HC Deb 22 June 1875 vol 225 cc297-303

moved— That, upon Tuesday next, and every succeeding Tuesday during the remainder of the Session, Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motion; Government Orders of the Day having priority. He believed that the first day named in the Resolution was a little earlier than the day on which Resolutions of this kind generally began to operate—namely, about the beginning of July; but as it was near the end of this month he hoped the House would agree to the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That, upon Tuesday next, and 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 priority."—(Mr. Secretary Hardy.)


said, he did not rise to oppose the Motion, but he wished to call attention to the position in which it left private Members. It had been said that there were three stages of legislation—the extra Parliamentary stage, when a question was discussed by public bodies and in the public Press; the Parliamentary stage, when private Members took a question up, and afforded Members the opportunity of forming an opinion; and the Governmental stage, when the subject was taken up by Her Majesty's Government. He thought that the Parliamentary stage was very apt to be the most valuable of all, because then both private Members and the Government were unpledged. He would suggest that Wednesday should be sacrificed instead of Tuesday.


said, he did not rise for the purpose of opposing the Motion; but he must say that he regretted the absence of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. He thought that the opportunity should have been taken by him to make some statement with regard to the Public Business now on the Paper. They knew what the intentions of the Government were with regard to a certain number of measures, for a very decided announcement was made by the Prime Minister about six weeks ago that the House was to sit until those measures had passed a second reading; but there were many other important measures introduced since that time, and others had come from the House of Lords, and the state of the Paper hardly gave ground for hope that all those measures would be prosecuted to a successful termination. He trusted that the head of the Government would before long communicate to the House what his intentions were with regard to the progress of Public Business. With reference to the short statement which the Secretary for War had made as to the appropriation of Tuesdays for Government Business, he had obtained the dates on which this Motion had been made in previous years. In 1870, 1871, 1872, and 1873 this Motion was never made earlier than July 19. A precedent was set by the present Government last year, when Tuesdays were appropriated as early as June 11, but there were then exceptional circumstances. The House would therefore see that there was a considerable infringement of the rights hitherto granted to private Members, and that Tuesdays were being appropriated much earlier than ever before. He would also point out that the Government had already, through the indulgence of the House, made a very liberal use of Morning Sittings. They had begun as early as March 16, again on April 30, and on May 4 and 11, and the Resolution relating to Morning Sittings was passed on May 24. In previous years he found that the exceptional Resolution was never passed earlier than May 11, and that the formal Resolution was dated either May 26, June 3, or July 2. Owing to the very great facilities which had been afforded by the House to the Government for the despatch of their Business, he thought the House would consider that they were entitled to know what the intentions and expectations of the Government were with regard to many important measures now before it. There was one other important point respecting which he should like to say a few words. He did not know whether there was any sufficient ground for it, but during the whole of yesterday evening there was a very general impression that the Morning Sitting that day was to be appropriated to the further discussion of the Merchant Shipping Bill. He thought it would be much more convenient if the Government could make arrangements at an earlier period than had been the habit as to the arrangement of the Business of the ensuing day. In the early part of the Sitting of yesterday a Question was put by the hon. and learned Member for Frome (Mr. Lopes), having reference to the progress of the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (1873) Amendment Bill, and no certain intimation was made by the Government; but to-day the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (1873) Amendment Bill had been put down as the second Order. He thought that many Members must have been taken by surprise when they found that the Friendly Societies Bill was down as the first Order.


said, he was taken by surprise on finding that the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (1873) Amendment Bill was the second Order of the Day. In answer to the hon. and learned Member for Frome (Mr. Lopes) the Lord Advocate said he could not tell on what day that Bill would be proceeded with; whereupon his hon. and learned Friend said he would put his Question again next Friday. Nobody had the least idea that it would come on to-day. The Bill was interesting to lawyers; but he did not suppose there were more than three or four lawyers then in the House, all the rest being engaged elsewhere. The Bill was put on the Paper without a single minute's notice. There were many important Amendments on the Paper and they ought not to be discussed in the absence of the Bar. What would have been said if the Regimental Exchanges Bill had been put down when it was known that there could not be a fair attendance of military officers?


, in order that the course which was now proposed to be adopted by the Government might not be drawn into a precedent, expressed his intention of concluding his remarks with an Amendment to the Motion proposed by the Secretary of State for War. He understood the right hon. Gentleman to say that the course which he had proposed was the usual course. On the contrary, he (Mr. Fawcett) thought the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs (the Marquess of Hartington) bad conclusively proved that so far from being the usual course it was entirely without precedent, and that the present Government, though they had no great measures before the House, were making demands on the rights of private Members that had never been made before. In 1870, when three of the greatest measures ever passed became law, the late Government did not call upon private Members to give up their evenings on Tuesdays and Fridays until well on in June, and did not propose to take away the whole of Tuesdays from private Members until July 25; whereas the present Government had taken Morning Sittings in March. The impression prevalent among independent Members when they gave up willingly to the Government Morning Sittings in May was that the Government would not make the usual demands on the time of private Members in June and July. They found, however, that Morning Sittings were continued in June, and they would shortly be expected to pass a Motion which they had never been asked to pass before. In his opinion, the Government would prefer to see one or two of the Government measures sacrificed rather than the House should be denied an opportunity of discussing some of the important Motions put down by private Members. In order to test the feeling of the House, he should move, as an Amendment to the right hon. Gentleman's Motion, to substitute the words "after Tuesday, July 13," and he hoped to have the support of the hon. Members for Whitehaven (Mr. C. Bentinck) and York (Mr. J. Lowther) who had in former Sessions stood out so firmly for the privileges of private Members. He did not know whether the hon. Member for York would be permitted to express his opinion.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "next," in order to insert the words "the 13th day of July,"—(Mr. Fawcett,—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the word 'next' stand part of the Question."


