HC Deb 26 January 1860 vol 156 cc163-79

said, the Motion he was about to propose, if adopted, would have the effect of abolishing the custom of moving every Friday "that the House at its rising do adjourn till Monday next," Saturday being thus made, except in unusual cases, a dies non. As there were many Members who had not yet had practical experience in the forms of the House, he would take the liberty of explaining how it came about that, in order to avoid the inconvenience of sitting on a Saturday, an express Motion for an adjournment to Monday was necessary. The rules of the House did not admit of an Amendment to the ordinary Motion for adjournment, nor did they permit any day to be fixed for the next meeting on that Motion; it must necessarily be in the form "That this House do now adjourn." The, Motion must be decided "Yes" or "No," and if it were carried, the House stood adjourned at once till the next sitting-day, of which Saturday was technically one. In the early period of our history, Saturday was a sitting-day the same as other week days, and the practice of adjourning from Friday to Monday did not arise, according to Mr. Speaker Onslow, till the time of Sir Robert Walpole, who, being a great hunter as well as a great statesman, was anxious, whenever it was possible, to get the House to adjourn over Saturday, in order to give him a day's hunting in each week. At first the proposal met with much opposition, but by degrees it grew into a regular practice, which had continued to the present day. So long as the Motion for adjournment was a mere formal matter, and so long as it was passed sub silentio, it was not worth while to make any special provision with regard to not sitting on Saturday. But a novel practice had grown up, within his recollection, which he thought had arrived at such a height as in the judgment of many Members amounted to almost an intolerable nuisance. The Motion for adjournment to Monday was made a handle to introduce discussion upon almost every conceivable subject which the imagination of any Member might deem worthy of submitting. If the custom had existed from time immemorial and acquired that halo of antiquity which was involved in a constitutional practice, he should perhaps treat it with respect, as no one less wished than he did to trench upon the privileges of Members of the House. But they must bear in mind that the practice he complained of was an entire novelty; that it had virtually grown up within the last ten years, and that it had gone on increasing until it had arisen to such a pitch, that he trusted the bulk of the House would lend him aid to put a stop to it. The objections were obvious and palpable. It was a most unbusiness-like proceeding. The amount of business which the House had to transact was enormous. No representative assembly ever had anything like the same amount. For the transaction of that business the time was limited. Yet once a week, practically one, two, or three hours were occupied in the discussion of questions upon which they could possibly arrive at no conclusion whatever. He maintained that the true function of that House, as the representative of the nation, was to transact the business of the nation, and to decide, after discussion and debate, the various important matters submitted to it. All financial and legislative, and a great many administrative, matters were submitted to them, upon all of which the practice was to come to a decision after discussion, and pronounce a deliverance; whereas the topics discussed on the Motion of adjournment were topics on which they could come to no decision. With regard to them they were merely a debating society, discussing things upon which they could pronounce no deliverance; and he thought it had a serious tendency to degrade the House in the eyes of the public, and to lower their character as a legislative assembly. Besides, it was most unfair to the Government—he did not mean the present Government; but those gentlemen who for the time being were intrusted with the conduct of the affairs of the country. The Executive Administration were necessarily charged with the greater part of the business of the House. By the constitution they had to initiate all measures of finance, and practically, if not by the constitution, all measures involving intricacy or details. They had the means of knowledge; they had the power of common counsel, which independent Members had not; and it was very well known that no measure of importance could be carried except by Her Majesty's Government. The House allowed the Government two out of five sitting days—Monday and Friday—and kept for themselves Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. After thus giving up two-fifths only of the time, private Members by this novelty of speaking on the question of adjournment contrived to lessen even that amount, and then at the end of the Session the Government was taxed with the responsibility of not having passed measures which they had not had the means or time to carry. It was calling upon the Ministers of the day to make bricks without straw. It was not fair to the public, whose representative the Government were, and who expected the Government properly to carry on the business of the country. It was also not fair to those hon. Members who were content to take the chance of the ballot for precedence on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and who, having respect for the forms of the House, were unwilling to abuse those forms merely to deliver a speech, of which they were big, in a full