HC Deb 18 July 1881 vol 263 cc1204-8

I did not enter into the questions that were put to me at the time they were asked; but nothing could be more reasonable than that information should be asked for as to the intentions of the Government with respect to certain Bills, and as to the necessity under which we come before the House to ask for a further supply of money. That necessity is extreme and absolute, and without the Vote for which we ask—and we have delayed it till the last moment—we are not able to meet the necessary demands of the Public Service. It was stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross)—I cannot but think under some misapprehension—that I had given an absolute and positive pledge that no such Vote should be taken. I am very confident that I never gave a pledge to that effect. I have no doubt I said nothing but extreme necessity would drive us to do so; but an absolute pledge I cannot plead guilty to. The demand we now make is an absolute necessity. As regards the particular Bills, there is one of them, and one upon which the right hon. Gentleman opposite, I think, laid the smallest emphasis in this sense—I mean the Educational Endowments (Scotland) Bill—with which we shall persevere. It is, I believe, a Bill in which the Scotch Members are almost, if not absolutely, unanimous, and it is the one single subject upon which the House of Commons will have performed any work on behalf of Scotland this Session. The most important measure by far is, of course, the Bankruptcy Bill, and that is a Bill to which we have clung with great tenacity, deeming it to be a matter of the highest importance; but it is our duty to estimate the impediments in the way of its passing; and I perceive with regret—I am not entitled to question the judgment of hon. Gentlemen on the matter—but I regret that they are disposed to offer considerable difficulties. That being so, and in view of the general state of things, we think the time has come when we must abandon the Bill. With regard to the Charitable Trusts Bill, I am sorry my right hon. Friend (Sir William Harcourt), who gave a reply earlier in the evening, is not present, and perhaps I shall be excused from making any positive declaration in his absence. A declaration can be made to-morrow—that can be done to-morrow; but I will undertake to represent to him my own impression with respect to the facility for, or difficulty of, proceeding with that Bill; and I am bound to add that I think the representation I shall have to make will be one that will induce him to desist from proceeding with the measure. With regard to other Bills, perhaps hon. Gentlemen will address their inquiries to the right hon. Gentlemen who have them in charge.


The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the Bankruptcy Bill as though it were a Bill to which hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House might be disposed to offer a good deal of resistance. It was not in that sense that I drew attention to it. It is obviously a Bill of great importance, and one requiring careful discussion; and it cannot, therefore, be hurried through. The point I was directing attention to was the prospect of our being relieved of our attendance here within reasonable time, considering the large amount of necessary Business we still have to transact. The Business of Supply is still so much in arrear that if we are to give any attention to Supply at all it is absolutely necessary to abandon Bills which, however excellent and important, will involve considerable discussion, unless we are to sit to an unreasonable period. I am glad to hear that the Government have decided that it will not be possible to go on with the Bankruptcy Bill; but I hope it will be understood that it was not to that measure, but to save time, that I drew attention to the matter.


wished to ask the President of the Local Government Board a question with regard to the Rivers Conservancy and Floods Prevention Bill. He was not opposed to the Bill, but he observed that there were a great number of Notices of opposition to it on the Paper; and, remembering that the Prime Minister had given a general understanding that Bills involving much controversy would not be taken, he presumed he was right in supposing that the right hon. Gentleman would not proceed with it.


, in reply, assured the hon. Member that he should use every effort to carry the Bill; and he hoped that, with the goodwill of the House, he should be able to do so. The Bill, after being carefully considered by a Select Committee of the Lords, had passed that House; it had been read a second time by a majority of three to one in this House, and had gone through another Select Committee. Although there were a certain number of Amendments on the Paper, he ventured to think that when they came to be discussed they would be found not very serious.


said, that as he did not see the right hon. Baronet the Member for East Gloucestershire (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) in his place, he would ask the Prime Minister what course he proposed to take with regard to the South African Question? This was not a question simply of the Transvaal, but of other matters connected with that country. The whole question of the position of the Natives in the Transvaal was a very serious one. There were 670,000 Natives in that country, and a White population of something like 40,000; and it was very important that before the House separated that and other questions should be discussed.


replied that if the hon. Member would repeat the question that afternoon he should probably be in a position to answer it.


asked for an assurance that the moment the Land Bill was through Committee the House would at once go into Committee of Supply. The House would strongly object if other matters were dealt with after the Vote on Account.


said, it would be remembered that when it was expected that the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) would propose his Motion on the subject of the Transvaal immediately after the Committee on the Irish Land Bill, then the interval before the next stage of the Laud Bill he proposed to devote to Supply, and he had promised to give an answer tomorrow, and to state, as far as he could, his intentions with regard to Supply. With regard to other matters, it was not possible to say more than that there were matters of legislation that were quite indispensable; but, at the same time, they were not subjects of much controversy.


said, perhaps the Prime Minister could say, either now or tomorrow in taking Supply, what Votes would be taken first—the Civil Service or the Army Votes?


desired to know if the Government this Session intended to bring in an Indian Budget at all? This would at least occupy one Sitting; and, if there was such an intention, would the Government give facilities for its discussion, before affording facilities for the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday (Wales) Bill, a subject of less importance than the Indian Budget?


said, he had no doubt whatever that his noble Friend (the Marquess of Hartington) would, as a necessary part of his duty, have a day for the Indian Budget. As for the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday (Wales) Bill he was not at all sure that he would be in a position to offer facilities for it; but the position would more likely be one in which the Government would have to ask the promoters of the Bill to give facilities for Government Business; but, until he had arrived at the means of determining, it would be premature to say more. Due Notice would be given of the Votes to be taken in Supply.


said, the President of the Local Government Board had expressed a hope that the Rivers Conservancy and Floods Prevention Bill would be carried through this Session, because it had passed the House of Lords and been considered by a Select Committee. But it was understood from the Prime Minister that it was not proposed to take any matters of a controversial character, and he would like to call attention to the number of Notices of opposition to this Bill down on the Paper to-day. There were no less than eight for the postponement of the Committee for six months in the names of hon. Members representing various sections in the House. In the first place, there were three from Members of the Conservative Party, the next stood in the name of a supporter of the Home Rule Party, and there were others in the names of hon. Members below the Gangway on the Government side. Members of every shade of politics had put down their names, and, besides, there were two other Notices upon points upon which an immense amount of opposition might be expected. It was not at all likely that the Bill would get through in reasonable time, and, if it was persevered with, the House would not be released from its labours much before Christmas.


said, the President of the Local Government Board could not be aware of the feelings of hostility to the Bill in the country. He had been a member of the Central Chamber of Agriculture for 16 years, and he never knew a Bill excite such a unanimous opposition from the Associated Chambers. He was certain that the right hon. Gentleman and his Colleagues would only waste their strength and energy in attempting to go on with the Bill at that late period of the Session.


asked the President of the Local Government Board to reconsider his opinion. He did not think it was fair to invite the House at that period of the Session to discuss a Bill which, in its full extent, was only known to a few. From his own county, and from other counties interested, he had that day received expressions of opinion that showed how unwise it would be to press the Bill this year. It required much discussion. It received none on the second reading, and was just one of those instances of the inconveniences of allowing that stage to pass sub silentio. The Bill demanded that discussion which it had never received, and which it was now too late to enter upon.