HC Deb 06 April 1876 vol 228 cc1328-31

I wish to put a Question as to the course of Business on Monday. In the ordinary course I should have put it to the hon. Member for Hackney (MR. Fawcett);but inasmuch as an arrangement was come to on Tuesday, at the instance of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington), by which the Navy Estimates were to be taken on Friday, and the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney on Monday next, I now ask the noble Marquess whether he is under the belief that that arrangement is to be persisted in?


My hon. Friend has not given me any Notice of the Question; but, at all events, I will, with the permission of the House, take this opportunity of stating that I have not succeeded in inducing my hon. Friends to agree to the arrangement suggested by the right hon. Gentleman opposite on Tuesday last. I did, as I undertook to do, communicate with my hon. Friends the Members for Sandwich (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) and Durham (Major Beaumont) upon the withdrawal of the Motions which stand in their name for Friday next. Both those hon. Gentlemen, as was not unnatural, were extremely unwilling to abandon the positions which they had obtained after a great deal of trouble and delay. The case of the hon. and gallant Member for Durham was a particularly hard one. He had already postponed his Motion for the convenience of the House, in order to enable the debate on the Fugitive Slave Circular to be concluded. I do not, however, want for a moment to place upon those hon. Gentlemen any responsibility more than they ought to bear. I have no doubt whatever if I had felt myself in a position to make to them a strong personal appeal, either on the ground of convenience to the House or the urgency of Public Business, they would have been disposed, at whatever sacrifice, to consider that appeal. On consideration, however, I found I was not in a position to make such an appeal. In the first place, the proposed arrangement did not, on reconsideration, appear to be so eminently fair as when it was at first proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. It is quite true that eight Motions stood on the Paper on going into Committee of Supply, and that they were equally divided between hon. Members on both sides of the House. The right hon. Gentleman omitted to mention that the first two places—I am not sure that it was not so with the first three—were occupied by hon. Members who sit on this side of the House, and that, therefore, they stood in a much better position than the hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side. In the next place, I found upon inquiry that, so far as the arrangement was one for the convenience of the House, it was of an exactly opposite character; for Monday night would to many hon. Members on this side of the House, and probably on the other side, be extremely inconvenient for taking the debate on the Motion of the hon. Member for Hackney. I believe it is altogether without precedent that a Motion such as this, which the right hon. Gentleman appears to be disposed to treat as one involving want of confidence in the Government, should be discussed in the week of the Easter Recess. Then, Sir, as to the plea of the urgency of Public Business, it did not appear, upon further consideration, that there was any remarkable urgency in that respect. The Royal Titles Bill cannot be read a third time in "another place" until to-morrow night. Indeed it is possible, from what we are informed took place on Monday night—at all events, it seems somewhat probable—that the Bill may be returned to us to be amended, and then it could not be considered before Monday next, and in any case it cannot possibly receive the Royal Assent until the assembling of the other House after the Easter Recess, which is fixed for the 27th April. Under these circumstances, it is unnecessary that the debate should come on so soon, unless the Government chooses to take the course of advising that the Proclamation should be issued immediately after the passing of the Bill. But in any case it is possible that an opportunity may be offered to the hon. Member for Hackney to proceed with his Motion before the issue of the Proclamation. It does not appear, therefore, that there is any great urgency in the matter. If there is any urgency it is an urgency created solely by the voluntary action of the Government. Under these circumstances it occurred to me I was not able to make that strong appeal to my hon. Friends which would induce them to postpone their Motions; and I have to inform the House that they have not felt disposed to withdraw their Motions in the way suggested, and the arrangement cannot therefore be carried out.


May I be permitted to ask the Prime Minister what is precisely the position in which Public Business now stands?


The position in which Business stands is this. To-night we trust that the Budget Resolutions will be passed; to-morrow the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Durham (Major Beaumont) and other hon. Members will bring forward the Motions to which the noble Lord has adverted, but not very accurately, as I believe the second Motion is by the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Hubbard), who sits on this side of the House; and on Monday we shall proceed with the Navy Estimates, as originally arranged.


said, he should be sorry to allow it to be supposed that, because it was postponed, he was unwilling to have the Motion of which he had given Notice discussed. He was particularly anxious that it should be debated in that House; but he should, of course, endeavour to bring it forward at that time which would be most convenient to hon. Members, and when it could receive such a discussion as he thought it deserved after the statement made in reference to it by the Prime Minister. After consulting with hon. Members he found that the first day on which the Motion could be conveniently discussed would be the Thursday after the Easter Recess; and he begged, therefore, to give Notice that he should postpone the Motion standing in his name for an Address to the Crown in reference to the Royal Titles Bill to that day three weeks. If he should not then succeed in obtaining a discussion of it, he could assure hon. Members that, so far as he was concerned, he would do his best to find another opportunity to have the question properly debated.


I desire that there should not be any misunderstanding on this question. I felt it to be my duty to offer a day to the hon. Member for the discussion of his Motion before Easter; but I do not think that the House will be able to take up the matter on the Thursday after Easter, and therefore the hon. Member must not at all depend upon me for that day.


understood the right hon. Gentleman to state that when a Motion distinctly challenged the conduct of the Government with reference to any important matter it was their duty to find an early day for its discussion. He begged, however, to give Notice that if the right hon. Gentleman did not afford him an opportunity on the day mentioned he should not shrink from his duty; and if he could not bring it forward on the Thursday after Easter he would do so on the first night that was open to private Members.