House at five o'clock on a Friday. Here was a specimen of the extent to which the practice had grown. On April 8, 1859, the following were the Notices on the Motion for adjournment till Monday:— Mr. Salisbury,—To call the attention of the House to remarks said to have been made by Mr. Baron Bramwell at Bala and other assize towns in the North Wales Circuit; and to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has any explanation to offer to the House on the conduct of the learned Judge. Captain Vivian,—To ask the Secretary of State for War a question relating to the appointment of Mr. Cunningham to an Ensigncy in the 13th regiment of Light Infantry. Mr. Hopwood,—To ask the Secretary to the Treasury for an explanation of the recent dismissal of a gentleman who had been employed for two years and a half in the Emigration Office, and had subsequently passed a satisfactory examination before the Civil Service Commissioners. Sir A. Agnew,—To put a question to the Secretary of State for India respecting the late disturbances in Travancore. Mr. G. Clive,—To call the attention of the House to the recent appointment of magistrates for the city of Hereford; and to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department on what information, and at whose suggestion, such appointments were made; also, whether he will object to the production of any correspondence which may have taken place on the subject. [Hear! hear.] He heard hon. Members say "Hear, hear," as if these were impor- tant questions to ask. He did not for a moment wish to convey that all these very miscellaneous matters were not such as might very properly be brought under the notice of the House; but he said they ought to he brought under its notice in a regular and proper manner. They might all be divided into two classes—Questions for information, or subjects on which the opinion of the House might be taken. Questions, that merely sought information, could be put on any evening without a speech. If they involved discussion, proper notice should be given, and the Motion made on a Tuesday or Thursday. He had not read half the list, and this was only for one day. Viscount Castlerosse,—To ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether his attention has been called to the fact that at the late trial at Tralee, of Daniel O'Sullivan, convicted of being a member of the Phœnix Society, the eleven Roman Catholic jurors (including a gentleman lately appointed a magistrate for the county) who were called and answered to their names, were directed to 'stand by,' by the Crown; and, if so, whether such a course was adopted with the approval of the Government. Sir Erskine Perry,—To ask the Secretary of State for India what steps have been taken for removing the political establishment of the India-office to the neighbourhood of the other public offices of Government. Mr. Kinnaird,—To ask the Chief Commissioner of Works whether the Government will have made up their minds by the meeting of the New Parliament (seeing that Berkeley-house is now pulled down) as to making a carriage road by the side of Berkeley-house, from Cockspur-street and Charing-cross, into St. James's Park. Mr. Monckton Milnes,—To ask the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in what mode, and to what extent, the Government intend to act upon the recommendations of the Consular Committee of last Session. Viscount Palmerston,—To make some observations on the state of affairs on the Continent, and to ask Her Majesty's Government for information as to the position held by the British Government in the negotiations now going on. Mr. Chichester Fortescue,—To ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies when he will lay on the table the correspondence between the Colonial-office, the Hudson's Bay Company, and the Government of Canada. Mr. Liddell,—To ask the Secretary of State for India whether in consequence of the appointment of Mr. Peacock to the Chief Justiceship of Bengal, it is the intention of the Government to recommend that the vacancy thereby created in the Council of Calcutta should be filled up by a person competent, from experience and skill, to superintend and remodel the finances of India. Mr. Beamish,—To ask the Secretary to the Treasury whether Sir Samuel Cunard having offered, through a deputation who waited on the Admiralty and Treasury Departments on Monday last, to convey the mails weekly between an Irish port and America for the sum of £500 the voyage out and home, it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to persevere in completing a contract for £300 for this service (fortnightly) between Galway and America. Many of these were perfectly proper questions to be put for the sake of information, but he repeated that they were not put on a proper occasion, or in a proper way. It was very hard upon the different Members of the Government, because they had very little notice of the Questions to be put, and were often prevented from replying by having already answered a previous Question. He had on more than one occasion seen it degenerate into a complete farce—one Member of the Government rising after another to give answers to Questions which were not within their province, prompted by other Members of the Government who were really cognizant of the matters in question, but who could not speak themselves, because they had already addressed the House on the Question before it of adjournment. As an instance of the extent to which the practice had increased he would refer to the Notices for to-morrow. There was no