§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
, on rising to move the first of the Resolutions which stood in his name, said, he thought he should consult the convenience of the House by making his remarks as short as possible. Hon. Members were aware that for some years past the subject of carrying on the Business of the House had been repeatedly under consideration. One question which had been discussed was whether any arrangement could be made to secure certainty in bringing forward the Estimates. No one, he supposed, doubted that the careful consideration of the Estimates presented by the Government of the day for the acceptance of Parliament was one of the most important functions of the. House. Hon. Members doubtless cherished, and would on no account infringe upon, the good old Rule that the consideration of grievances must precede the granting of Supplies, and that ample opportunities ought to be given for bringing forward matters of importance before grants 1338 were made of the Supplies asked for by the Crown. But, according to the mode in which the Business of the House was now conducted, there really was not the smallest difficulty in bringing forward any subject that was of importance enough to deserve consideration. It was frequently found, however, that in order to obtain discussions on matters of a very minor character they made for themselves the greatest grievances by putting off the discussion of large Estimates of expenditure until it was impossible to discuss them properly, and there was so much uncertainty as to the time at which such discussions would be taken that the House was not able to perform its proper duty of watching and checking the Estimates. The Government might put down the Estimates for Monday, and the whole evening might be spent in discussing matters wholly foreign to the subject before them, and the same might happen on Thursday and the following Monday, and Members who had studied the Estimates and wished to speak upon them, attending at some inconvenience, perhaps, had not the opportunity which they ought to have. At last the Estimates were brought forward at an hour when those who had charge of them could not get a proper hearing. He would put it to the economists of the House, and especially to those Gentlemen who sat below the Gangway on the Opposition side of the House, who exercised very useful functions in criticizing the Estimates, whether it was not more in their interest than even in the interest of the Government that a plan should be devised of bringing forward the Estimates with something like certainty as to the time? That was the ground on which he moved the first of these Resolutions, which was in the following terms:—That, whenever the Committee of Supply or the Committee of Ways and Means stands as the first Order of the Day on a Monday, Mr. Speaker shall leave the Chair without putting any Question.That was to say, that there would be no facilities on those days for moving Amendments before going into Committee of Supply. He would point out that this was not altogether a novel proposition. In the course of the discussion they had already had the House had been reminded that something of the kind had not only been several times 1339 proposed, but it had actually been adopted for two or three Sessions. He would call the attention of some of the Irish Members who seemed to think that this Resolution was aimed in some way at them to the fact that the following Resolution was passed in 1872:—Whenever Notice has been given that Estimates will be moved in Committee of Supply, and the Committee stands as the first Order of the Day upon any day, except Thursday and Friday, on which Government Orders have precedence, the Speaker shall, when the Order for the Committee has been read, forthwith leave the Chair without putting any Question, and the House shall thereupon resolve itself into such Committee.That was what was now proposed, with this exception—Unless on first going into Committee on the Army, Navy, or Civil Service Estimates respectively, an Amendment be moved relating to the division of Estimates proposed to be considered on that day.That, of course, was a considerable modification of the proposal, and it was one which, in the course of the discussion this evening, might be carefully considered. The Resolution in that qualified form was passed in 1872, and again in 1873. It was not renewed in the first two Sessions of the present Parliament; but, in 1876, it was revived with a modification—the word "first" was left out, and then the words ran "unless on going into Committee," &c., "Amendments be moved relating to the division of the Estimates proposed to be considered that day." There was, of course, a good deal to be said in favour of retaining the power of raising questions relating to the Estimates to be proposed; on the other hand, there was something to be said against it. It led to a great waste of time, and perhaps there was less excuse for it than for introducing wholly extraneous topics. Let them take, for example, the Army Estimates. He had noticed several times that the Minister who had to introduce them was kept for hours waiting in consequence of a great many questions of a miscellaneous character relating to the Estimates being raised; and the Minister was precluded from giving, in a concise and convenient form, explanations of his Estimates, which, to a great extent, might have answered by anticipation many of those questions. He had often seen the Secre- 1340 tary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty kept waiting hour after hour; and, in some cases, he was obliged to defer his statement to another day. That was not for the convenience of the House, and it would be far better that the statement of the Minister should be first made, not for his convenience or the convenience of the Government, but that the House might have before it a fair explanation of what was about to be proposed. One of the objections to the House giving up this power was that if it did no convenient opportunity would be given for raising great questions of principle which could not easily be raised on details of the Estimates. He did not think an experience of Parliamentary Business confirmed the idea that the power of raising such questions depended on the exercise of this privilege of speaking before the House went into Committee. If any such question were to be raised—if, for example, any hon. Gentleman wished to challenge, as a whole, the system of our Army administration or the expenditure in any great branch of the Civil Service—there was no doubt whatever, if it was a matter of real and great importance, he would be perfectly able, by giving Notice of Motion, to obtain a day for the discussion of such Notice. But if it was a small matter which affected only some detail of expenditure, he would be perfectly able, when they came to that detail, to raise the question upon it. Of course, it could not be denied that in any great change there would be a sacrifice of something; but the question was, would not the House gain a great deal more, and would not the slight sacrifice that would be made be compensated by the advantages that would be obtained by having a fair and more certain discussion of the Estimates? He really thought it was unnecessary for him to say anything more in favour of the proposal he had made, and he would therefore venture to move the Motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, whenever the Committee of Supply or the Committee of Ways and Means stands as the first Order of the Day on a Monday, Mr. Speaker shall leave the Chair without putting any question."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ MR. RYLANDS
Sir, the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer has 1341 certainly been in every respect a fair statement; but he has admitted that the Resolution which we are about to discuss is not even an old friend with a new face, but is a new Resolution of a more stringent character than any under which the House has been previously placed. It is more stringent than the Resolution of 1872; it is much more stringent than that of 1876; and if this Resolution is adopted by the House, the effect will be that every Monday when Supply is put down as the first Order of the Day, Mr. Speaker will forthwith leave the Chair, and there will be no opportunity of taking a discussion on going into Committee of Supply on the Estimates. The right hon. Gentleman did indeed bring forward one argument of considerable force. He said that when a Minister in charge of a Department has to make a statement on the Army or Navy Estimates, he is often placed in an inconvenient position owing to the number of Motions that have to be previously disposed of. But admitting the public inconvenience of that state of things, it might be met by a much less sweeping measure than that now proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In fact, it might be met without a Resolution at all; if it were understood to be the wish of the House on making the Motion to go into Committee of Supply on the Army and Navy Estimates, the Minister might make a statement. But I believe you, Sir, would consider that, unless it were the wish of the House that that change should be made, the practice is one that you would not encourage or perhaps permit. But, certainly, if it were thought desirable, the difficulty put in the front by the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be removed without any Resolution. This Resolution as it stands applies not only to Committees of Supply, but of Ways and Means. It would prevent any discussion on a Monday on going into either Committee. I recollect, on one occasion, that I and other hon. Members raised some question on a Budget on going into Committee of Ways and Moans, and we did so with so much effect that the Budget was altered, although the Government had a great majority at the time. I admit that there are plausible reasons in favour of there being a greater attention paid to the Estimates, and, indeed, those were the 1342 reasons which, in 1872, led me to support the Resolution brought forward by the then Government. When I did so, however, I was young in the House of Commons, and my confidence in the occupants of the Treasury Bench had not been tempered by experience in the ways of the House. But from what I have seen of the operation of that Resolution, I have some reason to doubt whether the reasons brought forward in favour of it are sanctioned by experience. I am sorry to see few Conservative Members present. I should like them to oppose this Resolution, because it was the practice of Conservative Members in former Sessions to oppose such Resolutions. Mr. Disraeli, in opposition to a similar Motion in 1862, said—If you tamper with, and trench upon, the privileges which the House of Commons has hitherto enjoyed with so much advantage to the nation, you may ultimately find that you have raised throughout the country a spirit of discontent and dissatisfaction which you will have much cause to regret and much difficulty in allaying. What practical advantage, I ask, do you think can flow from priggish, pedantic, and petty attempts to deal with the Rules of this House?"