HC Deb 11 June 1863 vol 171 cc707-11

rose to call attention to an Order made on Tuesday last, which he believed to be inconsistent with the letter as well as with the spirit of the Standing Orders of the 3rd of May 1861. He disclaimed any intention of bringing forward this Motion on account of the interest which he felt in any particular measure, presuming that the ultimate fate of the Fisheries (Ireland) Bill would not be affected by the day on which the morning sitting might be held. But he did think the question an important one in its bearing on the right of private Members to bring forward Motions upon going into Committee of Supply. In 1861 a great change was made in the proceedings of the House. Thursday was given to the Government, and the Motion of adjournment on Friday was dispensed with; two opportunities were thus taken away from private Members for bringing forward Motions which they thought deserved attention. To compensate for this, a Standing Order was passed, declaring that while Committees of Supply or of Ways and Means were open, the first Order of the Day on Friday should be either Supply or Ways and Means, and upon that Order being read the Question should be proposed "That Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair." He knew that since that Order passed morning sittings had been constantly fixed for Fridays, and therefore it was with some hesitation that he ventured to question a practice which had tacitly received the sanction of the House. But, in point of law, there was no distinction between morning and evening sittings; the House assembled at twelve instead of at four, and the sitting was merely interrupted, not terminated. If from any old book extracts could be taken showing that in another Parliamentary assembly it was the practice to fix Supply as the first Order of the Day, and then to take two or three other Orders before it, this would no doubt he pointed out as a method of conducting business peculiar to the Irish House of Commons. It did not follow, that when the House met at twelve, it should of necessity adjourn at four; it was in the discretion of those present at the morning sitting to pass a Resolution resolving that the sitting should go on continuously till twelve o'clock at night. The practice of taking morning sittings upon Fridays defeated both the letter and the spirit of the arrangement contemplated by the Standing Order of 1861, two hours of the time which it was the object of those Standing Orders to give to private Members being practically de ducted by the morning sitting. There had already been one or two counts-out on Friday evenings, and he believed no arrangement was more likely to facilitate the recurrence of such events than a practice of taking morning sittings, and then suspending business for two hours. It might be said that the House was constantly in the habit of fixing morning sittings upon Tuesday, when Notices of Motion had precedence over the Orders; but no Standing Order specially applicable to that day had been passed. By the old law of the House Notices of Motion had precedence on every day of the week; but in 1811, for the first time, precedence was given on certain days to Orders of the Day, Tuesday remaining ever since under the old law. For the reasons which he had just given he begged to move that the Order relating to the Fisheries (Ireland) Bill be read for the purpose of being discharged.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Order of the 3rd day of May last, for the House to resolve itself into the Committee on the Fisheries (Ireland) Bill To-morrow at Twelve of the clock be read, for the purpose of being discharged."—(Mr. Butt.)


The hon. Member for Youghal has made a Motion to discharge an Order made by the House itself. His address has properly been made rather to the House than to myself; I should desire, before putting the Question, to consult the House, whether it would be its pleasure that I should remind the House exactly of what the practice has been. Before the year 1861 the practice was that Tuesdays and Fridays were the days on which morning sittings were ordinarily appointed; and on Fridays, when there had been a morning sitting, and a Motion had to be made in the evening that the House at its rising adjourn to Monday, the House met on those occasions at six o'clock exactly, as it would meet at six now for going into Committee of Supply. Therefore, there is no further limitation put upon the discussion of the notices of individual Members by the Order as it now stands, than existed under the former Orders. But in May 1861 the House passed the Standing Order which has been referred to, and the House immediately proceeded to put its own interpretation upon that Standing Order, holding that it had not reference to the morning sittings, but only to the evening sittings; because the House, when the matter was fresh in its recollection, proceeded to appoint morning sittings on Fridays through the months of June and July in that year, and that practice was continued through the last Session of Parliament. With regard to the violation of the Standing Order, the same violation of the Order and practice takes place every Tuesday on which a morning sitting takes place. On Tuesdays, Notices of Motion have precedence of Orders; and so they still have in the evening sittings, but not in the morning. Therefore, both the order and usage of the House equally maintain the distinction between the morning and the evening sitting. It is now for the House to consider whether any reason has been given which should induce it to discharge this Order and to depart from its established practice.


