§ VISCOTOT PALMERSTON
Sir, I rise to make a Motion of which I gave notice the other day, with a view of facilitating the disposal of the business of the Session. The Session is now very advanced; the period has arrived when no Bills except measures of extreme urgency will be taken up by the other House—at any rate when Bills brought in by private Members have no chance of passing through the House. I hope, therefore, the House will not object to coming 213 to a Resolution that on Tuesdays Orders of the Day shall have precedence of Notices of Motion, the Government orders having priority. I put on the paper a notice to ask the House to adopt the Resolution in respect of Tuesday next, and each succeeding Tuesday during the remainder of the Session; but I find that hon. Members have Motions standing in their names for Tuesday next, and as I do not wish to interfere with them, I propose the rule shall commence on and after Tuesday se'nnight—Tuesday, August the 7th, and be continued on each succeeding Tuesday during the Session.
Motion made, and Question proposed,—
That upon Tuesday the 7th day of August next, and upon every succeeding Tuesday during the remainder of the Session, Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motions, Government Orders of the Day having priority.
§ MR. DISRAELI
The House has, I think, shown during the Session no indisposition to assist the Government, as far as the arrangement of time is concerned, in the prosecution of public business. Thursday was given to them after Whitsuntide without a murmur. The noble Viscount then proposed another change, by which the time of the House has been somewhat curtailed. It was proposed—and it seemed but a slight proposition at the time—that public business should commence at a quarter past four instead of half-past. That arrangement, while it has very considerably added to the inconvenience of independent Members, has not contributed, to any material extent, to the advancement of public business. The noble Lord now makes another proposition, that the House should give up to the Government the only day which remains for the use of independent Members. There is no disposition, I am sure, to throw any difficulties in the way of propositions of this kind made by the Government; but the House has a right to expect in return that there should be an equally frank and accommodating spirit shown by the Government to the House. There is one subject, on which I must say the House has not been fairly treated by the Government. The measure to which I refer is the one noticed by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer this evening—the Paper Duties Bill. That Bill is admitted by hon. Members on both sides of the House to be a measure of great interest and importance, and it is therefore incumbent on the Go- 214 vernment to introduce it to the notice of the House at a time when it may be fairly and fully discussed. Although, however, inquiries from both sides with respect to it have been made with unexampled frequency—I myself having been obliged, almost in an intrusive manner, to press for information on the subject—we have not been favoured until to-night with any intimation from the Government as to their intentions; and now a day is proposed which appears to involve unreasonable and unexpected delay. I should certainly be sorry to oppose the Motion of the noble Lord; but, if the House agrees to it, I think the Government ought to fix an earlier day than next Monday week for the introduction of the Paper Duties Bill. They ought to place that measure before us on the earliest day possible after next Monday, which is already appropriated. But I really cannot see why the Government should not, some days ago, have arranged for the introduction of the Paper Duties Bill to-morrow, when I believe we are only going into Committee of Supply. I think that would have been a proper time. However, I shall support the Government in the present Motion, provided we have an assurance from the noble Lord that he will bring forward the paper duties' question on the earliest day after next Monday, which I suppose will be Thursday, seeing that the noble Lord does not now propose to take Tuesday, although I think that would not have been an unreasonable proposition on the part of the Government. The very best arrangement, in fact, would have been to take the Paper Duties Bill on Tuesday next; for the subjects which are to be brought before us on that evening, though important are not urgent, and might be discussed at an early period of the Session with more advantage. I, therefore, think that we should give the Government Tuesdays at once, and that the noble Lord should fix the Paper Duties Bill for next Tuesday; but if that arrangement cannot be made—though I see no difficulty in the way—then I shall be glad to support the modified proposal of the noble Lord, on the clear understanding that the Paper Duties Bill will be brought under our consideration on the earliest day at the command of the Government after Monday next.
§ MR. HADFIELD
said, that he, as an independent Member, was willing to give the Government every facility for bringing forward their important measure re- 215 lating to the paper duties. That was a question which ought to he fairly and fully discussed, even though it should detain hon. Members in their places for two months.