—[3 Hansard, clxv. 157.]In subsequent years the Conservative Party had no difficulty in opposing Resolutions of this kind. In 1872, in opposition to a less stringent Resolution than the present proposal, no fewer than 20 Conservative Members—afterwards Members of the Administration—voted against it. The present Judge Advocate General took a very distinguished part in opposition to the Resolution. He positively boiled over with eloquent indignation in denouncing that attempt on the part of the Government to rob Parliament of its rights. If he takes part in this debate, I hope he will defer his speech until after dinner, when there is a greater number of hon. Members present, so that the Members of the present Parliament may have an opportunity of hearing an eloquence familiar to the Members of the last Parliament. Then there was another hon. Gentleman, the present Secretary for the Treasury, who took a most important part in opposition to the Resolution of 1872. In fact, he and the Judge Advocate General, par nobile fratrum, were the Tellers against the Resolution of 1872. They had in support of their views the voice and arguments of the 1343 right hon. Gentleman the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Hunt), whose loss we all deplore. They had the support of the right hon. Gentleman the late Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), then the Nestor of the House of Commons, who implored the House not to support the Government in proposing a muzzling measure. Then there was the right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Walpole), who made a valuable speech on the same side. Of course, the other Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Beresford Hope) was there then, and I am glad to see that he is here now. Then there was the hon. Gentleman the Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), whom ever since I have been in the House I have been accustomed to rely upon to defend the rights of independent Members; but whom, I am afraid, is somewhat falling away, and is becoming somewhat weak-kneed. Then there was the Member for West Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck), who was then opposed to the Resolution, and will oppose it now. In opposing this Resolution of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we are, then, only taking the course taken by so many eminent Conservatives in 1872, in opposing a Resolution which was not so stringent or so violent an attack on the Privileges of the House as that which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is now proposing. I will now deal with the reasons which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has given in favour of the Resolution. In 1872 there was no practical experience of a Resolution of this kind. Since then we have had experience, and we have seen that every reason which was brought forward in 1872 as justifying this restriction on the privileges of private Members has proved delusive. In 1872 I was influenced by the expectation that if we could pass some Resolution of this kind the greater certainty of Supply coming on would secure a larger attendance and better discussions in Committee of Supply. But experience has shown that the attendance in Committee of Supply has not been increased by the operation of the Resolution of 1872. No doubt it has tended to the convenience of myself and other hon. Members who desired to discuss the Estimates; but we have found that we have had to conduct our discussions in the presence of empty 1344 benches. Indeed, the very fact that hon. Members knew that Supply was coming on has led them to stay away. I and others have discussed the Votes, have challenged divisions, and then, when the division bell rung, a number of hon. Members who had not heard the discussion have rushed in, and we have been overruled. Besides this, if we are to choose between having the opportunity of checking some small items in Committee of Supply, or of having the opportunity on going into Committee of Supply of challenging the policy of the Government, which may entail the expenditure of millions, I must say I would myself rather give up the opportunity of challenging the Votes in Committee of Supply than of challenging the policy of a Ministry. But it is said that if we agree to this Resolution Votes will be taken early in the Session, and that we should be saved the scandalous exhibition which often takes place when in the Dog-days we are hurrying through Supply, and the Votes are taken one after the other, often after midnight. But there is no proof that the restriction introduced by the Resolution of 1872 prevented Votes being taken late in the Session. On June 24, 1872, I find that there were 93 Votes remaining to be voted, and they were scrambled though afterwards. In 1877, when a less stringent Resolution was passed, there were, on June 28, 128 Votes still remaining to be voted. But in 1878, when there was no Resolution at all, on June 29, there were only 72 Votes remaining to be voted. Therefore, the advantage contemplated is not shown to have been gained by the operation of the Rule. There is another abuse to which I must refer. There has grown up a most objectionable practice by the Government for the time being to take Votes on Account. I know the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer agrees with me in my objection to this course, and I am not bringing the charge against the present Government in any way more than former Governments; but I think there has been a growing tendency on the part of Governments to take Votes on Account, and then, the Departments being quieted, Supply is put oil. In 1872, when this Resolution was in operation, and which was intended to prevent the necessity of taking Votes on Account, up to May 27, 1345 the Government had come down to the House for £2,734,000 on account. Up to May 10, 1874, when there was no such Resolution in force, the Government came down for rather more on account—£3,142,000—and on June 26, 1876, under a much less stringent Resolution than that now proposed, the Government had obtained £3,061,000. But in 1877, when the less stringent Rule was still in existence, the Government came down for no less than £5,337,000 up to June 22. So that, so far as Votes on Account are concerned, it does not appear that, on a comparison of the years 1872, 1876, and 1877 with 1874, when there was no Rule, the operation of the Resolution interferes with the tendency of the Government to come for Votes on Account. There was another reason urged in 1876 by Mr. Disraeli to induce the House to agree to this further infringement on their privileges. He said—"The effect will be, to a considerable extent, to prevent the necessity of holding Morning Sittings." Now, has that been so? Has there been any such reduction in the number of Morning Sittings? Under the Resolution in 1876 and 1877, we had an increasing number of Morning Sittings; and, in fact, we have no right to suppose from the experience we have had that the reasons given are sufficient to pass these Resolutions. But, let it not be supposed for a moment that I charge upon the Government that they are not sincere, or that I charge the Chancellor of the Exchequer with putting forward reasons which do not operate to a conviction upon his own mind; but I wish to show that experience indicates these reasons to be delusive. The Government really want more time for legislation. I know, when this Resolution was in operation before, that for the first two or three Mondays Government took Supply, and got the first Votes in the Army and Navy Estimates and some considerable sums for the Civil Service. Then they let the Mondays slip away as far as Estimates were concerned, and for weeks not more than one or two Mondays were taken for Supply. The Votes being left over, what did Government do with these Mondays? They devoted them to legislation. They got rid of the opportunity private Members had of making Motions on the question for going into Committee of 1346 Supply, and, instead of getting Supply, they used the time for legislation. Now, I consider we have too much legislation; and if we are to sacrifice our privilege to enable the Government for the time being to bring in Bills, which they continually do, having the effect, when passed, of interfering with everybody and everything, and which do no good, then I say we do not want a plethora of legislation, and I am not prepared to give up an important privilege of Parliament. I venture to say, admitting that you must have a certain amount of legislation, which nobody denies, the amount of time wasted by the Government is far beyond the time they want to gain by taking it from private Members. Wasted, I mean, by their introduction of crude undigested measures leading to loss of time in controversy and Amendment in Committee. I need only refer to the Cattle Plague Bill of last Session, and the crude form in which it was brought in, and the form in which it left the hands of the Committee, transferred, I may say, into another measure, and changed in its most important particulars. I say, also, Government waste time by bringing in measures which seem only to be brought in to be withdrawn—measures debated and read a second time, and, perhaps, they pass into Committee; then, more time is lost until they are thrown over until next Session, at the annual "Massacre of the Innocents." Then, I object, also, to legislation being brought forward to make changes, to unsettle everything, and which, in fact, does not settle anything, and only leads to a crop of future Bills. In addition to this, Government too often bring in Bills which are not improperly described as Bills without bottom, which destroy a good deal of time—the "Agricultural Holdings Bill," for instance—and become dead letters. Government go in for legislation of this character, and ask us to give up what is of far greater consequence. There are, as I understand, two functions of the House. The one is to sift the Estimates and vote Supplies, and the other, no doubt, is to attend to the necessary legislation of the country, by passing laws. But I must now quote a very important authority on this subject. Lord Palmerston, in 1861, when, in reference to a Resolution of this description, after referring 1347 to the function of passing laws, examining Estimates, and voting Supplies, said—This House has another function to discharge, and one highly conducive to the public interests—namely, that of being the mouthpiece of the nation—the organ by which all opinions, all complaints, all notions of grievances, all hopes and expectations, all wishes and suggestions, which may arise among the people at large may be brought to an expression here, may be discussed, examined, answered, rejected, or redressed. That I hold to be as important a function as either of the other two."—[3 Hansard, clxii. 1491.]Well, the Chancellor of the Exchequer now asks us to materially abridge that function. We have often heard the ancient Constitutional doctrine that redress of grievance should come before the granting of Supplies, and I am quite aware that some there are who make light of this old doctrine, and say it is but a poor representation of the grievances of old times when we come down here and raise a petty question affecting some small community, or narrow circle of interests, and that the grievances our forefathers brought before the House, by virtue of the right, were matters of far more importance, and of far more essential interest, than our grievances now are. I recollect quite well, in the discussions of 1872, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Lowe), who took the same view the Chancellor of the Exchequer is taking now, indicated what he called the sentimental talk about the redress of grievances. He said—Gentlemen talked about its being the main business and duty of the House to check and control the Government, to cross-examine them, and have an opportunity of bringing grievances forward; but they must know as well as he did that they were using the language of a past age, and applying it to a state of things that no longer existed. There was a time, no doubt, when it was the business of the House to curb the encroachments of the Crown.…But nobody, he apprehended, surmised that those were now the leading functions of the House of Commons."