HC Deb 15 July 1872 vol 212 cc1138-45

I wish, Sir, to ask the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, What arrangements the Government are prepared to make with respect to Business for the remainder of the Session? Since I gave Notice of that Question I have gone carefully through the Order Book, and I find there are now standing upon it ninety-eight Orders, in addition to Committee of Supply, which, I believe, will occupy at least four days. I believe the Government are also pledged to find other days; one for the discussion of the Keogh Judgment, and another for the Indian Budget. Under these circumstances, I think it is desirable that Her Majesty's Government should make up their minds how they will dispose of that portion of the Business which belongs to the Government, and which, of course, comprises a large proportion of that standing on the Order Book?


I cannot possibly find fault with the right hon. Gentleman for putting the Question. The period of the Session has certainly arrived when, if it be possible, we should endeavour to clear the Order Book of the House with respect to outstanding Business, so as to enable us to form practical views and expectations, with reference to a tolerably early termination of the Session. My right hon. Friend says there are 98 Orders of the Day relating to Bills, besides Committee of Supply, and I presume that of those 98 one-half are the Bills of private Members. [Colonel WILSON-PATTEN: More than one-half.] Well, I wish to be on the safe side; and taking it that half are the Bills of private Members, I would say with regard to the moiety for which the Government is responsible—I need not say with respect to a number of them—as always happens towards the close of a Session, that though they stand upon the list and take up as much room there as others, many of them are for objects comparatively minute, about which there is no difference of opinion, and they may be expected to pass without making any sensible demand on the time of the House. I shall confine myself to those which are of a more serious character. We are at the present moment prepared to announce our intention of giving up, with a good deal of reluctance, those which stand on the Orders for to-day as Nos. 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18. There they are, arranged like a body of criminals ordered for military execution. They are the Grand Jury Presentments (Ireland) Bill; the County Officers (Ireland) Bill; the Land Transfer (Scotland) Bill—a Bill of great importance, which we are reluctant to part with; the Juries (England) Bill; the Contagious Diseases Prevention Bill, which involves a great difficulty, with which it would be quite hopeless to go forward at this period of the Session; the Master and Servants Wages Bill, and the Metropolitan Police Superannuation Bill. The Bills with which we are anxious to go forward, and which I think are of a more or less serious character, I had better also mention in a group. I do not any longer speak of the two Mines Bills; I consider them substantially disposed of. There are the Public Health Bill, the Licensing Bill, and the Corrupt Practices Bill, with regard to which we have stated we shall endeavour to find an opportunity of submitting our own proposals to the judgment of the House by moving the Speaker out of the Chair; though, undoubtedly, we do not think we ought to take upon ourselves to ask the House to go through the long list of Amendments to the Corrupt Practices Bill, which immensely extend the field, unless it be the desire of the House, in which case we shall be found ready to obey. There is the Local Government (Ireland) Bill, in the hands of the Chief Secretary for Ireland, which will not be likely to lead to any lengthened discussion, although it will require some, and which we shall endeavour to improve with a view of carrying it. There may be the Inclosure Bill, which, if it should reach this House, we should desire for practical reasons to go forward with. There is the Thames Embankment Bill, in regard to which we have to thank the hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) for having made an arrangement for the discussion of it on Monday evening at a reasonable hour after Committee of Supply, and the ground of discussion I hope will be much narrowed. There is the Merchant Shipping Bill, with which my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade is desirous of going forward; and, lastly, there is the Education Act Amendment Bill, which it is absolutely necessary to bring under discussion, and with regard to which we certainly hope it will pass without much discussion. Apart from Bills, as my right hon. Friend stated, there is the question relating to the Galway Election, in regard to which we are pledged to find a day for its discussion. I take this opportunity of stating that, looking to the condition of Business, I do not think it would be possible to find a night until the week after the 25th of July. I expressed a hope it might be on that day; but now, having reference to the state of Public Business, I hardly see how we could get it on earlier than the week—probably it would be an early day of the week—after the 25th of July. My right hon. Friend has truly stated that there will also be several days absolutely required for closing Committee of Supply. We are now upon the 15th of July. We have heard to-day another repetition of the complaint that private Members find so much difficulty in bringing forward and carrying through the House measures in which they feel an interest. I can assure the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) that official Members feel very much the same difficulty. The question is really one for the judgment of the House; but I am bound to say the Bills I have enumerated will occupy, conjointly with Supply, so much time that I cannot look forward to any early termination of the Session—I may, perhaps, say any reasonably early termination of the Session—unless we are enabled to obtain a greater command of time than that which we already possess. I see the hon. Member for North Warwickshire looks aghast at that declaration. [Mr. NEWDEGATE: Not at all.] We now stand in this position—I do not believe the competition of private Members as to Bills is real; the Bills of private Members have for the most part reached that stage when they have no longer nothing either to hope or fear. That being so, I take it they will be inclined to remove them from the Order Book, in cases where they have no reasonable expectation of passing them into law. In any case, I beg distinctly to point out, if we are at all right in thinking that all, or nearly all, the eight measures to which I have last referred, after the seven others have been given up, ought to be persevered with, and the judgment of the House definitely taken upon them, it will not be easy to accomplish that unless we are enabled to obtain not during the present week, but after it, some further command of the time at the disposal of the House.


