HC Deb 10 July 1877 vol 235 cc1047-53

said, a feeling was entertained in many quarters of the House that it would be more convenient before going into Committee to submit his Education Statement. It was thought further that it would be better to embrace in that Statement all the various Departments that came within the control of the Education Department. Before entering upon the subject of elementary schools he felt that he should be doing very wrong if he did not recall to the recollection of the House the great public loss they had sustained by the death of a very distinguished man—one of the founders of the present educational system—Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth. It was impossible for anyone who had watched the growth of our educational system in the present generation not to feel that he was one of those who took a great part in the satisfactory work that had been done—


rose to Order, and pointed out that it was a perfectly novel practice to make the Ministerial Statement with regard to the Vote before going into Committee. Notice ought to have been given that it was intended to adopt that course; and it could hardly be accepted as a precedent without an expression of opinion from the Speaker and also from the House as to whether it was a desirable practice. If it were admitted in regard to the Educational Vote, it would form a precedent with regard to the Army and Navy Estimates.


said, he would refer to what had taken place at an earlier period of the Session. A desire was expressed by the House that a Statement should be made by the Secretary of the Treasury before going into Committee of Supply on the Civil Service Estimates; there had been a discussion on the Motion of the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid), and the result had been a promise to make a general Statement before entering into details. When they came to consider how that Statement should be made, it had been found that the only convenient course was to make it while the Speaker was in the Chair, and on the Motion that he should leave it. It had been stated at the time that the same course would be pursued—or was, at least, contemplated with regard to the Education Estimates—and that the Statement on the general subject would be made with the Speaker in the Chair. It might, perhaps, be inconvenient to take that course in regard to the Army and Navy Estimates; but as for the Education Estimates the course adopted was the one intended by the Government, and communicated to many Members of the House.


The House is aware that on the occasion of the Motion of the hon. Member for Rochester a general desire was expressed on the part of the House that the Statement relating to the Civil Service Estimates should be made with the Speaker in the Chair. The Estimates now to be proposed are a branch of the Civil Service Estimates, and it apears to me that the House is, by the course proposed, carrying into effect the desire that appeared to be expressed on the former occasion. But whether the same course should be adopted with regard to the Army and Navy Estimates is a question to he further considered by the House. It would not he irregular for the noble Lord to make a general Statement with the Speaker in the Chair, although that course has not been ordinarily followed.


submitted that as Votes 1, 2, and 10 of Class IV. were alone specified on the Notice Paper it was not at all expected that the noble Lord would make his general Statement before going into Committee. Besides, a number of hon. Gentlemen had placed upon the Paper Notices of Motion on going into Committee; and if the course now proposed were adopted it would be another infringement upon the rights of private Members. He therefore protested against it.


I would point out that the course proposed to be taken does not necessarily shut out Amendments on going into Committee of Supply. It would still be competent for hon. Members to bring them forward.


thought so important a change as was now proposed ought not to be made without due consideration, as it might prove an inconvenient precedent with regard to the other Estimates.


reminded the House that the noble Lord was exactly following the course pressed upon the Government by the House almost unanimously on the introduction, earlier in the Session, of the Civil Service Estimates. Upon that occasion he expressly stated that he did not propose to go into any explanation of the Education Estimates, because they would be explained by the noble Lord. The Government had simply acted in compliance with the wishes of the House, and desired only to secure that the statement should be made, as hon. Members had expected it to be made, in a manner most to the advantage and convenience of the majority of the House. Both the hon. Member for Nottingham (Mr. Isaac) and the highest authorities of the House concurred in thinking the course taken most conducive to the proper management of the public Business. The Estimates could be thoroughly discussed, both generally and in detail; and the Government had relieved the House of the uncertainty as to the time when the statement would be made, without in the slightest degree interfering with the full liberty of Members to raise questions upon the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair. He thought, then, that the House would feel that the arrangement, having received the approval of the Speaker and other high authorities, was, on the whole, fit and proper.


