THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Sir, towards the end of last week an intimation was made from the Treasury Bench that it was probable that early in the present week the First Lord of the Treasury would make a statement as to the course of Public Business. Taking that fact into consideration, I trust the right hon. Gentleman will not think it premature on my part if I ask him, whether he is able now to make a statement as to the course of Public Business during the present week and, in fact, for the remainder of the Session? If he is able to do so, it will be a great convenience to many hon. Members of this House to have some information on the subject.
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, the intimation which, as the noble Lord apprehends, was made from the Treasury Bench, so far as I am concerned, is an entire misapprehension; no intimation came from me; and the noble Lord must have misunderstood a casual remark made by my hon. and learned Colleague the Attorney General when answering a Question in reference to a particular Bill. Of course, I feel it my duty to let the noble Lord and the House know the course which I 1659 contemplate Public Business may take, and the course I desire it to take. I hope that we may go into Committee almost immediately upon the Agricultural Holdings Bill. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay) has given Notice of a Motion which would arrest the progress of the Bill. I am sure that under ordinary circumstances anything coming from the hon. Member for Forfarshire upon the subject to which his Notice of Motion refers would interest the House and would be listened to with great respect and attention. I regret the hon. Gentleman was absent, and I regret still more the cause of his absence, when this subject was formerly brought under the consideration of the House by a distinguished Member, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen), in an address of a comprehensive character, and the right hon. Gentleman declined to take the opinion of the House, which had indicated in a manner which could not be mistaken, from the general tone and tenour of the discussion, that the compulsory treatment of the question which I have to submit in detail to the consideration of the House to-night was not a course it would sanction. I trust, therefore, the hon. Member for Forfarshire will not press the Motion of which he has given Notice, and which will prevent our going into Committee, but that he will allow us to go into Committee at once. In that case I propose that we should continue the Committee upon the Agricultural Holdings Bill until it is concluded, with this exception, that, for the convenience of the House, I shall take to-morrow at 2 o'clock as the First Order of the Day the Report of the Conspiracy Bill. When we have concluded the Committee upon the Agricultural Holdings Bill I propose that we shall continue the Committee upon the Merchant Shipping Bill; and, of course, these two measures will take some time. The other two measures, which from their urgency as well as the nature of their subjects, may be regarded as of first-rate importance, are the Land Transfer Bill and the Judicature Bill. They are both considerably advanced, and I contemplate, of course, they will be passed. There certainly remain several, I may say many, Government measures; but they are not measures that have been mentioned in 1660 the Queen's Speech, generally speaking, nor are they measures that, from the course of the Session, assume the importance of the other measures to which I have adverted. I am not at all disposed at the present period of the Session to announce that it is hopeless to proceed with them. Some of them came from the Lords, and, of course, that will facilitate their being carried; and I think it is premature to decide upon the fate of any of them now. I have known the end of a Session when, comparatively speaking, a considerable portion of our time was insufficiently occupied. It may be so in this case, and it may yet be utilized. Some of these Bills, if not of urgent importance, promise to be measures of great utility and public benefit, and I yet hope that they may be passed. That is the general view I take of the course of Public Business. I should hope, under the circumstances, that the House will not deny me the whole of the Tuesdays, with the exception of next Tuesday, partly in consequence of the shortness of the Notice, and also on account of the respect we all have for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Hubbard) who wishes to bring forward a Motion on Local Taxation, which he has been prevented bringing forward on several occasions, and who has been promised an opportunity of bringing it forward. I trust that hon. Members will give us the following Tuesdays; and my opinion is, that with that assistance and the general assistance of the House we shall be able to wind up the Session at a reasonable period, and in a manner highly satisfactory to ourselves and the country.