THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Mr. Speaker, this being the 20th of July, and there being 31 Government Orders on the Paper, the House will not, I think, consider it unreasonable if I ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether he is able to give the House any intimation of the probable course of Business during the next week, and, if possible, during the remainder of the Session. I trust it may be possible to get through the Committee on the Education Bill in the course either of to-night or to-morrow morning; but the right hon. Gentleman is in a better position than I can be to form an opinion on this subject; for I believe the Government clauses and the new clauses proposed by the Government have already been disposed of, and the remaining work of the Committee consists chiefly of new clauses proposed by hon. Members sitting on the right hon. Gentleman's own side of the House. The first Question, then, which I wish to put to the right hon. Gentleman is, What business he proposes that the House should proceed with after the Committee on the Education Bill is disposed of? I should have liked to have asked whether the Government are now in a position to state, with regard to their other measures standing on the Notice Paper, their intention of proceeding with or abandoning any of those measures; but I know from the experience of last Session that the right hon. Gentleman has a great objection to make what he considers a premature statement on this subject, and, therefore, unless he wishes to make any statement on that matter, I shall not press him to do so. However, it will not, I think, be wasting the time of the House if I point out very shortly the great number and great importance of the measures which have already up to the present time made but small progress in the House, and which must still occupy a great deal of time. Besides the Education Bill, there are on the Paper at present the following measures which, I think, the right hon. Gentleman will agree, occupy a front place among legislative measures. There are the Prisons Bill, the Appellate Jurisdiction Bill, and the Supreme Court of Judicature (Ireland) Bill, the two University Bills, the 1632 Valuation Bill, the Bill that has just been printed, and is coming to us from the House of Lords, the Cruelty to Animals Bill, and another—I do not know whether it has yet come down from the House of Lords, but if not it soon will, with very considerable Amendments—the Merchant Shipping Bill. In addition to these important measures, there is also some work to be done in Committee of Supply. I am perfectly willing to bear testimony to the advanced state of preparation in which the Estimates were presented early to the House and the progress which consequently the House was able to make at an early stage of Supply. But there are still some very important Estimates to be taken, and I believe it was understood when the last Vote on Account was taken that a pledge was given on the part of the Government that the discussion on the remaining Votes would not be postponed until the close of the Session. Besides those measures of importance I have mentioned, there are a great number of measures of considerable importance, but perhaps of somewhat minor importance to those I have enumerated—the Pollution of Rivers Bill, the Highways Bill, the Patent Law Amendment Bill, the Suez Canal Shares Bill, the Bishopric of Truro Bill, and the Poor Law Amendment Bill. There is also a considerable number of measures relating to Ireland. There are the Linen and Hempen and Other Manufactures Bill, the Irish Prisons Bill, the Juries Procedure Bill, the Civil Bill Courts Bill, and the Clerk of the Crown and Peace Bill. It would be very convenient to learn from the right hon. Gentleman what course he means to take with reference to these Bills. I now come to the Scotch Business, about which I know the Members from Scotland take a very great interest, and in reference to which they are extremely anxious, if possible, that an intimation of the intention of the Government should before long be made. A statement was made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Lord Advocate with regard to one of these Bills. I am not in a position to say whether that statement will facilitate further discussion; but, besides the Sheriff Courts Bill, to which he referred, there are the Poor Law Bill, the Prisons Bill, the Ecclesiastical Assessment Bill, the Agricultural Holdings Bill, and the Roads 1633 and Bridges Bill. Now, Sir, I have said that I am not going to press the right hon. Gentleman to make any statement as to which of these Bills it is the intention of the Government to proceed with, and which they intend to withdraw; but I think we have a right to appeal to the Government on one point. There was a very important measure which was introduced at the commencement of the Session—the Maritime Contracts Bill—and which we were informed was intimately connected with and even as important as the Merchant Shipping Bill, and we understood that both Bills were to be proceeded with together. No progress was made with the Maritime Contracts Bill, and a short time ago the Order for the Second Reading of the Bill was discharged without any Notice being given to the House of the intention of the Government. I believe also the Order for the Indian Legislation Bill was discharged, and I am not aware whether any Notice was taken of the proceeding. I think, however, it due to House that when the Government have made up their minds that important measures are not to be proceeded with, some intimation should be conveyed to House of the intention of the Government, and that we should not be left to find from an inspection of the Votes that the Minister in charge of the measure has come down to the House, and moved the discharge of the Order for that measure. The Government measures to which I have referred are not the only matters which will require a portion of the time at the disposal of the Government. The Government have contracted several engagements towards private Members, as to the fulfilment of which I