said, that having already spoken he would put himself in Order by concluding with a Motion. What the Secretary of the Treasury had just stated as the chief reason why the course now proposed should be taken was exactly the reason why it should not be taken without Notice. The House had no expectation that such a course would be adopted. There were grounds for taking the course now proposed in the case of the Civil Service Estimates, which covered a very large field, and with regard to which a preliminary Statement by the Secretary to the Treasury was desirable and useful; but those reasons did not apply to the Education Vote any more than to the Army or Navy Estimates. He did not say that it might not be desirable in the case of all these large Votes that the Minister should make his Statement before going into Committee; but he contended that such a precedent should not be made at 2 o'clock in the afternoon in a small House, and without the slightest warning. He had not the slightest idea that such a course would be taken, and if the intention had been generally known, he believed the attendance of Members would be much larger than it was at present. When a Statement was made in Committee the restrictions to speeches did not apply which applied when the Speaker was in the Chair. In order to record his protest against such an important change being made without the slightest Notice he should move the Adjournment of the House.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— (Mr. William Edward Forster.)


said, he did not wish to waste all the morning in talking over what seemed to him—he did not like to use the expression which rose to his lips about it. All he would say was, he could not for the life of him understand what the right hon. Gentleman's objection was. The right hon. Gentleman said, that if the Statement was made with the Speaker in the Chair there was not the same opportunity for discussion as with the Chairman of Committees in the Chair. But not a single sixpence could be taken with the Speaker in the Chair. The money must be voted with the Chairman in the Chair, and therefore there would be the same opportunity of discussion as before. But it was not worth while to waste time, and if it was the wish of the House that his noble Friend should not make his Statement with the Speaker in the Chair, he would not proceed with it. The course which his noble Friend proposed to take was made in accordance with the strongly expressed wish of hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway in the case of the Civil Service Estimates; and it really seemed to him that the objection which had been taken was one of the most extraordinary he had ever heard.


said, if there was any waste of time it arose from the action of the Government. Although he was in communication with the noble Lord last evening he had not been informed that this course was about to be taken.


said, he had heard last night from an hon. Member opposite that the noble Lord intended to make his Statement with the Speaker in the Chair. This was the first intimation he had of such intention, consequently hon. Gentlemen opposite must have been aware that such was to be the course of procedure before it was known on this side of the House. He (Mr. Isaac) had considered the present state of Public Business the obstruction to all legislation, and the impossibility of being able to fully discuss his Question, and he should not proceed with the Motion of which he had given Notice to the effect that it was desirable that the expenditure for the Departments of Science and Art should not be exclusively confined to London, Dublin, and Edinburgh; but he would bring it forward next Session as a Substantive Motion, instead of then going into Committee of Supply, particularly as his right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Vice President of the Council had given him an assurance that the matter should be considered during the Recess.


expressed his opinion that a more salutary change in the course of Public Business than that which the noble Lord had proposed could not be made. It was unreasonable, considering the great length at which hon. Members explained their individual opinions on a great public question like Education, that the only person presumed to be disqualified from expressing his sentiments was the Minister who knew more about the matter than anyone in the House. When we saw the Paper loaded with Notices, were we to be told that the Minister was to be the only one precluded from raising a discussion before the Speaker left the Chair, and from dealing with questions raised by hon. Members?


said, it appeared to him to be a very different thing for the House to decide that a certain course should be followed after due Notice, and for a Minister without Notice to take a course purely arbitrary. When the Navy Estimates were before the House, it was stated that the Minister would deal with certain questions when the House went into Committee; but when the House was in Committee, a point of Order was raised, and the Minister was not able to deal with them. If that was done on one branch of the Estimates, it might be done also on another.


said, he hoped the House would not go into a discussion of the point on its merits. His only object had been the convenience of the House; but if the House thought it would be inconvenient for him to make his statement out of Committee it was sufficient, and the Government would at once withdraw. It was only following the course pursued with regard to the Civil Service Estimates, and he thought it was sufficiently announced to the House by the Secretary to the Treasury on a former occasion that the proposed course with regard to the Education Estimates would be adopted. It was undesirable to waste time in discussing the point. He, however, thought that, instead of wasting time and stifling discussion, it would facilitate Business and give a double opportunity of discussing the subject, once on the whole of the Estimates, and subsequently on each Vote when in Committee.


said, the change was not made at the earnest solicitation of hon. Members below the Gangway. The hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) asked that the Civil Service Estimates should be taken the same as the Army and Navy Estimates, and that a general Statement only should be made before going into Committee, but only at the beginning, in the same way as was done with the Army and Navy Estimates, and not as was being now proposed.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Original Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."

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