, it certainly was desirable to give opportunities to private Members for carrying the Bills which they had introduced through the subsequent stages. He thought that, perhaps, the time fixed by his hon. and learned Friend behind him (Mr. Dunlop) was rather too near, especially when it was remembered that Thursday, the 10th of April, had already been determined to be an Order Day for the purpose of the Resolutions to be moved by the noble Lord the Member for London (Lord J. Russell) on the subject of education. He thought, therefore, that the House might close with the Amendment, and fix the 1st of May for the day upon which Orders of the Day should take precedence of Notices of Motion; but on the part of the Government he should put in a claim to share and share alike with private Members.


said, he would not oppose the suggestion of the noble Lord, but he thought the hon. and learned Member for Wallingford (Mr. Malins) and others had not sufficiently considered the matter. It would have been wiser for the independent Members not to have diminished their privileges in any way. Generally speaking, individual legislation could not be very successful in that House; but the use of those two days, the Tuesdays and Thursdays, was that they served as safety valves, and, if there was any subject of great interest which ought to be brought before the House, gave opportunities for its discussion. Now, the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) when he agreed to the Amendment, intimated that the Government would come in for a share of the Thursdays, and it would be, no doubt, the lion's share. That would not be to the advantage either of individual Members or of the public generally, and he thought the agreement had been rather precipitately made.


said, that, so far from its being a new agreement, it was an arrangement which had been adopted before, and in favour of which they had the experience of the last three years. The Government has always had a share of the Thursdays from the first week in which Orders of the Day had precedence.


said, he was of opinion that Governments were apt to receive but scant justice in matters of this kind, their applications in the middle of the Session for a larger share of the time of the House to be devoted to public business being invariably treated as though they contemplated some personal privilege, or sought some alleviation of their responsibility. Yet, if any Government wished to shirk its duty, nothing could better suit its purpose than that a greater proportion of the time of the House should be appropriated to the Motions of private Members; for the more nights they set apart for the transaction of Government business, the greater must be the labour and responsibility of the Government. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) said the two nights in the week open to private Members were safety valves; and, certainly, nothing could be more absurd than to repress unduly the activity of independent Members in the discharge of their duty to their constituents and the country. Admitting the principle of safety valves, he would ask the House to consider the extent to which they already existed. They had, for a considerable part of the Session, the safety valve of two days in the week for Notices of Motion; there was a third day in each week devoted to the "Orders" of private Members; and hon. Gentlemen also enjoyed considerable liberty—which was very indulgently permitted by the House—of putting questions, and frequently occupying in this matter half an hour or an hour out of the six or seven hours which were available for business. Another of these safety valves was to be found in the Motion made every Friday for the adjournment to Monday, upon which any question might be raised, and which gave occasion for miscellaneous discussions that frequently lasted an hour or two. Another of these safety valves he might mention was that, whenever a question was brought before the House by a private Member under circumstances of peculiar urgency, an appeal was invariably made to the Government to give a day for the purpose of the debate. There was still another safety valve in the opportunity afforded of raising any question on going into Committee of Supply. It must be recollected that, while these opportunities were afforded to private Members, the Government were expected, during the limited portion of time left to them, to perform—and they actually did perform in every Session—the duty of carrying through nine-tenths of the entire legislation of the House. He had always felt, when he sat on the Treasury bench, that the Government, with reference to that subject, scarcely received the consideration they might expect, and to which he thought they were entitled.

Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.

Words inserted.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

ResolvedThat upon Thursday, the 1st day of May next, and upon all subsequent Thursdays during the Session, Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motions.

On the Motion for going into Committee of Supply,


said, he wished to make a few remarks with respect to one item in the Votes, in order to prevent confusion. A Return had been asked for as to the Enfield factory expenses, and the Return furnished did not meet the view of the Mover. The Resolution of the Committee some time ago set forth that an account showing the actual profit and loss was to be furnished annually, and the right hon. Gentleman the Clerk of the Ordnance then stated that at the end of every year such an account would be presented, showing every halfpenny of the expenditure. The Return that had been recently granted was not the Return that had been promised, and he, therefore, appealed to the right hon. Gentleman to fulfil his previous promise.