said, that the practice was new, commencing in 1861, in consequence of the Report of a Committee of which Sir James Graham was Chairman. There was, however, no foundation for the attempt to rescind the Order for going into Committee on the Fisheries Bill at the meeting of the House at twelve o'clock tomorrow. The practice of the House was altered in May 1861, and immediately afterwards morning sittings were held on Fridays, at which Bills, and not Supply, were taken. Last year the House also fixed Bills for morning sittings on Friday, Supply being taken, as now, when the House resumed at six o'clock. The Motion of his hon. and learned Friend was therefore in opposition to all precedent, and, if it were agreed to, would only obstruct business.


I hope that the House will not go into a discussion of morning sittings. I trust that after the very clear and conclusive statement which you. Sir, have made as to the intention with which the Order in question was passed, and the practical construction which the House has put upon the Order, the hon. and learned Gentleman will not think it necessary to press his Motion, but that he will be satisfied with the authoritative declaration as to the rule and practice of the House.


thought that due notice ought to be given by the Government of these morning sittings. He had a Motion on the paper to-morrow night relative to Ireland, which he had been endeaing to bring on all the Session, and he despaired of bringing it on to morrow if the House did not meet before six o'clock. He could not but feel that the Government had the power of getting rid of almost any Motion of independent Members by neglecting to make a House at six o'clock.


said, he did not wish to press his Motion.


must say that it was a great inconvenience to Irish Members not to know when morning sittings were to be appointed. He was told that the noble Lord at the head of the Government gave notice on Friday that there would be a morning sitting on Tuesday. The report in The Times was quite correct in this respect; but he was told that the Order for the meeting of the House on Tuesday was carried on Monday night. He therefore came down on Tuesday morning at great inconvenience, when he found that there was no morning sitting. He now learnt that there was to be a morning sitting to-morrow; but until he saw the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Youghal on the paper, he was ignorant of the fact. He thought the notice ought to be put on the paper of the intention to move for a morning sitting, so that it might not be snapped at in this manner.


said, that his hon. Friend gave notice in his place on Friday of his intention to propose that the House should meet on Tuesday morning to consider the Irish Fisheries Bill. The proper time for doing that was when the Bill was called on the Orders of the Day on Monday night. The House being, however, counted out on Monday, it was impossible for his noble Friend to make his Motion. If the hon. Gentleman had looked in the Votes on Wednesday, he would have seen that the Motion was made then.


said, the right hon. Baronet was under a mistake, because the fact was that the right hon. Baronet the Secretary for Ireland actually made the Motion at half past four o'clock, and the Irish Members who waited all night to support the Motion if necessary, and who were not in the House when it was made quietly in the early part of the evening, found to their surprise that the Order was passed over when the list was gone through.


said, that having been a Member of the Committee of 1861, he begged to remind the House that one of the chief causes of the change was the laxity of practice on Supply nights, which made it impossible for hon. Members to know with certainty when the Motions in which they were interested would be taken. He thought, that when the Government proposed that the House should sit on a morning, more than one day's notice should be given.


said, he agreed with hon. Members who thought, that if this power were to be exercised in so off-hand a way, some notice should be given to the House. Those novelties and countings-out were enough to baffle the ingenuity of the oldest Members. What he wished to say was that those changes contravened very pointedly the arrangements which were made two years ago. The noble Lord not long since found himself constrained to give a pledge that on notice days the Government would make a House. They would make a House at twelve o'clock, when nobody wanted it. But if there were to be morning sittings on Fridays, the pledge which the noble Lord had given would be kept to the ear and broken to the hope. Those movements were uncommonly like what would be called sharp practice elsewhere, for they entirely baffled any hon. Gentleman who might have a notice on the paper for half past four o'clock on Fridays, and who, but for them, would have a fair start at that hour.


said, the difficulty would be removed by merely taking care that there should be due notice when it was intended that there should be a morning sitting. That appeared to be the only thing wanting in the case, and the only thing now complained of was that due notice had not been given.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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