§ MR. OSBORNE
said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would, in accordance with the promise given by him on Thursday night last, now inform the House what his intentions were with regard to an autumn or late Sitting.
I rise, Sir, to submit the Motion of which I have given Notice—That To-morrow, 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.The only fact necessary to be stated in its support is that we have now reached that period of the Session when it is usual to pass a Motion of this kind with a view to facilitate the winding up of business. On the 3rd of August, 1869, being a Tuesday, this privilege was granted, and on the 7th of July, 1868, it was also granted. This is enough, I think, for me to say upon this subject. I will now answer the Question of my hon. Friend the Member for Waterford (Mr. Osborne) with reference to the proposal or suggestion of an autumn adjournment. The Government have examined the state of the Notice Paper, and also considered the character of the remaining clauses of the Ballot Bill, upon which an answer to this question, as my hon. Friend may expect, principally turns; and what we find is this—According to the best of our judgment, 562 there are two, and only two, questions remaining to be dealt with which present a character of some freshness and considerable importance. One of these is the question of polling-places, which has already been partially discussed, and with reference to this subject, although it is important, we are glad to observe that the proposal of my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. W. E. Forster), which has now been within the knowledge of the House for a considerable period, does not appear to have produced any crop of Amendments. That being so, we are rather sanguine in the interpretation which we put upon that state of facts, that that subject, important as it is, is not likely to cause much expenditure of the time of this House. The other question refers to the payment of certain election expenses, and with regard to that question, which is partially novel and also important, we are glad to observe that a Motion has been put on the Paper which will have the effect of practically bringing forward the principle at issue with great felicity and rapidity. Looking at this state of circumstances, we think we may without presumption anticipate the disposal of this stage of the Ballot Bill in the course of to-morrow. Should that expectation be fulfilled, we hope it will be unnecessary, as far as the transaction of the business of the House of Commons is concerned, any longer to entertain the idea of an adjournment to a period of the autumn. On the other hand, if that expectation be doomed to disappointment, we then think that the time is come when we could not keep the House waiting longer in order to meet the views of the Government upon that subject. If we are not able to finish, or substantially to finish, the Committee on the Ballot Bill in the course of to-morrow, aided, as I trust we shall be, by having at our disposal the Evening Sitting to-morrow, we shall then be compelled, however reluctantly, to look to an adjournment to a period in the month of October, for the purpose of carrying on to completion the business of the House. This answer is as explicit and as definite as the circumstances will allow me to give.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I think we ought to place all the time we can at the disposal of the Government, considering the late period of the year. But if this 563 House accedes to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, so that he will be able to commence business on Tuesday at the usual hour, it will not be necessary, I should think, to have any more Morning Sittings. It will be probably more effective for the progress of business if the House should meet at 4 o'clock instead of at 2 o'clock.
That is a point which may remain for future consideration. I should be sorry to change the practice to-morrow, but we will carefully consider the matter before we have any more Morning Sittings. My own impression is in favour of the plan of Morning Sittings, which was the offspring of the right hon. Gentleman himself. I think, as far as my knowledge and experience goes, it has, especially at this period of the Session, conduced to the convenience of the House; but I do not wish to express any foregone conclusion, and we shall have to inform ourselves on the subject.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that was a Motion which was usually made at the close of the Session; but it seemed to him that, with 40 Orders of the Day upon the Paper, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government was presuming on the conclusion of the Session at a period which he had scarcely a right to anticipate, unless the threat which he had held out to them, that they should meet again in October if they were not good boys, and complete the task which he had set them within a very limited period, should prove effectual. Really that was a most novel proceeding. The right hon. Gentleman had adopted a completely new policy with respect to Parliament, which was now to be punished, if the measures he proposed were not carried; and he (Mr. Newdegate) did not hesitate to say that he thought Parliament ought to object to that sort of discipline, because it was really more becoming a public school than a deliberative Assembly. The right hon. Gentleman took the opportunity of announcing elsewhere, the other night, that he had adopted the principle that it mattered not what might be the objections made to the measures that he had proposed, for, sooner or later, they must pass, as the majority of that House supported him in his decision; whilst as to the House of Lords they must take care 564 of themselves. Now, that appeared to him (Mr. Newdegate) to be rather the language of excitement; and although it might commend itself to his partizans—the party who supported him in that House, and whose interests he appeared to have bound up in those measures—it was not a policy that commended itself to thinking men in this country; and of that he believed there was sufficient evidence at the distinguished meeting which the right hon. Gentleman attended on Saturday. Of this he was perfectly certain—that the Legislature would lose credit in the country, and lose position in the country, if it quietly submitted to a policy of that kind; because what did it come to? Let him for a moment call the attention of the House to the state of its own business during the last month of that Session. He had a list of the Orders of the Day for every Monday during the Session up to the present time; and he invited the attention of the House to the singular contrast which that list formed to the list of Orders of the Day on Mondays, which were always Government days in any other Session. They met in February, and he found that the average number of Orders of the Day on Mondays in February, was 9½; in March, the average number was 11¾; in April, 15⅓; in May, 20; in June, it rose to 33; and in July, the