—[3 Hansard, ccix. 1093.]I am sorry to see the empty state of the front Opposition Benches, for I think the matter demands the serious consideration of the House, and especially the Leaders on this side. I regret that the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) is not in his place, and that the right hon. Member for Greenwich is not in town, because I wish to say that if 1348 there is any truth—and I believe there is great truth—in the charges made against the Government of pushing the Prerogative to an extreme unknown in these latter days, if there is any truth in the charge that Government have effected changes in policy without consulting the House, committing the House blindfold to measures entailing large expenditure and great responsibility—if these charges are true, then I appeal to them not to give way one jot at a time like this, in relinquishing the privileges of the House of Commons. If there are these encroachments, then the more important it is that the checks the Representatives of the people have should not be thrown aside. I venture to say that, not only the action of the Government, but the tendency in influential quarters and in certain organs of public opinion points in the direction of restraining the functions of Parliament, and extending the power of the Executive Government. Looking back at the past Session of Parliament and the last few months, on several occasions most important changes of policy by the Government were sprung upon us without the slightest notice. I refer to the bringing of the Indian troops to Malta, the Anglo-Turkish Convention, and again to the Afghan War—three measures the most important conceivable, taken by the Executive Government; taken not only without consulting Parliament, but intentionally so; and where is our remedy? It may be we may have another great stroke of policy—and what power have we to check it, if we give up the power of controlling the Executive? For my part, I decline to give up our weapons in the present state of affairs. I remember those on that side of the House speaking strongly in 1872 against giving up control by means of Motions on going into Committee of Supply in the then state of alarm of threatened war and disturbance in Europe. It would never do, it was said, for the House of Commons to give up its control over the Government by relinquishing their privileges. If that was so in 1872–3, how much more so is it the case now? We have a new departure entirely on the part of the Government. They have again and again taken a course the effect of which was, in a great degree, to diminish the control of Parliament over the Administration. They have put 1349 forward, as far as possible, the personal rule of the Monarch under the advice of the Minister of the Crown. It may be said I talk Radical doctrines; but I believe they are truly Conservative. I believe it conservation of our interests to keep the privileges we enjoy, and I believe they take a dangerous course, and one likely to unsettle the Constitution of the country who seek to diminish the importance and deny to Parliament the exercise of its privilege—a course far from Conservative, and dangerous to all interests. I oppose this Resolution, because experience of such Resolutions has not confirmed the expectations of the advantages to be gained. I object also, because I think the effect will be that it will prevent the House having legitimate influence on questions of great importance and interest. While I am prepared to meet the Resolution with every opposition in my power, I think it will not be desirable for me to put the Amendment in the terms in which it appears on the Paper. I think it will be rather better not to propose an Amendment and leave the Paper free. I content myself with opposing the Resolution, and shall vote "No" when the division is called.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, that without endorsing all the opinions expressed by the hon. Member opposite (Mr.Rylands), he would support the Amendment which appeared on the Paper in the hon. Gentleman's name. The professed object of the first Resolution was to facilitate the progress of Business in the House. He questioned, in the first place, whether it was always desirable to facilitate the progress of Business. For many years past the legislation in that House had often been clumsy in its construction or mischievous in its results, and in not a few instances it had been open to both charges. They wanted well-considered legislation; therefore, the less they hurried, and the more they dealt with details, the better for the progress of Public Business. Without mincing the matter, the real object of these Resolutions was to deal summarily with factious opposition; but it was extremely difficult to draw a clear distinction between factious and legitimate opposition. They ought, therefore, to be extremely careful in dealing with a proposition that might infringe on the rights and liberties of 1350 the House. The only result of any attempt to frame Rules for restraining discussion would be that those Rules would be found to act as a stimulus to opposition, and thereby to defeat their own object. Hon. Members would lay their heads together to see in what manner they could best evade the Rules of the House. Nor was this all. Another and much more important question was involved. The Resolution appeared to be a direct attack on the most cherished rights and privileges of the House, and he, for one, deprecated any interference with the oldest axiom, or corner-stone of the Temple of the liberties of the House—namely, "grievances before Supply," the claim of which had always been respected. Attempts had frequently been made on former occasions by successive Governments to curtail the privileges of independent Members; but hitherto, with the exception of the abolition of the right of speaking at the presentation of Petitions, they had met with small success. These attempts had been made persistently for many years, and the time was now come to offer them a firm resistance. Whatever Government was in Office, the House of Commons ought to have the fullest power of discussing any question. On general grounds he was opposed to these Resolutions, and especially to the first. The House was bound, not only for the sake of its own credit and character, but also in duty to those whom it represented, to maintain its own privileges as a part of the privileges of the country. He trusted there was still independence enough left in the House to reject this and all other Resolutions which might trench upon the rights of private Members.
§ MR. SERJEAND SIMON
rose to move an Amendment of which he had given Notice—namely, at the end of the proposed Resolution, to add—Unless on first going into Committee on the Army, Navy, or Civil Service Estimates respectively, an Amendment tie moved relating to the division of Estimates proposed to be considered on that day.Those were the terms of the Rule of 1872, which had been found to work well, and he thought they would meet the exigencies of the case.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
rose to Order, saying that there were hon. Mem- 1351 bers who desired to move Amendments which would come earlier.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
suggested that the Resolutions should be considered, like the clauses of a Bill, in Committee.
§ MR. DILLWYN (for Mr. DODSON) moved, as an Amendment, the omission of the words "or the Committee of Ways and Means."
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
seconded the Amendment as one which would be a slight improvement, although it would not make the Resolution acceptable. While there was a weight of authority from the elder Members of the House in favour of some change, there was none in favour of that proposed by this Resolution, which almost in the same terms was rejected in 1854 and 1861. The evidence of the Speaker was that, in order to avoid the inconvenient postponement of Ministerial statements, it would be better that a Minister should make his statement, instead of merely touching his hat, when he moved that the Speaker do leave the Chair; and he pointed out that while the Resolution would introduce certainty, it was open to the objection that Supply might be fixed for every Monday night and taken without the opportunity of opposing it by an Amendment. It should be remembered that the Speaker, in his evidence, suggested that the proposal might be accompanied by some compensatory arrangement giving greater facilities on other nights for bringing forward Motions. But no such compensatory arrangement was now offered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The evidence of the Speaker before that Committee was distinctly against the proposal, as interfering with the old Parliamentary maxim of discussing grievances before granting Supplies, and strongly in favour of Amendments which were relevant being discussed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer would exclude all Amendments whatever. In the case of Supplemental Estimates, and even on the £6,000,000 Vote of last year, the discussion of Amendments would, under this Order, have been altogether excluded. It would merely be open to the House to say "Aye" or "No," without giving any reasons. Such was the opinion of the highest authority in the House. The evidence against the Chancellor of the Exche- 1352 quer's proposal was overwhelming. The Chairman of Committees had also given evidence wholly opposed to it, and had stated that he would allow Motions affecting the administration of the Departments of the State to be brought forward on the Motion to go into Committee of Supply. He (Sir Charles W. Dilke) thought it essential to the privileges of the House that the ancient theory of discussing grievances before granting Supply should be preserved. It was one of the most valuable parts of our Parliamentary Constitution. He contended that a majority of the Members of the Committee were opposed to the Resolution now proposed.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "or the Committee of Ways and Means."—(Mr. Dillwyn.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
admitted that the reasons for proposing that there should be no Amendments on going into Committee of Supply did not apply with equal force to Committees of Ways and Means. He had taken the Resolution in the form in which it was ultimately adopted by the Committee; but he would admit the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) was correct in saying that if the matter had been proposed to the Committee on the subject as it was now proposed to the House, the majority of the Committee would have been in favour of omitting Ways and Means. He, therefore, was prepared to accept the Amendment. He observed that the hon. Baronet, in quoting from the evidence which the Speaker was good enough to give to the Committee, had omitted to notice that much of the evidence turned upon the suggestion which the Speaker had been prepared to make to the Committee, which would have given to the Government Thursdays and Fridays, with an absence of Amendment on going into Committee, as well as Mondays.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
thanked the right hon. Gentleman for his concession. The power of moving the Amendment in Supply might be used so as to lame the Services; but it was clear that a Motion 1353 to go into Committee of Ways and Means, which dealt with taxation, could not have equal urgency.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
suggested that it would be an improvement if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would go further in the direction of Amendment, and secure to hon. Members opportunities for discussion in case of Supplemental Estimates, Votes of Credit, and Votes on Account being brought before the House.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
I must thank my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the way in which he has given in upon this point, and I trust his concession may be the prelude to many other improvements in the Resolution. It may be so changed as to be made acceptable; but it will certainly require very considerable alterations. I must thank the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) for having saved me the trouble of referring at length to the evidence of Mr. Speaker and of the Chairman of Committees. I was prepared to have brought before the House this most valuable and weighty evidence, from the first and the second authority in the House; but it has been so well and amply done by my hon. Friend as to make repetition unnecessary. I must ask the House to weigh and digest it. No one would wish or expect us to give up our independent opinion; all must own that the highest respect is due to these authorities. I wish to discuss the Resolution from a point of view which has not hitherto been brought before the House. It has hitherto been dealt with on the supposition that it would be successful in its operation. I wish to consider it in the aspect of its being a failure—not, of course, a formal failure, but only an innovation which will not work as its proposers meant it to do. Let us suppose that the Resolution were agreed to on the hard and absolute words of my right hon. Friend, words more absolute than were ever moved before. My right hon. Friend, with great ingenuity and ability, tried to persuade us that his proposal of this evening is our old familiar friend of 1872, only in a rather different attire. But he did not point out how far it differed from that venerable suggestion. In that case it was provided that one Amendment might be 1354 moved on each of the three great branches of the Estimates, provided that branch were first brought forward on a Monday, while he put an absolute gag on all Mondays. But my right hon. Friend, in his concern to represent the creation of 1872 in such roseate language, passed over the very animated opposition with which the proposal was met. So much for the Rule of 1872, due to the Government of the right hon. Member for Greenwich. I do not remember whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer said anything about his own arrangement of 1876; but if he did, it was uttered in such dulcet tones as to fail in arresting the attention of the House. The proposal of 1876 was that there might be one Amendment on a cognate subject to the night's Estimates upon every Monday. That was taken as an all