Sir, I wish to ask the kind attention of the House for a few minutes, while I endeavour to redeem the pledge I gave last night to make a statement with regard to the prospective course of Public Business. I avoided making a statement before, because such a statement must have been 816 more or less hypothetical so long as we in no degree saw our way with respect to the fortune of certain measures of necessity in regard to Ireland, with which this House has been occupied from the opening of the Session. I now assume that to-night, beyond doubt, the Irish Arms Bill will pass this House, and therefore we have to make provisions for the future; but the future for which we have to provide is very difficult and embarrassing. The demands upon the time of the House, necessitated by Irish Bills, have placed us in a position from which Her Majesty's Government think it is quite impossible for us to escape without sacrifice; and the only question is by what course we can make the sacrifice the smallest, and the attainment of the necessary object the surest. Now, Sir, the main subjects we have before us may be summed up in the general description of Votes in Supply and the Ways and Means Bill which must follow the Votes in Supply, and which must absolutely become law not later than the 30th of this month, unless the law is to be broken by failing to make the necessary payment required for the Public Service within the financial year. Over and above these Votes in Supply, I may mention that there are some extraneous circumstances which greatly increase the pressure. One of them is that a Motion of Want of Confidence has been given Notice of on the other side of the House with regard to Candahar, the discussion of which, I am afraid, we cannot confine to a single night, and for which, at the same time, we feel it our duty to make the very earliest provision in our power; and if the House should accede to the proposal we have to make, I should venture to hope that, at any rate, by Thursday week we should be able to place a day at the command of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope). Besides that, we think it a matter of absolute necessity that the House should have some power of addressing itself to the general legitimate Business of the Session, particularly when we recollect the extreme importance, and, I will add, though not in a technical sense, the urgency with respect to the question of land tenure in Ireland. We feel bound, in endeavouring to lay before the House a programme of Business, to include within our plans such elements as will 817 enable the House, at any rate, after Easter—for most of our time until Easter is nearly disposed of—to apply itself sedulously and effectively to legislative work. I have a right to notice here a Notice of Motion given this very night with respect to the seat for Northampton, which raises a question of Privilege not likely to be got easily rid of, if we may judge from what occurred last year, and which, therefore, increases the pressure under which I make the present statement to the House. But I wish it to be clearly understood that what I have now to say about Business does not, in the least degree, contemplate what is called Obstruction. The provisions which we think necessary to expedite Supply are not framed on the supposition that Obstruction to Supply is intended. But they are framed not only upon the supposition, but the knowledge that when proposals for Supply are made, hon. Gentlemen have large opportunities of making preliminary Motions which they are perfectly entitled to make, and which we have no right whatever to consider obstructive Motions. The neccessity for which we feel liable to the House is a necessity of giving special expedition to our proceedings in order to secure to the House reasonable time for discussing those Votes which, on the part of the Government, we have to submit in Supply. These Votes are partly for the Supplementary Services of 1880–81. every one of which must be disposed of by Monday week. They include subjects which are of grave difficulty, with regard to which we think it our first duty not only to make provision against breaking the law, but to invite the House to make such arrangementss as will enable hon. Members to have reasonable opportunities for discussing those Votes, and the conduct of the Government in connection with them. Now, Sir, there are, I am sorry to say, not fewer than 50—I think rather more—Supplementary Votes for Services of various kinds. Among them a certain number must lead to more or less discussion. There may be others we do not anticipate; but amongst those likely to lead to discussion I might say that one is the question of Votes relating to Ireland. There will be Votes in connection with Ireland which may tend to raise again discussion upon the relief of Irish distress. There will be a Vote with regard to the Con- 818 stabulary of Ireland for supplementary expenditure, and a Vote for legal expenses in Ireland which will place before the House the subject of the recent trial in Dublin. Then there is the Vote for the Stationery and Printing Office, which, unhappily, though in no way through the fault of the gentleman at the head of the establishment, requires a large further subvention, and with respect to which the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hermon), one of the last Members of this House who could be connected with the idea of Obstruction, has given Notice of his intention of raising a discussion. Then there are several points of interest and novelty in connection with the Law Charges in England, particularly in regard to steps which have been taken, I believe not entirely in consonance with usage, for providing Judges whose sentences are under appeal with counsel to defend those sentences at the