great amount of business on the paper to-morrow, but already hon. Members had given notice that they would make speeches on the Motion for adjournment. Mr. Monckton Milnes was going to ask the Government— What measures have been adopted with regard to the Address presented to Her Majesty on the 2nd of August, 1859, by this House, praying Her Majesty to enter into negotiations with the United States of America for the purpose of preventing the assaults and cruelties committed on merchant seamen in American vessels; and to call the attention of the House to some recent occurrences of that nature. No doubt, the question was one which ought to be brought before the House, but why did the hon. Gentleman bring it forward on the Motion for Adjournment? Why did he not put his name down and take his chance of the ballot like others? No doubt, he was enceinte with a speech of which he wished to be delivered, but why did he choose an evening, and an occasion when his egg must be addled, unless it was that, the Question of Adjournment coming on early in the evening, he would be more likely to have a full House to listen to him? Then Mr. Darby Griffith was to ask the Government— Whether it is true, as stated in a French paper, that 30,000 French troops are expected at Leghorn, and whether the French Government has any intention of taking any such steps, for the purpose of preventing the annexation of the pro- vinces of Central Italy to Sardinia, which their Constitutional representatives have voted as their final determination. And Mr. Edwin James had given notice of his intention— To draw the attention of the Secretary of State for the Home Department to the case of Thomas Smethurst, convicted of the crime of murder on the 15th day of August last, and recently pardoned by Her Majesty; and to ask him whether the Government contemplate the introduction of any measure to give the right of appeal to persons convicted of capital and other crimes. If hon. Gentlemen thought it was a legitimate thing that there should be such an opportunity as this for making a deliverance of such matter, let arrangements be made for the purpose, so as to get rid of the hardship imposed on those Members who, coming down to advance public business, were compelled to sit and listen for four or five hours to discussions on every variety of subject, which never led to any practical result. The worst of it was, that not merely were questions asked and answered, but every Member who had not already spoken on the Question of adjournment had a right to speak on any particular question; so that very often little debates were got up. He could not conceive what objection would be urged against his proposition. There were a certain number of Gentlemen who seemed to think it the principal function of a Member of Parliament to throw every obstacle in the way of public business; but he hoped that was not the opinion of the great majority. Some would say that it was advisable to have a safety-valve through which hon. Gentlemen could let off their steam; but if the valve were pretty nearly as big as the boiler, and no proper weight put on it, very little work indeed would be got out of the engine. Whether he succeeded in carrying his Motion or not, he had no doubt he should have the support of many Members on both sides, who were anxious to see a stop put to this modern abuse—which was most unfair not merely to the Government, but to the other independent Members, who did not condescend to avail themselves of it. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving,— That, whenever this House meets for business upon Friday, it shall at its rising adjourn to the following Monday, unless the House shall otherwise order.


said, he could hardly think that his right hon. Friend had fully considered the bearings of that question; and he hoped that his right hon. Friend, who had not himself been very nice in his language, would forgive him if he stated that his speech was somewhat tinged with official pedantry. His right hon. Friend, when he described the practice of speaking on the Motion for adjournment as an innovation, ought to have remembered that it had grown up solely in consequence of the abolition of the old constitutional custom of speaking on Petitions, a custom which was still adhered to by the other House of Parliament, and which, he believed, existed in every other legislative assembly in the world. After it had been thought right to suspend that power it was only natural that the practice should have grown up of taking advantage of the Motion for the Friday adjournment in order to bring forward incidental matters which could not otherwise be submitted to the consideration of the House. The House was an excellent guardian of its own order, and he could remember but very few instances in which the privilege had been abused; and it appeared to him that the practice carried with it great and palpable advantages. It enabled hon. Members to bring subjects under the notice of the House at the right moment; whereas if the usual form of giving notice of a Motion were adopted, many questions which called for immediate consideration could not be submitted to the attention of the House until the lapse of perhaps two or three months, when no advantage could any longer arise from their discussion. His right hon. Friend had asked why he (Mr. Milnes) had not given notice of his Motion, and stood his chance of the ballot for the day on which it was to be brought forward; and his answer was that he had not done so because the subject with which he had to