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Sir, as the right hon. Gentleman has just announced that it is the intention of the Government to ask that the remaining Tuesdays after next Tuesday shall be appropriated to the Business of the Government—a step which is not generally taken unless accompanied by a distinct declaration on the part of the Government as to the measures with which they really intend to proceed, a declaration not made on this occasion—the House will allow me to make one or two observations on the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, and, if necessary, I will conclude with a Motion. The right hon. Gentleman has stated that it is his intention to proceed with the Agricultural 1661 Holdings Bill until the Committee has terminated, and one of the effects of the determination of the Government to endeavour to force through the House all the Bills with which the Paper is now encumbered is evident from the statement which has just been made by the right hon. Gentleman. He has appealed to the hon. Member for Forfarshire (Mr. J. W. Barclay) to forego his undoubted right of raising a discussion on this important measure on the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair in order to facilitate the progress of the Bill. It is true my right hon. Friend the Member for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) declined to take the sense of the House on the question of compulsion; but I submit that the question which is raised by the hon. Member for Forfarshire is one which is not at all confined to the question of compulsion, and I am not at all able to see that the hon. Member is not perfectly within his right in raising the question which he proposes to raise. There is also a Notice of Motion by an hon. Member sitting behind the right hon. Gentleman, the hon. Member for West Worcestershire (Mr. Knight), and I cannot think it is convenient or advantageous to our deliberations, on account of the lateness of the period at which important measures such as these are introduced into the House, that any due and legitimate opportunities of discussion should be denied to hon. Members. The right hon. Gentleman has refused to inform us that he intends to sacrifice any of these measures. Of course, I am perfectly aware it is our duty to continue our labours here as long as maybe necessary for the public service; but I do think, on the other hand, hon. Members have some right to claim that full information shall be given them in order that they may make those arrangements which they are in the habit of making at this time of the year. I cannot help thinking that in refusing all information as to the probable course of Public Business the right hon. Gentleman is, on this occasion, treating the House with somewhat less than his usual courtesy. The right hon. Gentleman must be remarkably sanguine if he supposes that the Agricultural Holdings Bill will occupy less than a week of the time of the House in passing through its various stages, and from the progress which the 1662 Merchant Shipping Bill has already made, it would not be very unreasonable to assume that it may occupy another week. There are, then, two weeks to be occupied with two Bills, and that will take us well into August. The right hon. Gentleman has also referred to the Land Transfer Bill and the Judicature Bill; they will take a considerable time; and perhaps the House will allow me to state what are some of the other measures of considerable importance which still remain on the Paper. There is the Bill relating to the Pollution of Rivers and the Savings Banks Bill; the first has made no progress at all in this House; and the Savings Banks Bill has still two important stages to go through. Then there are the Indian Legislation Bill, the Local Authorities Loans Bill, the Militia Consolidation Bill, the Bill relating to the Salaries of National School Teachers in Ireland, the Patents for Inventions Bill, the two Bills relating to the Public Works Loan Acts, and the Sheriffs' Courts (Scotland) Bill. A fortnight may be taken up by the two measures to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, and then there are all the measures I have named to be got through before we separate, besides Supply and the Statement upon the Indian Budget, which the noble Lord who represents the India Office in this House trusted would this Session be brought forward at an earlier period than usual. It is, therefore, perfectly evident that unless the House is to sit until the end of August, or even well into September, it will be impossible that the whole of this Business, or anything like it, can be got through. If the right hon. Gentleman asks hon. Members to make this sacrifice, it is only due to the House that he should inform us what Bills are to be proceeded with and what given up, so that we may make our arrangements accordingly. I move, Sir, that the House do now adjourn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(The Marquess of Hartington.)
§ MR. HAYTER
wished to know what course the Government intended to pursue in regard to the Militia Laws Consolidation and Amendment Bill, which had made some progress in Committee? 1663 Did the right hon. Gentleman propose to press it this Session?
MR. GATHORNE HARDY
said, he hoped that further progress would be made with the Bill that night. It was his intention to pass it that Session, and it would be very easy to do so, if the hon. Gentleman would give him his assistance.
