HC Deb 24 March 1876 vol 228 cc563-6

Order for Third Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—Mr. William Henry Smith.)


referred to the Order of the House of last Session, which directed that Supply should stand as the First Order on Friday, instead of which the Money Bill, whose third reading had just been moved by the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, had been put down as the First Order. If this were allowed, it would be an interference with the privileges of private Members, and hereafter be referred to as a precedent. He thought it his duty to protest against such a proceeding, as they ought all to endeavour to prevent the violation of the Rules. He took a decided objection to it in the present instance, and wished to ask the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair whether it was proper to do so?


The hon. Member for Swansea has correctly stated the substance of the Standing Order by which Supply is the First Order of the Day on Fridays; but I am bound to say that the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury consulted me as to the propriety of taking this Bill as the First Order at half past 4 o'clock to-day, and that I informed the hon. Gentleman that there were occasions on which such a course had been taken, especially in the case of Money Bills which are urgently required, and which are not calculated to interfere with the progress of Public Business.


said, that he had no doubt the House, out of favour to the Government, would consent to take the Bill first, though that was not its proper place, according to the Rules which governed the conduct of Public Business in that House. He did not in any way wish to interfere with the progress of Public Business; but if that course were adopted, he was anxious it should not be afterwards drawn into a precedent. When the Rule was passed that Supply should be the First Order, Lord Palmerston said he would pledge his word that Supply should be always taken first on Fridays, and the present Prime Minister also said that he would pledge his word. Not very long ago the House was told that the word and the pledge of a Prime Minister were better than an Act of Parliament, but in this case they had been forgotten. There might be mysterious reasons why the Bill should be taken before Supply; there might be grave political considerations; perhaps the Russian advance towards our Indian frontier might have some connection with it——


reminded the noble Lord that the question before the House was a point of Order.


said, he should not propose that the Bill be postponed until after Supply, but the case must not be drawn into a precedent, and he should advise the hon. Member for Swansea to be satisfied with a statement from the Prime Minister that that should not be so.


said, his noble Friend had thrown away a great deal of fervid eloquence upon very insufficient grounds. There was not the slightest intention to depart from the Rule of the House that Supply should betaken first on Fridays; but there had been occasions, and occasions might recur, when it was of the highest importance that these Money Bills should pass at a particular time. Last night his hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury stated that it would be desirable and important to get this Bill read a third time early this afternoon, in order that it might be sent to the House of Lords before the close of their Lordships' sitting, and the House accordingly, without any dissentient voice, agreed to the Bill being placed in its present position on the Paper. There was no reason to suppose that the Bill would cause more than a moment's interruption to the ordinary course of business. This would not be drawn into a precedent in regard to Bills of a different character; but he might remark that the Consolidated Fund Bill had on former occasions been treated in this way. The last occasion, he believed, was in March, 1873. This Bill had been placed before Supply by the express order of the House made that morning, at an hour when the House was so full that objection might have been raised to the proposal.


said, it was unfortunate that the Notice for taking the third reading of the Bill had not been given at the time when Notices were usually given, instead of at a late hour, when comparatively few Members would be aware of it. The course pursued was a mischievous one, as it interfered with the freedom of action of hon. Members, and he hoped it would not be made a precedent of.


said, he had acted in the matter in accordance with the advice of the Speaker, and of the highest authorities in the House. He was informed that he could not give the Notice yesterday at the usual time for giving Notices; but that the proper time to ask the House to read the Bill a third time to-day was after it had passed the previous stage last evening.


urged the House to read the Bill without further discussion. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury had acted fairly in the matter from the beginning, and ought to have the credit of doing his work well. The Question had been put to the House on the previous evening, that the Bill should be taken at half past 4 o'clock, and it was agreed to.


considered the alteration of the order of Business at an early hour of the morning when the House was to meet again in the afternoon was very objectionable; but as the House had, in this instance, agreed to take the Bill first, there was no alternative but to proceed with it. The objections which had been raised would have been considerably mitigated if the House had been informed on the previous night—when the Notice was given—that the taking of the third reading of the Consolidated Fund as the First Order on Friday was an exception to the rule. That Notice had been given at a very late hour, when it was impossible for the country to know what was done; and it created a monopoly of power in the hands of hon. Members who happened to be present.


said, that as he did not wish to stand in the way of Public Business, he would withdraw his opposition.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read the third time, and passed.