HC Deb 21 June 1881 vol 262 cc989-94

said, that, on the previous day, in reply to two Questions, he had promised to state on what day he proposed to place the Army Estimates on the Notice Paper with a view to an opportunity being given of discussing, as far as they could be discussed on the Army Estimates, the different arrangements of the organization of the Army that were contained in the Memorandum which had been laid upon the Table. The question was one of some little delicacy, and had to be considered carefully. On the one hand, it was important that no interruption should take place to the discussions of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill in Committee; and, on the other hand, he had promised, as far back as March last, that before the 1st of July a day should be given for discussing the Estimates and the impending change. He had advised the Prime Minister that the spirit of that promise would be best observed by assigning a full day to the discussion; and his right hon. Friend had accordingly authorized him to say that if the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) would withdraw his Amendment on the Motion for going into Committee of Supply on Friday evening—an Amendment that would probably occupy the whole of the Sitting—and if other hon. Members would do the same, the Government would put down the Army Estimates for Friday at 4 o'clock. That was the proposal of the Government, it being understood that the Land Law (Ireland) Bill should stand second on the Orders, so that if the debate on the Army Estimates, as far as they related to the new Organization Scheme, ended at a reasonable hour, the consideration of the Land Law (Ireland) Bill might be resumed that evening. He, therefore, appealed to his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley to withdraw his Motion for Friday evening, and would urge the great importance of discussing the new Army Scheme before it took effect on July 1. He also hoped that the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Leader of the Opposition, would use his influence with hon. Members on his side of the House with the same object.


confessed that he felt himself placed in a rather difficult position. He thought his right hon. Friend was dealing rather hardly with him under the very peculiar circumstances of the Motion which stood in his name. He was fortunate enough to get a day fixed for the discussion of the Motion; but from circumstances over which he had no control, arising from the action of the Government in connection with the Peace Preservation Act, a Motion for Adjournment was unexpeet- edly made, and the entire night was occupied by Irish Members. The Motion which now stood for Friday night had excited considerable interest on the part of hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House, and he believed on the other side of the House also, and he had received intimations from several Gentlemen who intended to take part in the discussion. He did not know whether the Government, in the event of displacing him, would give him facilities for bringing forward the Motion at a reasonably early period; but it could not be expected that he should give way, however willing he might be to meet the convenience of the Government, unless they gave him another night. If he now withdrew his Motion, it must be on the distinct understanding that other hon. Members whose Notices had precedence of Government Business would do the same. There were two other Notices on the Paper for Friday evening, and the noble Lord opposite (Lord Randolph Churchill) had also announced his intention of bringing forward a Motion of great interest; so that it was necessary to appeal to others besides himself, and, if they declined to withdraw, he could hardly be expected to do so. And, even if the noble Lord undertook to efface himself, there was no guarantee that the whole evening would not be occupied by hon. Members from Ireland. He, however, placed himself unreservedly in the hands of the House. He did not wish to stand in the way of the progress of the Public Business, least of all did he wish to interfere with the arrangement of his right hon. Friend at the head of the War Department; but he appealed to the Government not to press him to give up the evening unless it was quite clear that it would be occupied with Government Business. He might, perhaps, suggest that next Tuesday would suit the purposes of the Government equally well.


said, he would be happy to give up his position on the Paper for Friday if the Government would give him another day, or indicate that they were prepared to accept his Motion. Otherwise, it would be impossible for him to give it up.


asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he proposed to take the Militia Votes at the same time as the Army Estimates, as he understood there was a desire to take a separate discussion on the point?


replied, that he intended to take the Militia Vote No. 5.


So far as I can at present form an opinion on the subject, I think the proposal made by the Government seems to be a very fair and reasonable one. There is no doubt that an undertaking was given early in the Session that an opportunity should be given for the discussion of the new Army Organization Scheme. If that discussion is to be at all valuable it ought to take place before the end of this month. There is, no doubt, a good deal of difficulty in the proposal that hon. Members should give way for the purpose of enabling the Motion of the Government to be brought forward. The hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) says, very fairly, that he is ready to give way for the convenience of the Government and of the House, with the full understanding that if he does so others will do the same. I am able to say, on behalf of my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Mac Iver), with whom I had some conversation on the subject, that he would be perfectly prepared to waive his Motion if the hon. Member for Burnley did not proceed with his. With regard to my hon. Friend the Member for Knaresborough (Mr. T. Collins), he speaks for himself, and it is unnecessary that I should say anything further. But it does not seem to me necessary at this moment to come to an absolute arrangement on the subject. I think with reference to the possibility of other hon. Gentleman putting down Notices at the last possible moment that it is hardly to be expected, as it is not usual when arrangements of this sort are made for that course to be taken.


said, as the subject of which he had given Notice was a very important one, and in order that there might be no mistake, he wished to state that should the Paper be vacant on Friday, he should certainly take advantage of the opportunity for bringing on his Motion.


said, that this question of Army Organization was most important, and that they ought to have a full discussion on the Scheme of the right hon. Gentleman. That could be done only in one of two ways —either by the Government giving a day, or by postponing the operation of the Scheme to the 1st of October. He was told there was great difficulty about such a postponement. But supposing they could not get the whole of Friday, he would ask whether they could not commence the discussion at 2 o'clock on Friday, or on the Tuesday of next week, with the Speaker in the Chair? If that were done they would have an opportunity of discussing this important and most pressing question.


said, he thought the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Baronet did him great credit. He knew how anxious the hon. and gallant Baronet was for a full discussion. The hon. and gallant Baronet had also appreciated the extreme difficulty—indeed, the absolute impossibility—of postponing the operation of the new Regulations. If the hon. and gallant Baronet and other hon. Members would accept the proposal that the debate should commence on Friday morning at 2 o'clock with the Speaker in the Chair, the views of the House upon Army Organization, or upon the two or three leading questions connected with it, might be satisfactorily gauged; and he would undertake after the 1st of July to press upon his right hon. Friend the propriety of giving him a day for discussing the Votes. If the hon. and gallant Baronet would accept that view, he would do his part to have the Army Estimates put down as the first Order of the Day on Friday.


said, that it was not only in March, but also a few weeks ago in June, notwithstanding the numerous Amendments on the Land Law (Ireland) Bill, that the right hon. Gentleman promised that the Government would find a day before the 1st of July. It was, therefore, incumbent upon the Government to give a day for discussing this subject, which affected not only the Army in this country, but the Army in India.


said, he had stated, in discussing a Vote which came on late at night some weeks ago, that that discussion should not, in the slightest degree, interfere with the promise he had given.


remarked, that the reason his noble Friend (Lord Randolph Churchill) had given Notice of a Motion with respect to Tunis was the great reticence shown by the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs with regard to the position of the English Consul General at Tunis. If the Under Secretary would, on Thursday, in reply to a Question which would be put to him, place them in full possession of the information desired, he believed his noble Friend would not persist in his intention.


said, he should not be in a position to give full information on Thursday, because communications were going on.


feared that the proposal of the hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) would hardly meet the question of the Militia. If the discussion was taken on the Motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair the two questions of the Army and Militia would be mixed up, and, as the right hon. Gentleman knew, the discussion as to the Militia would go to the wall.


certainly thought there should be a further discussion on the subject of Militia arrangements, and that was what he intended.


said, as he understood it, on Friday next the new scheme of Army Organization was to be discussed with the Speaker in the Chair, no Votes were to be taken, and when the Votes came on upon a later occasion the noble Lord would have an opportunity of raising the question in which he felt interested.