HC Deb 16 March 1875 vol 222 cc1882-9

rose to call attention to the circumstances under which the House had met at 2 o'clock, and, if necessary, he would conclude with a Motion. It might be his own fault that he did not look at the Notices and at the newspapers earlier; but certainly it was not until an hour ago he was aware that the House would not meet at the usual time—a quarter to 4. He might take blame to himself for not being in his place last night; but it was impossible that all Members could always be in their places. He opposed the late Prime Minister when he attempted to alter the time at which the House was appointed to meet, and to change an afternoon into a Morning Sitting, late at night to a Sitting for the following day, without previous Notice, and he was supported in several divisions. Since 1869, the House had been in the habit of adopting a Resolution under which Morning Sittings began from a certain date, and the House had always required the usual Notice of the intention to submit that Resolution; but on this occasion no such Notice had been given. Taken by surprise, he had been unable to look for precedents; but, so far as his memory served him, he believed there was no instance of a Morning Sitting earlier than the 27th of May. He could easily allow that the Prime Minister had taken the course now adopted for the convenience of the House, but the precedent he had inadvertently set was a dangerous one; because the adoption of the Resolution of 1869 without Notice would unfairly deprive hon. Members who might chance to be out of London, or who might not look very closely at the Notices, of opportunity to take part in the Business of the House. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government would give the House an assurance that what happened last night would not be repeated. In conclusion, the hon. Member moved the adjournment of the House.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Newdegate.)


I am not aware, Sir, that I committed any breach of Order in the course which I proposed, and which the House consented yesterday to take; and I am not aware that my hon. Friend has himself personally been subjected to any extraordinary inconvenience, or been deprived of that information as to the meeting of the House which, of course, is convenient to all its Members. The House, when I made the Motion last night, was very full—unhappily, my hon. Friend was absent—but the House was otherwise extremely well attended, as the Division List shows. An opportunity was then given to any hon. Member to object to the course I recommended, but no objection was made. I proposed that the House should continue the Business it was then engaged upon at 2 o'clock today. I did not suddenly propose any new Business, and as to giving a Notice of the Motion of meeting to-day at 2 o'clock previous to the debate, that was perfectly impossible; because I could not foresee the circumstances which justified my making that proposition to the House. I do not wish to cavil with the ultimate course of the proceedings and the result; but I think there was a general understanding in the House on both sides that we should have concluded the Committee on the Regimental Exchanges Bill last night, and upon our concluding that Committee last night the general arrangements for future Public Business very much depended. I therefore made a proposition which allowed the House the adjournment upon the subject which they desired consistently with the Forms of the House, which have now been established some years, and which I myself originally proposed with regard to the Morning Sittings, and it was unanimously acceded to by the House; therefore, the great majority of hon. Members certainly can have no reason to complain. My hon. Friend unquestionably has been inconvenienced, but who could have contemplated that? The announcement was made in the House before midnight; and as I have not the advantage of seeing my Friends who sit behind me so well as my courteous opponents who sit opposite to me, I concluded that my hon. Friend, who rarely is absent from this House, and who is well known as a model and the pink of perfection in the matter of attendance at and fulfilment of his Parliamentary duties, was in his place. But if he had not been in his place, who could have supposed that my hon. Friend would not have examined his Papers in the morning—I will not say the first thing in the morning, but after prayers? My hon. Friend, when examining them, would see in a moment that in two places it was stated that the House would meet at 2 o'clock. While I deeply regret that my hon. Friend has been put to some inconvenience, I do not collect from his complaint that it has been greater than being somewhat hurried at a period of the day when one is disposed to restore exhausted nature by morning studies. As regards the House, I do not admit that I have taken any other but a strictly Parliamentary course; indeed, you, Mr. Speaker, would have corrected me if I had done so. Many even of my own Friends, if I had taken a course which was not Parliamentary, would, I feel sure, have interposed. The House will perceive that it was quite impossible for me to give any Notice, because I could not contemplate what would occur. I appealed to the House, and the House responded to the appeal. I think it would be most inconvenient that Notice should be required of such a Motion. I think that, under the circumstances, it is a power which the House ought to exercise. When the Business is unnecessarily disturbed, its convenience should be consulted as to the time when hon. Members may wish the Business to be concluded. I think it is a power which is highly beneficial; and I therefore cannot agree to the proposition of my hon. Friend that Notice should necessarily be given of a Motion which may be required by circumstances which, anterior to the Motion, could not have been anticipated by those who have to conduct the Business of the House.


The right hon. Gentleman has alluded to the fact that no objection was taken to the course proposed by him when the House adjourned. I felt a very strong objection to that course, and an inclination to disagree to the very unusual course of adjourning without previous Notice having been given. Indeed, I never remember a case in which the House adjourned without Notice at any time of the evening that such adjournment would be moved. Although I felt an objection to the course taken I did not choose to raise the objection. I had before interfered, and I felt that it would be utterly useless to object to anything that might be proposed by the Government with respect to this Bill, seeing that there was a majority in the House who were determined, whether right or wrong, to pass it. They said so more than once, and we were taunted by them that we were in a minority. More than that, there were Amendments which had been placed on the Paper by some hon. Gentlemen opposite which would have improved the Bill, but which had disappeared. I considered that a sufficient reason why it would be useless to make any objection to the unprecedented course pursued by the Prime Minister.


