HC Deb 03 May 1881 vol 260 cc1706-27

Standing Order relative thereto [18th February, 1879] read.


in rising to call attention to the state of the Order Book, and to the great public inconvenience caused by the operation of the Half-past Twelve o'clock Rule, in enabling a single Member to impede legislation by stopping the progress of any Bill during the entire Session; and to move— That the Standing Order of the 18th February 1879, known as the Half-past Twelve o'clock Rule, be now read, and that the following proviso be thereto added, 'Provided always, That this Rule shall not apply to the Motion for leave to bring in a Bill, nor to any Bill which has passed through Committee of the whole House,' said, that the Rule to which he referred was adopted in 1872, and after having been varied in 1874, so as not to apply to Bills which had passed through a Committee of the Whole house, was restored to its original form in the following year, and was so continued till 1879, when it became a Standing Order instead of a Sessional one. The Rule now was that, except a Money Bill, no Order of the Day or Notice of Motion should be taken after half-past 12 o'clock if there was an Amendment placed on the Paper against it. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) in 1879 pointed out 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, and that it put into the hands of any Member the power to obstruct the Business of the House; and he (Mr. Monk) quite agreed with the noble Lord that a more convenient engine for obstructing the Business of the House could not be placed in the hands of any individual Member. It had been found that the unnecessary stringency of the Rule had the effect of obstructing Public Business after a comparatively early hour. As opposed Business could not be taken after half-past 12 o'clock, it was becoming the practice for hon. Members to place on the Paper Notices of opposition to almost all the Bills in the Order Book. Taking the Order Beck of that day, he found that one hon. Member had blocked four Notices of Motion and 13 Orders of the Day; and that another opposed one Notice and four Orders. That, he contended, was an abuse of the Rules of the House, and only had the effect of obstructing Business. He had also known instances of an hon. Member blocking the progress of a Bill of which he knew nothing. He (Mr. Monk) had proposed in his original Notice that the names of five Members should be required to block a Bill; but he had been advised to adhere to his Motion as it stood on the Paper. He had no objection to some of the Amendments of which Notice had been given. What he protested against was the possibility of one Member obstructing the progress of a Bill by putting down his name to oppose it. He would remind the House that, under the operation of the Rule, five distinct opportunities presented themselves to an hon. Member of obstructing a Bill in its passage through the House. This was in no sense a private Member's question; indeed, it affected the Business of the Government infinitely more than that of private Members. It was a monstrous thing that the introduction of important Bills by Members of the Government should be stopped night after night by one Member. He hoped the House would agree that, when a measure had been read a second time and the principle affirmed, and when it had been carefully considered in Committee, the Member in charge of it was entitled to some facilities for carrying it through the remaining stages. It was proposed by one Amendment to restrict the application of the Resolution to Government Bills; but the Money Bills of the Government were exempted from the operation of the Rule; and as to other Bills, he did not consider that the Government should have any facilities in this respect that were denied to the Bills of private Members. They were the pioneers of legislation, and, though they were not often successful in carrying their Bills, they paved the way for the Government to take up the question, when the subject had been fully discussed; and he did not, therefore, see why private Members should be obstructed any more than Members of the Government. More than one Member of the Government had expressed his approval of the Motion. This was in no sense a Party question; it was simply a question whether the Business of the House should be facilitated, or whether it should continue to be stopped by a Standing Order two years old. There was a growing feeling among Members that the Rule had not operated to shorten their Sittings or to facilitate legislation. Private Members had secured very little time in the last two Sessions, and he was afraid that they would have very little at the remainder of the present Session. There were 142 Bills on the Order Book, and he asked the House to give the Members in charge of them such facilities as they were fairly entitled to.


seconded the Resolution.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this Rule shall not apply to the Motion for leave to bring in a Bill, nor to any Bill which has passed through Committee of the whole House."—(Mr. Monk.)