think the House will be anxious to have some information. It is understood that as soon as the Papers on the subject of the recent negotiations on Turkish affairs have been presented to Parliament—and I must say here that there appears to have been a very considerable delay in their production—as soon as these Papers have been presented, and the House has had time to consider them, an opportunity will be afforded to the House for a discussion on Turkish affairs. There is also an understanding that a day will be given to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Sir William Harcourt) to bring forward his Motion on the subject of the Extradition Treaty negotiations. We 1634 have also been promised that an opportunity would be given to us to discuss, if we think proper, the mission of Mr. Cave to Egypt. And last, though not least, I have to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the Indian Budget, with regard to which promises are invariably made in the beginning of every Session, but which generally share the same fate. I believe the discussion on the Indian Budget this year will be even more important than it usually is. My hon. Friend the Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett), has given Notice to call attention, on the Question that the Speaker do leave the Chair on the Indian Budget, to the effect which the depreciation in the value of silver has had on Indian finance, and I believe that that is a very proper opportunity to raise the discussion on this important question. I hope, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman will be able to assure the House that the discussion on the Indian Budget will not be postponed as usual to the very last day of the Session. Whatever may be the intentions of the Government with regard to the prosecution of their own measures, I think we have some right to express a hope that they will take measures to fulfil the engagements they have entered into with the House with as little delay as possible, and that they will be able, as soon as the Committee on the Education Bill has been concluded to make arrangements that will enable us to discuss in good time the important matter to which I have referred. I beg to apologize to the House for having taken up so much of its time; but I feel at this period of the Session the House will be anxious to obtain all the information of the probable course of Business which it is in the power of the Government to give.
§ MR. DISRAELI
The noble Lord is quite accurate in stating that I am generally disinclined to the precipitate giving up of Bills introduced to the notice of Parliament; because experience has taught me that, although the end of the Session may be impending, that very circumstance sometimes loads to a happy compromise which really facilitates progress, so that measures may be carried which at first blush may not appear in so promising a position. The noble Lord is also quite accurate in stating that any undertaking made by the Government for the discussion of public affairs will, I hope, be fulfilled, not only in the 1635 letter, but in the spirit; and I will endeavour to express to the House what is the course which I think we ought to pursue at the present moment. In answer to the first Question of the noble Lord as to what Business we will proceed with after the Committee on the Education Bill, I propose, without pledging myself to everything, to proceed first with the Prisons Bill, then with the two University Bills and the Appellate Jurisdiction Bill, and I should be sorry if I cannot by the time when these Bills are passed appoint a day for the Indian Budget. The Indian Budget, being always an interesting subject, this year promises to be one universally so, and will require the consideration of a not thin House. On Monday, the 24th of this month, we propose to go into Committee of Supply in fulfilment of the engagement made by the Government that the Education Vote, on which we had an advance on account, should be considered in the month of July. Therefore we fulfil that engagement. On Monday, the 31st of July, we propose to go again into Committee of Supply, when the Vote respecting the Mission of Mr. Cave and the affairs of the Suez Canal will be before the House. That is another of the subjects on which the noble Lord considers, and justly, that we have promised an opportunity for full discussion should be secured to the House. With regard to the discussion on Turkish affairs and also upon the Extradition Treaty, of course the noble Lord and the House will see that I cannot at once fix an exact day. First of all, the Papers, I regret to say, are not yet in the hands of hon. Members, although I hope they will be within 24 hours or little more; but I will communicate with the noble Lord on the subject, and endeavour, with his assistance and concurrence to fix days for the discussion of these subjects convenient to both sides of the House. The noble Lord complains that the Maritime Contracts Bill and the Indian Legislation Bill have been withdrawn without Notice from the Paper. Now, I think the noble Lord is under a mistake in that respect. My memory is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with respect to the Maritime Contracts Bill, and my noble Friend the Under Secretary of State for India, with regard to the Indian Legislation Bill, made statements to the House; and that ample Notice was given to the House of 1636 the intentions of the Government. With regard to other measures before the House, there are certain Bills which I may at once state it is our intention to withdraw—namely, the Valuation Bill, the Highways Bill; two Scotch Bills—namely, the Poor Law Amendment Bill, the Agricultural Holdings Bill; and the Patent Law Amendment Bill. I will not proced further in that vein at present. But I do not despair of making considerable progress in Public Business in the reasonable time we may estimate that yet attends us; but in doing that I must ask for the assistance of the House, and for that indulgence which has always been accorded to us—namely, the remaining Tuesdays and Wednesdays of the Session.
