HC Deb 05 February 1857 vol 144 cc244-6

moved a Resolution, that in future notices of Motion on going into Committee of Supply on the Estimates, should have precedence only on alternate days. He complained very much of the abuse which had lately crept in, and had, in his opinion, arrived at a very serious head, of Members delaying the Committees of Supply in order that they might bring a vast number of subjects before the House which it was inconvenient for them to introduce in the form of Resolutions, or in any other manner allowed by the rules of the House. The practical working of this pernicious system was to prevent the Estimates from being discussed in consequence of the lateness of the hour at which they were brought on. Hon. Members made long speeches on their particular hobbies, and knowing that no result could be obtained, went calmly away to dinner, having effected their purpose, and thus the public time was wasted very much to the injury of the country. Private Members had Tuesdays and Thursdays for Motions, and Wednesdays for Orders. The Government had only Mondays and Fridays for all their business, and he thought it would not be too much to limit the right of private Members to interpose with a Motion before going into Committee of Supply to one evening of the week. He pointed out the inconvenience of this practice upon the general business of the House, and especially as preventing the Government from giving explanations which might be required, simply from the reason that when the patience of the House had been exhausted by a long and purposeless conversation, and it at length got into Committee, about twelve o'clock at night, hon. Members were so weary that they passed the Estimates without the slightest examination. Nobody, he thought, could deny the importance of discussing the Estimates, considering the enormous amount of money involved, and the fact that, once passed, there was no control whatever upon the expenditure of the money. If his Motion were carried, hon. Members would still have every other day on which to bring forward their grievances. There could be no doubt that it would lead to a great saving of time, and, as he contended, would in its practical effect prove highly advantageous to the country. The Government were not averse, as he understood, to this Motion. ["Hear, hear!"] He perfectly well understood what that Cheer meant. No doubt hon. Gentlemen opposite found their account in protracting such useless Motions in order to harass the Government; but he considered that the absence of objection from the Treasury bench was a proof of the desire of the Government to have the various Estimates thoroughly investigated, and, therefore, highly creditable to it.


seconded the Motion, although he should have preferred the appointment of a Committee to inquire. At present it was almost impossible to know when the Estimates were coming on.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Notices of Motions on going into Committee of Supply on the Estimates shall have precedence only on alternate days."


did not know upon what authority the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Williams) spoke; but in his (Sir G. Grey's) opinion the privilege accorded to Members of making Motions previous to going into Committee of Supply was one of the most important and valuable they possessed. He had had no communication with his noble Friend the First Lord of the Treasury upon the subject of the Motion, of which he believed notice was only given yesterday; but he was quite sure that that noble Lord would not be prepared to give his consent to it. Neither, if the Motion of the hon. Gentleman were agreed to, would it effect his purpose; nor would it do so unless he intended to preclude all discussion before the Speaker left the chair which would deprive hon. Members of the constitutional privilege of calling attention to the grievances of the people before the House voted the public money. He only hoped that the hon. Member for Lambeth would himself set a good example in respect to this description of Amendments, and that that example would be followed by other hon. Gentlemen. They all had a duty to perform, and, although, wherever it was practicable, it would be desirable to get into Committee as soon as possible, hon. Members ought not to be deprived of the privilege of introducing discussions, often of a very important character, before going into Committee. He should vote against the Resolution.


said, he was glad to find that the hon. Member had failed to represent the Government in this Motion, and it was his opinion that he had equally failed in representing the feelings of his Lambeth constituents. He was perfectly surprised to hear such a Resolution emanate from that quarter. He always thought that the principles professed by that section to which the hon. Gentleman was attached were repugnant to placing too much power in the hands of Government. It was true enough that two days a week were allowed to private Members to make Motions, but that was only provided they were not counted out, and his impression was that the only way of compelling Ministers to make a House for them was to threaten to bring the Motion they had in hand before the House previous to its going into Committee of Supply. He gave the present Resolution his strongest opposition.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.