§ SIR GEORGE BOWYER
said, he thought the proposal which had been made by the noble Lord by no means unreasonable. But with regard to the introduction of Government Bills, he wished to call the attention of the Government to a Bill of great importance which was in his charge (the Roman Catholic Charities Bill.) It had met with very serious and unexpected difficulties, arising from the opposition of hon. Gentlemen on his (Sir George Bowyer's) side of the House, and unless the Government would allow a day for its full and free discussion, the Bill would be lost, and the Roman Catholic charities would be left to the administration of the Charity Commissioners without the protecting clauses which had been promised in the first instance.
§ MR. MONSELL
said, that if every hon. Member had not the patriotism of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Hadfield), all were agreed that the question of the paper duties ought to be settled as speedily as possible. He therefore wished to press upon Her Majesty's Government the importance of discussing the question on the earliest possible day. It could not satisfactorily be dealt with except in a full House, and he did not think that on so late a day a large assemblage of Members could be expected.
SIR MINTO FARQUHAR
observed, that the House had been placed in a rather singular position by what had occurred with regard to the paper duties. On Monday last his right hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire asked when the measure was to be introduced to the notice of the House. The noble Lord at the head of the Government promised a reply on the following day. It was very remarkable that on Monday evening, when the noble Lord at the head of the Government was making his interesting statement on the fortifications, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not present. On the following day matters were vice versâ. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was present, but the noble Lord was not. His right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) repeated his question on the occasion, putting it to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The right hon. Gentleman, however, gave 216 the House to understand, in some naïve remarks, that he knew nothing about the state of public business. A similar avowal was made by the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, who stated that he did not know what his noble Friend's intentions were. Was it not very extraordinary that upon a subject which interested the whole country, and which had given rise to several debates in that House, there should have been so much indecision and delay? One of three things must have occurred; either there must have been great dissensions in the Cabinet on the subject, or there must have been some question pending in France—such, for example, as that relating to the exportation of rags, with respect to which the Legislative Council had refused to carry out the wishes of the Emperor—which it would be convenient to have settled beforehand; or the Government must have thought—to quote a remark attributed to the present Lord Chancellor when he was Attorney General—that the end of the Session was the time for passing Bills without obstruction. The subject was discussed, not only in the House, but out of it; and it was considered most extraordinary that this question of the introduction of foreign paper without duty should be delayed from day to day; and he felt sure that it was not now satisfactory to the House to have it postponed till Monday week.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Hon. Gentlemen are very kind in making so many suggestions, but their propositions are so various and so difficult to carry out that I must adhere to the proposition which I have made, and ask the House to agree to give Orders of the Day precedence of Notices of Motion on Tuesday se'nnight and each succeeding Tuesday for the remainder of the Session. With regard to the observations made as to the answers given to inquiries on the subject of a particular measure, really if hon. Members knew how difficult it is for Government to settle the day on which particular business can come on, and how often we are disappointed against our will by the manner in which discussions on other business are continued, they would understand our difficulty. If we say that on some future day we shall give an answer, it is in the belief that we will be able to do so; but the course of public business may be such that it is not only difficult but impossible to fix with certainty when a particular question will come on.
§ MR. EDWIN JAMES
said, he wished the noble Lord would take that opportunity of informing the House what measures the Government intended to proceed with and what to abandon. He, for one, felt surprised at the statement of the noble Lord that the House was to take on credit certain important measures for the consolidation of the criminal law, which were mentioned in the speech from the Throne, and which had come down from the House of Lords. That was the first time he had ever heard such a statement made. Why should the House of Commons take on trust most important measures coming from the House of Lords, when that latter House refused to take on trust the financial measures of the House of Commons? The Bills he alluded to would require most anxious consideration, and, as far as he was concerned, they would not be taken on trust.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he thought that the House must have heard with regret that the noble Lord had not given a more definite answer to the questions of the hon. Member for Hertford as to the intention of the Government with regard to the paper duty. He could hardly believe it possible that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was serious when ho gravely told the House that it was his intention to postpone that important question till the 6th of August. Such a postponement would seem like—though he would not impute such an intention to the right hon. Gentleman—trifling with the business of the country. The right hon. Gentleman was too old a Parliamentary campaigner not to know that, apart from the abstract question whether or no a Member ought to be in his place at all times, it would be perfectly impossible to get a full attendance of the House at that period. The hon. Member for Birmingham smiled and shook his head, but he would agree as to the fact. He asked, when the great importance attached to this subject was considered, whether it was dealing fairly by the House or the country to postpone the discussion one moment later than possible. There was the whole of the following week, and without wishing to impute any such motive to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, yet, if the right hon. Gentleman persevered in postponing the discussion of the question relating to the paper duty to such a distant day, when it would be impossible to obtain a full attendance of the House, it 218 would look very much as if the right hon. Gentleman thought that there would be a better chance of succeeding with his measure in an empty House than in a full one.
