HC Deb 19 July 1877 vol 235 cc1529-36

Sir, I rise to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether he is able to give the House any information as to the intentions of the Government with regard to Public Business, and the measures now before the House. I hold in my hand a list of measures which have been introduced by Members of the Government, many of which were mentioned in Her Majesty's Speech at the opening of the Session; but which, although introduced comparatively early, have made up to the present time very little progress. I do not think I need trouble the House by reading that list, or by pointing out the stages at which the measures have arrived, for the right hon. Gentleman will probably refer in detail to the principal Bills. It is quite evident that, unless the duration of the Session be prolonged considerably beyond the usual limits, it will be quite impossible that all, or nearly all, of those measures which up to the present time have made but little progress can be considered by the House. The right hon. Gentleman will perhaps also be able to take this opportunity of informing the House whether he proposes to ask for any further sacrifice of the time which is still at the disposal of unofficial Members of the House; if so, at what time he will make that request. It may also be in his power, having fully considered the state of Public Business, to give some intimation to the House as to the time when he thinks it possible that our labours may be concluded. Perhaps the House will permit me to take this opportunity of making an explanation in regard to some misapprehension that I think has arisen—no doubt from some want of clearness of expression on my part. The other day, in the course of a discussion upon the conduct of the Government with regard to the Irish Sunday Closing Bill, in one or two observations I made, I intended to point out that the introduction of the Appropriation Bill, which I hoped would not long be delayed, would give a more appropriate opportunity of discussing a question of that sort relating to the conduct of the Government with regard to the measures that have been before the House. I find it has been understood in some quarters that the observations I made amounted to a Notice that it was my intention to take the opportunity of the introduction of the Appropriation Bill to make some general observations upon the conduct of Her Majesty's Government. It is quite impossible for me to know what may occur before the end of the Session; and I have not come to any formal and definite resolution in my own mind as to the course it will be my duty to take when the Appropriation Bill is introduced. I wish to say that nothing was further from my mind than to give formal Notice that I had any such intention, on that occasion, to comment on the conduct of Her Majesty's Government.


Sir, I may in the first place, perhaps, say, with reference to the closing observations of the noble Lord, that I quite understood the remark that he made on the occasion to which he re- ferred in the same sense as that in which he explains it. Of course, it is quite obvious that the stages of the Appropriation Bill always furnish very appropriate occasions for any critical remarks that may be thought necessary. I did not understand there was any special Notice given on the subject. With regard to the state of Business, I do not understand that the noble Lord at present desires that we should enter into any discussion as to the progress of Business, or as to any of the causes which may have interfered with the progress of some of the measures introduced by the Government. I understand the question is simply put for the convenience of the House, in order that we may know as well as we can how we stand, and may endeavour to make our arrangements accordingly. I am prepared to give such an answer as I can in the same spirit as that in which the noble Lord asks the Question. It is quite true there are a considerable number of Bills that have been introduced by Members of the Government which are still upon the Paper, and some of them are still down for rather early stages of progress. Of course, it would be impossible, without unduly prolonging the Session, to pass them all. At the same time, I feel some little difficulty in saying, with regard to particular Bills, that we intend to lay aside this or the other Bill, because the progress of Business is not altogether under our control, and it may happen, in the course of the time that remains, that we may find ourselves able to make more progress with some Bill than we expect, or that we may meet with unexpected obstacles with regard to another. I therefore do not wish that what I say now should be regarded as a complete and final programme of all that is or is not to be done in the course of the remainder of the Session. I may mention one or two Bills with which I feel it would not be possible for us, or convenient to the House, that we should proceed this Session, and as to which it is therefore desirable we should at once state why we do not intend to take up the time of the House with regard to them. Of these Bills the most important is the Valuation of Property Bill. The House will easily understand that this is a Bill which could not be proceeded with without fair and full discussion, and that, taken by itself, it would occupy some considerable— though I think not at all an unreasonable—time in Committee. But although, if the Bill stood alone, I think it might be possible that we might proceed with it, and pass it this Session, we find that the question of going on with it has been complicated by Notices given by the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Cowen), and I think also there is a Notice given by the hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell), and in connection with that Bill there has been raised the large question of representative councils and general questions of local government. Seeing that these questions would have to be discussed in connection with the Valuation Bill, we think it is not desirable or convenient to proceed with it. Then there is also the Irish Valuation Bill. That is a subject which I think the House will hardly have time to take into consideration. I may also say with regard to the Bishoprics Bill, the Patents for Inventions Bill, and the Poor Law (Scotland) Bill, we do not at present see our way to trouble the House with these Bills. The Bills that are immediately before us, and with which we think it is important the House should proceed, I will mention in this order:—There is the Supreme Court of Judicature (Ireland) Bill, which stands for to-night going into Committee, and which, perhaps, I am not over sanguine in hoping we may get through Committee to-night. There is the South Africa Bill, which we propose to take on Monday next, and there are the Irish and Scotch Prisons Bills, which we are anxious to proceed with as rapidly as possible. Now, the noble Lord asks at what time we thought of asking the House to give the Government more days for Business than we have at present. I hope we shall not be thought unreasonable in asking that from next week we may take Tuesdays and Wednesdays. In that case, if that should be given, we shall propose to take on Tuesday the Irish and Scotch Prison Bills. That would be in the Evening Sittings, so that there would be the whole evening for going on with those Bills. I would not mention any particular Business for Wednesday; we shall see before that day what it may be convenient to take. But on Thursday the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) has an engagement with the Government that we should give him that day for the discussion of his University Education Bill. That is the result of an engagement entered into with him, which he and his Friends have faithfully, and honourably, and loyally fulfilled, that they would not raise the question of University education on the Estimates provided a day was given for it. In addition to these Bills, we are anxious to proceed with the County Courts (Ireland) Bill, the Summary Jurisdiction Bill, and the Sheriffs Courts (Scotland) Bill, and there will be a question about the Roads and Bridges (Scotland) Bill. Now, with regard to the Roads and Bridges Bill, I am in some little difficulty in giving a definite answer, because I really am puzzled whether there are 190 Amendments or only two. That is one of the Bills I would not at present propose to discharge, but as to which I would wish to take further time to see what progress it may make. I would say the same of the Bankruptcy Bill and Factories and Workshops Bill. We should be glad to proceed with them, and it is not necessary to abandon the hope of doing so, and I would rather not give any definite promise as to those two Bills. I believe my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board wishes to make a statement with regard to a Bill in his charge— the Public Health (Metropolis) Bill. There is, I think, very little Supply left to be got through. To-morrow morning we take the remainder of the Civil Service and Revenue Estimates; and I hope it will be in our power to get through them at that sitting. There will then remain only a certain number of postponed Votes and Supplementary Estimates, such as are usual at the close of the Session, and which, I think, on the present occasion are not likely to be very material. There will, however, be the Transvaal Vote of a large amount, and one or two questions arising out of the Navy Estimates. I suppose also that an opportunity will be taken, and is probably desired by some hon. Members, for some discussion on the subject of the Army Warrant, which my right hon. Friend (Mr. Hardy) will lay on the Table before long. I do not think it would be convenient for me to make too definite arrangements with regard to these matters; but if the House is kind enough to give us the days we ask for, and if we have a fair amount of assistance from the House, I see no reason to doubt that we shall be able to get through the greater part, at all events, of what I have mentioned, and to close the Session about the usual day—that is, somewhere about the 10th of August.