said, he was told last evening that the Government could not say when the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (1873) Amendment Bill would be taken into Committee, and he undertook to renew the Question on Friday. He was therefore somewhat surprised to find it the second Order for the present Morning Sitting. The hon. and learned Member for Taunton (Sir Henry James) had an important Resolution to move, which must be moved on going into Committee. The hon. and learned Gentleman could not attend the present Sitting. He trusted the Government would not proceed with the Bill now, but would take it as the First Order at some ordinary Sitting. He also expressed a hope that the Committee would be taken before hon. and learned Members who desired to discuss the subject were called away on Circuit.


said, that they had now to consider a very important question, affecting not only the understood arrangements entered into yesterday, but the general conduct of Business during the remainder of the Session. He agreed with his noble Friend (the Marquess of Hartington) that the Government had put the House in a very unpleasant position. They were asked to give up Tuesdays to the Government at a much earlier time than they had ever been asked to do so by any previous Government. Hitherto that request had been made in the last week or two of the Session, when the House knew what measures the Government intended to proceed with. It was much to be regretted that the Leader of the House was not now present to state what the Government really meant to do. The right hon. Gentleman made a statement some weeks ago that he meant to pass all the Government measures which had been read a second time; but he could scarcely think the right hon. Gentleman was serious when he said that. Unless some information were given to the House he should be obliged to vote with the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), though he should do so reluctantly, because it was a matter on which the opinion of the Government ought to carry great weight with the House. Still, that opinion ought not to be expressed until after information had been given. It would be better to allow the Motion to be adjourned in order that a statement might be made by the Prime Minister before the Motion was put that Tuesdays be given up by independent Members. This was not merely a question for the present Session, but they must take care that a new precedent was not created.


said, he wished to put in a plea on behalf of independent Members. The harshness and severity of Morning Sittings consisted in this—that their weight and pressure fell most upon those Members who were really willing to work in the House. Hon. Gentlemen could not be in two places at once, and he had himself on more than one occasion this year experienced the absolute impossibility of recording his votes in consequence of being present in a Committee Room upstairs. He never remembered the pressure of Morning Sittings to be so severely felt as they had been this year; and he thought it was right that this protest should be made, not as a Party matter, but on be-half of hon. Members generally. Independent Members were now asked to give up Tuesdays. Government would no doubt urge that this was necessary in order to advance the many measures they had in hand; but he wanted to know why those measures should be proceeded with in such haste? He felt that the House had a right to protest against this proposal, and he hoped the Government would assent to the suggestion which had been made and postpone the question until the Prime Minister, who managed the House with so much skill and dexterity, and, he was bound to say, courtesy, was in his place.


said, when he came down to the House he had no idea that there would be any dispute as to the Motion which stood in the name of the Prime Minister. He did not know until very late that the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (1873) Amendment Bill was on the Paper, and he had had no opportunity of communicating with his right hon. Friend, and did not know that he would be absent. It was another matter which brought him down at the Sitting of the House. He had to apologize for the mistake he had made as to the periods of the Sessions at which, in former years, his Motion had been made, and no doubt the right hon. Gentlemen opposite (Mr. W. E. Forster), who had taken some pains on this point, was correct. He was anxious that the House should proceed to business; and, under the circumstances, he was sure his right hon. Friend (Mr. Disraeli) would be desirous of stating his reasons for the Motion. He should therefore accept the sugges- tion that the debate should be adjourned until Thursday next.


rejoiced that the noble Lord opposite had assumed his proper function as Leader of the Opposition, who always ought to act in defence of the rights of the unofficial Members of this House. He had himself at the beginning of the Session urged that the House should use its discretion with respect to the character and number of measures introduced by private Members. The legitimate remedy was in the hands of the House. At the commencement of every Session due notice and information as to the character and machinery of every Bill proposed for introduction, and then on the Motion for leave to introduce, the House exercised its judgment as to whether the Bill should take its place in the Order Book. He could compare the Order Book of the House at present to nothing but a waste-paper basket turned upside down. The course taken by the Government was peculiarly inconsistent on their part, since their plea on coming into office was to bring relief to the country from excessive legislation. He was glad that the Motion for Adjournment had relieved him from the painful duty of voting against the Government.


asked whether the Supreme Court of Judicature Act (1873) Amendment Bill would be proceeded with on Wednesday?


said, that hon. Members engaged in the Courts would be, in the House at 4 o'clock, and would probably like to go on with it.

In reply to Mr. M'LAREN,


, stated that he could not definitely fix the hour at which the Sheriff Courts (Scotland) Bill would be taken. At this period of the Session it was impossible to say that they would take a particular Bill at a particular time. It was possible that the measure might be brought on later that day.

Motion agreed to.

Debate adjourned till Thursday.