HC Deb 05 June 1866 vol 183 cc1941-6

I wish to put a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the Order of Business on Thursday. I had understood that on that evening the Terminable Annuities Bill would be put down as the first Order of the Day; but yesterday the Reform Bills were fixed for Thursday. I think it will be a convenience to the House to know both what is to be the course of business on Thursday, and on what day it is probable the Terminable Annuities Bill can be taken?


I am very sorry that an impression has prevailed that the Terminable Annuities will be discussed on Thursday next. I do not think it could have been owing to anything said by me. In an ordinary state of business wo should have pushed that Bill forward; but in point of time it is not urgent in the sense financial Bills generally are; because no operations could take place under it probably for some three or four months. The Government, therefore, will not proceed with that Bill till they have disposed of other and more urgent subjects before the House; but, before it shall be proceeded with, I will take care that due notice shall be given to hon. Members. I cannot at present name a day, because there are several other Bills before the House besides the Reform Bill, which will take precedence of it. With respect to the course of business on Thursday, we desire to proceed in Committee with the Bills for Parliamentary Reform. That, therefore, will be the business of the evening. At the same time, there will probably be at the commencement of the business on Thursday a matter for consideration, which is not likely to occupy any great length of time, relating to a member of the Royal family, which will be a subject of communication in due form to the House. As my hon. Friend has opened the question of procedure in regard to the Reform Bills, I may just as well make an explanation to the House, which I think will be for its convenience. Hon. Members will find on the Votes to-morrow morning printed, according to what I believe is the regular practice of the House, in my name, a series of Amendments in the Representation of the People Bill, and in the Re-distribution of Seats Bill, those Amendments being the Amendments which are necessary in order to carry into effect the Instruction given to the Committee to fuse the two Bills into one Bill. The list of Amendments may look formidable, but the purpose and the effect of them is simply that which I now describe. I think I am correct in saying that they will make no substantial change? whatever in the intention of the Bills, except this one. The Re- distribution of Seats Bill, as it was originally drawn, was to take effect immediately on its passing; whereas the Franchise Bill, inasmuch as it had reference to the operation of registration, necessarily fixed a day on which its operation was to begin, so that if the Bill should pass during the present Session, it would not take effect at once, but its operation would commence with the change in the registration next year. The effect of the Amendments will be to fix one and the same time for the commencement of the operation of the two Bills. Although the formal and regular proceeding is that the Amendments should be printed in the manner I have described, we have felt that that would not altogether meet the convenience of the House, and that hon. Members would wish to have in their hands the document in the form which it would assume, supposing these formal Amendments to be carried. Such a document would be a great advantage in Committee, and would assist hon. Members in forming their judgments as to any Amendments they might wish to propose. Learning, Sir, according to your authority that there is no objection to the printing of a draught Bill in the shape in which the two Reform Bills would stand when united, I beg to move— That Copies of the Parliamentary Representation Bill and the Re-distribution of Seats Bill, showing the Amendments to be proposed in Committee by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, be printed. That being done, they will appear as a draught Bill, and I think that course would attain a practical purpose, which will be a great convenience to Members of the House.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That Copies of the Representation of the People Bill, and the Re-distribution of Seats Bill, showing the Amendments to be proposed in Committee by Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, be printed."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)


asked whether the ordinary course before reprinting the Bill would not be that the House should resolve itself into Committee proformâ, and afterwards that the Bills should be re-committed. Since he had had the honour of a seat in that House, he had never known such a course adopted as that proposed, and he desired to be informed what precedent there was for such a course?


The ordinary course with regard to the reprinting of Bills is that indicated by the hon. Member for Northamptonshire, but as the course proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, now that the Committee has been directed to fuse the two Bills into one, is for the convenience of Members, I do not see that there is any objection to its being adopted on this occasion by the House.