§ MR. MALINS
said, he too was sorry that the Government had not distinctly stated what Bills they did not intend to proceed with. The Companies Bill, a consolidation Bill, containing about 300 clauses, had been before Parliament for about three months, and did the Government expect that the House would take a Bill of that sort on credit? Then, there were seven different Bills for the consolidation of different branches of the criminal law; and the House must either go through them clause by clause—which was impossible—or take them on credit. They contained at least 1,000 clauses, and the noble Lord gravely proposed that they should be passed without any one Member in the House knowing their contents. He wished the noble Lord would state tomorrow night what measures the Government intended to proceed with and what to drop.
§ SIR GEOEGE GREY
said, the question of what measures should, and what measures should not, be proceeded with, had to a great extent been decided already. The Bankruptcy Bill, the Corrupt Practices Amendment Act, the Highways Bill, the Scotch Wine Licences, and the Savings Hank Bill, had all been disposed of, and the orders respecting them discharged, and no other Bill remained on the Orders, on which any discussion was anticipated, which was in the hands of the Government. The reason why the Companies Bill, and other measures had not been proceeded with, was owing to the decision of the House of Lords not to take any ordinary Bill after a given day, and the necessary consequence was, that all the measures which came down from the Lords were postponed till others had been considered. The day fixed expired, he believed, that day, and the hon. and learned Member who had charge of the Bill could obtain a day for bringing it forward. He would suggest to the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Bovill) who had charge of an important Bill, and to the hon. Member (Sir George Bowyer) who had charge of the Roman Catholic Charities Bill, to look to Wednesday as a suitable day for placing their Notices on the Paper.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I confess I am much disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman has not intimated that it is the 219 intention of the Government to yield to the strong representations which have been made on this side of the House respecting the great inconvenience of the course which they are taking. I think we have some reason to complain of the state of the business on the Paper. The House must recollect that not long ago the noble Lord promised to state what business would, and what would not, be proceeded with. It is extremely inconvenient to have a long list of orders constantly on the Paper when the House does not know which of them will really come on; and I ask why have the Government not supplied us with this information? But my object in rising is chiefly to complain of the conduct of the Government with regard to the important discussion on the paper duties. The noble Lord says it is extremely difficult for the Government in the conduct of business to be able to state on what night Bills will be brought on. That I can easily understand; but it was no more difficult last Tuesday than on Monday, and on Monday the noble Lord volunteered the statement that next evening he would fix a day for this discussion. My right hon. Friend was accordingly in his place. He appealed to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, then to the noble Lord the Foreign Secretary, and both said they were unable to answer the question. But that was not all. The noble Lord the Foreign Secretary said he had that morning received a communication from the Prime Minister, informing him that he was coming down to make the expected statement, and we were told that he would no doubt do so in the course of the evening. No such statement, however, has been made to this day; and this rather strengthens a statement made to me only last Tuesday, which at the time I received with some incredulity—namely, that a regular supporter of the Government went to them and said, "What are you going to do about these paper duties? Why do not you fix a day? If you do not take care, and if you postpone the question so late, the Conservatives will have left town, and we shall carry it." I can easily understand, on the part of some of the usual supporters of the Government that some such alarm may exist; but, on the part of the Ministry it does look as though they wished by further delay to bring on this question when the House is more thinly attended than it now is. Looking at the 220 strong representations which have been made to the Government, and the inconvenience which delay will cause to many hon. Members, I think that before we accede to the request of the Government respecting the Tuesdays, we have a fair right to expect them either to fix the discussion for Thursday next, or adduce some better reason for its postponement than they have hitherto given.