§ MR. DISRAELI
That is not one of the Bills that I have announced that the Government are prepared to relinquish.
asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland what Irish measures the Government intended to proceed with this Session?
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
Besides the Bill alluded to by the noble Lord opposite—namely, the Irish Judicature Bill—there are one or two measures, relating specially to Ireland, of very considerable importance. With regard to those on the Paper to-night, I am in hopes that we shall be able to get through Committee on the Cattle Diseases Bill. It is proposed to discharge the Order respecting the Linen and Hempen and Other Manufactures Bill. The Juries Procedure Bill awaits further consideration in Committee, but I have reason to think that it will be practically unopposed. The Prisons Bill is an important measure, but its progress will depend in a great degree on the fate of the English Prisons Bill.
§ MR. R. SMYTH
I have listened with some alarm to the concluding observations of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. It so happens that I have a Bill down as a First Order, indeed the only Order, of the Day for Wednesday, the 2nd of August—namely, the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday (Ireland) Bill. That Bill, after meeting with many difficulties, has been read a second time by a considerable majority; and whilst I think 1637 it quite reasonable that the Government should appropriate to themselves those remaining days which private Members have selected for abstract Resolutions, I cannot admit that it is reasonable on the part of the Government to take a day which has been obtained for a Bill, that has already passed a second reading. I feel that I am helpless against the general feeling of the House. ["No, no!"] I do not feel myself altogether helpless on this subject as against the Government. If, however, it is the feeling of the House that the day should be given up to the Government I can only acquiesce with a good grace.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
had heard with sincere regret that the Government had determined to proceed with the Prisons Bill, because, in his opinion, it was a measure totally opposed to the policy hitherto pursued by the Conservative Party.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, he understood the hon. Member for North Warwickshire was about to ask a Question. Any discussion as to the merits of the Prisons Bill would be quite out of Order.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he was about to ask the First Lord of Treasury whether he intended to proceed with the Prisons Bill that evening, since it seemed improbable that the discussion on the Education Bill in Committee would terminate at any reasonable hour. He trusted that the Government would not attempt to force the Prisons Bill through the House with any indecent haste.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
thought it right to inform the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government that the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power), who was not present, had a Motion down for the 2nd of August relating to political prisoners. From what he knew of the hon. Member's sentiments, it would not be easy to persuade him to forego the opportunity of bringing on his Motion.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I do not anticipate at present what will take place on the 2nd of August. It will depend upon the feelings of hon. Members generally at the time. With regard to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), although the Prisons Bill stands second on the Paper, I do not anticipate that it will be brought before the consideration 1638 of the House to-night. Of course, it will not be proceeded with at an unreasonable hour.
