HC Deb 27 July 1875 vol 226 cc92-9

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, If he will give precedence over the Government Orders of the Day to the Merchant Shipping Acts Amendment (No. 2) Bill, which was introduced by the honourable Member for Derby, and which stands for Second Reading on Thursday next?


Sir, I will answer frankly and, I hope, fairly, the inquiry of the hon. Gentleman. Her Majesty's Government are not prepared to give precedence to the Bill of the hon. Member for Derby on Thursday next, and for two reasons. In the first place, they could not support that Bill, because, however excellent its motives, it is their opinion that the tendency of that measure, if it were carried, would be to aggravate the evils it affects to remedy; and, secondly, because the Bill would lead, from its very character and the important principles which it involves, to a protracted discussion, which would require time, the want of which has obliged Her Majesty's Ministers to relinquish for the present the Bill they themselves brought forward this year. What, in their opinion, is required at this moment is a temporary measure—a short and temporary measure—which will give more rapid and direct action to the Government in the way of stopping unseaworthy ships, and a measure having that effect will almost immediately be introduced by the President of the Board of Trade. When I say a temporary measure, I mean a measure limited in its operation to one year—first, because the measure may involve powers which the House may not choose to grant to a Ministry for a permanent measure; and, secondly, because a temporary measure, or measure for one year will be a material guarantee for the introduction, at the earliest possible opportunity next Session, of a per- manent measure on the subject. Now, with regard to the measure of the hon. Member for Derby, I can answer for the Government—that is to say, if I have then the general conduct of affairs in this House—he shall have every fair opportunity of bringing his views before the House and the country. I will take care that the two measures—that of the Government and that of the hon. Member for Derby—shall be introduced simultaneously; that their true principles shall at the same time be brought under the consideration of the House; and I doubt not that with the adequate time and thought which the House will then enjoy and be able to afford we shall come to conclusions advantageous to the public welfare.


said, that he might be excused if he should ask the Prime Minister or the President of the Board of Trade if he could promise that the Bill which was to be brought in tomorrow would be introduced at an hour which would afford time for an adequate statement on the subject? He put the Question because it would materially affect the course which would be taken on Thursday.


Sir, if we can get the control of the time to-morrow, of course I will make arrangements with a view to meet the wishes of the hon. Gentleman; but any arrangement I can make will of course depend on the indulgence of the House. We shall do our utmost to bring forward the Bill at a time when there can be a fair expression of opinion; but I must appeal to the indulgence of the House for that purpose.


Following up the Question of the hon. Member, I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman when he proposes to make the Motion for taking Tuesdays and Wednesdays?


There is a Motion on the Paper for this evening to that effect.


I have no right to ask the Question I am about to do, and I will not press it if the right hon. Gentleman says that he is unable to answer me; but it will be very convenient if he informs the House what business he intends to proceed with to-morrow in case the House place at his disposal—as I think, considering the advanced period of the Session, there is very little doubt they will—Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the remainder of the Session?


Really I have not had that presumption so far to count upon the indulgence of the House as to regulate the Business of the House in advance. If the permission for which we have asked is granted, we propose to proceed to-morrow with the measure which has already much occupied us, and will again occupy us to-day—the Agricultural Holdings (England) Bill. If that measure is concluded in Committee to-night we shall make an arrangement which I hope, on the whole, may be satisfactory; but in our present uncertain state I cannot say anything definite.


inquired when the Government would propose the Motion that for the remainder of the Session Tuesdays and Wednesdays should be at their disposal? Would it be done at 9 o'clock to-night, or at 2 or 3 o'clock to-morrow morning? [Cries of "Now! "]


With the general permission of the House a Motion of this kind, relating to the Business of the House, can be made now; and if it is the pleasure of the House that the Motion should be put at once, I will at once put it.


