§ MR. MOWBRAY
rose to move the following Resolution:— 1436That, except for a Money Bill, no Order of the Day or Notice of Motion he taken after half-past Twelve of the clock at night, with respect to which Order or Notice of Motion a Notice of Opposition or Amendment shall have been printed on the Notice Paper, or if such Notice of Motion shall only have been given the next previous day of sitting, and objection shall he taken when such Notice is called.The right hon. Gentleman said, he should be very brief in proposing this Motion, as it was one which had met for several years with general approval. He moved the adoption of this Rule not from any Party feeling, but with a view to promote good order and the convenience of Members, and, indeed, the interest of the House generally. The Business taken after half-past 12 ought, he thought, to be Business on which they were all pretty well agreed, and which they could transact efficiently and in a way that would give satisfaction to the country. That Motion was originally proposed in the last Parliament, in 1872, by the right hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Gladstone), then Leader of the House, and was unanimously adopted. It was brought forward the following year by no less an authority than Mr. Bouverie, and carried by a majority of 191 to 37. It had been adopted every Session during the existing Parliament, and in the last Division, when he had the honour of moving it in February, 1877, the votes were 185 for and 23 against it; therefore, they had had long experience that it had worked well. The hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone (Sir John Lubbock) had an Amendment on the Paper which would prevent the Rule from applying to Bills which had passed the stage of Committee. Now, he proposed the Rule as it was originally proposed by the right hon. Member for Greenwich, and as the House had had experience of it during the seven years for which it had prevailed. It was true that in 1875 the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) induced the First Lord of the Treasury, then Leader of the House, to accept an Amendment to the same effect as that about to be moved by the hon. Member for Maidstone; but the House, after a trial of one year, went back in 1875 to the original form of the Resolution. In that shape he now proposed it, hoping that it would be agreed to and made a Standing Order of the House.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, except for a Money Bill, no Order of the Day or Notice of Motion be taken after half-past Twelve of the clock at night, with respect to which Order or Notice of Motion a Notice of Opposition or Amendment shall have been printed on the Notice Paper, or if such Notice of Motion shall only have been given the next previous day of sitting, and objection shall be taken when such Notice is called."—(Mr. Mowbray.)
§ SIR JOHN LUBBOCK moved as an Amendment to tins Resolution, in line 1, after the word "Bill," to insert the words "or a Bill which has passed through Committee of the whole House." The hon. Baronet said, that this had been the Rule in 1874, and, though the Proviso was dropped in 1875, no sufficient reason was given for the change. The noble Lord at the head of the Government then supported it, though he said he did not feel strongly about it. In 1874 the hon. and learned Member for Denbighshire (Mr. Osborne Morgan) and the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) gave cases in which the Rule as proposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite had led to very unsatisfactory results, as hon. Members had been compelled to accept proposed changes under pain of losing their Bill altogether. He would not occupy the time of the House by quoting cases which were probably familiar to most hon. Members. He submitted, however, that when a Bill had passed through Committee it was hard that the House should have no opportunity of determining whether it should become law. Under these circumstances, the time spent by the House in getting the Bill through Committee might be all thrown away at the discretion of a single Member; and he proposed, therefore, that the Resolution should not apply to such Bills. He concluded by moving the Amendment.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
seconded the Amendment. He was not opposed to the spirit of the original proposal; but lie thought the Rule would work much more advantageously, and a considerable amount of now wasted time would be saved, if the provision contained in the Amendment were embodied in the Resolution.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. BERESFORD HOPE
said, that the Resolution had been on previous occasions supported by Leaders of the House on both sides. It had worked well for many years; and he thought it had contributed not only to the health and comfort of individual Members, but to the real transaction of Business.
§ MR. SERJEANT SIMON
said, the experience of the past week, when hon. Members had been kept there night after night until 2 and 3 in the morning, ought to strengthen the hands of the right hon. Gentleman who brought forward this Resolution. If an accidental circumstance had not deprived him of the opportunity, he had intended to move that the Rule should be amended so as to apply to all Business whatever at midnight.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, he thought the hon. Baronet the Member for Maidstone could not have found a worse defender of the Amendment than the hon. and learned Member for Sal-ford (Mr. Charley), for many persons thought that the latter hon. and learned Gentleman had passed through the House some Bills which had much better never have been passed at all. His vote on the Motion would depend on the course taken with regard to the next Resolution. If the Motion were made a Standing Order of the House, he should vote for it; but if the Rule were to be as hitherto—a Sessional Order— he should vote against the Amendment, because otherwise Bills might slip through, as, for instance, early in the Session, before the Rule was set up, which otherwise might have been stopped.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he had never concealed his own opinion with regard to the half-past 12 o'clock Rule, of which he was not fond. He thought there was a good deal to be said for the Rule, and quite as much against it. It did not signify nearly so much what the Rules of the House were as in what spirit they were worked. If the Rule were worked in a proper and fair spirit, with a sincere desire to attain the objects its promoters 1439 had in view, it would be useful and valuable; but if, on the other hand, it was worked for the purpose of wasting a great deal of time over Business—which would be opposed only for the purpose of throwing something else over the limit of half-past 12 — it would be not merely useless, but mischievous. He was fully conscious that the Rule met the wishes of the large majority of the House; and he thought it the duty of the Government in such a matter to yield to its wishes. If the House adhered to its former decision, it would be convenient to make the Rule a Standing Order, because there was no use in wasting time in discussing it every Session.