pointed out that when the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government made a statement the other day as to the course of Public Business, he said that if the Committee on the Regimental Exchanges Bill was not got through on Monday night it might be necessary for him to make some changes in the arrangement of the Public Business. He (Mr. Hardy) might say for himself, and, he believed, for several hon. Members sitting near him, that they entertained the opinion that a Morning Sitting would be proposed, and he believed that was also the understanding on the other side of the House. ["No, no!"] If they had not received some such Notice as to what might be the intention of the Government they might have pursued a different course.


said, he was surprised that the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) did not rise to protest against a course which he considered inexpedient because he would have been overborne by a majority. That was the very reason why the hon. Member should have protested, even if he had stood alone. He (Mr. Whalley) thanked the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government for having given them the opportunity of considering the subject at a Morning Sitting.


said, he did not rise to controvert the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, as the course he had taken was within the Rules of Order. Nevertheless, he believed it was an unusual course to take a Morning Sitting without Notice at so early a period of the Session. He could not agree with the hon. Member for Rye (Mr. J. S. Hardy) that sufficient Notice was given to the House, for the statement of the Prime Minister that, in the event of the Committee on the Regimental Exchanges Bill not being concluded some other arrangement would have to be made, did not necessarily imply a Morning Sitting. He might, for instance, have put the Order on the Paper for this evening, and have tried to induce private Members to postpone their Motions. On the whole, however, he was free to admit that, as regarded the discussion on the Bill, the course which the right hon. Gentleman had taken, although perhaps it might be inconvenient to some individual Members, was, generally speaking, the most convenient for the majority of the House. He wished now to call the attention of the Government to the course which it was proposed to take with respect to other Business. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had placed the Committee on the Friendly Societies Bill next to the Order of the Day for the Regimental Exchanges Bill. He did not think it would be fair to a numerous class of hon. Members who took an interest in the Friendly Societies Bill that the discussion on it should be proceeded with today. It was understood yesterday that if the Committee on the Regimental Exchanges Bill did not terminate at an early hour, the Friendly Societies Bill would not be proceeded with until after Easter. It was quite possible that many hon. Members might have left London under the impression that there was not the slightest possibility of the discussion on the Friendly Societies Bill being proceeded with; and he trusted if the discussion on the Regimental Exchanges Bill should not terminate shortly, the Friendly Societies Bill would not be proceeded with. He thought it would be for the convenience of the House, when there was a probability of a Morning Sitting being asked for, that some notice of it should be given to the House.


, in withdrawing the Motion for adjournment, said, he had called attention to the Rules of the House because those Rules were, as Lord Eversley on quitting the Chair warned the House, all founded on good sense. He must say, in answer to the remarks of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), whom he very much respected—that it would appear from their silence last night as if the Liberal Party had been so long in a majority that they had to learn afresh their duty as a minority.


said, he wished, before the Motion was withdrawn, to answer the question put by the noble Marquess. Before the House broke up last night the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) put a question to him on the subject of the Friendly Societies Bill, and his reply, which he begged to repeat now was, that it was not at all his idea that the House would be able to proceed with the Bill in Committee to-day; but it appeared possible that there might be an hour or two to spare for discussion in the course of the afternoon. The position of the Bill was this—it had been read a second time; there was no Notice of any opposition to its going into Committee, and he did not apprehend that there was any intention of opposing that Motion; but, on the other hand, there were several hon. Gentlemen who had not yet taken part in the general discussion, and who wished to make some observations on the principle of the Bill. Under these circumstances he did not think any harm could come from a discussion being brought on at any time when hon. Members who wished to express their views on the subject were present. He had told the right hon. Gentleman last night that he would not attempt to bring on the Bill at any time which might be inconvenient to hon. Members. The subject was one which very much interested persons connected with the societies throughout the country, and when there was a suggestion that the Bill was coming on a large number of them came up to London. There was no use, however, in their attending a debate on the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair; when they wished to be present was when the clauses were being taken. It would therefore be desirable that it should be known generally when the Committee was coming on. If he found, in the course of the day, that there was no desire to take the Bill, he would not persevere in bringing it on.


said, he was sure it would have weighed with the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he had known that hon. Members who had a desire to address the House on the principle of the Bill would not have an opportunity of doing so in consequence of the impression produced by the right hon. Gentleman himself. He hoped, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman would not bring on the Bill to-day.


said, he wished, before the discussion closed, to put the saddle on the right horse. Any inconvenience arising from the present meeting of the House was owing to the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington.) The Prime Minister last night wanted to proceed with the Regimental Exchanges Bill until the Committee was finished, and it was not until the noble Marquess refused to go on that the Prime Minister proposed as an alternative that there should be a Morning Sitting.


said, there were many persons in town who wished to know when the Bill was likely to go into Committee, and it would be a great convenience to them if some time could be fixed.


appealed to the Judge Advocate not to proceed with the Mutiny Bill on Thursday next, on the ground that Members had not time to consider the Amendments, and that there were several matters connected with this Bill which they wished to discuss.


suggested that it might be convenient for hon. Members to have a Morning instead of an Evening Sitting on the Thursday before Easter.


said, that the Amendments on the Mutiny Bill had been delivered to hon. Members that morning; they were few and simple, and the questions which the hon. Gentleman wished to discuss did not come within their scope. He therefore thought that Thursday would be a convenient day for proceeding with the Bill.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.