said, that the hon. Member seemed to think that he gave force to his Motion by describing the Rule as a new Standing Order; but it had been a Sessional Resolution for nine years; it had never been made a Party question; it had been moved by himself as Chairman of the Standing Order Committee, and it had always been warmly supported by the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), and the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke). The Rule was designed to enable legislation to be done in a sensible and business-like way, and to promote the health and comfort of Members. It was originally adopted on the recommendation of a Select Committee, in which the only question was as between 12 o'clock and half-past; the original draft of the Resolution was in the handwriting of the present Prime Minister; it was taken up by Mr. Bouverie, and it was carried in the House by a large majority of Members, painfully convinced of the necessity for some such regulation by the manner in which Business had been carried on since the time when Mr. Brotherton used to move the adjournment of the House at midnight, and the House, with good humour, consented to adjourn on the withdrawal of the Motion after some urgent Business had been transacted. Unfortunately, the good humour was not continued after 1869; the state of things became uncomfortable and intolerable, and hence the adoption of the Rule with reference solely to the health and comfort of Members, and the dignity of their proceedings. He hoped the House would continue a Rule which the last two Parliaments had shown to be necessary. It was quite true—and he was sorry for, it—that the Rule had been abused. Such abuse was not contemplated, and he trusted that this debate would induce Members to refrain from abusing it. It might be provided that, as there must be the names of two Members on the back of a Bill, so it should require the names of two Members to block a Bill.


said, he did not understand that the Motion was aimed at the abolition of the Standing Order. The question was rather whether it should not be in some way qualified, in order that the attempts by private Members to effect legislation of a useful character should not be rendered abortive by the caprice of a single Member. It was anomalous that one Member should be able to paralyze legislation in the way it was done under this Rule. When a Bill had been read a second time its principle might be regarded as confirmed by the House; and it certainly seemed a stretch of power on the part of an individual Member to block its further progress. The same argument applied with, perhaps, greater force to Bills which had passed the ordeal of a Select Committee. He would therefore move to amend the Motion of the hon. Member for Gloucester by inserting the words "a Select Committee or" before the word "Committee," the effect of which would be that the Order should not apply to any Bill that had passed through either a Select Committee or a Committee of the Whole House. He acknowledged that the Rule possessed the advantage of enabling private Members to know when they might be certain that their own Bills, if opposed, could not come on.


ruled that the hon. Member could not now move his Amendment, as the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. R. N. Fowler) had precedence.


in moving to amend the Motion by inserting the word "Government" before the word "Bill," said, the Rule had been introduced because of the constant Motions for adjournment by which minorities had worn out the House. Those who did not recollect the old system had had a specimen in the opposition raised to the Bill of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope) on a recent occasion. He believed that the half-past 12 o'clock Rule had on the whole worked well, and that if the Sittings of the House had been late it was not owing to its operation. The cases in which it had not worked well, in his opinion, were those of Government Bills; and it would be well, he thought, that the Government of the day should have the opportuity of introducing their measures without being blocked; for all subjects requiring legislation ought to be dealt with by them. His contention was that all a private Member could expect in the way of facilities for any Motion he had to make was that he should have an opportunity of placing his views before the House, and if they commended themselves to it, that he should bring in a Bill to carry them out. He did not think they should give him further facilities. He should, however, be quite willing that facilities should be given to the Government to bring in a Bill on the question raised, as he believed that no Government would propose to bring in a Bill that was not worthy the attention of the House; but he should oppose any such attempt as that proposed in the Motion of his hon. Friend to give private Members increased facilities for the introduction of their Bills.

Amendment proposed, to insert before the first word "Bill," the word "Government."—(Mr. Robert Fowler.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'Government' be there inserted."


thought it would be a good thing if the half-past 12 o'clock Rule were done away with altogether, for he was of opinion that nothing could be more unreasonable than the power which the Rule gave to any private Member to obstruct measures which might be approved of in principle by the House. The House of Commons was not merely a place in which hon. Members could let off superfluous steam, it being the duty of private Members to initiate Bills and to carry them to a successful issue whenever possible. The performance of this duty was rendered almost impossible by the Rule which the House had laid down, and which constituted a most terrible weapon of obstruction. One great evil caused by the Rule was that it originated "Lobby legislation," all sorts of arrangements being made between private Members. Instead of transacting their business as practical legislators, within the House, they were obliged to resort to outside bargaining in order to get their measures through. An opponent of a Bill had been known to remove a blocking Notice in consideration of receiving two orders for seats in the Ladies' Gallery. He had placed an Amendment on the Paper proposing that no Bill should be blocked unless 10 Members gave Notice of opposition. That proposal being thought slightly unreasonable by some of his hon. Friends, he suggested that the number 10 should be reduced to three. He also thought that a Member, after giving Notice of opposition, ought to be in his place to move it.