deal was one of pressing importance and would not bear delay. That was, he thought, a sufficient reason why he should take the earliest possible opportunity of bringing it under the consideration of the House. He believed that those incidental discussions seldom or never occupied more than two or three hours, a period of time which noble Lords and right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury bench and on the front Opposition bench did not scruple to spend in the delivery of a single speech. Now, if Ministers and ex-Ministers would be a little more concise in their addresses, and a little more relevant in the matter of those addresses, he believed the business of that House would be conducted very successfully, and there would be no necessity for interfering with the privileges of the few independent Members who took any active part in their discussions. He was sure that if the House were to give its sanction to that Motion one of these two consequences would follow—either the public would feel great discontent at finding that hon. Members could not bring forward incidentally important questions, or else Motions for the adjournment of the House would be made, not only on the Fridays, but on the other evenings on which they sat, for the purpose of justifying the introduction of such topics. His right hon. Friend said that hon. Members ought either to put a direct question, or else to raise a debate on any matter in which the public felt interested; but he (Mr. Milnes) said that there were a great number of occasions on which it was not desirable to pursue either the one or the other of those courses, and on which Members wished to preface their Questions with some explanations, although they did not think it advisable that they should conclude their observations with any formal Motion. If it were really desired to save time, let the right hon. Gentleman direct his attention to the Motions on going into Committee of Supply, which really were inconvenient when the Government were pressed for time to carry on public business. He trusted that the House would not consent thus to restrict the right of interpellation possessed by every Member of Parliament.


said, that if the right hon. Gentleman had not mentioned his name, he should not have ventured, being so young a Member of the House, to have addressed them on this subject. But as the right hon. Gentleman had alluded to him by name, and as he had not been very strict in his language, but had made use of some rather hard terms, such as "abuse" and "fraud," and as, moreover, he had indulged in a variety of metaphors, he (Mr. Edwin James) thought it right to offer a few remarks. Firstly, he thought the reproach of indulging in flights of imagination came very oddly from the right hon. Gentleman who had himself talked in a most effervescing style, and had dressed out his speech with all sorts of rhetorical metaphors, flying from obstetrical to engineering in the most fanciful way. His Motion having reference to the case of Smethurst was one which deserved consideration; but he had not given notice of it with any idea, as was supposed by the right hon. Gentleman, of bringing it forward in a full House. It was one of those Motions in which, though they did not entail any express decision, the public, the Bar, and, he would add, the criminal jurisprudence of the country, were deeply interested. These would all rest satisfied with the inquiry and discussion which the subject would receive when brought forward upon the Question of Adjournment; and it consequently seemed to him a very proper time for bringing it under the notice of the House. Much inconvenience would arise if every Member, when putting a Question, was compelled to move an Adjournment. He therefore hoped the House would negative this Motion; and he felt sure that the good sense, discretion, and right feeling of the Members, with the desire which they all felt to conduct their sittings with decorum and propriety, would operate as a sufficient safeguard, without the dictation involved in the proposition of the right hon. Member.


said, if the right hon. Gentleman pressed this Motion to a division, he should certainly vote with him. He had no wish to repress freedom of speech on the part of any Member, upon whatever subject he might think fit and proper to take up—such a course would be the very last that he would think of; but an improvement might, in his opinion, be effected if the House were to make such arrangements as would admit of those topics being brought forward in a regular manner, and not at a time when they interrupted the business which was intended to be transacted. The only argument which he had heard from the hon. Member for Pontefract (Mr. Monckton Milnes) was that which related to the pressing nature of some of the Motions; but looking to the custom which now prevailed, he thought the difficulties attending it were much greater than would be involved in any alteration. He desired to see the practice amended in the way which was pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman; and if in due course of time it could be shown that any real inconvenience had thereby arisen, the system now existing might be revived, but with some restrictions, which would enable their discussions to be conducted in a more satisfactory manner. He had no wish to use any word which might be considered objectionable, but he had heard it said hundreds of times that the mode in which Questions were brought forward on the Motion of Adjournment amounted to an abuse of the privilege.