expense of the public. There are many other questions affecting the Civil Service; but there are two which I think it necessary to mention in particular. One of them is that there must be Supplementary Votes for the Military and Naval expenditure connected with the Transvaal; another is that we think it our duty no longer to delay stating to the House our decision on a matter which was greatly pressed upon us last year, with regard to which we are under a positive pledge, which is to lay before the House the proposal we intend to make for giving a subvention to India at the charge of the British Exchequer in relation to a portion of the expenditure for the late Afghan War. I may say, Sir—because, although a Paper has been laid on the Table of the House and will be printed to-morrow, the House will not gather from that the exact nature of the proposal—that our proposal will be to make a total contribution of £5,000,000 towards the very large expenditure India has been called upon to bear, and we shall propose to give it partly in the shape of a remission of the debt of £2,000,000 which has been contracted on behalf of India, subject to repayments from her, and partly in the shape of a series of annual grants in Ways and Means. This is the last of the Votes that relate to the Service of the years 1880–81. We, then, shall require to provide for a portion of the Service for 1881–82. It will be necessary to have the Vote of the 819 men for the Army, and likewise Vote 1 for the pay of the Army. It will be necessary, of course, to give time for the statements connected with the Votes we shall have to bring forward for the Navy; but it will be necessary to take Vote 1 for the Navy. It will also be our duty to submit Votes on Account for a considerable time for the Civil Service and the Revenue Estimates of the year 1881–82. Perhaps hon. Members may say—"Why not take Votes on Account for the Army and Navy?" That practice, so far as I am aware, has not been resorted to, except in connection with political circumstances of a character which rendered it impossible to have a proper discussion of the Army and Navy Estimates. The only four instances known to me occurred in circumstances totally different from those of the present year, and we are not at all disposed to establish a precedent in circumstances such as those which now subsist for Votes on Account of the Army and the Navy. We think that such a course would greatly diminish the control of Parliament over the Expenditure. With regard to Votes I have last named for the Service of 1881–82, the conditions of time are not precisely the same as those of the Votes for the Service of 1880–81. It will be necessary to get through the Army and Navy Votes absolutely not later than the 23rd, if we do not get them by the 21st. I need hardly to remind the House that the difference between the 23rd and the 21st is no difference at all so far as regards the ordinary control of the Government over the time of the House, because both the 22nd and the 23rd are days at the disposal of private Members. Then I have to bear in mind that between the time named and the present there is a certain amount of margin, which may be made available for Votes on Account for the Civil Service of 1881–82; but it cannot be made available unless we have a further lengthened postponement of the discussion about Candahar. It cannot be made available by the Government, because the days do not belong to us. It is absolutely necessary, therefore, for us to make a further demand, in the form which appears to us most convenient for all parties, upon the time of the House, in order to get through the necessary Business without involving what we think most serious evils. There is the evil of breaking the 820 law, which is totally intolerable. There is the evil of having to break that old and wise Rule of the House, that it will not, in any circumstances, take any more than one stage of any Money Bill in one day. There is another evil which I should think almost absolutely intolerable—that of being reduced to such a position that the propositions of the Government for Supply, depending upon the taxation of the country, should require to be put from the Chair, without the power of discussion. All these evils are, in our opinion, intolerable, and we have to consider by what proposition we can avoid those evils, and secure—not barriers against Obstruction; we have not taken it into view; we have been thinking only of the legitimate rights of Members—but full opportunities, without the sacrifice of private time, for the performance of the duty of Members to criticize the proposals of the Government in Supply. That being so, it will be my duty to give Notice to-day to move upon Monday that the state of Public Business is urgent with reference to Votes in Supply. I say nothing at present with regard to the Ways and Means Bill, which will have to follow, as that is not commonly made a subject of extraneous general discussion, and we would hope that no necessity will arise with regard to it. But the passing of that Bill within a limited time is a matter of absolute necessity in order to legalize the issues for the Services of the year, and to keep the finances of the country from falling into confusion. My duty, therefore, will be, at half-past 4 o'clock on Monday, to declare that the Votes in Committee of Supply for the Service of the year 1879–80 for the several Supplementary and other Estimates for the Service of the year 1880–81, Votes A and 1 for the Army and Navy, and Votes on account for the Civil Service and Revenue Departments Services for 1881–82, now before the House are urgent, and it is of importance that the same be proceeded with without delay; and it will be my duty then to move, in conformity with that declaration, that the state of Public Business is urgent, and to move that, unless the House shall otherwise order, Committee of Supply shall have precedence of all Orders of the Day and Notices of Motion from day to day until the Votes declared urgent shall have been disposed of.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