In continuance of the inquiries with regard to the course of Public Business, I must express my opinion that the highest interests of the country require that an early opportunity should be given by the Government to the House to express its opinion upon the decision of Mr. Justice Keogh. I would put it to the right hon. Gentleman, whether he thinks the statement he has made consistent with the expectation he held out upon that subject a day or two ago. On that occasion, I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that upon a certain day—next Thursday week—he would take an opportunity of expressing to the House the opinion of the Government whether they thought it desirable on their part to ask the opinion of the House. The right hon. Gentleman has admitted that the House is now in possession of the evidence, and he has stated that as soon as it was in that position, he would afford the earliest day for a discussion upon the subject. If, therefore, as I understand what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman to- night, he is not prepared to state that the Government are intending to ask the opinion of the House, I think the right hon. Gentleman ought to give a day to any hon. Member who would be prepared to come forward and solicit the opinion of Parliament upon that subject. I must express an opinion, which is not, I believe, confined to myself, but is held by the country generally, that the highest interests of the country demand that there shall be no delay in Parliament expressing its opinion upon that subject.


There is really no change in the substance of the announcement I have made to the House, because the announcement I had made was, that we should be prepared to name the earliest day in our power after we had gone through the Public Health Bill and the Licensing Bill, and, upon being asked what day, I stated I hoped it might be by the 25th of July. We have no hope now—or very little hope indeed—that we shall have gone through the Public Health Bill and the Licensing Bill before the 25th of July, and it was on that account I stated I did not think it would be possible for us to find a day before the following week for the discussion. We thought it extremely desirable—especially with a view to the House of Lords, that we should dispose as quickly as possible of Bills of such magnitude and importance. It was for that reason we thought it better that the discussion should stand over, and it was certainly not from any disposition of our own to postpone it, but rather from a wish to consult the general convenience of the House, and we have no disposition at all to interfere with that convenience. It is entirely a matter for the consideration of the House, and if we have reason to believe that the House is of opinion that it is better to postpone the progress of the important measures I have mentioned in order that we may discuss the Galway Election, we shall have no objection to give the early opportunity for discussing it which we have already proposed to give.


asked, whether the Government intended at that period of the Session to press forward so important a measure as the Prisons (Ireland) Bill?


said, it was not a Government Bill, and he was not, there- fore, in a position to say what would be done with it.


An hon. and learned Member has placed on the Notice Paper a Motion for an Address to the Crown to remove one of the Judges of the land from the position he occupies; or, at all events, a Motion strongly impugning his conduct. Such a Motion, relating, as it does, to the administration of justice, is one of grave importance. If these imputations thus made upon the character of one of Her Majesty's Judges are deserved, some action should at once be taken with respect to them; if undeserved, they ought not to be allowed to rest upon the head of a learned Judge. I cannot help thinking it would be the wish of the House that an early opportunity should be afforded for the consideration of the question. The right hon. Gentleman said he was willing to meet that wish if it existed; but how is the House to express its wish? The House has no means of bringing forward a Motion to that effect.


I do not entirely agree with what has just fallen from my right hon. Friend, because in speaking on this subject before, I said we would not pledge ourselves to give any particular facilities to the particular Motion to which he has referred, but that we would give an opportunity for the general discussion of the subject. However, I do not wish to wait for any formal declaration of the wish of the House—the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) is an important element in informing us of what is the desire of the House, and the fact that my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bouverie) concurs in that declaration assists in showing us what is the feeling of the House. If that be the general feeling of the House we will fix now the 25th July for the discussion. Let it be so settled, although we do not think that is the most convenient course, having regard to the progress of legislation.


, in answer to the Question of the hon. Member for Clonmel (Mr. Bagwell), stated that the Prisons (Ireland) Bill had come down from the House of Lords, and he did not think its discussion would take a very long time.


said, there was no possible chance of the Irish Members agreeing upon that Bill, against which there was an universal outcry. The noble Lord would do well to satisfy himself upon the point, and formally abandon the Bill.


wished to know what would be done with the Bankruptcy (Ireland) Amendment Bill?


said, the Bankruptcy (Ireland) Amendment Bill had passed the House of Lords, where it had been considered by a Select Committee. He hoped both that and the Debtors (Ireland) Bill would be read a second time that night, and would become law during the present Session.


said, the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had intimated that he was about to propose a further restriction upon the time allowed to non-official Members. He wished, therefore, to know whether it was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to give Notice of such a Motion?


I wish to place the question fairly before the House. The question is between a longer Session with no more time given to Government Bills, and a shorter Session with more time given to Government Bills. It is for the House to make its election. Under the circumstances, I should have thought private Members would, almost with enthusiasm, have supplied the time which is necessary for an expeditious conclusion of our proceedings. I should be sorry to overbear in any way the wishes of private Members, and I shall not give any Notice of the kind indicated by the hon. Member, unless in accordance with the general feeling of the House. If such an arrangement meets the general feeling of the House, I shall make a proposal on the subject at the end of the week.


asked if the Vice President of the Council could fix a day for taking the Education Vote and for the Vote for the Science and Art Department?


said, he should take the Education Vote at a Morning Sitting on Friday next, and probably he would be able to take the Science and Art Vote on the same day.


wished to know what would be done with the Grand Juries (Ireland) Bill?


hoped the Government would be able to deal with that measure. It was not opposed by anyone.


asked what was the intention of the Government with regard to the Prison Ministers Bill?


The Bill is not in charge of the Government, and, therefore, I am unable to answer the question.