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I wish to say one word only, in the first place, on a very small point. It has been stated that the Savings Banks Bill has been disposed of; virtually, no doubt, that is so. But there are minor questions connected with it which may have to be carried forward. I mention that to prevent misunderstanding. It is not absolutely disposed of, though, as regards all the material and controverted questions involved, it certainly is disposed of for the year. I will now answer the challenge of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir John Pakington) and the hon. Member (Mr. Bentinck) on the subject of the paper duties. The hon. Gentleman said he thought it must have been the Chancellor of the Exchequer who had postponed the discussion of this Bill in the expectation of carrying it by such postponement; and he likewise said that it was utterly impossible to have a good attendance here on the 6th of August. Now, he is entirely mistaken in both those propositions. I, myself, have seen an excellent attendance in this House, not on the 6th of August, but on the 1st of September, and I do not imagine that the proposition respecting the paper duties will be postponed till the 1st of September. As to the Chancellor of the Exchequer being responsible for postponing this business, I think if the hon. Member were conversant with the interior working and anatomy of any Administration he would know, that all the Members of a Government are nominally and habitually in a state of conflict as to which of them shall bring on his own business first, and it certainly never happens that the person who is departmentally concerned in a Bill is voluntarily the agent in postponing it. Setting aside the commercial importance of this question of paper duties, it is a question on which a great deal of interest is concentrated. It is, therefore, a subject which cannot be disposed of in a debate of an hour or two, but we must have a clear and unbroken evening to deal with it. The Govern- 221 ment are, of course, aware that at this period of the Session you cannot expect a large number of Gentlemen to remain permanently in town, and they have therefore thought that they would best consult the general convenience of the House by selecting for the purpose of the discussion an unbroken evening, with regard to which they could give notice some time before, and with a perfect confidence of their ability to carry out the arrangement. That is the principle on which the Government have proceeded. Let us see, then, whether there is any intermediate day which would have satisfied these conditions. Monday will be devoted to the Fortification Question. Friday is not an unbroken evening; and the Members of the Administration have mournful experience that no man can count on going on with the Orders on those evenings until ten or eleven o'clock. Thursday is the only other day at the disposal of the Government; and how is the hon. Gentleman to guarantee me that the subject of fortifications may not require to be discussed on that evening also? That is a question of vast importance, and one upon which there has been very little discussion. Did I hear any Gentleman suggest that it was a question of no more importance than the paper duties? I shall not enter into any comparison. The two subjects are not in pari materi â, and it is difficult to bring them to any positive standard. But there is nothing so inconvenient as the interruption of important discussions. The Government believe it will be the pleasure of the House to come to a decision on the subject of fortifications in the course of next week; but they think themselves bound to keep open two days for the discussion. [An hon. MEMBER: There is Tuesday.] Tuesday is not at the disposal of the Government. We think it our duty to keep open Monday and Thursday for the discussion on fortifications; and we do not think it convenient to appoint the paper duties for Friday in next week, when the debate might probably begin at nine or ten o'clock, and might have to be adjourned until Monday. That is the principle on which the Government arrangement is based, and it does not appear to me that Ave have any option.
§ SIR HUGH CAIRNS
I think the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given an extremely good reason why a different course should be pursued from that which he proposes. He 222 spoke of the inconvenience attending the interruption of an important debate, and assumed the possibility that the discussion on the fortifications would not terminate on Monday evening. But what is the conclusion from his premises? Why, that it would be for the convenience of the House and of the country that a discussion so interrupted should be resumed, if possible, on the following day, and the Government in the course of the present Session have had very good reason for knowing that, if the debate were adjourned on the Monday, hon. Members who have Motions on the Paper for the following evening would interpose no difficulty in the way of its resumption then. I will therefore test the sincerity of the Government. Let them put the paper duties down for Thursday. We shall then see whether the fortification debate terminates on that day, and if not, whether private Members on Tuesdays will not be ready to give way. If they are ready, the fortification debate may be resumed on Tuesday, and on Thursday the paper duties may come on. If they are not ready, we shall at all events be in no worse position than now. And, on the other hand, if the fortification debate terminates on Monday there will be no difficulty in discussing the paper duties on Thursday, and hon. Gentlemen who are anxious to take part in the discussion will be relieved from inconvenience.
