HC Deb 04 July 1881 vol 262 cc1967-71

With the leave of the House I will now redeem the promise I made a few days ago that I would state the intentions of the Government with regard to the most important of the Government Bills now on the Paper. One of the first I ought to mention is the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Bill. That is a Bill of great importance, with which we could not possibly hope to make progress except by the expenditure of a great deal of the time of the House, and we therefore abandon the Bill for the present Session. We have also given up the idea of proceeding with the Amendment to the Ballot Act during the present Session; but it will, of course, be necessary to introduce a Continuance Bill. With regard to the Motion of my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General for leave to introduce a Bill with respect to Parliamentary Oaths, we have no intention of proceeding this Session with that measure. We still cling to the hope that we may be able to proceed with the Bankruptcy Bill. I say that as a thing undetermined, because there may be a certain margin open to us, according as the course of the discussion on the Land Law (Ireland) Bill shall be more or less prolonged. It is extremely difficult as yet to form any trustworthy estimate as to the course of the discussion. If I were to judge of it by the progress we made on Friday between 2 and 7 o'clock, I would not be without hope. If I were to judge of it by the progress we made between 9 o'clock and 1 o'clock, I confess it would be totally impossible to fix any limit to it. We cling hourly to the hope that we may be able to proceed with the Bankruptcy Bill. I think the Bill relating to Alkali Works stands for consideration on Report, and has virtually received the assent of the House. With reference to the Bill for the Conservancy of Rivers, it is very desirable indeed to pass it if possible; and looking at the favourable manner in which it has passed under the consideration of Select Committees, both in the House of Lords and the House of Commons, we trust it will be possible to proceed with that Bill. I wish to say the same with regard to the Bill relating to Educational Endowments in Scotland. There are two Bills which, it is absolutely necessary to proceed with—one, the Naval Discipline Act Amendment Bill; the other, the Regulation of the Forces Bill—the first to redeem our pledge with reference to the abolition of corporal punishment in the Navy; the next as the legislative supplement to, or the complement of, the Army Scheme of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War. It will also be necessary to propose a provisional measure in respect of those places which were found in different ways and degrees to have been guilty of corrupt practices, and the general effect of that Bill will be stated by my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General. Of course, the main purpose will be the suspension of the Writs. There is a Bill which will probably come down from the House of Lords relating to the Judicature Acts Amendment, of which the main purpose is also to redeem a promise given in the early part of the Session with regard to making provision for the disposal of the patronage which in former days was in the hands of the two Chief Judges whose offices have now been abolished. I speak with very great regret of a measure which has not been introduced, but which was promised hypothetically in the Speech from the Throne—the County Government (Ireland) Bill. It is a matter of deep concern to us to be obliged to postpone that measure; but, in present circumstances, we have no choice. There is a Bill with regard to Local Loans, which is a matter of necessity, and one with regard to the National Debt, following up what I said at the time of the Budget. There are two measures in charge of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade—the Thames River Bill and the Merchant Shipping Act Amendment Bill—and neither can be proceeded with this Session. It will be necessary to introduce a Bill in reference to the Irish University, and probably that Bill may be introduced in the House of Lords. That list, I think, goes over the ground pretty well as to the most important measures in the hands of the Government. There are also one or two measures of necessity, and more or less of form, in connection with the Treasury—as, for example, the Metropolitan Board of Works (Money) Bill; but I hope I have redeemed my pledge and fulfilled the expectation I held out to the House that, so far as the Government were concerned, it is not our intention to proceed with, any measure likely to be the subject of prolonged controversy.


With reference to the statement just made by the Prime Minister, I think he should bear in mind that we have a very large amount of Supply to get through; and taking that into account, and remembering the measures that are to be proceeded with, although there are none of them very novel, still, as they will occupy a considerable time in discussion, I think the Prime Minister will do wisely in re-considering what he has said with reference to the Bankruptcy Bill. I am aware that it is an important Bill, and that it is desirable to pass it as soon as may be; but it is a Bill that is likely to lead to very considerable discussion, and I think that the Government would do well not to press it on this Session.


Undoubtedly, Sir, that is a matter open to us to consider; but we are unwilling just now to give up the hope of being able to proceed with it.

In reply to Mr. J. G. TALBOT,


said, he believed the Corn Returns (No. 2) Bill would be dropped.


said, the Local Courts of Bankruptcy (Ireland) Bill on the 7th of May was ordered to be referred to a Select Committee. That Committee had not yet been appointed. The Bill had given rise to great opposition, and perhaps the Government would give them some information respecting it.


considered it would be of importance and interest to the Members of the House if the right hon. Gentleman, at the head of the Government would make a statement as to whether or not it was intended to proceed with the Rivers Conservancy and Floods Prevention Bill in the event of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill not making that progress which he expected.


said, he was not quite sure that he was sufficiently conversant with the state of feeling in regard to that Bill to be able to estimate precisely the amount of time it would require; but he would communicate with his right hon. Friend (Mr. Dodson) on the subject.


said, he wished to make a suggestion to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman stated that the Bankruptcy Bill would take a long time in discussion. There was an other Bill among the innocents just massacred—namely, the Parliamentary Oaths Bill. The right hon. Baronet had stated that although he would oppose, he would not obstruct, that Bill, as he was anxious that the matter should be settled by the House. Considering, however, the vociferous gratification expressed by the followers of the right hon. Gentleman when the Prime Minister had stated that he intended to with draw the Bill, he would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he would not re-consider the matter, and, instead of the Bankruptcy Bill, proceed with the Parliamentary Oaths Bill? He would not go into a discussion of the Bill; but would call attention to the exceptional circumstances—["Order !"]


The hon. Member is going beyond the limits of a Question.


said, he would limit himself to the Question, only adding that in law, logic, and justice, the great constituency which returned Mr. Bradlaugh ought to be represented by him in that House.


said, there was one Bill mentioned by the Prime Minister—the Bankruptcy Bill—which was of such pressing importance. ["Order !"]


reminded the hon. Member that there was no Question before the House.


hoped either the First Lord of the Treasury or the Home Secretary would state what was to be done with the Charitable Trusts Bill.


said, he had nothing more to add to what he had already said about the Bankruptcy Bill. With regard to the Parliamentary Oaths Bill, the Government thought they could not call upon the House to deal with any question other than that of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill, which was likely to be a subject of protracted discussion. The hon. Member for Northampton had himself referred to the vociferous gratification of the Opposition, and he would be able himself to form an idea of the circumstances which weighed with the Government in abandoning the measure. As regarded the Charitable Trusts Bill, perhaps hon. Members would communicate with those who had charge of the measure.


asked for information as to the course which the Government proposed to take in reference to the Local Courts of Bankruptcy (Ireland) Bill.


said, that, in consequence of the block of Business generally, and the obstruction put in the way of Irish Business in particular, he saw no prospect of proceeding with this Bill in the present Session.