round compromise, and, after what I remember as a full discussion, acquiesced in with much unanimity. Now, when I remind the House that that compromise was moved by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I think I have said enough to show that it deserves very great respect. But suppose this Resolution is carried as it is proposed, what will be the result?Naturam expellas fureâ,tamen usque recurret.Hon. Members who are cut off from bringing forward their grievances in the legitimate manner before going into Supply will still have one and every item of Supply to talk upon. At present, if there is any steam to blow off, there can be one discussion, and then an end of it. But when a body is in a state of fever the unhealthy stuff is repressed; then, by all medical rules, it works internally in a much more virulent manner. The question which presses will probably be traversed by some three or four separate Votes, and as sure as possible you will have three or four separate debates upon it, raised by hon. Members who find themselves aggrieved by being cut off from bringing on their Motions on going into Supply. But even then you will not have stopped all the earths; there is the Report on Supply, and you may depend upon it hon. Members will take their revenge. And then, again, this Rule applies only to Mondays. On all other days this Dra- 1355 conian law does not exist. But what Government which is ever likely to get upon the Treasury Bench will not use this Rule to its own advantage. Of course, every Government mates use of the weapons at its command, and with the more zest if forged by its opponents. It is not the present Government that I fear, but a possible Government which might come, in some far-off Session, from those Benches below the opposite Gangway, when my right hon. Friend would sit disconsolate upon the front Opposition Bench, and I should be mournful below the Gangway. I never would pay such a Government the bad compliment of supposing that they would be such bad managers that if, when they had Monday to themselves and could get their Supply through, they would put it down on Thursday when the Opposition could still do their little something to stop them? Of course, they would not; no people fit to sit on the Treasury Bench could possibly so mismanage their business. And thus their Supply would be carried through on Mondays. I dare say it would be bad Supply, and that it would do a great deal of mischief; perhaps by its savings and its caprices we should lose half our Colonies and Cyprus into the bargain; but we should take our revenge by being nasty, thoroughly nasty, on the Report the day after. We have read to-day in the newspapers about Captain Cook; and I would appeal to my right hon. Friend whether it is worth while risking all these disasters for the barren honour of becoming a Captain Cook of Parliamentary Forms. I do not know, Sir, if I should be in Order, and I tremble before the learned Serjeant on the other side; but if I could only suggest in a hypothetical manner a certain Amendment which I shall be prepared to move later on, I think we might arrive at a satisfactory compromise. In regard to the suggestion of the Minister making his statement with the Speaker in the Chair, you, Sir, have expressed your opinion that the scheme was one which might work well, and the Chairman of Committees, did the same, although it is fair to the House to say that an authority whom we all greatly respect, Sir Thomas May, saw a difficulty in the way. I think, however, his difficulty was rather on a matter of form than of an absolutely practical nature. The Chan- 1356 cellor of the Exchequer, at the beginning of Mr. Speaker's examination, asked whether the Minister might not make his statement before the Speaker left the Chair; in short, whether he might not move the Speaker out of the Chair?—upon which a general debate would follow; then after that stage one Amendment might be considered according to the terms of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Resolution of 1876. Of course, the first debate on Mr. Speaker leaving the Chair would travel over the ground of all the Amendments, and half of them would virtually be swept away by a dexterous Minister, though probably one or two would remain behind to be dealt with on the days when the particular Supply to which they referred came on. I also ventured to urge this before the Committee. It seems to me that the Estimates might be divided into more chapters than at present. At present we have the three great divisions of Army, Navy, and Civil Service Estimates; but the latter comprise, not to name other topics, charges for Public Works, the judicial arrangement of the country, Education and Fine Arts, and the Diplomatic Service, each of which, speaking roughly, has its own mouthpiece in the Government. Would it not be a common-sense arrangement that there should be as many chapters in the Estimates as there are definite Members to move them? The Home Secretary, for instance, could move his batch, the First Commissioner of Works his, and the Vice President of the Council would move the Education and South Kensington Votes and so on; and thus you would get the Estimates divided into seven or eight distinct chapters, which would bring forth the same number of Ministerial statements before you, Sir, left the Chair. We should in that way regulate grievances, and only take those directly referring to the Estimates, or those particular Estimates, while Tuesday and Friday would remain for the many miscellaneous subjects which we are apt to discuss on going into Committee of Supply, and which sometimes puzzle people out-of-doors. I should like to know, Sir, whether I should be in Order in reading an Amendment?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The hon. Member certainly would not be in Order in moving an Amendment, for at the present time there is an Amendment before 1357 the House which has not been disposed of.
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
Then, Sir, I will read a supposed Resolution. I will suppose, Sir, that in some future Parliament, some ideal Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed a Resolution which embodied the principles of the Resolution of 1876, and of the provision that the Minister should make his statements on moving the Speaker out of the Chair. Whoever does this will, I believe, offer the best solution of the difficulty.
§ MR. KNATCHBULL-HUGESSEN
said, that the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Beresford Hope) had compared the Chancellor of the Exchequer to Captain Cook, and he (Mr. Knatchbull-Hugessen) supposed that the House was to imply that the hon. Gentleman compared himself to the estimable savage who, according to that morning's newspapers, claimed to have destroyed that unfortunate discoverer. The hon. Member's speech tended to destroy all the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Resolutions. Now, nothing was more popular with a large section of the House of Commons than to tell them that an attempt was being made to tamper with its privileges. A number of Gentlemen were always ready to believe such a statement, just us a certain number were always ready to believe paragraphs which appeared in the newspapers and to found upon them serious questions in that House, although they had, in reality, no foundation at all. But let the House take a practical view of the question and ask what was the true reason for these Resolutions. Now, what was the complaint of the country? Was it that grievances were not sufficiently considered, or that hon. Members were debarred from making speeches? Certainly not; the complaint was that the Business of the House was constantly brought to a standstill by the vast number of speeches delivered, and that the House failed as a legislative body, if not as a debating society. That being the case, the Government had taken the right course in making proposals that had been endorsed by a large majority of an impartial Select Committee, and in moving that on one day of the week the House should at once go into Committee of Supply without debate. What they 1358 wanted was the certainty that the House would attend to the Estimates, and that the expenditure of the country's money should be fully criticized, which was one of the special duties of the House of Commons. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), though he had touched the real point at issue, had not put it quite fairly before the House. He had enlarged upon the importance of being able to discuss before going into Committee the whole policy of the Government, as it involved more serious sums of money than almost any Estimates, and had put the matter as if it were a question between the discussion of such policy and the discussion of the details of Estimates. If that was really the case, the argument of the hon. Member would be irrefutable; but he put it to everyone whether there had been any question connected with the policy of the Government upon which, if really objected to, even by a small minority, there had not been ample opportunities of raising debate? The hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had quoted the evidence of the Speaker and other eminent personages given before the Select Committee, but had strangely omitted another material part of the evidence of the Speaker of the House, who, on being categorically asked three questions, had replied—first, that he had never known a real grievance which had been prevented from being brought before the House, inasmuch as it was to the interests of Ministers that it should be so brought and openly dealt with, rather than be made the subject of comment in the Press; next, that the chief object of the Minister must be to obtain facilities for the transaction of the business of the country, and that this was of more importance than that every Member should have the opportunity of airing his particular crochet; and, lastly, that in his opinion a small restriction of the rights of individual Members was necessary for the conduct of Public Business. The real question was whether the House wanted to expedite its Business or to retain Rules which had no other considerable merit than antiquity, which he (Mr. Knatch-bull-Hugessen) should have thought would rather have recommended them to the other, and not to the Liberal, side of the House. They had been well suited to the old times in which they 1359 were drawn; but now, if not absolutely obsolete, were inapplicable to an Assembly in which so many more Members took part in the debates than was formerly the case. The time of the House had been year after year occupied, not by grievances, but by questions which the vast majority would have put on one side, if the forms of procedure had not stood in the way. The cry of privilege had been raised upon mistaken grounds. He regretted that an attempt should be made to represent those who were or had been officials of the House as acting in opposition to the independent Members when they really desired and ought to be rowing in the same boat, and uniting in an honest endeavour to promote the due transaction of the business of the country.
§ MR. GREGORY
trusted there would be no further opposition to the adoption of the Resolution after the statements that had been made on both sides. He had over and over again come down to the House with the view of getting on with Supply; but instead of that had sat listening to Motions which had very little to do with Supply till nearly 1 o'clock in the morning, when very little attention could be paid to the real questions before them. He believed that to the constituencies this was a serious grievance, and his constituents felt that matters of Supply ought not to be discussed in the desultory manner in which they must be discussed at that time in the morning. He, therefore, approved of the Resolution, and pointed out that it would facilitate the progress of Business without interfering with the Privileges of the House. It appeared to him that hon. Members had ample opportunities of bringing forward their grievances; they had at all events two days in the week, and they were also to have the opportunity when Committee of Ways and Means stood upon the Paper. He would ask whether the grievances spoken of were very crying ones, and whether they were such as should interpose between the House and its going thoroughly into the discharge of one of its most important functions. He spoke with some feeling, because it was to him and others actively engaged in business a great sacrifice to attend the Sittings of the House. He trusted the House would in every way facilitate Committee of Supply.