§ MR. BRIGHT
One would suppose, from the observations of so many hon. Gentlemen opposite, that there was no difficulty in arranging these matters at the end of the Session. I find at the end of every Session that there is just this confusion and difficulty, and if hon. Gentlemen were in office they would have just the same difficulty, provided some of us were not to treat them with a little more consideration than they seem disposed to extend to the Government to-night. I have risen to appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in a different sense. I do not ask him to avoid postponing the paper duties beyond the 6th of August, not because all the world is expecting what will be done in this matter; for after all it is a question of three-farthings or seven-eighths of a penny per pound in the import duty on paper, and the course which the right hon. Gentleman proposes is greatly in favour of the revenue, with which hon. Members opposite so much sympathize. I ask because there is one point which renders it most essential that the question 223 should be settled. At this moment there are coming into this country, under the low duty provided for by the specific Article in the Treaty, very considerable quantities of paper under the name of paper hangings, and, I think, card-board, and competing with the paper which is now paying a high duty and a high excise. That state of things cannot be allowed to go on, as it is injurious to trade, and it is the duty of the Chancellor of the Exchequer—although the matter is not of the great importance which hon. Gentlemen opposite attribute to it—to see that it is not postponed longer than the day that is fixed, in order that the House should say whether the House will support the treaty which in an Address to the Queen it has already undertaken to support, or whether it will not. The proposition is one strictly in accordance with the treaty, and one which the Government must formally place before the House, and which this House by a specific Address to the Crown has declared its readiness to support.
§ SIR LAWRENCE PALK
said, that if the attack upon that side of the House had come from any one but the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), he should have been surprised, for certainly no Government could have been treated with more consideration by its opponents than the present Government had been. Upon the other hand, he knew of no previous instance in political history of a Government so entirely at the mercy of an Opposition as the present had been, and which had been treated with such forbearance by that Opposition. Never before had there been so much time wasted in quarrels between the Government and its supporters. Indeed he thought it was an indecorous thing that Government should be constantly assailed by its supporters, or be assailing them. But that evening was the climax. The House was willing to accede to anything the noble Lord asked, and only required in return that the earliest possible day should be fixed for the discussion of the paper duties. Hon. Members had important duties to perform in their own districts. They had been called together earlier than usual, nominally for the "despatch of business;" but even the noble Lord must admit that in no former Session had so little business been despatched with any useful result. It was only due to the House that the noble Lord should accede to the request that had been made, and undertake to bring on 224 the question of the paper duty on Thursday next.