wished to know from the right hon. Gentlemen whether it was intended to take the Colonies Vote to-morrow?


No, not to-morrow?


asked whether the right hon. Gentleman had stated that one of his Colleagues wished to make a statement as to the Public Health (Metropolis) Bill, or was it to be understood that after that statement they would learn from the Government whether they intended to proceed with the Bill?


said, that the hon. and gallant Member for Truro (Sir James M'Garel-Hogg) had given Notice that he intended on Monday to ask whether the Government would proceed with the Public Health (Metropolis) Bill, and he had promised on Monday to make a statement, which, however, he was ready to make at once. This Bill was prepared last year, at the instance of the Statute Law Revision Commissioners, in order to supplement the work done by the Public Health Act of 1875, which put together the substance of 30 Acts of Parliament, so far as they applied to the country at large. Many of those Acts, however, affected the Metropolis, and it was desirable that they should be consolidated in a similar way. The Bill was, therefore, mainly one of consolidation, but certain provisions had been added that experience had shown to be desirable. It was not supposed that such a measure would encounter any opposition, but great objection was taken to the consolidation of the existing law by many of the local authorities. It was evident that a Bill of 100 clauses, if they involved any contentious matter, could not be introduced after Whitsuntide with any prospect of becoming law. Finding that Members were not satisfied to allow the Bill to proceed as a measure of consolidation, he had come to the conclusion that it would be better to withdraw it for the present Session. If he re-introduced it, it would be his duty to amend the sanitary law of the Metropolis more than could properly be done in a mere Consolidation Bill. In withdrawing the present measure, therefore, he would not bind himself to introduce the same Bill next Session, although he trusted it would be possible to introduce it in an amended state.


Sir, I understand the right hon. Gentleman that the Warrant which is to be laid upon the Table is a Warrant relating to retirement and promotion of officers in the Army. If so, I think that the right hon. Gentleman is right in saying that it may lead to considerable discussion. It is of no use, of course, at this moment to press the Government to make any further announcement of their intentions. But, as usual, I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken a somewhat sanguine view of the course of affairs for the remainder of the Session. I have made a list of the nine measures which he seems to have some hope of proceeding with in the remaining three weeks. There is, for instance, the Factories and Workshops Bill, and I really think the right hon. Gentleman will do well to devote himself to a further revision of this list. It will not impede the progress which he may make with a few Bills if he will withdraw from the Paper those which it is quite impossible to proceed with.


who had on the Paper the First Order of the Day for Tuesday next, inquired whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not allow the ordinary Business to proceed on that day?


hoped that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would re-consider the order in which Scotch Bills were to be proceeded with. The Roads and Bridges Bill was a more valuable measure than all the other Scotch Bills put together, and he hoped it would be taken first, especially as it was one of the measures promised in the Queen's Speech.


said, he had no doubt the hon. and learned Member for Kildare was only anxious to facilitate Business; and it was hoped he would see, with the Government, the importance of taking the Irish and Scotch Prisons Bills first, and would make his arrangements accordingly. He would, however, be glad to speak to the hon. Member on the subject.


asked whether the right hon. Gentleman proposed to proceed with the Irish and Scotch Bills on Tuesday, in the event of the Judicature Bill for Ireland not having passed through Committee by that day?


said, all the arrangements depended very much upon getting through one Bill before taking up another. As Tuesday was not very close at hand he need not give a definite answer now.