maintained that the Rule with which some hon. Members were dissatisfied had acted well, both in the interests of the procedure of the House and in the interests of the health and comfort of the Members. The object of the Motion was to forward private Members' legislation; but he ventured to think that if it were carried the effect would be to keep Members who were opposed to the passing of particular Private Bills in their places until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, and that without in the least advancing private Members' legislation, as adjournments would always be moved. While on that ground he objected to the Motion, he equally objected to the Amendment, because he thought the Government of the day ought to be allowed to press on their legislation when there was a necessity to do so. He hoped, however, the House would not agree to the Resolution. They had not all the iron constitution of the hon. Member for Gloucester, to whom the small hours of the morning seemed to be the busiest of the 24.


observed, that if the Motion were carried, the only mode independent Members would have of defeating a Bill to which they objected would be at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning moving the adjournment of the debate or of the House. In his judgment, it was undesirable to give undue facilities for legislation to private Members. His strong impression was that they were already over-legislated for. While he was quite willing that hon. Gentlemen should have every reasonable facility for bringing forward their views, he was opposed to the giving of extraordinary facilities for the promotion of amateur legislation, or for compelling. hon. Members to sit up night after night to criticize Private Bills. At the same time, he did not say that the present Rule had not been abused. It had been, he thought, in the case of the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), and the hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton), who seemed to block Bills whether they objected to them or not. Still, the more he examined the proposal of his hon. Friend the less he liked it. He would, however, be prepared to support a modification of the Resolution to the effect that two or three Members should agree in giving Notice to block Bills.


believed that, upon the whole, the half-past 12 o'clock Rule had worked well. At the same time, he was of opinion that private Members' Bills should be allowed to be introduced after that hour, and should not be blocked at that time after going through Committee. He thought the proposal of the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk) was a reasonable one, for it seemed very undesirable that when the House had accepted the principle of a Bill, and considered all the clauses, it should be in the power of a single Member practically to veto the Bill.


opposed the Motion, on the ground that it would not be possible for the senior Members of the House to continue their services to the House if they were compelled to remain in the House until 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning. He was diametrically opposed to the first part of the proposal of the hon. Member for Gloucester, that the introduction of Bills should not be opposed, and hoped that the House would not, without mature consideration, depart from a Rule which was framed in the interests of independent Members, and had been found to be consistent with efficiency in the conduct of Business. After the experience of last Session, he wished to know whether it was desirable or reasonable to ask the House to sit for more hours than it did under the present Rule?