§ MR. SERJEANT SIMON
said, there was not a single instance of a real grievance which hon. Members had not had an opportunity of bringing forward; but there were some so-called grievances, such as the question of a road across the Park, which were more fit for a local vestry, over which the time of the House had been frequently wasted. He had come down night after night, as stated by the hon. Member for East Sussex (Mr. Gregory), and found the House still talking about these matters instead of proceeding with the proper Business of the evening. Session after Session had been wasted in mere empty speeches, and nothing had been done; and the end of this had been to defeat the very object of the Rules for which hon. Members below the Gangway were contending. The consideration of the Estimates had been deferred till a late period of the Session when the House was weary and many of the Members had gone out of town, and the Government had been able to carry whatever Estimates it pleased. Many important measures also had been withdrawn in consequence of this waste of time. He thought that some compromise might be arrived at which, while it gave effective force to the old and important principle of "grievances before Supply," would yet prevent their spending so much time, not in passing great measures, but in listening to speeches which led to nothing. When the right time came, he intended to move that words be added to the Motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer which would enable a Question to be put before the Speaker left the Chair.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
remarked, that the great complaint which had been made by both sides of the House was that fair opportunities were not afforded for the discussion of the Estimates; and he could not see that, under the Resolution which was now being considered, there was any guarantee that Ministers would bring forward their financial proposals in proper or reasonable time, or that they would not throw them over until the end of the Session, thus necessitating large and repeated Votes on Account. Ministers were always more inclined to give to Bills on which they relied for popularity the preference over Supply, which only interested a comparatively small section 1361 of the House, and hon. Members around him would remember the difficulties they had had to encounter in this respect when in Opposition. As a via media, and with the view of inducing Ministers to bring on Supply at a period when it could be freely and advantageously discussed, he would suggest to his right hon. Friend that the Resolution should be made to extend only to the 1st of June in each year. Should the Chancellor of the Exchequer, however, not see his way to do that, the Rule which had worked so well in 1872–3 might be again adopted.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, while it was impossible to overrate the importance of the Question before the House, it was equally important that it should have some Question before it; but at the present moment the Main Question was overlaid by three several Amendments; and as he understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer was ready to accept that one proposed by the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) for the omission of the words "or Ways and Means," he would therefore suggest that it should be disposed of before any new suggestions were considered.
said, he was utterly bewildered at the course which the proceedings had taken, and at the various Amendments and suggestions—some of the former not yet reduced to writing—which had been thrown out.
§ Question put, and negatived.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
, in moving, as an Amendment, to insert after the word "Supply," the words "appointed for the consideration of the ordinary Army, Navy, and Civil Service Estimates," said, that before doing so, he might be allowed to say a few words upon the Resolution itself. It had appeared to him for some time that the real difficulty which the House had to meet was one which would never be met, or very imperfectly met, by any Resolution such as that which hon. Members were now debating. The difficulty was that the House had a great deal more Business to deal with—some of it of a very important and some of it of an extremely unimportant character—than it was able thoroughly to discuss; and, under these circumstances, it was left almost entirely to chance, or 1362 to the pertinacity of certain hon. Members, what Business should be considered and what neglected. That was the case both with regard to projects of legislation and with regard to various other subjects which were brought before the House; and he did not believe that any effectual remedy could ever be applied to this state of things until the House was prepared to classify its Business in a far more scientific way than it did at present. Some day or other the House might see that it was necessary to attempt such a classification, and to commit to some authority—he did not say what that authority might be, whether certain officers of the House, or a Committee of its Members—the duty of examining into its Business and of proposing for consideration, and, if thought fit, adoption, some scheme for the proper conduct and management of its work. He was quite aware that at the present time the House was not disposed to proceed with any such considerable change in its procedure as that which he had just indicated; but he was strongly of opinion that, until it took up the question in that sense, it would never be able to cope with the real evil with which it had to contend. With regard to the Resolution before them, there was no doubt that the practice of moving Amendments on the Question that the Speaker do now leave the Chair for the purpose of going into Supply, had increased to a very inconvenient extent. It was quite of modern growth, as appeared from the evidence taken before a recent Committee. For many years in the early part of this century it was unknown; but about 1811 it was permitted on very urgent occasions. In recent years, however, the practice had extended to very insignificant questions, and had developed into considerable abuse, for which the House suffered. On the other hand, it was of extreme importance that opportunities should be given of raising at short notice discussions on really important matters, whether foreign, colonial, or domestic. In his evidence before the Committee last year, the Speaker admitted that such facilities for the discussion of urgent matters would be considerably curtailed by the Resolution before them as it now stood. The Speaker's evidence also showed that, in his opinion, the operation of the Rule of 1363 1872 was intended to be confined, and had been confined by him in practice, to those cases in which the House was going into Committee of Supply on the ordinary Army, Navy, or Civil Service Estimates. The Resolution of 1872 would not, in the Speaker's opinion, have applied to Votes of the nature of the Credit of £6,000,000 proposed last year, or to any Estimates of an extraordinary character. He had no doubt that the Speaker exercised a very wise discretion in interpreting the Resolution of 1872; but its terms admitted of that interpretation, whereas the Resolution as now moved by the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not. Under its plain and precise terms, he (the Marquess of Hartington) presumed that the House would be obliged to go into Supply without any Question being put, on any Estimate whatever, including the Vote of Credit of last year. He did not think the House would on consideration be willing to give the Resolution so great a latitude; and therefore he would propose, as an Amendment, to insert after the words "Committee of Supply" the words "for the consideration of the ordinary Army, Navy, or Civil Service Estimates." That would give the Government the certainty they desired in regard to the ordinary Estimates, while it would exclude extraordinary Estimates from the Rule. He hoped that Amendment would be favourably considered by the Government. He had a further suggestion to make, although it might not be regular for him to put it in the form of an Amendment. Supply was not confined to discussions in Committee. It involved two stages—first, the consideration of the Estimates in Committee, and next, the adoption by the House of the Resolution which had been agreed to in Committee. It was in Committee that the details of the Estimates were discussed, and that the evil of uncertainty was felt; and it appeared to him that the principle of considering grievances before Supply might be conveniently maintained by taking Amendments on the Report of Supply, instead of on going into Committee. It was seldom that the question of the details of an Estimate was reserved for the Report. It was perfectly competent now for a Member to move Amendments on the consideration of the Resolutions agreed to in Supply. There was 1364 no Rule of the House to that effect; but it had been frequently ruled by the Chair that an Amendment moved on the Report of Supply must appertain to the subject of the Resolution passed in Committee. He thought that some relaxation of that ruling might be provided for. It was of the utmost importance that facilities should be given for the discussion of urgent foreign, colonial, and other questions which might from time to time arise; and he did not see how, under the Resolution as it stood, such facilities would be afforded. He did not think it would be practicable to shut out the discussion of questions at short notice which it was desirable to discuss; and if they adopted too stringent a rule of that kind, he had no doubt the Government would lose a considerable part of the advantage which they hoped to gain by the Resolution, and probably more recourse would be had to what the House felt to be the most inconvenient practice of moving the adjournment for the purpose of raising a discussion. It was to be regretted that such discursive discussions should be raised on the Motion that the Speaker do now leave the Chair. As things now stood, it was often perfectly useless for the Government to put down Supply for a Monday night, because they knew they would not get it, owing to the whole evening being occupied by other questions of greater or less importance. He thought it might be possible to give the Speaker some authority by which urgent questions might be raised on that occasion, and that would afford the House all the practical security it required that matters of urgent necessity should be fully discussed. He did not share the apprehension of the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) that the Government would not bring forward Supply early enough. As far as his experience went, one of the main objects of all Governments was to bring forward Supply as early as possible; because as soon as they had made considerable progress in Supply, they had the Session under their control. If the House granted them the opportunity of going into Supply, he had not the smallest doubt that of whatever Party the Government might be composed, they would not lose time in pushing forward the Estimates and making progress with 1365 Public Business. If the Government would accept his Amendment and consider his suggestion, he thought the House might then safely agree to the Resolution. The noble Lord concluded by moving the Amendment.
