HC Deb 25 April 1876 vol 228 cc1629-33

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether he will afford any facilities for the discussion of the Motion, of which notice has already been given, disapproving of the advice to be tendered to Her Majesty by Her Ministers, in reference to the Royal Titles Bill before the Proclamation is issued which will give effect to that Bill?


Before the right hon. Gentleman answers that Question, perhaps the House will allow me to make a short explanation which I think it would be for the convenience of the House to have before the Question is answered. I was, unfortunately, unable to be in the House yesterday afternoon; but I have read the Answer which was then given to a Question of the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) on this subject by the right hon. Gentleman, and from that Answer the right hon. Gentleman appears to be under some misapprehension which I think it will be convenient should be removed, if possible, before he answers the Question which has just been put. The right hon. Gentleman is reported to have said, in reference to this subjects— It is very true, under the circumstances which then existed, I had wished to facilitate the discussion of his Motion. The Motion of the hon. Gentleman was a Motion of censure. It was adopted by the Leader of the Opposition, and I therefore felt, whatever objections might be urged against the general expediency of further discussion, it was my duty to meet the Motion immediately; and I made arrangements, to the great inconvenience of the Government, to do so. With reference to that statement I wish to say that, in putting a Question to the right hon. Gentleman as to the Business of the House for a week, I drew his attention to a Motion of very great importance, of which Notice had been given by my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney. I distinctly stated on that occasion that the hon. Member for Hackney had placed that Notice on the Paper without any consultation with me, or, as far as I was aware, with any of my Friends. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension in stating that that Motion of censure was in any way adopted by the Leader of the Opposition. Since the Easter Recess, as far as I am aware, so far as the Opposition is concerned, the question remains exactly in the same position. I have had no communication whatever with my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney either as to the Motion which previously stood on the Paper, or the amended Motion of which he gave Notice yesterday; and, in fact, until a very few minutes ago, I have not seen him. If the right hon. Gentleman is disposed to give the hon. Member a day for proceeding with his Motion, I can only say personally, after the course we have taken with regard to this Bill, I shall have no alternative but to give him my support; but at the same time, as I have stated, my hon. Friend has acted without consultation with us, and it is altogether a different question whether there is any practical object to be gained by raising another discussion at this stage. I have naturally had no opportunity of consulting with any of my Friends during the Recess, and I have not yet had such an opportunity; but after the Government, in answer to my hon. Friend, have stated what course they intend to pursue, I shall, of course, lose no time in doing so. It will be for us to consider whether we shall take any such steps as are in our power to facilitate the bringing forward of the Motion of my hon. Friend. Perhaps the House will allow me to add this:—The question, as I have stated, as regards the Opposition, remaining practically in the same position as it did before the Recess, it seems to remain for the Government to consider whether during the Recess any change has occurred in their position in regard to the matter. Before the Recess the right hon. Gentleman stated that he considered the Motion a Motion of censure upon the Government, and he considered it of such importance that he made certain efforts to have it brought forward for immediate discussion. I cannot, however, quite agree with what the right hon. Gentleman is reported to have said yesterday—that he had made arrangements at great inconvenience to the Government. As far as I can recollect, the proposed arrangement involved no inconvenience to the Government, and only involved the sacrifice of the opportunities certain private Members had obtained, and, as I pointed out at the time, of Members chiefly sitting on this side of the House. The fact remains that the Government did consider the Motion as a Vote of Censure, and made some effort to bring it on for immediate discussion. It has now become more distinctly a Vote of Censure than it was before; and it is for the Government to consider whether they will undertake the responsibility of advising Her Majesty to issue the Proclamation before the hon. Member has had the opportunity of asking the opinion of the House on the Motion he wishes to submit to it. I am much obliged to the House for allowing me to make this explanation. In justice to my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, one more observation ought to be made upon the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. He said— There was a day allotted for the discussion; that day, however, for causes I am unacquainted with, was not eventually taken advantage of by the hon. Gentleman. In justice to the hon. Member it ought to be distinctly pointed out that my hon. Friend had no opportunity of taking advantage of that day. No day was ever allotted for the discussion. An arrangement was suggested, contingent upon certain arrangements with other Members being made; but my hon. Friend never had the contemplated op- portunity of bringing forward his Motion.


The House will, I am sure, easily understand that, because a Member of this House proposes a Vote of Censure upon the Government, it cannot be expected that the Government should, as a matter of course, supply a day for its discussion; because it is quite obvious that if that were the case the whole Session might be wasted. I was under the apprehension, when the circumstances to which the noble LORD has referred occurred, just before the adjournment, that the noble LORD had adopted that Vote of Censure. I feel, after the explanation of the noble LORD, I was in error; but it was an error, I can assure him, which was shared by others who sit near me. Of course, if the Leader of the Opposition gives Notice of a Motion of censure, we know he does it with a full sense of the responsibility of his position, and if the consequence of his carrying it is that the Government is disturbed, at least the Queen will not be left without advisers. That does not apply, of course, to those Members who are not Leaders of a political Party, prepared to incur responsibility. It was under that impression—as I now find, erroneous impression—I made that proposition to the noble LORD. With regard to the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), his new Motion, if carried, is a Vote of Censure upon the House of Commons. He seeks to revive a question which has been discussed, and which has been decided upon by the House by a very large majority. Under these circumstances, I do not feel justified in giving him any facilities for discussing his Motion.


I wish to speak a few sentences, and, if necessary, will place myself in Order by concluding with a Motion. I wish, in the first place, most distinctly to deny the assertion of the Prime Minister that the Motion of which I have given Notice, if it were carried, would be a censure on the House of Commons. The House of Commons has not technically endorsed the proposal that the Queen should take the title of Empress of India. All that we have done is this: We have passed a Bill authorizing Her Majesty to assume an addition to her titles, and many of us—I am one of them—who dislike the title of "Empress," could cordially support the Bill under certain circumstances; because we should be pleased that Her Majesty should assume an addition to her titles which would more distinctly recognize her position as ruler over her great dependency of India; and therefore I think the House will agree with me that my Motion would not censure the House of Commons in passing a Bill authorizing an addition to the titles of Her Majesty. All that it would do—and all that I intended to do—is to censure the advice which has not yet been given, because it could not be given until the Bill has finally passed this House.


I must point out that it is quite irregular for the hon. Member for Hackney to discuss a Motion of which he has given Notice for a future day.


Nothing is further from my intention than to discuss the Motion, and I should not have said anything about it had not reference been made to the subject by the Prime Minister. I bow to your decision, SIR, and shall only inform the House of what I intend to do with my Motion. I have done everything that a private Member possibly could do to bring on a discussion which I think it is important should be brought on. I thank the noble LORD for having corrected the misstatement of the Prime Minister. I never had a day. If a day had been offered I should have gladly availed myself of it; but I never had such an opportunity. I have done everything that a private Member could possibly do; but it seems to me that if the matter is to rest with a private Member this question will never be discussed. I think it is of great importance that it should be discussed, and I now leave it in the hands of those who possess an influence in this House which I cannot claim—an authority which will enable them, if they think it desirable for the interests of the country, to obtain a discussion of this question which I cannot succeed in obtaining. I therefore give Notice that I will keep the Motion on the Paper of the House until the Proclamation is issued, and leave the matter in the hands of more influential persons for future consideration.