Sir, as has been already stated, this question has never been treated hitherto as a Party one, neither is it one in which the Government are peculiarly interested; and it appears to me that we should do well to continue to treat it in the same spirit and in the same way as it has been treated on former occasions by both sides of the House. The subject is eminently one for the determination of the House, and to be decided by the House on a consideration of that which is best suited for its own convenience, and that which will conduce most to the proper conduct of its own Business. The Government, no doubt, are interested in the question; but they are interested in a different way from that in which private Members are interested in it. In some respects they are more interested than private Members, and in other respects they are less interested. They are more interested because they introduce a greater amount of legislation than that which is introduced by private Members; but, on the other hand, they are less interested, because they have a greater command of the time of the House, and it is more competent for them, from time to time, to avail themselves of the opportunity of placing their Bills in a position where they are not susceptible of being blocked by opposition and by the operation of the half-past 12 o'clock Rule, a power which private Members do not possess. Therefore, the Government, though interested, are interested in a different way from private Members. I propose, however, to treat the question as one affecting mainly private Members, and not the Government. There can be no doubt, as has already been pointed out, that a considerable abuse exists in the use which has been made of the Rule. It certainly was not intended that Bills which have the approval of the great majority of the House, or which, at all events, are supposed to receive the support of the great majority of the House, and which the House generally is anxious to discuss, should absolutely be prevented from being discussed at all, at the will of a small number of Members, or, perhaps, even of one Member only. No doubt, that has been a great abuse. On the other hand, I must point out that the Rule was introduced in the interests of the great body of hon. Members, for the purpose of protecting them against an evil of another kind. If no such Rule existed, it was possible for a persevering Member, by persistently putting down his Bill night after night, to exhaust the patience of those who were opposed to him, and, perhaps, at some advanced hour of the morning, when nobody was expecting it, he found himself able to slip it through. Or, if he did not do that, it was possible for him to put a considerable number of Members to great inconvenience by compelling them to sit up, night after night, for the purpose of opposing a Bill which, after all, might never be brought forward. On the whole, I believe the Rule has worked well, that it has been for the convenience of the House, and that the House would not be willing to part with it. Some very high authorities, who were examined before the Committee of 1878, expressed their opinion that the Rule had worked satisfactorily. I come, then, to the question of limitation proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk). My hon. Friend is of opinion that it is expedient some limitation should be placed upon the operation of the Rule; and I must say that it does appear to me the limitations proposed by my hon. Friend are reasonable. As to the limitation with regard to Bills that have passed through Committee, I have referred to what took place in this House in 1874. I find that the limitation which my hon. Friend now suggests was introduced then, and that it was supported by the then Leader of the House (Mr. Disraeli). The Rule in that year was passed with this particular limitation; but in the next year it was passed without it. Mr. Disraeli, on that occasion, pointed out that it had never come into operation in regard to the Committee stage of a Bill, because no Bill against which a blocking Notice had been placed ever reached a Committee. I am afraid that that would be so now, and I cannot hold out to my hon. Friend any hope that if the House agrees to his proposal it will be of material assistance to private Members. But it does appear to me that both limitations are reasonable in themselves. In regard to the other limitation, I think it is somewhat invidious that one hon. Member should be able to refuse to another hon. Member the power of showing to the House what is the nature of the legislation he proposes. If that legislation is of such a character as to be obviously objectionable, he would be able to induce the House to reject it; but I do not see why it should be practically rejected without the House having even an opportunity of seeing in What way the hon. Member who proposes legislation intends to deal with the question he is desirous of legislating upon. It would be far better that an hon. Mem- ber who objects should be required to get up in his place and oppose the introduction of a measure, and that the Rule should not be allowed to operate in excluding a Member from bringing forward a Motion for leave to bring in a Bill. As I have said, the other limitation is also reasonable, because when a Bill stands for Committee it is obvious that, at all events, opportunities have been afforded for discussing it in all its previous stages, and it is only reasonable to suppose that such a Bill has met with a considerable amount of support. If, therefore, my hon. Friend goes to a division I shall be disposed to support him in the proposition he makes, although I cannot hold out any hope to him that it would tend very greatly to facilitate legislation by private Members. As to the Amendments which have been suggested, I will only say a word. The hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. R. N. Fowler) proposes that the limitation should be confined to Bills introduced by the Government. Although I ought to be grateful to my hon. Friend for that suggestion, it is one which I am not disposed to adopt, because I think it would make an invidious exception. As I have said before, although the Government undertake more legislation than private Members, yet, on the other hand, they have more time at their disposal; and I do not think the House would be inclined to give them further exceptional facilities over independent Members. The Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead (Mr. W. H. James) is, I have no doubt, aimed at the protection of the House against a very great abuse—that is to say, one Member blocking a Bill. I am not altogether disposed to support my hon. Friend in that Amendment; it would introduce an entirely new principle, for we have never yet recognized the principle of requiring any particular course of opposition in this House to have the sanction and support of two or three, or five, or 10 Members. And I doubt, further, whether, if adopted, the Amendment would have any practical effect. A Member desirous of blocking a Bill would generally find very little difficulty in getting two or three, or even 10 Members to support him. I therefore think that no substantial advantage would be gained by accepting the Amendment of my hon. Friend. If the House is inclined to adopt the limitations suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester, I would recommend it to be satisfied with them at present, and ascertain what the effect of their operation will be before consenting to go further. For my own part, I shall certainly support what appears to me to be a reasonable limitation of a very popular Rule.


