§ MR. DISRAELI
I promised, Sir, the other evening that, in the interval which would elapse before we met again, I would consider the state of the Public Business, with reference to its probable progress, and make a statement to the House to-night on the subject. What I am about to say has reference not only to Government measures, but to a measure not introduced by the Government, one in which the House takes great interest. I do not know that there is any material fact to remark upon with respect to the programme which I stated to the House a short time ago. There are I three Government Bills which have been read a first time, and which it is possible to pass—namely, the Church Patronage (Scotland) Bill, which we shall proceed with this evening; the Endowed Schools Act Amendment Bill, which has just been mentioned; and the India Councils Bill. The Bills respecting judicature and land have all been read a second time, and with regard to other Bills which have also passed that stage, it is not supposed that they will occupy I much time in Committee. One day, it 1524 is thought, will finish Supply; and there is also the Indian Budget, which I trust will be brought forward under circumstances that will secure it an attentive hearing. Thanks to the House having generously entrusted to the Government the complete, or almost the complete, control of the time, we may be able, so far as I can judge, to bring all these measures to a close, and to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament about the 5th of August. The House will understand that that is an estimate made upon the assumption that we have the entire, or virtually, the entire control of the time that remains, and the House must be aware that all these calculations and estimates are subject to be influenced by what I may call supervening circumstances. For example, although we are in possession of the time of the House, and may guard ourselves against interruption from any ordinary Motion, or from any Bill, by availing ourselves of the privileges which have been entrusted to us; yet if, for example, the Leader or some other recognized organ of the Opposition chose to give Notice of a Motion amounting to a Vote of Want of Confidence, it would be quite impossible for us to resist its being brought forward. The result would be, that all these arrangements being of a purely technical nature, would have to be changed. Or, if a Bill should be introduced, not by the Government, but at the same time in harmony with the feelings of a great portion of the House, or it might be the whole body of the House, of course, it is clear, that as we obtained possession of the time through the generous confidence of the House, it would not be becoming in us to keep strictly to the letter of the bond, and to refuse an opportunity of considering the measure. That was the feeling of the Government when the Public Worship Regulation Bill was sent down to this House. It had been introduced in the other House of Parliament by persons of the highest authority on the subject with which it dealt, and had been passed by that House almost with unanimity. Under these circumstances, Her Majesty's Government felt that, although they were in possession of the time of the House, it was proper that an opportunity should be given to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Recorder for the City of London (Mr. Russell Gurney), who has charge 1525 of the Bill, of proceeding with it. I should have been happy if the debate on the second reading of that measure had occupied, as I expected it would, only one night—a long night, of course, but still only one, and although I was disappointed in my expectation, still, on reflection, I think my expectation was not unreasonable, and that there was no adequate reason why the debate should not have been concluded, for although we were favoured by hearing an hon. Gentleman, who takes a great interest in the subject, at considerable length, yet the discussion was not continued, as it might, I think, very well have been continued, after the hon. Gentleman sat down. I perfectly admit that if the Government secures to an hon. Gentleman, under the circumstances to which I have referred, an opportunity of bringing forward a Bill for which Government is not responsible, we are morally bound to take steps with the view of obtaining, if possible, an expression of the opinion of the House upon the measure. It would be a mockery if we were to do otherwise; and therefore I am of opinion, and should under any circumstances have been of opinion, that it was our duty to secure to the right hon. and learned Recorder who has charge of the Public Worship Regulation Bill an opportunity of taking the opinion of the House upon the second reading. But since the second reading was moved, and during the course of the debate upon it, important circumstances have occurred. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, after a too long and much regretted absence, favoured the House with his opinion upon the second reading of the Bill; and not only favoured us with his opinion, but took the opportunity of offering a solution of the question by himself introducing a measure—that is to say, he placed on the Table certain Resolutions which he proposed to move on going into Committee, and which would form the basis of a measure upon the important subject to which the Public Worship Bill refers. Now, I have given these Resolutions the most anxious attention, with the light of the interpretation which was candidly, and even profusely, afforded by the right hon. Gentleman, and I can only arrive at one conclusion—namely, that they point to the abolition of that religious settlement which has prevailed in this 1526 country for more than two centuries, and on which depends much of our civil liberty. That being the case, and sensible as I am of the danger of allowing a proposition or a measure of such a character, and coming from so high a quarter, to stand over indefinitely, I feel that it is my duty to give Parliament an opportunity of deciding the question. The right hon. Gentleman is a person of the highest authority in the Realm. He has recently been Prime Minister, and I have a right to suppose, and am happy to believe, that he is still a candidate for that office. As the right hon. Gentleman has placed on the Table the Resolutions to which I have referred, containing propositions of commanding interest, I am of opinion that it would be of great danger to the country if these propositions were not to be discussed. Therefore, with the assistance of the House, I shall take steps, in the event of the House consenting to the second reading of the Public Worship Bill, for the purpose of giving the right hon. Gentleman an opportunity of moving his Resolutions. On the second reading being agreed to, I shall make a proposition which will allow the right hon. and learned Recorder to move that the Speaker do leave the Chair, and then the right hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity of bringing forward his propositions. To accomplish those ends, and at the same time to interfere as little as possible with the passing of the measures which have been introduced by Government, and which I believe, if passed, would be of the greatest advantage to the State, I propose that we should meet on Wednesday to continue the debate on the second reading of the Public Worship Bill. I shall move before that time that the Orders of the Pay for Wednesday be postponed till after the adjourned debate to which I have referred; and with the consent of the House, I shall also move that the Standing Orders respecting the sittings of the House on Wednesdays be suspended, till that adjourned debate be disposed of. The House will meet on that day, at twelve o'clock, as usual. I hope I am not too sanguine in expecting that the opportunities of taking part in the debate will be felt to be not at all stinted, and that the House will on Wednesday decide whether the Bill should be read a second time or not. If it should be read a second time, I shall 1527 propose that the Committee be fixed for Friday; and on that day, on the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich will have the opportunity which it is important he should have, of bringing forward his Resolutions, and the House will afterwards be in a position to decide upon whatever course it may be deemed the exigencies of the country require. I hope I have placed my views clearly before the House. I believe, if the Resolutions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Greenwich are passed, that they will give a new form and colour to English politics. I do not, of course, know what may be their fate, but whatever it may be, for my own part, they will be met by an uncompromising opposition.
In reply to Mr. MITCHELL HENRY,
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, the next stage of the Irish Judicature Bill had been fixed for Thursday next; but he could not give any promise with regard to the progress of that Bill.
In reply to Mr. FAWCETT respecting the India Councils Bill,
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, he hoped they might take the Bill that evening, because he thought it probable that the debate on the Scotch Patronage Bill might end by nine o'clock; but if not, the India Councils Bill could not come on until next week.