It would, no doubt, be very inconvenient not to have before us the draught of the alterations necessary to be made in consequence of bringing the two Bills together, especially since we are told by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that those alterations are to be very extensive. But one would have thought the more convenient course would have been to commit the Bill pro forma and to reprint it.


The draught proposed will show not merely every alteration, but also the parts of the Bills that have been struck out; and, therefore, it will be essentially different from a reprinted Bill which has passed through Committee.


I wish to know whether these formal Amendments are to be proceeded with before entering upon the substantial Amendments to the Bill. If that be the intention, I can conceive that the time of the House may be saved by such an arrangement. But if the Amendments are to be taken in the ordinary course, I apprehend that the course proposed will create a great deal of confusion.


I apprehend that the proposal we make to the House is in direct furtherance of the Instruction enabling the Committee to unite these two Bills into one. The Committee commenced their proceedings last night by postponing the preamble, and after that Motion was carried a Motion to report Progress was adopted. Therefore, I cannot doubt that the course we propose to take is the one that ought to be pursued. It is true that, in the case of ordinary Bills, where Amendments on a large scale and of a character not easily discussed by the House are introduced, Bills are sometimes committed pro forma, and reprinted. But that, I think, is very different from passing through Committee pro forma a measure formed by the union of two Bills such as these, and such a course of proceeding is one that, to my mind, would be very objectionable.


The reason just put forward by my right hon. Friend seems to me to afford a very strong argument for not deviating from the usual course. If the alterations are so extensive as my right hon. Friend has intimated, a Motion of this kind ought not to have been made without notice. It is in the power of the Government to attain their object by having the Bill printed and laid on the table; but what I object to is, that this should be done by the order of the House. ["No, no !"]"Why, the Motion was put into the hands of the Speaker.


It can be postponed till tomorrow.


It will be better to postpone it till to-morrow, as this is entirely a new proceeding.


I apprehend that the two Bills having been committed to the same Committee, its functions will be to go through first one, and then the other, making those formal Amendments inseparable from their both being branches of the same subject. The proposal of the Government with a view to the convenience of the House is simply to have an amended Bill, showing the changes necessary in putting the two Bills together, and upon this we can discuss such further changes as we think necessary. The Bills before the Committee are the old Bills; but if we have in our hands the Amendments to be proposed by the Government we shall be enabled to read the Bill so as to make sense of it. There will be no alteration whatever in the formal procedure of the House upon this subject; it is merely the excessive caution of the Chancellor of the Exchequer which induces him to give notice of Amendments in such a shape as to render them intelligible.


It is quite clear that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is deviating from the usual course; for his form of proceeding is one for which no precedent has been cited. The right hon. Gentleman has too acute a mind to make such a Motion without a motive, and I want twenty-four hours' delay in order to find out what that motive is, and when hon. Members have discovered and maturely considered it we shall be in a position to say whether it is a good one or not.


When we proceed formally upon a Bill, and have made a certain progress, I do not understand that it is competent to us to pass the Bill through Committee pro forma in the manner suggested from the other side of the House. It therefore seems to me that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is following the proper course. At the same time, I do not see the necessity for the Motion which the right hon. Gentleman has made, because it appears to me that the Chancellor of the Exchequer can print anything he pleases and cause it to be circulated.


The ordinary practice of the House has been conformed to, and notice given in the usual way; but it occurred to my right hon. Friend that it would not be convenient for Members to have a multitude of small notices upon the papers without having in addition a Return or draught Bill exhibiting the shape in which the Bill would appear if all the Amendments of the Government were adopted. The delay the noble Lord asks for has been conceded. It therefore appears that the regular course of proceeding has been duly complied with, and that it is only an additional facility which is sought to be given by the present proposal of my right hon. Friend.


To-morrow will be an Order day. I wish to know, whether this Motion will be brought on tomorrow or upon Thursday?


Will the proposed Bill show both the present terms of the measure as well as the intended alterations?


was understood to reply in the affirmative.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.