§ MR. DODSON
said, he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the House would be induced to pause before making the Rule a Standing Order. If the Rule was popular in this Parliament, that was no reason why they should make it binding on the next. It would be better to let it remain as a Sessional Order, and leave it to the next Parliament to decide whether they would adopt it or not. He was prepared to support the Amendment of the hon. Member for Maidstone.
§ MR. C.B. DENISON
said, he did not think the argument of the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken was valid against adopting the Rule as a Standing Order. This Parliament might last longer than hon. Gentlemen seemed to suppose. He objected to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Maidstone, because, if carried, there would be really only one occasion on which the Rule would operate, and that was the second reading, because, as a matter of courtesy, Members generally allowed a Bill to go into Committee.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he was very much opposed to making the Rule a Standing Order in its present form; but if the Amendment of the hon. Member for Maidstone were adopted, his objection would not be so strong.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 57; Noes 81: Majority 24.—(Div. List, No. 15.)
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, That, except for a Money Bill, no Order of the Day or Notice of Motion he taken after half-past Twelve of the clock at night, 1440 with respect to which Order or Notice of Motion a Notice of Opposition or Amendment shall have been printed on the Notice Paper, or if such Notice of Motion shall only have been given the next previous day of sitting, and objection shall be taken when such Notice is called.
§ MR. MOWBRAY moved that the Resolution be made a Standing Order of the House. Were that proposal accepted, there would be no need each year to waste time by repeated discussions as to whether the Rule should or should not be adopted. Those who had experience of the working of the Rule could tell the next Parliament how well it had worked.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the said Resolution be a Standing Order of the House."—(Mr. Mowbray.)
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
remarked that it had been pointed out that it would be competent for the next Parliament to repeal or adopt this Resolution. If in the next Parliament they had anything to say about this Rule, they would have to tell something about it not so pleasant as the right hon. Gentleman supposed. They would have to tell them that, in the opinion of the Speaker, this Rule, so far from shortening the Sittings of the House, had had the effect of prolonging them. It also put into the hands of any individual Member the power of obstructing a Bill which the House generally desired to pass. They would also have to inform them that it placed in the hands of any Members who wished deliberately to obstruct the Business of the House the most convenient engine they could use. Although he thought it was to be regretted that the Motion was made so late in the Parliament, he did not intend to offer any opposition to it.
§ MR. BIGGAR
supported the Motion. He considered that Business could not be properly carried on after half-past 12 o'clock. Bills might be pushed on; but they were not maturely considered.
§ SIR HENRY SELWIN-IBBETSON
said, he voted for the Amendment of the hon. Baronet because he believed it modified a Rule to which he had a very strong objection. He had always stated 1441 in the House that he looked upon this half-past 12 o'clock Rule with considerable distrust. He believed the experience of the past few years proved that when they had no such Rules the House did not sit later than it did under the operation of this Rule. He quite admitted that the general feeling of the House was in favour of this Rule, and he was not prepared, any more than the noble Marquess, to vote in opposition to the general feeling of the House; but he desired to record his protest against stereotyping a Rule which, in his opinion, had not tended to facilitate the progress of Public Business.
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
thought it a little curious that, after the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had led them to suppose that the Government would support the proposal, the only speech that had been made from the Treasury Bench had been one against it.