It is not my wish certainly to do anything so irregular as to provoke a discussion on the statement which we have just heard, which undoubtedly is one of a very serious, and I may say of a somewhat alarming character. I wish, however, to put a Question to the Prime Minister, to which, I confess, I should like a clear answer. The right hon. Gentleman, in indicating what were the rocks to be avoided in the course the Government may have to take in order to get the Business which they propose to have done accomplished in the time mentioned as the third of the dangers which he was particularly anxious to avoid what he described as the very serious evil that propositions of the Government for imposing burdens on the people should be put from the Chair without discussion. In that I think we all agree, and at the moment when those words were used I imagine that most hon. Gentlemen must have thought that it was not the intention of the Government to propose urgency for Supply. I must say, though we have been most anxious to support the Government in what has hitherto been done, yet, with regard to the proposal of urgency for Supply, it is a matter which requires the very gravest consideration. I shall be glad if the right hon. Gentleman will tell us what is the precise point of distinction between that which we ought to avoid and that which he is about to propose we should undertake to do. It seems to me, however important it may be that we should adhere to the Rule by which the House does not take two stages of a Money Bill on the same day, or other Rules of that kind, that the questions which may arise under urgency in Supply are more important. I do not know whether I shall be going too far if I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can tell us at what period he contemplates making his Financial Statement—whether before Easter or after?
With regard to the last Question, I have not been able to come to any positive conclusion, because it connects itself with another subject more important and of a wider scope, but perhaps of less urgency in regard to the particular day—namely, the question of the Irish Land Bill. But I will give as early an intimation of the day as I can. I hope it may be 822 before Easter, and it will be convenient to the Public Service that it should be before Easter. I am also under the supposition that the House, after its long and severe labours, would wish to have the Easter Recess prolonged to a reasonable length. If it was necessary to put the other Question to me, I must have been obscure in my statement. The purpose the Government have in view—what they think of primary importance—is to provide for the fulfilment of the law, and to avoid evils worse than any such inconvenience as I now propose to the House. Their purpose is to secure reasonable liberty of discussion upon all those Votes in Supply. I hope I have made it clear to the House that the 21st is the last day for the Votes for the Services of 1880–1. More licence may be taken as to some other Votes of very small amount, which, however, must be dealt with in the intervening day after the 21st.
§ MR. DILLWYN
Sir, I confess I quite agree with the right hon. Baronet opposite that the statement we have just heard from the Prime Minister is one of a very serious and very alarming character. It is the more serious and more alarming because the Prime Minister has made it abundantly clear that there is palpable danger, and that the Public Business does require urgency. ["Order!"] But, at the same time, I am disappointed at the statement of the Prime Minister in this respect—that while I fully agree that urgency must be voted, and that we must still go forth in the dangerous and unconstitutional course on which we have embarked, yet, at the same time, I very much regret that the Prime Minister has shown us that there is such a category of work to be done that we must have some——
§ MR. SPEAKER
I am bound to call the attention of the hon. Member to the fact that there is no Motion before the House. If the hon. Member wishes to put a Question, no doubt the Prime Minister will answer him.
§ MR. DILLWYN
I beg pardon of the House. I thought that as the occasion was one on which we were asked to forego one of our most valuable privileges, that I might be allowed to say a few words. However, I will confine myself to asking the Prime Minister whether, instead of moving these repeated Urgency Resolutions, it would 823 not be desirable to give us an opportunity of seeing whether an alteration of our permanent Rules might not conduce to the shortening and to a more practical mode of carrying on the Business of this House?
Perhaps the noble Lord will permit me first to say, in answer to my hon. Friend, that I feel the pressure of the hon. Member's observation as strongly as he does himself; and it is a very serious matter for the Government to consider—to watch for the first opportunity of considering—whether, for the good of the House, we can submit plans of a permanent character, to meet the difficulties.
Am I to understand the Prime Minister to say that he is going to propose a Vote on Account, and to propose that that Vote on Account be taken under the Rule of Urgency? Will he state to the House for how long a period he proposes to take the Vote on Account?
§ MR. PARNELL
May I ask whether, in the event of the Prime Minister obtaining "urgency" for Committee of Supply, he will be in a position to introduce the Land Bill, and move its first reading before Easter?