§ MR. HORSMAN
I think it will be obviously the most convenient course that we should come to no decision now, but adjourn the question until to-morrow, when the Government can state their determination after communicating with those hon. Members who have notices on the Paper for Tuesday next. With respect to the paper duties, I cannot understand why a different principle should be applied to financial legislation at the end of the Session from that adopted at the commencement. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us truly that the paper manufacture is an important one, but at the beginning of the Session we were told that such injury would be inflicted upon trade and commerce by having matters kept in suspense that even the forms of the House were overridden, and scarcely anytime was allowed to consider the financial propositions that were made. But this Resolution of the paper duty has been five months upon the table. Paper is a most important manufacture, involving £1,500,000 of revenue, and whether paper manufacturers are right or wrong in their views, still few hon. Members who have been in communication with them can fail to believe that they are sincere in their convictions that the effect of the proposed change will be a transfer of their business from England to the Continent. If that be their belief, surely when they come to our bar they are entitled to have this important subject considered while there is time and ample attendance to give it fair consideration. We have no right, without some good cause, to turn a deaf ear to their application, and when the Government propose to postpone this question until the 6th of August, it is not too much to require them to state some strong reasons for such almost indefinite postponement. I must say the state of business at this moment is serious and perplexing, and our acquiescing in this proceeding would make us parties to the inconvenience it entails. I for one am not disposed to allow the relations between the Ministers and the House to be overstepped quite so readily as the noble Lord seems to suggest. Those relations I hold to be clear and indisputable. Ministers are selected and placed over each branch to administer the public business of the country, as servants of the country, and they have to give their attendance in this 225 House as servants of the House. They have to come down to answer questions and to give any information which may be required, and there should he no waste of public time, no indefinite postponement of important measures from the Ministers of the Crown not being in their places when they are wanted. There has been during the last few days great public inconvenience from Ministers not being in attendance, and I must say I agree with the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire that when they have been in their places the answers that have been given, as on Monday and Tuesday nights, were hardly respectful to the House. The complaints have hitherto been confined to the paper duty; but now the House has also to complain of the manner in which the question of fortifications is to be dealt with, because we who are interested cannot help complaining that that important question—and, after the speech of the noble Lord, I must say that grave question—has stood postponed for a whole week because the Government took a most extraordinary and unprecedented course of placing a Resolution before the House and calling upon us to vote £2,000,000 without previous notice—a course for which I venture to say even the oldest Member cannot remember a precedent. When I saw the vague character of the Resolution I was amazed, and the hon. Member for Birmingham very naturally objected to proceed. The noble Lord very properly gave way, but those who came down to support the noble Lord as well as those who came down to oppose have a right to complain that a whole week has been lost for the settlement of so important a question through the carelessness of the Government. There is another question of a constitutional character which has been raised to-night. I heard with surprise a question on finance addressed by the hon. Member for Buckingham to the Home Secretary, which I should have thought it was the duty of the Finance Minister to answer. Are we to understand after the occurrence of the other night that this hitherto unprecedented course is to be adopted in future? [Sir GEORGE LEWIS: The question related to a loan which I negotiated.] I understood that it related to, and implied a comparison with, the loan now about to be negotiated. We had, however, a most important financial proposition submitted in a manner quite unprecedented, because hitherto a Vote for fortifications has been 226 brought forward in connection with the Budget. There has been an Estimate for the military department, and the money is found by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. But in this ease there has been no Estimate; there has been no proposition from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he was not even present when the question was brought forward. To-night, again, we have the Home Secretary replying to a question which the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to have answered. I hope that when we come to discuss the question on Monday the Government will not lay themselves open to the creation of further delay by any hon. Member opposed to the proposal rising and refusing to allow the matter to proceed because of no opportunity for explanation from the Minister who is entrusted with the finances of the country. We are now on the 26th of July, and the most important—the financial portion—of our business has yet to be gone through, and we shall be neglecting our duty if on every occasion we do not obtain from the Government precise information of the course they intend to pursue. We now see daily what is certainly a novelty; upon one important measure after another the Government is defeated, and not only submitting to defeat, but positively showing an insensibility to it such as has never been witnessed before. We haven ever before seen Ministers undergoing defeat without manifesting any feeling or shame, and it is a question whether the House of Commons will allow a state of things to continue which is most injurious to the public interests, and damaging and degrading to all parties concerned.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
The charge which my hon. Friend has brought against me is—to use his own language—the most singular and extraordinary I every heard, and when he talks of my conduct as unconstitutional, that is an example of rhetorical inflation which I have never heard exceeded in this House. What are the facts? The hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Hubbard) gave notice of a question to me upon the subject of a loan which I negotiated in 1855, when I held the office of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The hon. Gentleman himself put the question to me, and I did not in any way originate or suggest it. If I had declined to answer that question, my refusal might have been considered discourteous, or it might have been supposed that I was ignorant of the matter. I thought it was my 227 duty, partly out of respect to the hon. Gentleman, and partly out of deference to the House, when a question was asked upon a matter of fact, of which I had official cognizance, to give an answer to it. Now, what there is irregular or unconstitutional in that surpasses my comprehension to imagine. On the contrary, if I had declined to answer the question put to me, I should have justly exposed myself to the censure and disapprobation of the House.
