HC Deb 11 June 1874 vol 219 cc1407-15

said, that in the unavoidable absence from this House of his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, he would move the Resolution which stood in his name. As his right hon. Friend had fully explained the reasons for his proposal, it would not be necessary to re-state them. The Motion was— That upon Tuesday next, 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 the priority.


said, he did not intend to offer any formal opposition to the Motion, but he wished to point out the hardship which was inflicted upon private Members by the course proposed to be taken. He had himself an important Notice upon the Paper, and other hon. Members were in a similar position. He therefore hoped the Government would extend to private Members all the facilities which the progress of Public Business rendered possible.


said, that since the hon. Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) and the hon. Member for York (Mr. J. Lowther) had been absorbed into the Ministry, private Members had been left forlorn and without champions. He was not going to take upon himself the functions so ably fulfilled while in Opposition by either of the hon. Gentlemen he had named; because, in his humble opinion, private Members must be sacrificed when great objects of public interest stood in the way. In fact, he was not at all sure that at this time of the year private Members did not become public nuisances—especially in hot weather. This view was rather borne out by what generally occurred on Tuesday evenings at this period of the Session. If a private Member managed to get his Motion before the House it generally happened that the poor man was counted out at about half-past 8 o'clock. He did not wish to oppose the Motion brought forward by the right hon. Gentleman, as he was most anxious to facilitate the passing of the 17 important Bills mentioned by the Prime Minister a few evenings back. He thought those measures and the two spiritual Bills which had yet to come down from the House of Lords would occupy the whole remainder of the Session, and leave no time for the projects of private Members. The Prime Minister had classified the measures of which he had spoken, putting" them under the heads of first, second, and third class; but there was one matter which the right hon. Gentleman had not treated quite fairly, and that had reference to the new constitution of the Gold Coast—a question which would require to be well considered and fully discussed, but which had been adroitly got rid of by the adjournment of the recent discussion to the 31st of July, when Parliament might or might not still be sitting. The estimate of the amount required was £35,000, and he thought the House ought to have an early opportunity of judging whether the policy proposed was worth the money it would cost. If it were to be what was described in "another place" the country would be astounded, and there ought to be no unnecessary delay in discussing the subject in that House. They had had a war there, in which a great many lives were sacrificed, and he hoped on all accounts that the Government would bring on the question without delay. They wanted to know if this new constitution would produce peace and security, or violence and disorder.


wished to know whether, in the event of the Motion before the House being agreed to, the Government intended to devote Tuesday evenings entirely to Government Bills, as it was rumoured that there were certain Bills not in the hands of the Government, but practically adopted by the Government, to which priority would be given.


said, he did not intend to oppose the Motion of the Government, but to call attention to the "dead lock" to which the Business of the House was always exposed in the months of June and July. He believed a great deal of that was owing to a practice which had lately come into operation, of allowing Bills to be introduced and read a first time without any discussion whatever. Many of these measures might very well be discussed at that stage, and got rid of at once—the "innocents" being strangled at their birth instead of being slaughtered at a later stage. He wished to give Notice now that at the beginning of next Session he should propose that these "innocents" should be examined at the outset by having some discussion on them, to see whether they were likely to survive or not.


said, he thought the Government should give facilities to private Members who had Notices on the Paper which would be displaced by the present Motion to have their subject-matter discussed. With respect to "Counts out," if a question was not deemed of sufficient importance to keep a House of 40 Members, he doubted whether such a question was worth bringing forward at all.


said, he thought there was a great deal in what the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) had said as to the necessity for exercising some discrimination as to the nature of the measures to be submitted to the House, and that the House ought to have a fuller statement as to the objects of those measures before deciding whether they should be admitted or rejected. Great inconvenience arose from the practice of introducing Bills at an early stage and deferring their second reading to a late period of the Session, some of them being introduced in March and the second reading put off into June or July. He considered it essential on introducing a Bill that a Member ought not to be allowed to put the second reading off longer than a month. But with respect to the rights of private Members, unless the Leaders of the Opposition resumed the function which their predecessors had always exercised of protecting and regulating the business introduced by unofficial Members, the House would soon become a mere instrument in the hands of the Government of the day, and all independence of action on the part of private Members in regard to legislation would be lost. He entirely dissented from the total-abstinence principle of the hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir Wilfrid Lawson), who, while professing great discontent, seemed to think that the whole time of the House should be placed at the disposal of Her Majesty's Ministers.


