HC Deb 14 March 1872 vol 209 cc1950-3

rose, in pursuance of a Notice he had given, to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair to a point of Order. On the 5th of March, when the hon. Member for Galway (Sir Rowland Blennerhassett) obtained leave to introduce a Bill for the purchase of Irish Railways, he (Mr. Monk) submitted to the judgment of the Speaker whether the hon. Gentleman should not have proceeded in Committee of the Whole House, and the decision of the Chair was, that the question could not be solved until the Bill was before the House. He found now from a Copy of the Bill that it contemplated the purchase of the Irish railways at a very considerable expense to this country. According to the Standing Orders of this House with respect to the application of public money, it appeared that this House would receive no Petition for any sum relating to public service, or proceed upon any Motion for charge upon the public expenditure, whether out of the Consolidated Fund or out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, unless a consent or recommendation was received from the Crown. And, accordingly, if any Motion was made in the House for any aid from the public Revenue, whether out of the Consolidated Fund or out of moneys to be provided by Parliament, the consideration and debate thereon should not be presently entered upon, but should be adjourned until such further day as the House should think fit, and should then be referred to a Committee of the Whole House before any Vote could pass thereon. Now, he submitted to the judgment of the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair, that the hon. Member for Galway had taken neither the one course nor the other; he had neither moved in a Committee of the Whole House, nor did he produce any evidence of the consent of the Crown for any prospective grant of public money for the purchase of the Irish railways. In looking at the Bill, it appeared that a certain number of clauses were in italics, or in blank as it was called, and if the House went into Committee on this Bill, those clauses would be invisible to the eye of the Chairman of Committees. But in the Bill it was stated that it was expedient that the Board of Trade should be empowered to acquire, work, and maintain these railways in Ireland. He was aware that there was an apparent precedent. In 1847 Lord George Bentinck obtained leave to bring in a Bill to stimulate the prompt and profitable employment of the people by the encouragement of railways in Ireland, and that Bill contained no fewer than 18 clauses printed in italics, or, in other words, blank clauses, authorizing the advancement of £16,000,000 for the purposes of the Bill. He had not been able to find any decision by the Speaker of that day as to the propriety of the Bill being brought in otherwise than in a Committee of the Whole House. Lord John Russell said he should not oppose the introduction of the Bill, and then went on to say— I understand from the Speaker that in point of form, no objection exists to its introduction, provided it does not introduce those money clauses which would require a previous committee."—[3 Hansard, clv. 808.] That, no doubt, was apparently a precedent in point; but then the Bill was brought in under the Standing Orders of 1847, which differed materially from the Standing Orders of 1872. In 1847 it was not requisite that any Motion for public money should previously receive the consent or recommendation of the Crown. But in 1852 a Standing Order to that effect was passed, and subsequently, in 1866, his right hon. Friend the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Ayrton) moved the two Standing Orders which now regulated the proceedings of the House. The Motion of his right hon. Friend was passed with the unanimous consent of the House, and rendered more stringent the rules with regard to Money Bills. The Standing Orders then adopted, not only imposed a restriction on Members of Parliament bringing in Money Bills, but also on their bringing in Bills which contemplated a future application to Parliament for grants of public moneys. He submitted, therefore, to the judgment of the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair that the hon. Member for Galway was not in Order in obtaining leave to bring in the Bill, and, subject to that judgment, he would move that the Orders of the 5th instant relating to a Bill for the purchase of Irish Railways be read and discharged.


In answer to the Question of the hon. Member, I will endeavour to explain the practice of the House in connection with the Standing Orders, to which he has now called attention. Whenever a Bill is introduced by which it is intended to authorize a charge upon the public Revenues, it is the practice, as he has stated, to print the money clauses in italics. Such clauses form no part of the Bill, as originally brought in. They are treated as blanks. Before any sanction is given to them the Queen's recommendation must be signified, and a Committee of the Whole House consider, on a future day, the Resolution authorizing the charge. Unless these proceedings are taken, the Chairman, under the Standing Orders, will pass over the money clauses without any question. Without such preliminary proceedings, the Bill, so far as the public money is concerned, is entirely inoperative. The hon. Member has called attention to a precedent of a Bill proposed in 1847 for encouraging the construction of railways in Ireland. That, no doubt, is a precedent in point, to which I will not further advert, as the hon. Gentleman has brought it under the notice of the House. But there is another precedent, of a very remarkable kind, to which I wish to call attention. In 1868 a Bill was introduced to enable the Postmaster General to acquire, work, and maintain the Electric Telegraphs. The clause declaring that the moneys were to be provided by Parliament was printed in italics; and it was not until after the Bill had been read a second time and considered by a Select Committee that a Resolution was come to, in a Committee of the Whole House, authorizing the application of public moneys for the purposes of the Bill. It is for the House, and not for me, to determine as to the expediency of allowing such a Bill as that to which the hon. Member has called attention, to be introduced. The Bill is now before the House, and, having regard to the precedents I have quoted, I feel myself bound by usage and precedent to hold that there has been no infraction of the Standing Orders or the Rules of the House.