said, that while it was his intention to oppose the Motion, in case it went to a division, he thought his right hon. Friend appeared to have been rather hardly dealt with by two of the Gentlemen who had spoken; for there was nothing in his observations calculated to give offence—and he had certainly not intended to do so. At the same time the right hon. Gentleman seemed to him very much to under-estimate the exertions of independent Members, when he broadly stated that nine-tenths of the business of the House was transacted by gentlemen holding official situations. His own experience might not be as great, but he believed that if the legislation of recent years was dispassionately considered, it would be found that a vast number of useful and valuable measures had emanated from those Members, whose independent action he should be sorry to give any vote to limit or restrict. From the historical sketch which had been given by the right hon. Gentleman, he had fancied that he was about to make a proposal for restoring to them the Saturday of which they had been deprived. But that proposal had not been made; and he wished to point out a consequence which must ensue from this Motion if carried, which was that it would be impossible to continue the practice which of late years had so much tended to the advancement of public business, that of relinquishing Thursdays to the Government towards the close of the Session, Maintaining the metaphor which had been already employed, the House might depend upon it that if the use of the safety valve were abridged the steam would burst up somewhere, and much more frequent recurrence would therefore be made to a practice which he looked on as tenfold more objectionable than the one to which their attention had now been called. He alluded to the custom which the Speaker had endeavoured to check, but which it had not been in his power altogether to abolish, by which, when a Member was otherwise unable to make some observations, which he was desirous of offering, he got some friend to move the adjournment of the House. Friday particularly suggested itself as an occasion suitable for asking questions on matters of importance, as the House was then about to suspend its sittings for two days; and on that very account some latitude ought to be given. On these grounds—for he would not delay the House by stating others—he should strongly urge his right hon. Friend not to press the Motion to a division.


said, he would take the liberty of adding a few words to the arguments which had been already urged in opposition to the Motion of his right hon. Friend; and he earnestly entreated him not to press this question to a division, as in that event he, for one, should feel it right to vote against it. He believed that he had occupied a seat in that House for about the same number of years as his right hon. Friend, and, like him, he had witnessed the gradual growth of this custom, which, however, had left upon his mind an impression exactly opposite to that which it appeared to have produced on his right hon. Friend. And when he spoke of this as a novel custom, adding that if it were old and venerable he might be induced to treat it with greater leniency, this view apparently led to a conclusion exactly opposed to what his right hon. Friend intended; for he apprehended that this practice had grown up simply from a sense which existed in the minds of hon. Members of its necessity and convenience. Several customs existed in that House which theoretically, perhaps, were not capable of being defended, but which were yet felt to be matters of great practical convenience. The debate on Wednesday bad often proved most useful in putting an end to disagreeable and inconvenient questions which could not else be disposed of; and similarly, that on Friday evening gave opportunities for clearing off old scores and getting rid of all the Parliamentary gossip of the week. He believed that the liberty of speech on that particular evening had a very salutary effect in shortening discussions, which would otherwise extend over a great portion of the ensuing week.


—Sir, my experience in this House has taught me that in the conduct of business we must trust more to the good sense of the Members them selves than to any of our rules and regulations; though no one can for a moment deny the efficiency of those rules, to a certain extent, and the necessity of maintaining those regulations by which our general order is established. I have on more than one occasion opposed Motions similar to that now brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman, but I must say that in the exercise of the privilege to which his Motion refers I have occasionally observed practices of which I cannot approve, and which I must say I have sometimes very much deplored. I remember an instance, I think in the course of last Session, where the clock had reached the hour of ten before the business of the evening commenced. But although that is what I believe may be called, without offence to any one, an abuse of the privilege, I am disposed still to trust to the good sense and to that quality called tact, rather than to a Resolution such as is proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. At the same time I do think that if we retain this custom there ought to be a general, and I would say an honourable understanding on both sides of the House that Questions should not be brought forward on these Motions of Adjournment, unless they are of a pressing and general interest. I certainly think that such an understanding was not observed on either side during the last, or, indeed, during the last two or three Sessions; but, if hereafter it should be arrived at, I feel persuaded that the exercise of the privilege, which, under certain circumstances, might be a very great advantage indeed, need not be viewed in the manner in which it has to-night been represented. The House has lost the privilege which it possessed of speaking upon the presentation of Petitions; and the opportunities of debate have, as regards independent Members, been curtailed by other means. I should therefore hesitate very much before consenting to a proposal such as is involved in the present Motion; but I admit that if, after the experience of next Session, we cannot come to that practical understanding which I have already intimated, I shall consider myself perfectly free from any engagement which I had previously taken, and if any hon. Member should then propose a Motion similar to that which is now under consideration, I should perhaps view it in a different spirit from that which I do at present.