said, that year after year the House was becoming more and more a mere Registering Chamber for the recording of the measures which the Government of the day proposed. Every year regulations were made restricting the right of free discussion on Motions made and Bills introduced by private Members. He did not think, however, that this Motion ought to pass without one observation. This Session did not begin until the 19th of March, and this Motion was made in the middle of June, and it thus had the same effect as if in an ordinary Session it had been made on the 1st of May. He submitted that private Members could not have expected that it would be made so early. He had, after much balloting, secured a day for the discussion of a subject which was regarded by the people of Ireland as of the utmost possible interest. He hoped that, under the circumstances, the Government would set apart a day for the Motion of which he had given Notice.


said, he stood in the same position as other hon. Members who had Motions on the Paper for next Tuesday, and would be one of the first victims of the new rule. His Motion was of a very important character in relation to the conduct of inquiries into Election Petitions, as to which the House ought to know the mind of the Government, but he supposed it would not be in his power to bring the matter before the House in the present Session. The Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) was one of the highest importance; one in which the feelings of the people of Ireland were deeply interested, and involved a question upon which many hon. Members had been returned to that House. He thought the hon. and learned Member for Limerick ought to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government to give a Government night for the discussion of this question.


complained that he would be prevented bringing forward the Workmen's Compensation Bill, which was a measure of great importance. He hoped the Government would give him an opportunity to do so before the end of the Session.


said, he was very much obliged, on behalf of the Government, for the general assent given to the Motion. He was not surprised that several hon. Members had expressed their disappointment at not being in a position to bring forward Motions of which they had given Notice. It should, however, be borne in mind that at this time of year a Motion similar to that before the House had been almost invariably submitted by the Government of the day. Even when hon. Members had the Tuesdays, it did not at all follow that they would be able to bring their Motions on, especially if, like the Bill of the hon. Member for Hythe (Sir Edward Watkin), they were far down in the list. If the House did not wish to have any materially lengthened Session, they would take one of the best means of attaining their ends by giving the Government the Tuesdays. Without giving any absolute pledge on the subject, he thought that if they obtained the Tuesdays they ought to be entirely devoted to Government Business.



said, he considered that his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government had given an undertaking that there should be a day given for the discussion of affairs at the Gold Coast.


, as a Member of the House who had brought forward no Motion, who had introduced no Bill, and who had not troubled the House with any speeches this Session, thought he might fairly claim that no arrangements should be made which would destroy all chance of a debate upon the only question for which he came there. He was one of a majority of Irish Representatives of about 60 Members, who had been sent there respectfully, but firmly, to tell the House that the people of Ireland would not be content without the restoration of their own Parliament. Several of his Home Rule Colleagues—as he understood, in courteous deference to the wishes of certain Members on both sides of the House who clung to the belief that the House was capable of passing laws which might satisfy the Irish people—had brought in Bills or made Motions; yet not one of them had the least idea that it would be possible for the House to legislate in accordance with the wishes and interests of the people of Ireland. At length, after three adjournments, the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) had obtained a day for his Motion, and it stood first on the Paper for Tuesday, the 30th instant. That day ought still to be allowed to him, in order that Irish Home Rule Members might respectfully explain to the House the reasons why their country was not content, never had been content, and never would be content without the restoration of the Irish Parliament. [Laughter.] Hon. Members might laugh; but it was well known to every hon. Member who cared to inform himself of the fact, that he expressed simply and truly the feelings and determined resolution of the vast majority of the people of Ireland.