average had been 39; whilst that day the number was 40. He asked the House, then, to consider what that meant. He was not alluding to the important measures that had been abandoned, but to this fact—that for the purpose of carrying two measures—the Army Regulation Bill and the Elections Bill, upon which the right hon. Gentleman had set his heart, and with which he had bound up the interests of his party—the really important and pressing business of the country had been postponed from month to month, until they had the announcement that the Session was about to close, if the right hon. Gentleman could force the closure; and yet they had still 40 measures to consider—nay, more than 40, for there were others standing for Thursday next; and they were to consider those measures in a weary House, shorn of numbers; in fact, they were to make over to the Government the entire disposal of that mass of legislation. Now, he held that it was the duty of the House of Commons to protest against that system—against the 565 Government taking up two measures, occupying the whole available portion of the Session with those two measures, and thus by wearying out the House monopolizing the control of, and the decision upon, other important measures at the conclusion of the Session. What was that but virtually to set aside the functions of both Houses of the Legislature, by keeping them in suspense until they were so wearied out that they could not deal satisfactorily with measures necessary for the welfare of the country? The right hon. Gentleman was incurring a grave responsibility in that matter. The right hon. Gentleman had, no doubt, a right to plead that the reorganization of the Army was, to a certain extent, a question of urgency; but he could not plead that the Elections Bill was a question of urgency, unless he had determined on a Dissolution, and feared a dissolution under the present law regulating elections; or else he designed to starve out Mr. Bradlaugh, to distance every other agitator, and to render that House a centre of agitation for revolutionary change. Those were the aspects in which he viewed the conduct of the Government during the present Session. He had no wish to oppose Her Majesty's Government factiously. He had no party purpose to serve. The right hon. Gentleman, on Saturday night, expressed his acquiescence in, and approval of, the conduct of the Leader of the Opposition; they must suppose, therefore, that the two right hon. Gentlemen had come to an understanding in order to pursue the course which he had described; but he held that that House did not fulfil its functions, and disappointed, nay deceived the country, if it suffered legislation to be postponed in masses until from sheer weariness the House was precluded from the possibility of giving due attention to those important questions. That was the view which he took of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government, and he trusted that that House, if not now, yet in another Session would enter an effectual protest against being thus superseded by the Ministers of the Crown.
§ MR. VANCE
said, he was anxious to say a few words upon the conduct of Irish Business during the present Session. With the exception of one measure—the Coercion Bill—no proposal of the Government relating to Ireland had ever come on for discussion till 1, 2, or 566 3 o'clock in the morning. Irish measures were then brought on pell-mell, at a time when it was impossible that they could receive adequate consideration. In fact, under the present system, an Irish Member, if he wished to do his duty in the House of Commons, must be prepared to sacrifice his health. That very evening there were ten Irish Bills standing upon the Notice Paper, although three-fourths of the Irish Members were absent—many of them attending the Assizes. He did not blame the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland or the noble Lord the Chief Secretary for Ireland for that state of things; for, owing to the position into which other Government Business had fallen, he believed it was practically impossible to bring on Irish Bills at a reasonable hour. Still, that did not alter the hardship of the case, as far as hon. Members and as far as Ireland itself were concerned. When he ventured occasionally to ask the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland what he considered a reasonable hour to bring on a particular Bill, his reply was, "A quarter to 2"—a time when it was plainly impossible that any Bill could be considered upon its merits; but that evening Irish Members were in the unfortunate position of being unable to get a pledge from any Member of the Government as to the time when any one of those Irish Bills might be expected to come on.
§ SIR GEORGE JENKINSON
said, as an English Member, he wished to remark that the two last Sessions had been given up to Ireland. If, therefore, the remaining time of the House this Session was to be taken up with ten more Irish Bills, that certainly would not be treating English and Scotch Members fairly.
§ MR. RUSSELL GURNEY
said, it was perfectly well known that many of the 30 or 40 Orders nightly appearing upon the Paper were put down merely to fix a future day upon which they might be taken into consideration. The Government perfectly well knew which of these they did not even intend to discuss, and if they would only let the fact be known it would save inconvenience to many hon. Members, who were detained till a late hour watching Bills which the Government knew were not to come on.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
There is one point in the present discussion which has been treated somewhat jocularly, but which seems to me a very serious one. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government has risen in his place and told us what his arrangements are for conducting the Business of the House to a termination. He finds in making those arrangements that, with the exception of two points in the Ballot Bill, one of which is to be under discussion to-night—all the rest will be easy to settle. We have now got to the 18th clause of the Bill, which is one of 57 clauses, and, omitting those which the right hon. Gentleman says are not to be pressed, there are still some 25 clauses to be discussed. The right hon. Gentleman says there are very few Amendments; but I hold in my hand from 28 to 30 pages of Amendments, some of them of the utmost importance, given as well by hon. Gentlemen upon the other side as by hon. Members upon this side of the House. There is, for instance, the question of polling-places, and not merely in England, for I observe that with regard to Ireland two sets of Amendments are proposed—one by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Solicitor General for Ireland, and one by the hon. and learned Member for Tipperary (Mr. Heron). And what I complain of is that the right hon. Gentleman says—if we do not pass this Bill to-morrow night—if we do not pass those 25 clauses and dispose of all those Amendments by tomorrow night, then the House is to meet again next October.
