HC Deb 07 April 1873 vol 215 cc650-4

moved that the House at its rising do adjourn until Monday, the 21st April.


wished to take advantage of this Motion for the purpose, in the first place, of making some remarks on the unsatisfactory mode in which the Business of the House was conducted, and, in the second place, of putting a Question. On Friday last, in answer to a Question which he put to the First Lord of the Admiralty, he was informed that the Navy Estimates would not be brought on after half-past 11 that night; but, looking to the state of the Business on the Paper, the right hon. Gentleman hoped that he would be able to go into them in the course of the evening. Accordingly, he and several other hon. Members waited in expectation that the Navy Estimates would be brought on. About a quarter-past eight, however, a supporter of the Government called attention to the fact that there were not 40 Members present, and that being found to be the case, the House stood adjourned. Now, he thought that those hon. Members who had remained for the purpose of devoting their attention to the Navy Estimates had good ground for complaining that the Government did not take care that there should be a House for carrying on their own business on Friday night. But there was a still graver question connected with this matter. It would be in the recollection of the House that for some years past many successful attempts had been made to trench on the privileges of independent Members and to curtail the time at their disposal for introducing measures which they might think it right to bring forward. Whenever one of these attempts was made, the Prime Minister, who always supported them, did so on the ground of the growing Business of the House. Now, he (Mr. Bentinck) did not dispute the fact that the Business of the House had been growing. It had been growing rapidly and inconveniently. But that seemed to him to furnish an additional reason for complaining that when Supply was on the Paper, and it had been announced from the Treasury bench that the Navy Estimates would be brought on, the Government did not take the trouble to make a House for discussing them. They had heard a statement from the Government relating to the progress that was to be made with respect to Public Business after the recess, and that statement he could not help regarding as unsatisfactory. After the failure of the Government to keep a House on Friday evening they had had no announcement from the Government as to when the Navy Estimates were to be taken, and he should be glad to learn when there was any prospect of their being proceeded with.


grieved to say that he himself was one of those against whom the hon. Member complained, as not being in the House on Friday night. He had a very good reason to give for his absence, having been unable to leave his bed the whole of that day. The hon. Member for West Norfolk had stated that the 32 or 33 Members of the Government, and no one else, were responsible for there not being 40 Members in the House. That, however, was straining a doctrine—which no doubt to some extent was applicable—too far, and if the hon. Member was conversant with the actual state of things with regard to keeping a House as far as the independent Members of the House were concerned, he would know that it was not always in the power of the Government to secure a House. The fact was, it could not be done. Such were the facilities for getting away from the House; such was the strength of social attraction to men of such social abilities as those possessed by Members of that House, and so limited wore the means of getting back to the House at the command of Members who had got away, that the thing was impossible. He regretted these things very much, but they would happen from time to time. He did not by any means exempt the Government entirely from the responsibility of what occurred on Friday night, and it was a matter of very serious consideration with him, because such proceedings were becoming ridiculous. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would accept his assurance that the Government would always do their best to keep a House. The first place on the first day after the recess was pledged to the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett), and he was not satisfied that it would be for the convenience of the House to put down the Navy Estimates for the same evening. Otherwise, that course might be taken. But if it was not desirable, it would be still less desirable to postpone the Business connected with his right hon. Friend's financial proposals. They should be anxious to give the Navy Estimates the earliest place compatible with the arrangements he had mentioned.


reverting to the circumstance of the "count out" on Friday said, he wished to make a remark that would strengthen the observations of the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Norfolk (Mr. G. Bentinck). He (Mr. Newdegate) was a member of the Committee on Public Business in 1861, and the change then made curtailing the opportunities for business at that time enjoyed by the unofficial Members of the House, was made upon the distinct understanding, that the Government would keep a House on Friday. That was the condition, indeed, upon which unofficial Members gave up their right to Thursday. The arrangement was that Supply should be put down first among the Orders of the Day on Fridays, even though no Supply was required; and the condition was that the Government should keep a House on Friday night. He must be allowed to say, then, when unofficial Members were taunted with having accumulated so large a quantity of business, that it could not be transacted, they had a right to refer to the "count out" on Friday as an instance in which the Government had added to their embarrassment.


said, he thought the inconvenience might be averted by the Prime Minister placing a pressure upon his own particular partizans not to count out a Member of the Government. A practice had arisen during recent years of counting out Ministers, which was not only detrimental to the public service but which brought the proceedings of the House to a mere farce. He would give three instances to support his allegation. On a late occasion an hon. Member had a Motion which had a great deal to do with the regulation of the Metropolis, and when he had completed his statement and the Home Secretary was about to reply, the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. R. Shaw), one of the supporters of the Government, rose and caused the House to be counted out. The other day the hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) submitted a Motion touching the important subject of collisions of ships at sea, and the President of the Board of Trade was in the middle of a speech in reply when the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Chadwick) rose in his place, and simply from spite, he having been counted out himself ["Order"]—


reminded the hon. Member that he was transgressing the Rules of the House.


begged at once to withdraw the expression. He believed the word "retaliation" had been used by the hon. Member on a former occasion. But, at any rate, the hon. Member for Macclesfield had the President of the Board of Trade counted out. On Friday night the hon. and learned Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Serjeant Simon) made a statement of great importance affecting the treatment of British subjects abroad; but before any answer could be given by the Government the House was again counted out. He was bound to say that the Conservative counts-out were always made with great judgment, and if that example was followed by the advanced Members of the Liberal party, there would be less waste of the public time in future.

Motion agreed to.

House at rising to adjourn till Monday, 21st April.—(Mr. Gladstone).