then moved that Government Orders of the Day shall have precedence on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the remainder of the Session.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That Government Orders of the Day shall have precedence on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for the remainder of the Session."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)


said, some of his Colleagues attended on the previous evening to make a strong representation against taking away that day week on account of a Notice of Motion given by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) for that day. They asked that Tuesday next should be excepted from the Motion. The Under Secretary for India informed him on Monday that the Government did not intend to take that Tuesday in view of his hon. and learned Friend's Motion. As regarded his own Motion in reference to the Guikwar of Baroda, he complained strongly that he was only in- formed of the alteration of the intentions of the Government on the preceding evening. Several hon. Members had left town under the impression that the debate on India, which had been fixed for that day, could not possibly come on. He asked the Government not to take that day week from his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Limerick, who had a very strong question to raise on that day as to the conduct by the Government of Irish Business throughout the Session. He made no further complaint about his own question.


I must ask the permission of the House, as I have already spoken, to make an explanation in answer to the hon. Member for Louth. If the hon. Member thinks himself personally aggrieved, I will give his feelings every consideration; but I was under the impression that, considering the state of the Public Business, he did not intend to bring forward his Motion. If there has been any misapprehension on that subject I shall do everything possible to recognize his claim. But with regard to his other remarks, in which he referred to the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick, and in which he attempted to extract a promise from the Government, I think I can assure him that, with the well-known opportunities of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick, and the openings which the various stages of the Appropriation Grant will afford him, that hon. and learned Member will have no difficulty about his Motion. I acknowledge the general courtesy of the hon. Member for Louth, and if there has been any misapprehension about his Motion I shall certainly make an arrangement.


said, he hoped the Motion would not be pressed in the absence of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), whose Bill with reference to Monastic and Conventual Institutions stood first for Wednesday week on the Orders of the Day. In fact, he did not think it would be quite fair to do so in his absence.


said, that his Bill for the closing of public houses on Sundays in England was the First Order for tomorrow. It dealt with a subject of great interest to the country; but at this advanced period of the Session, and having regard to the quantity of Business still before the House, he would be quite prepared to give up his position to the right hon. Gentleman for the purpose of facilitating the introduction of the Government Merchant Shipping Bill, in the hope that he would be able to bring forward his Bill early next Session.


said, the hon. Member for Louth was much indebted to the Prime Minister for the courteous manner in which he had spoken of him; but the complaint of his hon. Friend was not the way in which he himself had been treated, but that the Irish Members should be deprived of Tuesday next for the discussion of an important question affecting the interests of Ireland. There were many Irish Members who believed that the House of Commons could never effectually legislate for Ireland, and the hon. and learned Member for Limerick had put a Motion on the Paper directly raising that question. It was now proposed, at a time when there were very few Irish Members present, that another course be taken, which would prevent that Motion from being brought forward. The Notice of the Government was for the Evening Sitting, and several Irish Members were prepared to speak upon it. They were not, however, present now, and were unprepared for this change in the Government arrangements. He would appeal to the Government to allow the matter to stand over until those Irish Members could be present who were able and willing to speak on the subject. If not, then let the Irish Members have Tuesday next.


thought, as the conversation had disclosed differences of opinion among the Members present, the question had better be deferred until it was reached in ordinary course, in justice to many Members who were now absent.


said, so many questions had been put to him with reference to the Motion standing in his name in relation to Monastic and Conventual Institutions, that he felt the question of the Order of Business ought not to be decided, except at the time appointed in the Notice Paper. He, therefore, moved the adjournment of the debate.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned," (Mr. Newdegate.)