MR. H. B. JOHNSTONE
said, that if hon. Members would make shorter speeches there would be no counts out, and the public time would not be wasted. They saw the result of these long speeches at the end of the Session, when nothing had been done. He had never detained the House for ten minutes, and he hoped he never should. If an hon. Member could not say what he had to say in twenty minutes, he ought not to have the ear of the House. He would give Ministers and ex-Ministers an unlimited time for speaking upon great questions; but twenty minutes was quite long enough for other Members to say all they had to say.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he had meant to conclude by moving that the debate be adjourned until to-morrow.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I understood, and other Members of the Government understood, that what hon. Members particularly wished in regard to the paper duties, and that to which they attached importance, was that there should be certainty relative to the day on which the discussion is to be taken. My noble Friend in arranging the business of the House naturally considered how that certainty was to be obtained, and proposed Monday, the 6th of August, as the day on which the paper duties could be brought on. But the hon. and learned Member for Belfast (Sir Hugh Cairns) proposes a mode by which, with two or three contingencies and uncertainties, you may fix the paper duties' discussion—that is to say, if the discussion on the fortifications is not finished on Monday night, then we are to consider whether the Gentlemen who have now the right of bringing on notices of Motion on Tuesday night will persist in those notices or not. The hon. and learned Gentleman thinks they will not persist in them, but that is evidently a matter quite of conjecture and uncertainty. Of course, there is this for them to consider—that, if they attach great importance to their Motions, they must either bring them 228 on then, or give them up for the remainder of the Session. Therefore, my noble Friend did not think right to propose to take that day from them. Those Motions relate to the Slave Trade, the Volunteers (Ireland), the business of the House, and the Council of India. We have no particular reason for wishing those questions to be discussed, and the Government would be very willing that hon. Members should give up these notices of Motion. But, if there is uncertainty on Monday night, uncertainty on Tuesday, and then the paper duties are put down for Thursday night, on a chance that they may come on, I think it would be putting Members of this House to greater inconvenience than by the mode we propose. None of these hon. Gentlemen have yet said that they mean to give up their right. The hon. and learned Gentleman says there are no other questions of importance fixed for Tuesday, but I think it is hardly fair for Gentlemen to make their own estimate of the importance of questions. [Sir HUGH CAIRNS: I did not say so. I understood from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the only thing that prevented Thursday being taken was the possibility of the Debate on Monday being adjourned.] What I was about to say was that six weeks ago it was said that it would be necessary to go on with the Civil Service Estimates, and that postponing them beyond an early day in June would certainly be unprecedented. Now, it appears that there is no care for Votes in Committee of Supply or Civil Service Estimates, but that all oar attention ought to be given to the paper duties. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Horsman) last year was very importunate on the question of fortifications. He said nothing was so important as the question of fortifications, and that we ought to have a loan upon them. The right hon. Gentleman is now quite indifferent on the subject, and he lather complains that it is not made one of the ordinary Votes of Supply. [Mr. HORSMAN: No!] Yes, the right hon. Gentleman complained that my noble Friend had brought forward the question of fortifications, and said that the usual course was that they should be brought forward in the Estimates of the year. If they were comprised in the ordinary Votes of Supply they would then be taken as part of the appropriation of the year. But my noble Friend adopted, not exactly the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, but the principle of the scheme for which he was so earnest 229 last year, in having a special loan for fortifications. But the right hon. Gentleman now gives up all care for the fortifications, concentrates his whole attention on the paper duties, and gives lectures to Her Majesty's Ministers as to the way in which the public business ought to be conducted. It may be that the official career of the right hon. Gentleman was so brilliant that every one else is at a great distance from him in this respect. That may be the case, but I do not think any other Member is entitled to hold this language. If hon. Members consent to give up Tuesday there will be no objection to take the paper duties on Thursday, but as business stands at present it will be better to have certainty than uncertainty in regard to the day.