said, he quite concurred that this was a question to be determined by the circumstances of the time, and that on observation of the manner in which the rules of the House worked from Session to Session a Member might change his opinion without inconsistency. The question was one to be decided according to the general sense of convenience and the prevailing view of the Members of the House. He thought it a mistake to suppose that there was any conflict of interest, or any wish on the part of the members of the Government for the time being to interfere with the rights of private Members of the House. The only question is, what is the most convenient mode of disposing of the business of the House. Judging from his own feelings — and he might appeal to the feelings of hon. Gentlemen opposite when in office—nothing could be less agreeable to members of the Government than to increase the number of nights devoted to Government business. On those nights the principal labour of official Members was discharged; and those hon. Members were quite in error who supposed that there could be any wish on the part of the Government to increase the time necessarily devoted to the Government business. If ever they wished that increase, it could only be from a sense of public duty, and not for their own personal gratification. Before he sat down he wished to call attention to the way in which their present rules with regard to Government business operated in the interval between the commencement of the Session and Easter. Two nights of the week were devoted to Government business—Mondays and Fridays. The other three nights were entirely devoted to questions brought forward by independent members—Tuesdays and Thursdays to Notices, and Wednesdays to Orders of the Day. On those days no Government Notice or Order was allowed to have precedence; they must be put at the bottom of the paper, if they were brought forward. But on every night of the week Questions were put by independent Members; and every one who had been long in the House knew that the number and importance of the Questions put at half-past four had very much increased; and the time devoted to those subjects had increased accordingly. Every night, therefore, independent Members had the power of putting Questions, and the whole of Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays was given up to them. Before Easter, on Mondays and Fridays it generally happened that there were Committees of Supply. On the Motion for going into those Committees, independent Members had the liberty of making two, three, or four Motions, if no division was taken; so that Members who came down to take part in the discussions on Supply, found that the House did not go into Committee until seven, eight, or nine o'clock. In addition to that diminution of the time given to Government business, there were the discussions raised on Friday night on the Question of Adjournment, Taking away Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the portion of each night occupied by Questions, that occupied by Motions on going into Committee of Supply, and the portion of Friday devoted to discussions on the Motion for Adjournment, there was a considerable subtraction from the number of hours allotted to the public business in the beginning of the Session. It was customary for the Government to bring in Bills for the consideration of the House at the beginning of the Session; they might lie on the table; but it was almost impossible for any Government Bill, if opposed, to receive any consideration before Easter. The only nights devoted to the Government business were occupied by Committees of Supply; and on the other three days they had no opportunity of being heard. The consequence was that a large number of Government Bills were postponed to a late period of the Session. Everybody knew, when the morning sittings commenced in June, how great was the pressure on the time and exertions of Members, as a great portion of the latter part of the Session was occupied with pressing business; and, after all, many Bills had to be postponed; much altercation arose as to their postponement, and the order in which they should be brought on; and, altogether, considerable confusion arose in the latter part of the Session. That was very much owing to the regulations for the conduct of their business in the part of the Session before Easter. He was far from desiring to curtail the time that might be fairly allotted to discussions raised by independent Members. That time was most valuable. It was necessary to the proper working of the House of Commons that there should be a free expression of the voice of the people on subjects on which perhaps no direct Motion could be made. The subjects brought forward on the Motion for Adjournment were chiefly Questions addressed to Government by Members who wished to accompany those Questions with some remarks; they were not generally in the nature of Motions or proposals. And when the noble Lord (Lord C. Hamilton) said that those discussions facilitated the measures proposed by independent Members, he misrepresented the nature of those discussions. No measure proposed by an independent Member could ever then be brought forward; therefore it was impossible that those Motions could facilitate such Bills. If he were to make a suggestion, he would rather ask the House to consider whether it might not be possible that on a portion at least of the Thursdays before Easter, precedence