After the word "Supply," to insert the words "appointed for the consideration of the ordinary Army, Navy, and Civil Service Estimates." —(The Marquess of Hartington.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he had no objection to the proposal of the noble Lord opposite (the Marquess of Hartington); on the contrary, he thought it a decided improvement on the recommendations of the Committee embodied in the Resolution. He agreed with the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) that it was of the highest importance they should consider questions of policy which might involve large expenditure, and should not allow themselves to be diverted from these by discussions of mere matters of detail. At the same time, the hon. Member would admit there were some of these small matters of detail which deserved consideration, and which ought to be considered in a business-like manner. It was not surprising that only a few Members attended to discuss them; but their doing so was, at all events, indirectly useful, for it caused the Government to be doubly and trebly careful how they drew up the Estimates, knowing that they would be criticized and severely examined. What had been found to be inconvenient and dim-cult to overcome was the multiplication of Notices of Motion on going into Committee of Supply, which not only made it uncertain whether they should get into Committee of Supply at all, but also what Notices would be proceeded with. The number of Notices might vary from, say, 5 to 20; they would embrace all kinds of subjects; they might come down to find it on one day a question of foreign policy, on another the state of Rotten Row, on another a question of fine arts, and on another a personal grievance; and there was no certainty as to which would come on and which would not. The noble Lord said occasions might arise suddenly 1366 when there might be reason to challenge the policy of the Government without having to give Notice and wait three or four weeks to bring on the subject. But that applied to the Committee of Supply at present, when the books were choked with a number of Amendments to the Motion to go into Committee. If the matter was of sufficient importance, no doubt private Members having Notices gave way, and they would be as likely to do so in future on a Tuesday or Friday which they had obtained. Therefore, the House would do well to clear the Paper of Notices of Motion on going into Committee of Supply on a particular day. But when any exceptional proposal was made—such, for instance, as the credit of £6,000,000—it would be wrong of the House to part with its privilege of calling in question the conduct and policy of the Government. The Government, as well as the House at large, would feel that it would be improper that there should be any difficulty in the way of raising a discussion upon general policy at such a time. The proposal of the noble Lord met that case, and he did not see the slightest objection to it. Even in such a case he did not quite see how the Amendment would meet any disinclination to yield on the part of hon. Members having precedence with Notices on other subjects; but in practice, perhaps, the difficulty would not arise. As to the other suggestion of the noble Lord, lie saw no reason for departing from the Rule that an Amendment to the Report of Supply must relate to a Vote included in the Report. If, however, it was to be adopted at all, it must be the subject of a separate Resolution, as it would involve a change in the Rules of Procedure bearing on the Report of Supply.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
suggested that time would be saved if Ministers, instead of introducing Estimates in long speeches full of details, would have the technical and professional information printed and distributed beforehand. Nearly nine-tenths of the speeches of the First Lord of the Admiralty and Secretary of State for War related to details, and a small portion only to important points relating to policy or to matters which might with some propriety be announced to the House in a set speech. On his own knowledge, he 1367 could state that every branch of the War Office was called on to supply the Minister with full information relating to the details of the past as well as the current Estimates. A compilation of the Departmental statements made during the past few years would be most valuable to Members in aid of their deliberations as well as beneficial to the Public Service. Indeed, he believed that a compilation of information was already made for the special use of the Secretary of State. Then, again, the Business of the House in discussing the several Votes of Supply would be greatly aided by having uniformity in drawing out the Estimates strictly adhered to, so that the transactions of one year might be contrasted with those of former years. So far from that being the case, not a year passed without some changes being made in the arrangement of the Estimates, so that the connecting links between the demands of the current year with those of former years were entirely destroyed. The orders of the Treasury to aid hon. Members by an adherence to this uniformity were entirely disregarded. Then they found the information at present supplied excessively meagre, indeed obscure, so that Members were constrained to put questions and to obtain explanations, instead of at once voting the sums which the House should grant, if they were made in a clear and intelligible form. The fact could not be too frequently urged that a large portion of the money annually required in all branches of the Civil, Naval, and Army Estimates was year by year alike, and the exceptional demands so few, that they alone needed consideration. If these ordinary and uniform demands were so clearly shown as to lay open the new requirements, then the discussions could be restricted to the latter. He could not avoid stating that the short experience he had had in that House fully confirmed the words which his relative, the late Mr. Hume, used often in that House, as well as to him (General Sir George Balfour), that the House of Commons was a generous body, readily yielding to the requests of Ministers, when their requests were put forward in a clear and honest form. The greatest obstruction that could be offered was in having obscurity, and consequently mystery, for where there was mystery the House always assumed 1368 there was something to conceal. The other and serious defects were to be found in the wrong practice of permitting monies voted for one purpose to be used for other and often very different purposes; in also not requiring the Appropriation Accounts to set forth the expenditure to the exact form in which it was shown in the Estimates. In his (General Sir George Balfour's) opinion, these were the hindrances to Business. Then, again, the Civil Estimates, now amounting to more than the amounts formerly voted for the Army and Navy, were the cause of much delay in the transaction of Business, merely because of the obscurity in which large amounts were put forward. An attempt was made by the First Lord of the Admiralty, when Secretary to the Treasury, to explain the details of the Estimates; but though this was a praiseworthy attempt, yet it failed, because it was impossible for one officer to make a speech on £23,000,000 of Expenditure of every form and kind of outlay, relating to the civil administration of the whole Kingdom at home and abroad. Here, again, the printing of information prior to the Estimates being brought on would be most useful. It would supply that want, which Members so often delayed the Business by asking for in the course of the Sittings. Even then, it often happened that the replies were very vague, sometimes not even noticed, and at other times incorrect. The obvious course was to throw on the responsible officers of the several branches of the Civil Service the duty of furnishing the details relating to their respective Estimates, and also require a few of the political heads in the House, such as the Chief Commissioner of Works, Board of Trade, Local Government Board, and others, to speak on the policy or principle of those Estimates. In that way, the Secretary to the Treasury, already overburdened with his proper duties, would be released from the charge of nearly all the Civil Estimates, and able to aid the House with that important kind of information which the great controlling body—the Treasury—ought to be able to furnish on those few but great questions connected with their vast Expenditure in the Civil, Military, and Naval Departments.
§ MR. RAIKES
said, it would be well not to expect too much from the opera- 1369 tion of the proposed new Rule, for the evil at which it was aimed was rather too deep-seated in the present constitution of Parliament to be completely dealt with in that way. He was glad that the noble Lord the Member for the Radnor Boroughs (the Marquess of Hartington) had pointed out to the House, while dealing with this Motion, the great propriety of classifying the Amendments upon Supply before they were brought forward. If they were classified, and more especially if abstract Resolutions were excluded, undoubtedly they would consume much less time than at present. He considered the Amendment of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) was worthy of much consideration, taken in conjunction with the present proposal. It was, however, much more important to ascertain, in the first place, whether more latitude should not be given to the discussion on the Report of Supply, in lieu of the existing practice of raising questions before the Speaker was allowed to leave the Chair, as the noble Lord had suggested. But if that course were adopted, the House might justly insist on a day being named on which precedence would be given to Report of Supply over all other Orders of the Day. Moreover, it was to be considered whether questions might not be raised on such an occasion which would be shut out by the new Rule relating to Monday, that the Speaker leave the Chair. Upon one point he supposed they were nearly agreed — namely, that there should be some method adopted to reduce the uncertainty now prevailing as to the discussions about going into Committee of Supply. Inasmuch as the Amendment proposed to limit the Rule to ordinary Estimates, and to exclude all supplementary ones, the House would have an opportunity, if they thought proper to do so, to enter into discussion on questions relating to the latter. In that case, although a certain classification might be arrived at, still the great mass of Amendments, if the Speaker loft the Chair, would remain, untouched, to encumber the Notice Paper with matter unimportant compared with that of Supply. He felt bound to say that the discussion on these matters would appear to persons out-of-doors altogether technical, and that those questions were so complicated 1370 that it would be difficult to render them intelligible to the ordinary public. He was glad that he had not remained in his seat during that debate without endeavouring, so far as he was able, to give his support to the suggestion thrown out by the noble Marquess, as though he did not think that the Motion itself would have any marked effect on the solution of the question, the policy of which it was a precursor might bear fruit hereafter, when the House would find itself forced to discuss it thoroughly. He thought, further, that such questions could not be examined into too much, or ventilated too thoroughly, so as to bring about, if possible, a change of practice suited not only to a particular emergency, but resulting in such a classification of subjects as might give some real system to the conduct of Public Business. For this reason, he considered that the suggestions which had fallen from the noble Lord opposite were more likely to render permanent service to the Business of the House than those that now appeared on the Notice Paper.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
said, he did not think the proposals of the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) could be separated, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer desired. They formed parts of one plan. Two rival schemes were before the House to make certain the discussion of Supply when it w7as set down. The Government scheme would, if carried alone, have the effect of shutting out Members from an ancient privilege which they valued very highly—the privilege of stating grievances before money was voted. They ought, therefore, to have the opportunity of doing so on the Report, and the noble Lord's scheme gave greater certainty for getting into Supply and discussing the Estimates on the days they were set down; but it would also give advantage to hon. Members to state any grievance to the House before the money was voted. That was a privilege he was sure that the House would not willingly surrender. Those who had been long in the House often had occasion to feel surprise at the very loose way in which money had been voted. Some years ago every item of Supply was questioned; but now supplies of money were obtained so easily that he could not help thinking that part of the growth of the expenditure arose from the very 1371 great chance there was of any item whatever passing without remark.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he could not agree with the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), that the two proposals of the noble Marquess were inseparable. When the hon. Member for Bedford stated that the House would not part with its ancient right of stating grievances on Supply, he forgot that the practice was not of such very ancient date, and that within the last few years, on the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London (Mr. Lowe), this very practice had been given up by the House. In 1872 and 1873 the House agreed to give it up, and neither the House nor the Government of the day had any cause to regret it. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) had said that he (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) ought to be the last person to speak in favour of the Resolution, because he moved an Amendment on previous occations when a similar Resolution was proposed. It was true that he had moved an Amendment on that occasion; but then he had done so solely upon the ground that the question ought to be re-considered, owing to the way in which previous Committees had been conducted. He was, however, very much surprised to find the hon. Member for Bedford opposing now that which he on a former occasion supported; and he was still more astonished at the course taken by the hon. Member for Burnley, because that hon. Member had complained of the inconvenience to which he was frequently put on Friday nights, when a great number of small Questions were sot down on the Notice Paper on the Motion for going into Supply, and had protested against Members being, as he called it, driven into a corner and compelled to vote large sums of money at a late hour in a scrambling and unsatisfactory manner. Those views were, he could not help thinking, better worthy of consideration than the diametrically opposite opinions which the hon. Gentleman at present appeared to hold. He would merely add the expression of a hope that, seeing the enormous amount of Business the House had to get through in the course of a Session, the Resolution as amended would be accepted, not only in the interest of the Government, but of hon. Members generally.