§ MR. JOHN BRIGHT
I should like to make one suggestion with regard to the Bill of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Smyth). I understand that it is a Bill about which the House may be said to be agreed. ["No, no!"] At any rate the minority is a very small one. When the Government assented to the second reading of the Bill the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland proposed to submit some Amendments in Committee. I do not know in the least what those Amendments are; but whether the Bill is proceeded with further this Session or not, it seems to me that it would be a great advantage, considering that the question is one in which Ireland is very much interested, if those Amendments could be laid on the Table of the House; because, if the Bill cannot be proceeded with further this Session, it is desirable that those Amendments should be the subject of discussion before the House meets again next Session, when the Bill will be re-introduced.
§ MR. CALLAN
wished to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland whether, considering the absence of Irish Members on the 2nd of August it would be desirable for the Government to place Amendments on the Paper to afford pabulum, for discussion by agitators during the Recess, and not for the consideration of the House?
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
said, that on the second reading of the Bill of the hon. Member of the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Smyth) he expressed the opinion that it could not pass into law in its present shape, and that if it were proceeded with this Session, which he did not anticipate either then or now, it would become his duty to propose Amendments. If the right hon. Member for Birmingham gave Notice of a Question he should be happy to answer it.
complained of the conduct of the Government in the matter of this Bill. Irish Members had expected to have been met in a fair and conciliatory spirit, and now the Government would not tell them what Amendments they proposed to make. For his own part, he could only say that there was only a very small minority of Irish Members opposed to the Bill. ["Order."]
§ MR. SPEAKER
reminded the hon. Member that he could not discuss the measure; if he wanted to put a Question he might do so.
merely wished to impress upon the Government the necessity of dealing with the Irish Members in a fair spirit so far as this Bill was concerned.
§ MR. J. G. HUBBARD
had heard with great regret that the Government intended to withdraw the Valuation Bill. He felt that announcement the more keenly, because at the commencement of the Session he introduced a Bill on the same subject, which he withdrew in deference to the Bill of the Government. ["Order."]
§ MR. J. G. HUBBARD
asked if the Government would give him an opportunity on going into Committee of Supply of bringing forward a Motion in favour of the establishment, on a true uniform basis, of local and Imperial taxation?
§ DR. WARD
pointed out that the Irish University Bill was down for the 2nd of August, and the matter was an important one which had not been discussed for some years.
§ SIR WILFRID LAWSON
begged to give Notice, after what had taken place, that if the Government proposed to take Wednesdays for the rest of the Session he would do all in his power to oppose that Motion, and take a division upon it.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman to state on what day he proposes to make the Motion to which he has referred, relating to Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I rather inferred that it was his intention to ask the House at once to give up Tuesdays and Wednesdays to the Government. So I presume that the right hon. Gentleman will make the Motion either on to-morrow or Monday. I ask the question, because when the House makes this sacrifice, it, to a certain extent, makes itself responsible for the management and conduct of business by the Government; and I think that it is a Motion which the House, if asked to agree to it, ought to agree to on full consideration, and upon being satisfied by the Government that the course they propose to adopt is a judicious one.
§ MR. DISRAELI
I have not any intention to fix any day for the Motion, because I am not myself in favour of the Government availing themselves of the privileges of independent Members, unless there is a very general concurrence. If there is not that general concurrence, I think the Motion will only lead to debates which will retard the progress of Business. I threw out the suggestion rather with the idea that it would give hon. Members opposite an opportunity of paying a happy compliment to the Government.
§ CAPTAIN NOLAN,
referring to the Motion of the hon. Member for Mayo (Mr. O'Connor Power) said, Irish Members would be satisfied with the Tuesday evening if the Government took the morning.
§ MR. A. BROWN
said, he had a Motion on the Paper for Tuesday next, and he should be glad if the right hon. Gentleman would say whether the Government intended to take that evening or not?
§ MR. T. E. SMITH
hoped that in the general arrangements ample opportunity would be found for considering the great changes made "elsewhere" in the Merchant Shipping Bill, after the pains taken by this Honse in the elaboration of its clauses.
§ MR. ANDERSON,
understanding that the Lord Advocate proposed to retain only the worst parts of the Sheriffs' Court (Scotland) Bill, advised the right hon. and learned Gentleman to withdraw the Bill altogether.