I believe I am principally responsible for the proposition which has been made by the Secretary to the Treasury. It had occurred to me, after the answer which had been given, that it would be inconvenient that the proposition should be made perhaps at half-past 2 o'clock in the morning. I therefore suggested, as a preferable course, that the Motion should be made now. It is one to which I cannot conceive there can be any serious opposition. It is a usual and almost invariable course that at this period the whole time of the House should be placed at the disposal of the Government; and certainly the state of Public Business at present is not such as to induce the House to depart from the usual practice. I think, however, the House has some reason to complain of the mode in which the question has been brought forward by the Government. If the Motion had been put down for this morning, hon. Members would have known what to expect, and it would undoubtedly have been the most convenient course. We appear to have a choice of evils—either to take it now without Notice, or another evening when few Members will be present. If objection is entertained to the Motion being made now, and if it is felt to be preferable that it should be adjourned, I shall offer no opposition to that course: I had hoped, however, that on making it the Government would be able to have stated what their intentions were with regard to the use of the time they ask for. I still think it would be extremely convenient that we should know what the Business to-morrow will be in the event of the Committee on the Agricultural Holdings (England) Bill being concluded this evening. If it is intended that the Bill to be introduced by the President of the Board of Trade is to be brought in early to-morrow and the discussion to be taken on the introduction of the Bill, it is important, and indeed essential, that it should be known, and that the statement of the fact should not be postponed until late to-night. Many hon. Members are absent, and some who would wish to take part in the discussion are not in London and would not be able to return if the announcement were not made until to-night. It therefore seems to me it is of the greatest importance that we should know whether it is intended formally to introduce the Bill to-morrow and to postpone the discussion until the second reading, or, if not, that the question should come on at once, when a discussion on the question can be raised.


It is always my disinclination to bring forward a Motion of this kind except in concurrence with the general feeling of the House. It was my impression that the Motion would come on to-day; but I should have been glad to have the opinion of the House when it would be most convenient to take the discussion on the second reading. If the boon I ask be granted, we will go into Supply to-morrow, and at a certain reasonable time report Progress, in order that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade may introduce his measure at a proper time. I think myself it would be more convenient if the discussion were to be taken on the second reading; but, of course, I only mention that for the convenience of the House. In that event we should continue Supply for a longer time than usual. But I think it would be more useful and convenient to allow hon. Gentlemen full opportunity of considering the Bill, and the second reading must come on early in consequence of the advanced period of the Session. In making these observations, I always assume that we conclude the Agricultural Holdings (England) Bill to-night. If not, we will continue the discussion to-morrow. I am in the hands of the House; but I was under the impression that it was the feeling of a large majority of the House that the Motion with respect to Tuesdays and Wednesdays should be taken to-night.


said, that if the Sunday Closing Bill came to be discussed to-morrow it would occupy the entire day. The hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Wilson) had only consented to withdraw for the present the second reading in order to facilitate progress with the measures of the Government; but he by no means understood him to express any willingness to retire the Bill in favour of any private Member.


said, he thought it would be most convenient to settle the question now, and to decide what was going to be done on Wednesday. The Votes to be taken in Supply were of great interest, and were in four different classes, which would attract, as it were, four different sets of Members.


said, that the proceedings of that day would induce people outside to think that Government was still pursuing that fatal policy which had brought it into disgrace with the country. What hon. Members on that side of the House particularly desired to ascertain was, whether the Bill relating to the Merchant Shipping, to be introduced on Wednesday, was to be brought on at such a time as to enable hon. Members to discuss it? He asked the right hon. Gentleman not to give the Agricultural Holdings (England) Bill precedence over a Bill which involved the lives of many persons.


thought the proposal of the Government a reasonable one. The question was, whether the public welfare was to be sacrificed to the interests of private Members?


said, that in the event of the House going into Supply on Wednesday they would proceed with the postponed Civil Service Estimates, Class III., and the remaining Estimates in Class IV., and then report Progress, in order to enable the President of the Board of Trade to introduce his Bill relating to unseaworthy ships.


asked when the Navy Estimates would be taken?


asked the Prime Minister to fix an hour for the introduction of the Merchant Shipping Bill. It should be brought forward when there would be ample opportunity to discuss both its principle and its provisions. Pour o'clock ought to be the latest hour for its introduction.


deprecated any further waste of the public time in pursuing this discussion. He hoped they would now come to a decision on the Motion with respect to allowing Government Orders of the Day for the remainder of the Session to have precedence on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. He hoped the Agricultural Holdings (England) Bill would be got through that day. If that were done, then they could go on to-morrow with Supply, and continue until about half-past 4 o'clock, when his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade could introduce his Bill.

Question put, and negatived.

Original Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 173; Noes 19: Majority 154.