Pardon me; I never said any such thing. What I did say was, that if they were not passed by that time, we should make the proposal to the House.
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
Well, I can only say that if that proposal is made to the House, I trust the House will vote by ballot upon the question. But I must follow the speech of the right hon. Gentleman further. Night after night Bills of the greatest importance are brought forward after 2 o'clock in the morning, and if any serious discussion arises upon them what is the answer? Why, that if the Bill is discussed and amended, so as to become a good Bill, the time of the Session will not suffice, and we are accordingly urged to pass Bills which we feel and know to be 568 incomplete, and to shut ourselves out from the opportunity of amending them, because of the way in which the business is crowded upon the Paper through the action of the Government. There is a Bill with respect to local government which stands third upon the Paper for to-night, and I am very anxious that that Bill, or some such Bill, should be passed; but if ever there was a Bill which ought to be carefully considered it is that, to make sure that we have got a really good head to the sanitary department of this country. And yet that Bill is brought on again and again at hours when it is impossible that a jaded House can give to the subject the attention it requires. To show the importance of that Bill, I asked a question of my right hon. Friend (Mr. W. E. Forster) the other night, and he told us he knew nothing whatever of the approach of the cholera—that it was still at a great distance. But, I see by the papers that that very evening the cholera was in the town of Hull. [Mr. W. E. FORSTER dissented.] Well, a vessel arrived at Hull from Cronstadt, and on board the vessel were passengers who were suffering from cholera. And so serious was the matter considered that an Order in Council was issued upon the subject. I refer to that as showing that if we are now engaged in organizing a system upon which dependence is to be placed in an hour of trial, it is of the first importance that there should be a full and proper opportunity of discussing its provisions; but, as matters are conducted, that Bill invariably comes on at an hour when most hon. Members have left the House, and the remainder are utterly fagged with the exertions they have undergone. The other night, again, we were told that the Navy Estimates did not come on because of an unforeseen circumstance—which was that the pockets of my right hon. Friend who presides over the Education Department were so empty that they could not go on paying any longer unless he obtained a Vote. And so matters go on—measures are introduced, but everything is kept back, not from any fault of the House, but from the fault of the Government in not properly arranging its business. ["No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite, of course, will not admit the fault is in any sense theirs; but they have admitted it nevertheless. For what have 569 they done? They have put down Amendments to Bills, and at the request of the Government they have afterwards given up those Amendments. They have sacrificed everything to procure the passing of measures, not because they believe those measures in themselves to be good—for their own Amendments show that they can see their defects and know how those ought to be remedied—but because their desire is, not for the best, but for the best party legislation.
§ Resolved, That To-morrow, 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. Gladstone.)
§ MR. VANCE
said, he begged to ask the Solicitor General for Ireland after what hour the Summary Jurisdiction (Ireland) Bill will not be proceeded with?
§ THE SOLICITOR GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. DOWSE)
It is very difficult to answer a question of that kind. If the hon. Member for Armagh will induce his Friends not to be as communicative to the House as they generally are, I may take it at 1 o'clock.
§ LORD ELCHO
I am very glad to see that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department has returned to his place. I beg therefore to ask him whether he intends to proceed with the Mines Regulation Bill to-night, or at any other period during this Session?
I was in hope that by forming a very large select representative Committee of this House it would be possible to put the Bill into such a shape that it might pass substantially unopposed; but representations were made to me from every single Member of the Committee that the questions raised by the Bill were such as could only be satisfactorily discussed in this House, and that the labours of the Select Committee 570 would not facilitate the passing of the Bill. Under these circumstances, I felt that it would be needless cruelty to inflict upon hon. Gentlemen the duty of attending the Committee. That was the last chance, and, as it would be manifestly impossible to carry through the House at this period of the Session measures of which the leading principles are so warmly contested, I shall move this evening that the Order for those two Bills be discharged.
§ MR. A. EGERTON
asked the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department when he would take the Turnpike Bill?
§ MR. WHALLEY
wished to know in what order. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department studiously paid no attention to appeals of this kind. He wished to know of the Under Secretary of State whether he would place it on the Paper, so that it might be brought on at an early hour, so as to secure its being properly discussed.
§ MR. WINTERBOTHAM
said, he had fixed Thursday at the request of certain hon. Members who were interested in the subject, but he had no power to compel its being brought on at any particular time. He was quite prepared to sit in his place till any hour of the morning in order to bring the matter on.