§ SIR WILLIAM MILES
said, he could not but express his astonishment at the refusal of the Prime Minister to accede to what he thought a very proper suggestion—namely, that he should take the earliest possible day for the discussion on the paper duties; because it appeared to him (Sir William Miles) that, if any argument could be adduced for an early consideration of that question, it was that given by the hon. Member for Birmingham. He stated that at the present moment there was a vast quantity of paper coming from foreign countries, and creating great confusion amongst the whole trade throughout the country. It was a very singular thing that, generally speaking, in all questions of adjourned debate no appeal was made to private Members till the very night of the adjournment; but from that night till Tuesday there was plenty of time to make an appeal to hon. Members who had Motions for Tuesday, and from the disposition which had been shown by every private Member who had had a Motion during this Session, he felt confident that they would immediately give way.
§ SIR WILLIAM MILES
Because they have not been asked. He could easily understand if they were asked and refused to give way that that would be a reason for postponement; but his own wish was to have the paper duty discussed as early as possible, and he could not conceive why the subject should not be put on the Paper for Thursday. Some arrangement might still be come to with hon. Members who had given notices of Motions, and ho should, with that view, move that the Debate be Adjourned.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now Adjourned."
§ MR. MONCKTON MILNES
said, an hon. Friend of his had an important notice of Motion for Tuesday, and he felt sure he would not give way. Nor was it likely that an hon. Member would surrender his right, when it was considered that Tuesday was the last day on which a Member would have an opportunity of bringing forward any Motion. He trusted that his hon. Friend opposite would not press his Amendment, because it was even doubtful whether the question of the paper duties would come on so soon as Monday the 6th of August.
§ MR. CONINGHAM
said, he wished to remind the House that it was wasting a great deal of time over this discussion. He wished also to assure the Chancellor of the Exchequer that on the subject of the paper duties be would receive a determined and energetic support from hon. Members below the gangway.
§ MR. VANSITTART
said, it was most important that the European Forces Bill should be considered without delay. Could not three out of the four Members who had put down instructions give way to the fourth, so that the House might have but one instruction to deal with?
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he wished to explain, in answer to the remarks of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell), that he did not complain of the financial proposals of the Government in regard to the national defences. On the contrary, he approved them, and came down to support them on Monday. What he complained of was that the discussion had been put off in consequence of the irregularity to which he had alluded. He maintained, however, that a Vote for fortifications was as much a part of the financial proposal of the year as any part of the Budget. It was therefore the duty of the head of the department to make the estimate, and of the Finance Minister to explain how the money was to be raised. The Government had departed from the ordinary usage in the course they had taken.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, he thought that it was necessary to adjourn the debate in order to give time for the Government to negotiate with hon. Members who bad notices upon the paper. The European Forces (India) Bill was of such importance that he should feel it his duty to address the House upon it at greater length than was usual with him.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I think it is not expedient to press the adjournment of the Debate. We have placed our views on this subject before the leader of the House. I think they are substantial, and I am sorry the noble Lord has not acted upon them. But, after all, in a matter of this kind we must leave much to the discretion of the leader of this House. On a point in which the management of the business of the House is concerned I think the noble Lord, after previous communications with those hon. Members who have Motions for Tuesday, might have been able to move the Resolution which we find on the Paper—a Resolution which, under the circumstances, appears to me a very proper one. In that case he would have had no difficulty whatever in appointing Thursday for the discussion of the duties on paper. I am still of opinion that Thursday would be a much more convenient day for that purpose than Monday; but it is not clear now that the discussion would be certain to take place on Thursday. And on such a point as whether a Government measure should be brought forward on a Thursday or a Monday, although the feeling of the House upon it may be be strong, I do not think it would he very courteous towards the Government to insist on their adoption of our view. I trust, therefore, that my hon. Friend will not press his Amendment, and that we shall accede to the arrangement, although I do not think it a wise one, which the Government have made for the conduct of their own business.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
That upon Tuesday the 7th day of August next, and upon every succeeding Tuesday during the remainder of the Session, Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motions, Government Orders of the day having priority.