said, he thought that, after what had just been said, the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) might dispense with his Motion. The Irish Members of the House had no reason to complain of not being heard during the present Session; and he thought that if time had not been taken up with Motions which could not have been expected to have any good result, there would have been no necessity for this Motion.


said, he hoped that although the Prime Minister was not present, the right hon. Gentleman who had the management of the Government Business would give them some assurance that an evening or two would be given for this important debate. He spoke not so much on behalf of Irish Members as in the interest of the House of Commons and the country. There was no subject on which greater curiosity prevailed than on this; and people were anxious to know what it was that had all at once converted Irish Members into a compact body, and brought them there able to take an effective part in the legislation for Ireland. On this subject, above all others, the Government should desire having full explanations given to the House; and therefore he should be sorry if this Motion was passed without a promise having been given by the Secretary of State for War that he would bring the matter under the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government, and request his favourable consideration of the appeal. He would not reply to the observations of the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Ritchie), who had been such a very long time a Member of the House, having been elected three months ago, that he considered himself entitled to advise and lecture Irish Members as to the course they should pursue, but he would only add that it was as much for the interest of England as of Ireland that the question of Home Rule should be thoroughly argued out.


said, he hoped this discussion would not be carried further. He could not suppose that the Government would not feel that it was desirable that there should be no arrangement made on their part which would prevent this question from being discussed by Parliament during the present Session. "While, of course he would hear what was to be said, there were few Members who would approach the discussion with a greater conviction than he entertained that it was not advisable to make the change which was to be proposed. At the same time, he could not be blind to the fact that a contrary opinion was held by very many of their fellow-subjects in Ireland, and by many Irish Representatives; and it appeared to him that it would not be for the honour of Parliament or the advantage of our relations with Ireland, or even to the advantage of real union with Ireland, that the Imperial Parliament should not have an opportunity of discussing this question.


asserted that there had not been a measure of importance passed since the Reform Act of 1832 which had not originated with a private Member, and he therefore protested against further restricting the time devoted to private Members. He did not complain of any want of a fair hearing in that Assembly to Irish matters in his time, although he thought the Parliamentary machine was very unequal to the strain which was put upon it. The Irish Representatives had been anxious to show that they appreciated the reception which the House so far had given to the claims of their country; but if the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick was to be got rid of by a side-wind, the fact would be viewed in Ireland in no friendly spirit, for that was the question of questions on which 60 Members had been sent from Ireland to Parliament.


said, it was the practice of the House at an advanced period of the Session to consider in what way its time could best be economized; and the Motion of the Prime Minister, who was, unfortunately, now absent from indisposition, was one which, in substance, was usually made about that date. His right hon. Friend had thought it would probably be more convenient for the House, instead of taking Morning Sittings at present on Tuesdays—to give Tuesday evenings for Orders of the Day and Government business; but if there was any general feeling that another course would be more convenient, he was sure his right hon. Friend would be quite ready to reconsider the matter. He need hardly add that there was no intention whatever, in making the present proposal, to shunt or get rid by a side-wind of Motions which hon. Members deemed of importance. As to the Motion fixed for the 30th of June, which had been referred to, there was plenty of time before them to see what the course of business was; and he was sure that when his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government was able to consider the matter, he would be prepared to make some proposal with regard to that question.


said, he thought, after the observations which had fallen from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, they might fairly expect the Tuesday for which the consideration of the question of Home Rule had been set down would be exempted from the rule about to be applied. Such a course would, he thought, give great satisfaction to Irish Members.


reminded the Government that there was another mode introduced last Session of expediting their Business besides taking the Tuesdays or having Morning Sittings—namely, that the Government should have Monday evenings for Supply, uninterrupted by Motions upon going into Supply. He thought this might meet the difficulty, because, considering the time the House had met this year, it could not now be considered an advanced period of the Session.

Motion agreed to. Resolved, That upon Tuesday next, 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 the priority.—(Mr. Disraeli.)