§ MR. ONSLOW
remarked that the Prime Minister, in his statement, had spoken of a contribution of £5,000,000 towards the cost of the Afghan War. He would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether that Vote could not be postponed until after Monday week, as he had given Notice that it would not be taken next Monday.
No, Sir; because, in our opinion, Parliament would wish not to throw over from the current year the inception, if I may so call it, of the plan, if Parliament should think fit to adopt it. If so, in order to bring it within the current year, it is absolutely necessary that we should have the Vote on Monday week. [An hon. MEMBER: To avoid a breach of the law.] Yes; to avoid a breach of the law. Of course, it is in the same category with the Supplementary Estimates. The hon. and learned Member for Chatham has asked for what period we propose to take a Vote on Account. I have stated to the House that we think it necessary, in the 824 present condition of affairs, to endeavour to secure a time for the House when it shall be free for a certain period from the demand for Supply, and on that account we propose to take a Vote on Account, which must absolutely be had—we propose to take a Vote on Account which will last to Whitsuntide, and that will be for three months. With regard to the hon. Member for the City of Cork, I am not able to answer his question positively at this moment, because I will tell him this—that Her Majesty's Government do not think—of course, they must impose a reasonable interval between their introduction of the Land Bill and the second reading—they do not think it would be for the public interest at all that they should introduce their Land Bill, and then allow it to remain a very long time as their proposal without any definitive judgment of the House. Therefore, the course proposed to be taken on this Bill will, in some degree, be dependent upon what we can find it possible to do with regard to bringing on the second reading.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
I would like to put a question to you, Sir, on a point of Order. You are aware that when the Prime Minister makes his Motion on Monday there will be no opportunity of debating it. I would like to ask whether, if the Prime Minister's Motion to vote Public Business urgent is carried, the Rules which you have already laid down, and under which we have so long acted, would apply, as they stand, to procedure in Committee of Supply, because there is a very general understanding, and I am not sure whether you have not already stated to the House, that these Rules are not applicable to the Committee of Supply. It is of the last importance to the House, in order that hon. Members may be able to give their votes on Monday, that we should be acquainted with the procedure which it will be in your absolute power to lay down, otherwise they will be voting in the dark, and unable to decide as to the merits of the Prime Minister's proposal. I beg to submit to you, Sir, whether it will be in your power, either at present or later in the evening, to state whether all of the existing Urgency Rules would apply, or whether none of them would apply, or if some of them will apply; and, if so, what Rules those will be?
§ MR. SPEAKER
Should the Committee of Supply be made urgent, it will be my duty to lay down Rules applicable to such Committee. I may inform the House that, in view of the House voting urgency, I have prepared Rules which I will lay on the Table to-day, and which will be in the hands of hon. Members to-morrow.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
Are we to understand, Sir, that these Rules to which you have just referred will be all that will be laid down, and that in no case will it be in your power to frame additional Rules for the Committee of Supply?
§ MR. SPEAKER
If I were to reply to the Question of the right hon. Baronet in the affirmative I should be limiting the power the House has placed in my hands.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
Perhaps I might ask you, Sir, with all respect and deference, whether it is in your power to frame Rules for Urgency in Committee of Supply before Supply has been voted to be urgent?
§ MR. SPEAKER
No doubt, under the Resolution passed by the House in February last, these powers are conferred upon me.
§ MR. RYLANDS
understood the Prime Minister to say that in Committee of Supply there would be ample opportunity given of discussing the Votes; and he begged to ask whether, in the event of the pressing Votes occupying discussion up to the 21st of this month, it would not be the fact that any Votes remaining and coming under urgency would be taken without any discussion?
There are no Urgency Rules at present applicable to Supply, and consequently the Rule which provides in certain cases in Committee of Supply that Votes shall be put without discussion has no application.
§ MR. CALLAN
asked the Prime Minister whether he could give any definite assurance to the Irish Members and the House that if urgency for Supply was voted on Monday, and the Business facilitated, he would introduce the Irish Land Bill before the House rose for the Easter Recess?
