HC Deb 26 March 1877 vol 233 cc506-10

Motion made, and Question proposed "That the Committee of Supply be deferred till to-morrow, at Two of the clock."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)


objected to Morning Sittings so early in the Session. It was altogether unprecedented, and the result would be, looking to the number of Notices which had been put down for the Motion for Supply, that those Motions would have precedence of Notices which had been fixed by ballot four weeks ago. He strongly suspected the proceeding had some reference to the Colonial Marriages Bill, which appeared in the Order Paper for to-morrow evening, and which was the only Bill on which the Government had been beaten this Session. Ordinarily such Sittings were not commenced until June. He would give instances of Morning Sittings in the last five years. In 1872 the first Morning Sitting was on the 4th of June; in 1873, on the 27th of May; in 1874, on the 19th of June; in 1875, he found there was a Morning Sitting on the 16th of March, but for a special purpose only; and the next Morning Sitting that Session was on the 30th of April; and in 1876 he found there was a Morning Sitting on the 11th of April to take the Report of Supply, after which the House did not sit again in the morning till the 13th of June. The effect of Morning Sittings beginning so early as now proposed would be to deprive private Members, in many instances, of the opportunity of bringing forward Motions of importance in which they were deeply interested. As a matter of fact, there was generally a count in the evening when there was a Morning Sitting, and this also entailed a serious curtailment of the time given up to private Members' Motions. There could be no necessity in the interests of the public service on the present occasion, and he thought they ought to know more clearly why the Government proposed to take the course suggested by the Motion, and to guard against its being quoted as a precedent in future. He hoped at least the Government would give a pledge that they would not continue the practice.


supported the observations of the hon. Member for Rochester, and would recall to the attention of the House the peculiar tactics of the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary on the question, when the Prisons Bill was nearly carried through Committee before they had an opportunity of discussing it. It was very much the same now. All the arguments based on economy had been frittered away—


called the hon. Member to Order, on the ground that he was anticipating the discussion on the Prisons Bill, instead of confining himself to the Motion before the House.


said, he only wished to say that it was a matter of the utmost importance that before the Prisons Bill passed through Committee, hon. Members should have an opportunity of going to quarter sessions. That was a reason why Government Business should not be hurried at the expense of the rights of private Members. He thought the Government should make some explanation of the reasons of their departure from precedent.


said, that in all these matters it was very difficult so to arrange the Business of the House as to please everybody. The arrangement which was proposed by the Government was one which, at the time when it was suggested, appeared to be generally acceptable to the House, and he had not seen reason to doubt, as regarded the great majority of hon. Members, that it was more convenient and in accordance with their wishes that the Government should take this course of arranging for the holidays. Hon. Members would not like the idea of sitting till Thursday; indeed, there was a general wish that they should rise on Tuesday; and, if they were to rise on Tuesday, there must be a Motion made on Tuesday, at the beginning of the Business, that the House on rising should rise for the holidays. Upon that Motion Amendments might be moved, and all that the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) pointed out as to hon. Members cutting in before others who had Notices down for that day would occur at whatever hour the Motion for Adjournment was made. No one had any idea that the Morning Sitting was to be regarded as a precedent for Morning Sittings before Easter; the idea simply was to utilize Tuesday morning for a certain amount of Business, in order that hon. Members who desired to do so might leave town in the afternoon. It had been asked if there was anything special in the present Session which made it desirable that hon. Members should have the opportunity of bringing forward these Motions. There were two things to be considered. First, they were on the Prisons Bill, and notwithstanding what the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Whalley) had just said, he believed the House would deem it an advantage to conclude the Committee on the Prisons Bill before the holidays. In that case it would be desirable to devote an hour or two to it to-morrow. As regarded Supply, which was the second, it was in accordance with a suggestion of the hon. Member for Rochester, that the Secretary to the Treasury would make a Statement before going into Committee of Supply on the Civil Service Estimates; and it would be convenient if that Statement could be made to-morrow. He hoped the House would feel that there was no desire to encroach on the rights of private Members, and that the objection to the course proposed would not be pressed.


said, that as to the Colonial Marriages Bill, he did not accuse the Government of having any evil intention with regard to that little innocent; but as it would suffer from the arrangements now to be made for to-morrow, and as the right hon. Gentleman had stated that there were very powerful arguments which had not yet been adduced against it, he hoped the right hon Gentleman would consider that his forbearance from opposing an arrangement which would indefinitely postpone his Bill would give him a claim to another opportunity when the right hon. Gentleman might adduce, and he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) might answer those arguments.


said, that so far as the observations of the hon. Member for Rochester (Mr. Goldsmid) rela- ted to an alleged creation of precedent, he must say it appeared to him they were well founded. He (Mr. Forster) did not doubt that the Chancellor of the Exchequer wished to suit the convenience of the House. But he understood that the Morning Sitting was for the convenience of hon. Members leaving for their holidays; and it would be remarkable and contrary to precedent for the Government to have the Morning Sitting to get through Government Business. Was it according to custom for the Government so early in the Session to take a Morning Sitting, and block out private Members?


said, he would allay the alarm of the hon. Member for Peterborough by stating that if the Committee on the Prisons Bill were concluded to night the Report would not be taken to-morrow.


hoped that there would be no mistake about it—that it was not to be a precedent.


asked whether, if the Secretary to the Treasury had the opportunity of making the Statement regarding the Civil Service Estimates, Votes in Supply would be taken the same evening? If so, hon. Members would be detained in London.


asked, whether they would be asked to vote for any particular Estimates or not, and whether private Members could not have precedence in the morning, as the Government would have no difficulty in securing a House?


said, that he would hardly like to make the promise suggested in the Question of the hon. Member for Falkirk (Mr. Ramsay); because it was really an object to take Votes of Supply if possible, in order to avoid Votes on Account. It was intended to move the Adjournment of the House at seven o'clock, and of course it would then be possible to object to the Adjournment, and then Business could be taken, though he did not presume that would be done.


understood, then, that the Adjournment of the House was to be moved at the close of the Morning Sitting.


At the beginning.


apprehended that if there was to be, first, a Motion for Ad- journment, which might lead to a discussion, then a speech from the Secretary to the Treasury on the whole subject of the Civil Service Estimates, followed by a discussion, what time would be left? If want of money was the reason, it was clear that there would only be a short interval of Supply left, in which only a few votes could be taken.


said, they could not hope to get all the Votes they wished before the Government took a Vote on Account; but the Government would endeavour to get some Votes of Supply in order to make as much progress as possible; and with that view they hoped to go into Supply the next day and Thursday week, after which it would be necessary to take a Vote on Account.