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
observed, that having had the advantage of a Report of a Committee which had investigated the- subject, the Government had come down that Session prepared with certain proposals for the remedying of certain abuses. He should have something to say presently about the nature of these proposals, and how inapplicable they were to remedy the abuses that were complained of. But taking them as they were, they had an Amendment, of great importance from the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn). They had also an Amendment from the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington), which had been accepted, and a suggestion from the same noble Lord as to which there were considerable differences of opinion. The hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Ways and Means was of opinion that the proposal should be considered at the present juncture, and he added that he did not quite understand the full bearing of the Amendment of the noble Lord. Now, how should he? It was not on the Paper, and therefore the House had no opportunity of considering it. The first thing which they had to complain of was that the Government had given them no opportunity of putting down Amendments on the Paper. The hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread) considered that the suggestion of the noble Lord was worthy of acceptance, and the Chairman of Ways and Means thought it ought to be considered at the present juncture. But the Chancellor of the Exchequer had said he would not accept it. What ought the great body of the House to do under these circumstances? Had they not, when they were now asked to abandon a great privilege, a right to demand a fair opportunity of considering, not merely the half-abandoned proposals of the Government, but the proposals to be substituted for them. All that had happened in the course of the evening pointed to the necessity of some further opportunity to consider the subject. There was one thing that must strike the House very strongly. The practical emergency referred to by the Chairman of Ways and Means was the alleged misconduct of throe or four hon. Members. Surely, the hon. Gentleman would not say that what the House was now asked to do, whether in the form of amendment or otherwise, was in any 1373 way directed against this practical emergency? Perhaps the only important one of these Resolutions was directed against the Privileges of the House, which these hon. Members never attempted to impugn. If there were abuses in this matter, they were such as the Speaker and the Chairman of Ways and Means did not consider strong or violent enough to warrant the proposed changes. They had heard of men cutting their noses off to spite their faces Here was a case of the Government cutting their head off to spite their noses. He thought it was too much to ask Irish Members to give up a right which they had never abused, and which they valued as enabling them to demand the redress of abuses before going into Committee of Supply.
§ MR. DILLWYN
considered the Amendment of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) an improvement on the Resolution as it stood on the Paper; but desired to have some information as to how far the change would extend, not only to Supplementary Estimates, but to Votes on Account.
§ MR. GOURLEY
said, he objected both to the Resolution and the Amendment of the noble Marquess, being unable to see how the rights of private Members would be secure under either.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
, in reply to the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), said, that "Votes on Account," being Votes on Account of Estimates already before the House, the Rule precluding discussion before entering upon their consideration in Committee would apply to them on Monday Sittings. Supplementary Estimates, which came under a different category, would be open to discussion before the House resolved itself into Committee. In reply to the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley), he would add that the proposals before the House were intended only to enable the House to discuss the Estimates. If Ministers wished to pass the Estimates without discussion, they would accept the present condition of affairs, and leave the Estimates day by day to the end of the Session, when it was notorious they would be passed. It was really with the hope and desire of getting a full and free discussion of the Estimates at the proper time that these proposals were now made to the House.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
said, the explanation of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty was very unsatisfactory. He (Mr. Jenkins) certainly understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer at an earlier period of the evening to assent, if not by word of mouth at least by gesture, to the proposal that Votes on Account should be excepted from the operation of the proposed Rule. If the House accepted the Amendment of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington), he would move the insertion of words to give effect to that understanding.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that perhaps he might be permitted to say a few words as a Member of the late Committee. He did not think the Chancellor of the Exchequer had treated the House as handsomely as he had promised; for certainly when the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Jenkins) drew his attention to Votes on Account, his (Mr. Parnell's) impression was that the right hon. Gentleman virtually agreed to their exclusion from the Resolution. He would next ask the House if they were going to gain by the proposed Resolution the object which they wished? They had heard a good deal of the desirability of bringing forward the Estimates early in the Session, and the Members of the Government had professed the greatest possible anxiety to assist in this exceedingly good end; but he himself was much inclined to doubt that their good intentions would last as long as would be supposed. They should recollect that this Rule was an entire innovation on the practice of Parliament. In 1872 a Resolution was agreed to which introduced for the first time the principle of progress, which was explained as being the same procedure with regard to the Supply as with regard to the stages of the Bill; but the principle of 1872 was entirely different from the present proposal. In the last few Sessions hon. Members were allowed to put as many Amendments as they wished on the Paper against going into Supply. The consequence was that there was not any very great obstruction to Progress, and it would astonish hon. Members if they know how few hours were taken up with Motions against Supply in 1877; for, owing to the number of Notices down that were not germane to the subject, hon. Members would not remain in the House to sup- 1375 port their Motions. He (Mr. Parnell) had watched the course of events last year more closely than had the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and he could say that in no Session of Parliament in recent years had Notices of Motion proved of less inconvenience or obstruction to Supply early in the evening. He thought the privilege sought to be removed was of much more value to English than to Irish Members. For himself, he had never used it in the past, and did not intend to use it in the future; but he considered the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not acting rightly or fairly in bringing forward such an important Motion after the small Notice he had given the House. If they had considered this question in Committee instead of in the Whole House, they would have been much more likely to dispose of it quickly. His firm belief was that the Public Business would not be materially facilitated by the adoption of one or of all these Resolutions, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer must not complain if, during the present Session, he found his new Rules entirely useless.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. E. JENKINS moved, as an Amendment, the insertion of the words "excepting Votes on Account." It was very clear what would take place if they were to permit the Government immediately to enter Votes on Account without any previous explanation of grievances by Members in a Constitutional manner. He thought, as they were really proposing to vote away a very important Constitutional check, they ought to endeavour, as far as possible, to minimize what they were about to do.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
seconded the Amendment. He scarcely considered it to be necessary to raise the question, as he considered that Votes on Account should never be treated as ordinary Estimates; but he now feared that if the present proposal were not adopted, the Government would get rid of the objection, and treat them as ordinary Estimates. He thought it was one of the most important privileges they possessed, that money should not be voted without previous consideration of grievances; and, with regard to these Votes on Account, how could a Vote on Account be dealt with as an ordinary Estimate, or as anything but an extraordinary event?
§ Amendment proposed, to insert, at the end of the last Amendment, the words "excepting Votes on Account." —(Mr. Edward Jenkins.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
regretted that any hon. Member should have imagined that he had given his assent to the innovation here proposed. He had never intended doing so. What he had assented to was the exclusion of special or peculiar Votes like that of the £6,000,000, involving questions on which the House might wish to challenge the Government. Votes on Account were of a very different character, and the position of the question as regarded them was this. They did not involve any new principle; nobody was satisfied with them, and no Government ever proposed them if they could go on without them. Hon. Gentlemen should recollect that by modern Rules the Estimates were usually voted to a certain date—say, for instance, the 31st of March—but how was the service of the country to be carried beyond that date, if the Estimates for the year were not voted, and when Votes on Account were proposed they were met by Motions on extraneous subjects. If the Resolutions proposed by the Government were carried, Votes on Account would, he trusted, disappear; but they could not be done without altogether. They were wholly different to Supplementary or Special Votes, which seemed to imply something for which Parliament was not prepared. Votes on Account were for the ordinary Services, and involved nothing new. He must therefore oppose the Motion.
§ MR. DILLWYN
thought they ought to limit the facility of granting Votes on Account in every way in their power; and in considering this question they should remember that year by year there seemed to be an increasing desire to take Votes on Account without any real criticism. He denied that there was not ample time to fully discuss these questions, except in the case of a year where the time up to the middle of the Session had been wasted in the discussion of Bills which had never been intended to pass.
§ MR. WHITWELL
said, he thought it his duty to support the Motion of his 1377 hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins). He did not see for a moment the reason for the proposed change, and the Resolution of the Government seemed to deal with Parliament as if its discussions were of no importance. The other day they had charged Indian finances with a heavy charge on account. That was a question which, if it had been brought forward without discussion, would have been a serious invasion of the rights of Parliament. He should therefore vote with the hon. Member for Dundee on this question, as Votes on Account, he believed, were used most mischievously.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
really thought the Amendment an extremely important one, and that the Government would see how critical a point was raised in the discussion. The position of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was totally inconsistent with what the right hon. Gentleman said in his opening, for he then said that they would have in their turn a reasonable compensation in the fact that they would have every opportunity for discussing the details of the Estimates; but they had no such opportunity for discussing a Vote on Account. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed out that it might be possible to raise all sorts of discussions on extraneous questions; but if he really thought the opportunity would be made use of, the better way would be to lay down that the discussion should be only on matters germane to the class for which a Vote on Account was asked. Instead of this, they were asked to sacrifice all their privileges; for it was pretty clear that Government could bring on Votes on Account so as to practically provide themselves with any amount of Supply sufficient to last them to the end of the Session.