§ MR. HEYGATE,
in reply to the statement of the hon. Member for Maidstone, that the House sat as many hours, in Sessions when the 12.30 Rule existed, as before, wished to point out that though the House might often be kept up to a late hour, and a few of its Members, including the officials and ex-officials, might not gain so much by the 12.30 Rule, yet to the bulk of the Members it was an enormous boon. The great majority of the House were enabled to see with certainty what measures could not come on, and to retire at a reasonable hour. Some of the Government officials would, no doubt, very gladly get rid of a Rule which was in their way; but which was, nevertheless, supported by the general feeling of independent Members. His belief was that hitherto it had certainly worked with advantage to the comfort and the health of every Member of the House, and that its continued action would equally be for the benefit of all concerned. No one could say that the Members of the House had not work enough to do. No one of common sense who had sat within the walls of that House 15 or 20 years could doubt the wisdom of the proposal, for they must know that before the Rule was enforced proceedings arose of which the House ought to be ashamed. A few nights ago, after the debate on the Irish Franchise Question, and a late division in a full House, he had sat up to watch 1442 the proceedings in the interregnum before the renewal of the Rule. What happened? Why, just as in old times— two Bills of private Members were urged on in a thin House and divided upon, when proper discussion was impossible, and newspaper reports of the proceedings were entirely absent. He had voted for both those Bills; but he felt it was a most unseemly procedure, and that such legislation was an absurdity, to say the least. Members should be exceedingly glad that there existed a Rule to put an end to such proceedings at an unreasonable hour of the night.
§ MR. DODSON
strongly opposed the proposal. He would remind the hon. Gentleman, who had said that no one of common sense would oppose the Rule, that the Speaker had given evidence against it, and that a much humbler individual, but a former officer of the House, he (Mr. Dodson), had opposed it. The Return moved for by the hon. Member for Durham proved that it had no effect in diminishing the time of the Sittings; and he (Mr. Dodson) contended that it told against those who sought to promote legislation. As a challenge had been thrown down imputing want of common sense to those who opposed the Rule, he felt bound to answer that challenge, and to state that, in his opinion, it would be a mistake on the part of the House to make the Rule a Standing Order. It was in favour of those who wished to obstruct the Business of the House, and hon. Members sometimes prolonged debates on the first Motion in order to prevent the second from coming on.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, so far as the Government were concerned, he never looked on this as a Government question at all. He regarded it more as a matter for the convenience of the House. But his opinion was that as the House had pronounced its opinion in favour of the Rule, it was bettor that it should be made a Standing Order, so that hon. Members might have a clear arrangement from the beginning of the Session, and be saved discussions on the renewal of the Rule.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, he believed he was the first person who mooted this question in the Committee on Public Business, and his appeal was immediately answered. The object was to 1443 correct an abuse. The protracting debate; the multiplication of Notices and Bills, until the length of the Sittings, and the late hours at which the House rose, incapacitated the senior Members of the House. He did not say that there were no disadvantages in the operation of the Rule; but as the Leader of the House approved it being made a Standing Order, he should not oppose it, although his impression would be in favour of retaining the Rule merely as a Resolution.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that this was perhaps the first occasion on which he had felt compelled to differ from the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar); but lie thought they should not blindly rush into making this Rule a Standing Order. The Rule was a good and effectual one from Session to Session, but he did not think the House ought to bind itself down by making it a Standing Order. Standing as a Sessional Order, it had worked very well as a whole; but if they made it a Standing Order they might find reason to discover that they had made a mistake. There was a great difference between a Standing Order and a Sessional Order. It would be better if an understanding could be arrived at as to what Business should be proceeded with after 12.30, and what Business should not; but, unfortunately, that was difficult to accomplish. In former days there was an hon. Member of the House named Mr. Brotherton, and if Mr. Brotherton said that certain Business should not be proceeded with after 12.30, the House agreed with him, and they also agreed with him when he said the Business should be proceeded with. But in the absence of any Mr. Brotherton in the present day, he did not see what they were to do except to pass the present proposal as a Sessional Order. He (Mr. Parnell) had observed that there was no hon. Member, no matter how self-sacrificing he might be, who did not think his Bill better than anybody else's Bill, and therefore worth going on with after 12.30. He had often been annoyed at Bills of his own being stopped at that hour; but he had never been annoyed at stopping other Member's Bills. He repeated he was in favour of a Sessional Rule. Unless the House was to spend a couple of hours after 12.30, squabbling about the Business, it must have a Rule of the 1444 kind; but it would be better to confine it to the Session, for circumstances might change, the views of the majority of the House on the subject of Home Rule or Repeal of the Union might be reversed, and the 103 Irish Members might be relegated to their own House on the banks of the Liffey, and then English Members would have an opportunity of getting through their Business more quickly than they had now; or the plan of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) might find favour; or the House might adopt the French system of bureaux; a hundred and one things might occur which would do away with the necessity of the 12.30 Rule, and by confining themselves to making it a Sessional Order, leaving future Sessions to regulate matters for themselves, and according to their altered circumstances, they would meet every real need of the case.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 79; Noes 36: Majority 43.—(Div. List, No. 16.)