HC Deb 15 June 1868 vol 192 cc1567-71

said, he would beg to ask, When the Government intended to bring on again the Election Petitions and Corrupt Practices at Elections Bill; and also, if they were to have Morning Sittings?


In answer, Sir, to the hon. Member for Plymouth (Mr. Morrison), I would just make one remark on the proposition which I am about to make, because it greatly affects the conduct of Public Business. The Motion is, that on Tuesday, the 7th of July, and on every succeeding Tuesday during the Session, Orders of the Day shall have precedence of Notices of Motion, and that the Orders of the Day of the Government shall have precedence over other Orders of the Day. That is an indulgence which, if the House felt any considerable indisposition to grant us, I should be sorry strongly to press for, because I attach much value to the privileges of private Members. At the same time, it is an indulgence which was extended to the Government some years ago almost perpetually in the month of July. It interferes, no doubt, to a certain degree with the privileges of hon. Members; but, on the whole, I think the Government may be permitted to have this great assistance in winding up the Public Business. The hon. Gentleman asks me whether I am going on with the Corrupt Practices at Elections Bill, and whether I will have Morning Sittings? Now, I adhere to the statement I originally made on the subject of Public Business—namely, that my first object was to carry the three supplementary Reform measures. Now, the Scotch Reform Bill and the Boundary Bill, though they have not yet left this House, may be regarded as virtually settled. But we have still a third measure of Reform before us which may require from us a great deal of consideration; and when I see that measure in the same position as the Scotch Reform Bill and the Boundary Bill, I shall then be able to take a general view of the Business before the House, and to state the course of Public Business which I think will be satisfactory to hon. Gentlemen generally. Therefore, I would rather postpone saying anything about the Corrupt Practices Bill, or about having recourse to Morning Sittings at this moment. If the Motion with which I shall presently conclude is acceded to, the Government may be able, without unnecessarily using what, no doubt, is a most efficient instrument for carrying on the Public Business towards the end of a Session—namely, Morning Sittings—to attain the results which we all desire. I would remark that Morning Sittings, under the system which, with the favour of the House, I instituted last year, are certainly a most powerful instrument under certain circumstances. They are admirably efficient when dealing with an im- portant Bill in Committee. Then you may make very great progress; and if it be necessary we can have recourse to them for the Corrupt Practices Bill. But they are really productive of very slight results, when devoted to the second reading of a Bill; because there is something so captivating in the discussion of a general principle that time is whiled a way in a most extraordinary manner; and such a sacrifice of the comfort, the convenience, and the time of the House has generally a very injurious effect upon the efficiency of the Evening Sitting, if the Morning Sitting has been occupied in debating a second reading. Therefore, though the weapon in our armoury is one of great value and powerful temper, still I think we should not unnecessarily and with levity resort to it. At present, if the House consents to the Motion which I am now making, there is a fair prospect that we shall not need to task the energies of the House in an extraordinary manner with respect to Morning Sittings. But, at the same time, I should not refrain, if I thought there was not a fair chance of our disposing of the Corrupt Practices Bill without them, from proposing Morning Sittings.


No doubt, Sir, the Motion just made by the right hon. Gentleman is one that is agreeable to the usage of the House at a certain period of the year; and that time is generally fixed by a reference to the amount of Business before the House in the hands of the Government, by the general views of the House as to the termination of the Session, and by the amount of Business also before us in the hands of private Members. As far as I am aware, I know of no reason connected with any of these topics to prevent us from acceding to this Motion; and if it should happen that there is any Bill in the hands of a private Member that it is desirable to send forward, which would be impeded by this arrangement, I have, no doubt the Government will be glad to take it into their consideration. But I wish, in giving a cheerful assent to this Motion, to say one word. I trust the right hon. Gentleman will adhere with some rigour—and, perhaps, with greater rigour of construction than he seems disposed to adopt—to the rule that we should make it our main object to progress with the Bills relating to Parliamentary Reform. It is obvious that when we enter into Committee on the Irish Reform Bill, which I trust will not take a long time—although it would be sanguine, perhaps, to expect to finish it to-night—our proceedings in regard to it ought, at any rate, to be continuous, and we ought not to have other Business in the hands of the Government interpolated, unless it is Business of great urgency. The Government are quite right in asking for a full discussion of the subject of Electric Telegraphs; but I am at a loss to know why it should be necessary to take that subject on Thursday, in preference to going on with the Irish Reform Bill. I also hope that when the details of the Irish Reform Bill have been disposed of the right hon. Gentleman will not only keep in mind the Corrupt Practices at Elections Bill, but, if possible, place it next in order, for undoubtedly it stands in close relation to the other measures of Parliamentary Reform, and our legislation on Reform will not be complete until the House has had an opportunity of fully considering and disposing of that question. I trust, therefore, that the Corrupt Practices Bill will be allowed to trend on the heels of the Irish Reform Bill either immediately or with the intervention of no other measures except those of urgent and pressing importance,


said, he wished to know, Whether any Morning Sittings would he devoted by the Government to discussions on the Army Estimates?


I will take the inquiry of the hon. Gentleman as a suggestion, and I will consider it.


said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman seemed to have misunderstood the Question which he bad addressed to him a few moments before. He by no means wished to convey the idea that the Government were not anxious to proceed with the Corrupt Practices at Elections Bill. On the contrary, he was quite convinced of the sincerity of their intentions in the matter, and he knew that there was a large number of Members on the Liberal side of the House who were equally desirous that they should go on with it.


said, he would suggest that the Irish Reform Bill should he passed through Committee before any new Business was entered upon.

Resolved, That upon Tuesday the 7th day of July next, and every succeeding Tuesday during the present Session, Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motions, the right being reserved to Her Majesty's Ministers of placing Government Orders at the head of the List.—(Mr. Disraeli.)


said, that if the House assented to another Motion of which he had given Notice, and should meet at two o'clock to-morrow and sit till seven, as was done last Session, he proposed that the Public Schools Bill should be the first Business taken. That would not occupy, he thought, the whole, perhaps not even the greater part of the time, and he should be quite ready to proceed with the Irish Reform Bill in Committee after the Public Schools Bill had been disposed of.

Resolved, That this House do meet Tomorrow at Two of the clock, subject to the Resolutions of the 27th day of May 1867.—(Mr. Disraeli.)