§ MAJOR NOLAN
said, he did not look at this question from a point of high importance; but he looked at it from the position of an independent private Member, who might have some grievance or opinion to bring forward. He, for instance, might have a proposition to make on the bringing forward of the Estimates. The first two nights were generally taken up with a grand debate. Then the Minister for War made his Statement, and most Ministers for War occupied some five hours. The debate would be continued by the Leaders of the 1378 House, and, in the meantime, a Vote on Account would be taken. The adjourned discussion would not be taken probably till after July, when an opportunity might, perhaps, offer for his Motion, at a time when it would be practically of no avail. It seemed to him that the older the House grew the greater difficulty there was in keeping it. He thought hon. Members would have still greater difficulty in retaining a House under the new proposition than they had ever had before, for, under the old Rule, Government had some interest in getting a House on Friday; but with this taking of Votes on Account, they would get their money on Monday, and would, therefore, have no interest to keep a House on Friday. They would get the votes of the Members who did not want to do work. The House of Commons would be a very much easier place under the new Rules; but the interests of constituents would be neglected, because hon. Members would no longer be able to compel attention to local grievances. The Government would get their money more easily, but money questions would not be so easily ventilated. If this new Rule were to be made at all, it ought to be made in a fresh Parliament, which would be very keen about work, and not in a Parliament like the present, jaded and wearied out after a prolonged existence.
§ MR. H. SAMUELSON
said, it seemed to him that no objection to the introduction of this Resolution would stamp these Votes on Account as ordinary Estimates, which would be strong affirmation in the future that they were of that character. It appeared to him that the Amendment of the hon. Member for Dundee went to the root of the matter. He thought that the matter should therefore be pressed; but as the Government had not evidently entirely considered the full weight of the Resolution, he begged to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. PARNELL
seconded the Motion. He really did think there was a want of sincerity on the part of the Government in making this proposition. Either they had the Estimates brought forward in the regular way, and facility given in discussing the items of Supply, or they had not. If they had not, then he could understand the opposition of the Government to this Amendment; but if 1379 they were to have the Estimates brought forward in the ordinary way, he could understand it. He believed that if the Irish Estimates were fully discussed the subject of many annual Motions would be abolished, and many of them would be dealt with by the Government. The conduct of the Government, however, was directed to prevent them from having this Constitutional privilege; and the only remedy for Members who desired to discuss particular items in the Estimates would be to insist upon having a discussion of those items when the Government brought forward their Votes on Account. If the Government did really desire discussion, he ventured to think that instead of facilitating the progress of Business, or of getting Supplies, it would be entirely different. He hoped the Government would show their sincerity in this matter; and he appealed to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to accept the Amendment as an illustration of their bona fides.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." —(Mr. Henry Samuelson.)
asked if the Government had weighed the words proposed, and he suggested that an adjournment would give the Government the opportunity of considering the precise legal meaning of the words of the Amendment; for it seemed to him very doubtful if the words suggested would include the Votes intended by the hon. Member for Dundee. The questions for the Government was the real import of the words suggested, and whether those words should be adopted by them, or that words of their own should be substituted.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
hoped they might bring the question to a conclusion that night. The question raised by his hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins) did not seem to him to be a very large one. It hardly appeared to him that there could be much doubt as to the policy of the Government as referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst). A Vote on Account was merely a Vote on a portion of the Estimates; and therefore, as it appeared to him, was excluded from the objection raised by the hon. Member. He entirely 1380 understood the Amendment in the sense it was understood by the Government.
§ MR. E. JENKINS
said, the difficulty under which he laboured was that no answer had been made to the arguments brought forward from that side. The Chancellor of the Exchequer certainly said there was no objection to accept his (Mr. E. Jenkins's) Amendment; but he had failed to answer those really strong arguments against giving the Government almost unlimited power for asking for Votes of Supply without giving the House a compensating right of opposition. He could conceive that the day might come when it would be of infinite importance, on a Vote on Account being taken, for the Opposition to be able to put down some Resolution. He agreed with his hon. Friend (Mr. Parnell) that the Government were taking from the House a great advantage. Seeing, also, how seldom they would be called upon to limit this Resolution by his proposition, he thought the Government might very well give way upon it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, in consequence of remarks which had been made in the course of the debate, he should like to hear the construction which the Speaker put upon the words which had been inserted on the Motion of the noble Lord. He should like to know whether the Speaker considered they did or did not apply to Votes on Account for the ordinary Services?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I should say that the words inserted on the Motion of the noble Lord would cover Votes on Account applying to the Army, Navy, and Civil Services.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that was his opinion, and he further thought that they were in a position to come to a decision on this subject, and that it would be a waste of time to adjourn now, after having carried the discussion so far. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Jenkins) said he had had no answer or reason given why Votes on Account should be included amongst the ordinary Services which we proposed should be taken on Monday without previous Notice. The object of this Resolution was to enable the House and the Government to proceed as rapidly as was consistent with the business of Supply. The object of 1381 the Government in making the proposition was that one day in the week they might be allowed to go into the Estimates without being obliged to take up the whole or the best part of the night in discussing matters entirely of a foreign nature. But with regard to Votes on Account, that argument did not apply, as it was admitted, under the present system, Votes on Account must necessarily be given after due Notice. He believed that they ought to be asked for seldom; but they were always liable to a Vote being necessary. The hon. Member for Meath (Mr. Parnell) had spoken strongly against them; but the hon. Member, in visiting Dublin, perhaps, would not wish to find the soldiers there starving for want of their pay, in consequence of delay in voting Supply in that House. It might be said that Votes on Account would be asked for for objectionable purposes; but he would remind hon. Members that they always had the power to reduce it, and to raise those questions in Committee in a form which would render it more than ever difficult to pass.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 69; Noes 143: Majority 74.—(Div. List, No. 10.)
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
I rise now to move an Amendment the drift of which is, I may say, to carry out, as far as may be, in the words of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the proposal he made in 1876, and which was then accepted as a satisfactory compromise— namely, that one division, and that relative to the Estimates of the day, shall be brought forward. On the Monday question, too, I pressed in the Committee the suggestion to which several hon. Members, as well as Mr. Speaker and the Chairman of Committees, were favourable, though it was not embodied in any Resolution—namely, that each Minister should make his statement in the House in moving the Speaker out of the Chair. This suggestion, also, I embody in my Amendment, and thereby I import a slight change into the method of procedure as proposed by the Resolution of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. By the latter, Mr. Speaker leaves the Chair without being moved out of it. By my 1382 Amendment it is necessary that he should be so. That will make no real difference as to facilitating Business, except so far as debate is interposed. But this debate will be limited and governed by the conditions which we shall prescribe. With this explanation, I move to add at the end of the second line, after the word "Monday," "and a Motion be made that Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair." If I am successful, I shall move to add at the end of the second Resolution—Unless an Amendment be moved on the division for the Estimates to be moved on that day; and the Member of Her Majesty's Government who proposes to move such Estimate may make his statement in moving 'That the Speaker do leave the Chair.'At this late hour of the night I will not detain the House further, but will simply move my Amendment.
After the word "Monday," to insert the words "and the Motion being made, That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."—(Mr. Beresford Hope.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. JACOB BRIGHT moved the adjournment of the debate. He said it was apparent that a number of hon. Members on that side of the House were anxious to put Amendments on the Paper.
§ MR. MITCHELL HENRY
, in seconding the Motion, said, that they had got through six words after an eight hours' discussion. He considered the Government were too anxious to get on with their Business, regardless of the duties of private Members.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." —(Mr. Jacob Bright.)
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
appealed to hon. Members to proceed. The House had been engaged the whole evening in discussing one proposition not of a very complex character. They were now pretty well familiar with the arguments urged on the one side and the other, and he felt that they were perfectly competent to deal with the question in a very short time. It was to be hoped that the hon. Gentleman would allow this Resolution to be passed.
§ MR. RYLANDS
hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would accept the Motion for adjournment. In addition to the Amendment proposed, he did know that other hon. Members had intended to propose certain Amendments upon this Resolution, and he was quite sure the right hon. Gentleman would see that it was utterly impossible to go on advancing that question at that time of night. He must say that if they were asked to change the procedure of the House, it was at least reasonable that the House should proceed with very great deliberation, and that it should not be considered unreasonable that they should ask for more than one night for the consideration of the question.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he was not generally in favour of adjournments; but on this particular occasion, as regarded the Amendment then before the House, he could candidly say that he had no idea of what the Resolution was to be. If the hon. Member who proposed it had the opportunity to put it upon the Paper, they would know what it referred to; but really, as it then stood, the whole House was in the dark as to what its purport was. The Government were not acting as business men in asking them to sit there longer on that occasion, and he might say that he had had considerable experience of the right hon. Gentleman's endeavours to save time, the result being that he generally spent it. He did not believe that hon. Gentlemen would allow themselves to be forced into accepting the Resolution.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, he was inclined to agree with the Motion for the adjournment of the debate. He thought it would not be impossible to agree to the Resolution that night; but he could not help recognizing that there were a considerable number of hon. Gentlemen who would not, at that time of the night, apply themselves to the task; and he was therefore afraid it would be quite hopeless for them to expect to get through the Resolution that night. He therefore put it to his right hon. Friend whether the further discussion of the Resolution had not better be adjourned?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he agreed with the suggestion of his noble Friend that there would 1384 be that sort of opposition, which he did not wish in any way to oppose. He would therefore consent to the adjournment of the debate.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.