§ MR. DILLWYN
thought that the course pursued by the Government was eminently unsatisfactory, because it would only lead to hurry-scurry legislation at the fag-end of the Session. He expected, after what bad been said by the Attorney General, that a more definite statement would have been given of the intentions of the Government with regard to the Patents for Inventions Bill.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
had pointed out on a former occasion that the Public Business was falling into confusion, and this was now admitted. As the Government would not inform the House as to their intentions, the noble Marquess opposite was only doing his duty in calling attention to the subject. As to the great body of the House, it would take care of itself and its own Business.
said, there were 28 Government Bills on the Paper for that evening, more than half of which had not got into Committee, and some of which had not even passed the second reading. He complained that the Government were in the habit of putting down on the Paper night after night measures, all of which could not possibly be taken; and it was most inconvenient at this period of the Session for hon. Members who took an interest in some one of the Bills to be compelled to stay till a very late hour night after night when they knew it was perfectly certain all the Bills on the Paper could not come on, because the Government would not inform the House with which measures it was they proposed to go on. It was usual at that period of the Session to tell hon. Members what Bills would not be brought on, and what would be proceeded with. As the right hon. Gentleman had declined to give that information, hon. Members who had Bills of their own might be expected to raise considerable opposition to any proposal to proceed late at night with many of the Government Orders now on the Paper.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, he was happy to have had an opportunity afforded him 1664 by the Motion before the House of making a personal explanation with regard to a Resolution which he had placed on the Paper, but for which he could not obtain adequate support even to the extent of a seconder. He should be wanting in respect to the House, having brought the subject before them on two separate occasions, if he did not state that he had every reason to believe it would be seconded. The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government had demanded from him a circum stance to show the importance of in quiring about the Jesuits. He thought no better circumstance could be adduced than the fact that such was the pressure of the Jesuits even within the House that, although in both cases he had been promised support, on neither occasion was any afforded him. ["Name!"] He declined to give any name; but the circumstance was an important one, and he contended that the duty devolved upon the Government, in the interests of the country, to put the Act relating to this society into force. There was a strong feeling throughout the country—and all the wisdom and patriotism of the country was not confined within the walls of Parliament—that this was a circumstance which at least 500,000 people by memorial had called upon the Government to [" Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
Under cover of a Motion for the Adjournment of the House the hon. Member is attempting to discuss a matter which is not regularly before the House.
§ MR. WHALLEY
said, as that was the ruling of the Speaker, and it had become quite an instinct with him to submit to the right hon. Gentleman, he would only say that in withdrawing his Motion he reserved to himself the right of taking what action in the matter he thought proper as an independent Member, and he hoped that both the Speaker and the House would afford him their most favourable consideration.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I cannot help thinking that the noble Lord opposite (the Marquess of Hartington) has been a little unjust towards me in his latter observations. The noble Lord asked me to tell the House what would probably be the Business of the present week and the next week, and yet, according to the noble Lord's own showing, he admits that I have fully and 1665 completely provided for the Business of the next fortnight. It is impossible for me, as the noble Lord has given no Notice, to afford the information he desires. I do not suppose, or pretend for a moment, that in the probable time during which the Session will last I can pass all or many of these Bills. But the point of importance is what are those measures which are most expedient for the public service, and it is impossible for me to pledge myself to the House on this matter without great thought and without observing the course of Public Business. At no time has it been considered strange or irregular that no declaration should be made as to the Bills which the Government insist upon passing into law at so late a period as the present. On the contrary, this is about the time at which these reports are generally made, and at the beginning of next week I may probably be in a position to make a statement to the House as to the course of Public Business. I must protest, however, against this system of giving up in a harum-scarum manner a number of Bills in favour of others, when, perhaps, in a fortnight's time the House would be of opinion that I ought to have taken the opposite course and proceeded with the Bills we gave up, giving up the Bills we proposed to proceed with. I must say, therefore, that as at present advised I do not feel I am justified in making any other statement to the House than the distinct one I have made as to the resolution of the Government to proceed with the two very important Bills before us, and which, I believe, greatly interest the House and the country. As the Session