HC Deb 22 July 1875 vol 225 cc1820-2

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether he can hold out any hopes of being able to afford facilities for the third reading of the Infanticide Bill in time to enable the House of Lords to consider it this Session?


Sir, I think I may hold out hopes to my hon. and learned Friend respecting the measure in which he takes so much interest, because I think the House is anxious that the Bill should pass. In answering this Question I will ask the House to allow me to say now what I had purposed saying when we reached the Orders of the Day, and to state my views as to what will be the probable progress of Business. I felt a difficulty the other night in answering the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) without Notice a Question which he put on this subject; and I also felt some difficulty when I was pressed on a previous occasion to make what I then considered to be a premature announcement. The real reason of my hesitation was the extreme anxiety of the Government to pass, if possible, the Merchant Shipping Bill this Session:—and certainly it was shown to my satisfaction that if we could have got through the Committee on the Agricultural Holdings Bill this week we might have succeeded in passing the Merchant Shipping Bill without detaining the House to an un- reasonable period. In that we have been disappointed; and, therefore, I have to say—and I say it with unfeigned and unaffected regret—that it is impossible for Her Majesty's Government to continue their efforts to pass the Merchant Shipping Bill this Session. It has been suggested to me that we might pass the measure in a limited form, and in that limited form it might not be devoid of utility; but I am not myself disposed to deal with the measure in a fragmentary manner, and on reflection I declined to take that course; and all I can promise the House is, that if I am next year in the position which I now occupy, I and my Colleagues will take the earliest opportunity in our power of re-introducing the measure and will endeavour to push it to a satisfactory conclusion. If the House would permit me I will further state that we intend to proceed with the Agricultural Holdings Bill in Committee until the Committee in concluded. After that we propose to take Supply; and when Committee of Supply is concluded the two legal Bills, which are already considerably advanced, will, I hope, receive their finishing stroke from the House. I calculate that with this programme we may conclude the Business on the 10th or 12th of August; but if the whole of the time of the House is placed at our disposal I think that even an earlier date might be named—but that depends entirely on the House itself. With regard to the lesser measures, it is almost premature to say anything on this occasion. "Whatever course is taken their progress will not interfere in any way with the result I have indicated to the House. But I think it would be more satisfactory to the House if the Ministers who are in charge of those Bills should have the opportunity, when they make the Motions for discharging the Orders, or otherwise, of expressing their own opinions with regard to the measures entrusted to their care—as my right hon. Friend (Mr. Sclater-Booth) wishes to do on Monday next in regard to the Bill just mentioned. I will therefore not dwell on the subject. The result I wish to put before the House is, that unfortunately we must give up the Merchant Shipping Bill—that we will proceed with the Agricultural Holdings Bill till the Committee is concluded; then go on with Committee of Supply until that is concluded; and afterwards ask the House to conclude its labours upon the Judicature and Land Transfer Bills.


Can the right hon. Gentleman state when the Indian Budget will be laid before the House?


I do not at present know—but I have no doubt the programme I have submitted will leave my noble Friend (Lord George Hamilton) an opportunity for the Indian Budget some night before the close of the Session.


I must express, in one word, the deep sense of regret with which, representing a constituency with large shipping interests, I have heard of the abandonment of the Merchant Shipping Bill. It is clear—if I may say so without offence—that of the two Bills which have been running against each other the Merchant Shipping Bill is now sacrificed to the Agricultural Holdings Bill. Considering the urgency of the case with regard to the former measure—considering that human life is at stake—considering that the shipping interest has now been for years in a state of uncertainty as to the legislation by which it might be affected—I think that interest has some right to complain—not that the Bill has been withdrawn now when perhaps it may be impossible to discuss it, but that the arrangements of the Government have been such as to render its withdrawal necessary.


I must add one word—["Order!"]


I must point out to the hon. Member that the proper time for discussing this subject will be on the Motion, which will be made later in the evening, for the withdrawal of the Bill.