After the detail of subjects that I have given the House to be considered in Supply, and after I have reminded the House that a Vote 826 of no confidence remains on the Paper, and certainly ought to be dealt with at the moment we have any freedom of choice at all as to the progress of Business, I think the House will see that it will be more prudent on my part to reserve every answer about any further proceedings whatever until we can a little see our way in regard to the course of Business.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he understood the Prime Minister to intimate that he would make a demand on the days now at the disposal of the private Members. He wished to know whether, if private Members consented to surrender their days, the right hon. Gentleman would give to private Members future facilities for bringing forward their proposals? If the right hon. Gentleman answered in the negative, he would feel bound to avail himself of every Form of the House, on behalf of those whom he represented, to defeat the proposal of the Government.
§ MR. PARNELL
asked whether the House was to understand that, in the opinion of the Prime Minister, a Vote of Want of Confidence in Her Majesty's Government should take precedence of the introduction of the Irish Land Bill?
Sir, in accordance with invariable Parliamentary usage and sound principle, whenever a Vote of Want of Confidence has been proposed with the evident support of a considerable section of this House, and as representing their views and opinions, that no legislative Business of a character not connected with the immediate demands of the moment should interfere with the discussion of that Vote. This has been a rule of the last half century, and I must say that I think it would be a most dangerous departure, not only from precedent but from principle, if we were to depart from it.
§ MR. JUSTIN M'CARTHY
May I trouble the right hon. Gentleman with one more Question? May I ask him if there is any Irish Land Bill actually prepared at all?
If Ministers are to be called upon to make statements to the House, the Questions addressed to them ought to be framed with some regard to those relations of mutual self-respect which ought to exist between one Member of the House and another. I must therefore decline to give any 827 answer whatever to the Question of the hon. Gentleman, or to any similar Question he may think fit to put to me. In answer to the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), I may say that I have the most sincere sympathy with hon. Members amid the tremendous inconvenience to which they have been subjected, and that within the bounds of reason the Government will do anything they can to accommodate them. But an absolute pledge in this respect is impossible, as he will, I am sure, see, because the improvement in the manufacture of modern times does not extend to the manufacture of new days. Unless that were in our power we could not undertake to give such a pledge.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
inquired whether, as a question of Privilege, the Motion of which the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) had given Notice for Monday, in reference to the Writ for Northampton, would have precedence of all other Notices?
§ MR. CALLAN
asked whether, in the event of the Peace Preservation (Ireland) Bill passing the House that night, the Speaker would on Monday declare the state of Public Business no longer urgent in time to allow of a discussion taking place upon the Motion of which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House had given Notice?
§ MR. SPEAKER
In answer to the Question of the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour), I have to say that the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst), with reference to the Writ for Northampton, would, as a question of Privilege, have precedence of all other Motions on that day.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
asked the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister when the Financial Statement of the Government would be made?
I am not able to give information on that subject. I have stated that I will give the information as soon as it is in our power.
§ MR. GIBSON
Sir, I wish to repeat the Question put by the hon. Member below the Gangway (Mr. Callan). Will you, Sir, declare the present state of Business no longer urgent before the Motion of the Prime, Minister comes on?
§ MR. A. M. SULLIVAN
said, it was also very essential the House should 828 know whether the Rules the Speaker intended to lay on the Table that night were to supersede the other Rules referring to urgency, or whether the new Rules that would be laid on the Table would be supplementary to those at present existing?
§ MR. PARNELL
said, before the Speaker answered these Questions, he also wished to ask one. The Prime Minister had stated that he desired, in proposing urgency, that each Vote in Supply should be fairly discussed; but he wished to know, if urgency was declared, whether there would be anything to prevent the Speaker, if he thought right, from framing Rules giving the Chairman of Committees power to close the debate on any particular Vote in Supply at any particular time, or giving power to the Government to move a Resolution that at a certain hour of the night Votes in Supply should be put without further discussion?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have already stated that I propose to lay on the Table of the House in the course of this day's Sitting Rules with reference to Committee of Supply, when Supply is declared to be urgent; and if the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) will be so good as to wait until to-morrow morning he will see what is the substance of the Rules which I propose to make.
§ MR. GIBSON
again called the Speaker's attention to the Question of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Callan).
§ MR. SPEAKER
Supposing the third reading of the Peace Preservation (Ireland) Bill be carried this evening, I propose to declare that the state of Public Business is no longer urgent.
§ MR. MACIVER
suggested that if the Government would postpone the evacuation of Candahar, the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope) might correspondingly postpone his Motion of Want of Confidence. The Government would thus be enabled, always supposing they had any Bill prepared, and that they really wished to bring one in, to place their Irish land proposal before the House before Easter.