HC Deb 03 July 1877 vol 235 cc685-7

I wish to offer a few words in explanation before putting a Question I have on the Paper. Hon. Gentlemen will remember that on Thursday the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated that the Government intended to take Supply upon every Government day, with some exceptions, including to-day, until they had made some considerable progress, and to take Votes in this order—namely, the Army Estimates, the English and Scotch Education Votes, and the Irish Education Votes. On the latter I have a Motion which is likely to raise a discussion of some length and of considerable interest in Ireland. On Thursday I informed the right hon. Gentleman that if he was in a position to tell us that the Govern- ment could give a day for the discussion of the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) at some reasonable period, I would not bring on my Motion on going into Committee of Supply. I made that offer with the desire not of obstructing Business, but rather expediting it, and assisting the Government to get through the work of the Session. On Friday the right hon. Gentleman held out some hopes that a day might be given. Since then—yesterday—the Army Estimates were brought forward, and notwithstanding what occurred this morning, I am justified in saying that considerable and substantial progress was made with them. If the Estimates were taken in the ordinary course, and no unusual obstruction were offered to them, we might naturally expect that the Irish Education Votes would be reached next week. I have been asked by several hon. Members whether I shall go on with my Motion or not. It would be a great convenience to myself and to several hon. Members, and to the House, to know whether that Motion is to be proceeded with or not; and I am unable to give an answer or to decide what course I will take with regard to my Motion, until I know what the Government says with regard to giving a day for the discussion of the University Bill. And I ask the question now, and not as a matter of favour to the Irish Representatives, but with the view of expediting Public Business. Having explained the object of my Question, I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, If he will state more definitely than he has hitherto done whether the Government can give a day for the discussion of the Irish University Education Bill; and, if so, whether it is likely that such day can be given before the end of the present month?


The hon. Member for Roscommon has accurately described what passed, but he has slightly misunderstood what I said about the Supply. I stated that the first business of the Government would be Supply in the order in which the hon. Gentleman mentions it, and I said we proposed in the present week to give every day at our disposal, except this morning, which was appropriated for another purpose, to discussions in Supply. I did not say that all other Government business would be laid aside till we got through Supply, because there are two Bills which it is important for us to proceed with—namely, the Indian Loan Bill and the South Africa Bill; and although I adhere to the arrangement as to going on with Supply every day this week, I cannot bind myself to go on with it thereafter, to the exclusion of those Bills. With regard to the subject of Irish University Education, I understand the Question in this way—the hon. Gentleman and others look forward to a discussion upon it in connection with the Irish Education Estimates; but I am informed that it would be more convenient to Irish Members generally if the discussion arose, not on the Education Estimates, but on the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt). To that arrangement the Government are perfectly prepared to accede, with a view to convenience, but it must be on the understanding that we are not to have the discussion twice over; and what I understood to be the intention with which we made the offer was this—if the Estimates pass without the discussion being raised on the University question, we would provide a day as speedily as possible afterwards for the discussion of the Irish University Bill. That is an arrangement we are prepared to adhere to; but, of course, if the question should be raised on the Motion of the hon. Member for Roscommon, our engagement to find a day for the discussion of the Bill must be considered over. We are not bound by it. The hon. Member asks whether it is likely that a day can be given before the end of the present month. I must refer the hon. Gentlemen to some of the hon. Members who sit near him. We are perfectly unable, if matters are to proceed as they have been proceeding, to say on what day anything can be brought on. We are anxious to bring the subject forward as soon as possible; but Notice shall be given as soon as we find ourselves in a position to do so.