might be given to Orders over Notices; or at any rate to allow some portion of those days to be occasionally devoted to the discussion of Bills. It was also worth consideration whether some limit might not be fixed with regard to the hour of the night at which Motions might be made on going into Committee of Supply, for it was an admitted inconvenience for Members to come down, seeing "Supply" in the paper, and expecting discussions on the Estimates, and to find the House occupied in discussing colonial or Indian questions, or some other matters wholly foreign to the question of Supply. He did not think that any good would result from pressing this Motion; but some improvement might be made in the distribution of their time before Easter, so as to give more time to the consideration of Government measures. He would also suggest that when a Motion had been brought forward by a Member of the Government, the House had as much possession of this Motion, and as full power of discussing it, as any Motion made by an individual Member. The Government had no control over the subject of discussion when once it was submitted to the consideration of the House. The only question was, whether it was desirable that a greater portion of time should be allotted to the subjects proposed by independent Members, or to those proposed by Government.


wished to add his voice to those who recommended the withdrawal of the Motion. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman had made it rather impossible for him to support his Motion by one of the arguments he had advanced in its favour. The right hon. Gentleman had cited him (Viscount Palmerston) as an instance of those who had taken advantage of this practice of raising discussions on the Friday Motions for Adjournment. He therefore could not, sitting on that side of the House, endeavour, without great inconsistency, to curtail the liberty which he had taken on the other side. There were occasions on which it might be a great public advantage for Members to have the opportunity, on the Adjournment of the House on Friday, to ask a question accompanied by a detailed statement, which the regulations of the House forbade on another day, and also for the Members of the Government who were interrogated, to have the opportunity of stating at greater length the circumstances of the case referred to. He however hoped that what had been stated in the course of the debate would induce hon. Members to exercise some discretion and forbearance in introducing subjects on a Friday, if the practice were to continue, and that some good would result from this discussion.


said, he was not of so hopeful a temperament as the noble Lord. If he thought that the result of this discussion would be to deter Members from abusing this privilege, he should be content. But the truth was, it was but a very small portion of the Members—if they were to be counted, a very small fraction—who resorted to this practice, for the majority condemned it. ["No, no."] He believed that those who said "no, no," were of the minority he referred to, and he thought that some regulation of the practice was due to the majority who were now at the mercy of the minority, which would abuse the present rule as long as it existed. He wished to remove the temptation afforded to those Members. When the noble Lord the leader of the House could not resist the temptation, when offered, of making a long speech, no wonder that others fell into the same course.


was sorry to hear that his right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock was about to press his Motion to a division. He admitted there was a great deal of truth in many of the observations of his right hon. Friend; but he could not vote with him. He should prefer leaving the question on the footing on which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire had placed it. He thought his right hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock might have introduced the subject in a more cautious manner. It was not usual to single out Gentlemen by name as he had done. A middle course, might, perhaps, be adopted—either the discussions on the adjournment of the House from Friday till Monday should he confined to the business and proceedings of the House, or else the Motion for the adjournment from Friday till Monday should take place after the Orders of the Day, making those Orders terminate at a certain hour. This would give ample time if there was any pressing occasion for discussion. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State appeared to be of opinion that hon. Members should rather give up their privilege of bringing forward Motions on Questions of Supply, and exercise their right of discussion on the Adjournment as much as they pleased. Now, he decidedly protested against that. Motions on Supply were, according to a sound constitutional maxim, the most legitimate means of asserting the rights and making known the grievances of the people of this country, which ought always to be attended to before any money was voted away. He therefore hoped the House would never agree that their powers with regard to Questions of Supply should be crippled or restricted. He hoped if his right hon. Friend pressed the matter to a division he would be defeated. The good sense of the House, he was quite certain, would correct the evils which had been pointed out.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 48; Noes 166: Majority 118.