advances, probably early next week, I may be able to say what Bills we can safely adjourn the consideration of till another Session. Well, Sir, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) sees danger in this course. He apprehends that, at the close of the Session, some Bill may be slipped through the House. Now, Sir, as long as the hon. Member sits in this House I do not think there is the slightest ground for apprehending danger from that source. The hon. Member is always on the watch, not only in the interests of his constituents, but in those of the country, and I think, therefore, he indulged in that observation only from excessive modesty. Then, again, 1666 the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) complained very much of the position in which Members were placed from the fact that a number of Bills were put down upon the Paper, and which, he said, forced them to come down to the House, at great inconvenience, late at night, although it was morally impossible for the Bills to come on. Well, that is no great grievance, for if the hon. Gentleman thinks it absolutely impossible the measures can be brought forward, I think he might sacrifice his senatorial to those social duties which I have no doubt have so great a charm for him. Then with respect to the attack made upon me by the hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley)—and which is not the first—upon the subject of the Jesuits, I do not know how to defend myself; but I may say I was reading the other day a book in which it was stated that one of the most dangerous of the devices adopted by that malignant society was to engage some of their lay brethren to go about in disguise abusing the Order. It is a great advantage to the House to have among us one whose sincerity cannot be doubted, to remind us that there are dangers abroad against which we must guard ourselves. Sir, I trust that the House will now allow this debate to close, and that we may proceed with the Committee on the Agricultural Holdings Bill. I assure the House I am as anxious as I can possibly be to have the Business of the Session wound up to the satisfaction of the House and in a manner to meet the convenience of every individual Member. But the responsibility is great, and I trust, therefore, they will not press too much upon me, but allow me to state at the earliest moment I can the course we propose to adopt.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he had been requested by his noble Friend, who having spoken once could not again address the House, to state that when the right hon. Gentleman made his Motion in reference to the remaining Tuesdays of the Session, with the exception of tomorrow, his noble Friend would repeat his Question as to the state of Public Business. The right hon. Gentleman, with that good-humoured badinage of which he was a master, had managed to tell the House nothing that they wanted to know. They had all come down in the expectation—which, to 1667 judge by the organs of public opinion, also prevailed outside the House—that they should hear from the right hon. Gentleman what measures he proposed to proceed with and what to drop. It was impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to treat the House with any want of courtesy, he was so good-humoured; but he certainly had left them in a very inconvenient position. That it was usual about this time of the year to make such a statement the right hon. Gentleman admitted the other evening, and gave the dates of such statements in former Sessions, and he did not know that the last date mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman was not earlier than the date at which they had now arrived. It was scarcely fair to the House to leave them in doubt and uncertainty as to the Business that was still to be proceeded with, and he trusted that the information would be given in the course of a few days.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, that nothing could be much more inconvenient than the present state of Public Business; and expressed his regret that the Government had intimated their intention of proceeding with the Merchant Shipping Bill, as he had no hesitation in saying that that measure did not deal with one of the questions it sought to deal with. ["Order, order!"]
§ MR. BENTINCK
believed there was hardly any record of the Navy Estimates having been deferred to so late a period. He protested against the time of private Members being occupied by Government measures, especially during a Session when there was a great pressure of legislation, and he hoped the hon. Member for Forfarshire would not withdraw the Motion of which he had given Notice.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
In withdrawing the Motion, Sir, I only wish to explain that I had no intention of acting with discourtesy towards the right hon. Gentleman in not giving him Notice of the Question I put to him. I 1668 put it in consequence of the statement made by the hon. and learned Attorney General the other night, and as I took for granted with authority, that early this week a statement as to the Public Business would be made by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. Before I sit down I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to inform the House when it is the intention of the Government to proceed again with Supply? As the Business is arranged for the next fortnight, it may be desirable to know what night will be devoted to that purpose.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I am not able at the present moment to answer the Question. I shall do so at the earliest possible moment.
§ MR. DILLWYN
gave Notice that tomorrow he would ask the Attorney General whether he intended to proceed with the Patent Laws Amendment Bill during the present Session.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.