said, he was sorry that the noble Marquess had not followed up his very excellent opening observations to their legitimate conclusion. He (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) intended to vote against the original proposal and against all the Amendments which had been placed on the Paper in reference to it, because he was of opinion that the original proposition of the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk) and all the Amendments proceeded altogether in a wrong direction. The reform of the House was a reform which should begin, not at midnight, but at a very much earlier hour. The whole difficulty of the position in which Parliament found itself placed was the creation of two circumstances, neither of which it suited the convenience of Parliament to face. The first cause of the block in Parliament was that Parliament had too much to do, and the second cause was that Parliament did not meet at the proper time of day. If any person with a turn for satirical description were to give a life-like chronicle of the daily proceedings of the House, such a description would almost annihilate the plea of the English people on behalf of the expediency of Parliamentary Government. What was usually the characteristic formula of the proceedings of the House? At 10 minutes to 4 o'clock Mr. Speaker took the Chair, and in order to secure a seat a fit of devotion seized hon. Members. But he always observed that while private Members were constant in their attendance at the hour of devotion, those upon whom the duty of managing the affairs of the country devolved were always absent at prayer time, their seats being secured by usage. Then, after prayers, occurred a dreary void, which was filled up in a manner that was utterly unknown to many Members of the House. He had a vague idea that some mumbling went on between some person who for the time being repre- sented the Government on the Treasury Bench, and Mr. Speaker got up several times in the course of as many minutes, and he believed that a Railway Bill passed for some place, and a Gas Bill for some other place. That, however, was all imagination on his part, and must be imagination on the part of most other Members. In that way the first half-hour and 10 minutes were spent in prayers, at which Ministers did not attend, and in Private Business to which nobody listened. At half-past 4 there came a great rush of the hardy sons of legislative toil, who gathered in a mass to devote all their energies and enthusiasm to the discharge of the Business of the country. But by half-past 5 o'clock, when every hon. Member had asked a question about the affairs of his parish vestry, or about the interests of his constituents, who were rather pressing, in their epistolatory demands upon his attention—when hon. Members had made that daily appearance which was necessary in order to keep their names before the public and before their constituents—half-past 5 o'clock was reached. Now, he did not think there was an hon. Member in that House who was not of opinion that someone daily asked a Question which need not have been asked. Of course, hon. Members were not so critical in regard to the Questions they asked themselves; but that was merely Human nature. Then, from half-past 5 to 7 o'clock, the House was in full working order—that was to say, the earnest desire for work in that House was so great that they were willing to be amused by some rattling speaker for about an hour. And when it came to 7 o'clock the House was a perfect void; and, so far as the progress of legislation for the country was concerned, the House might to all intents be adjourned. This state of things lasted from 7 until 9 o'clock. [An hon. MEMBER: Or 10 o'clock.] Well, he was not intimately acquainted with the usages of London society, and accordingly he would accept the correction and say 10 o'clock. But he would ask of what possible use could it be for a Member to get up and address a House consisting of Mr. Speaker, who, he was afraid, could not always be an attentive listener, and some two or three other Members? The House of Commons was a deliberative Assembly. The theory was that the speeches of hon. Members were addressed to the consideration of the House; but speeches could not be addressed to the consideration of a House which did not exist, and accordingly the speeches which were made between 7 and 10 o'clock were under the suspicion that they were meant, not for the hearing and deliberation of the House, but for the consideration of the outside public. He would put it to the House whether, if hon. Members were desirous of addressing their constituents, they could not do so just as well by writing letters to the newspapers, or by earning a few guineas by contributing to the magazines, instead of keeping up the farce of a deliberative Assembly when all the deliberators were dining? At 10 o'clock the House reassembled, and again it was most eager for work—as eager for work as gentlemen usually were who had just partaken of dinner and its accompaniments. But he would put it to any man who took a serious view of the Business of the House whether the interval between 7 and 10 spent in dining was the best preparation for the calm and mature, and grave and cool consideration of the momentous questions with which the House had to deal. He had ventured, when addressing the working classes on this question, to say that the deliberations of Parliament concerning the destinies and well-being of millions existing and to come, were conducted in a manner, and at a time, when no carpenter would be allowed to perform a job for which he was paid 30s. a-week. He ventured to think that all this pointed a moral, and the moral was this—that at present the people of England, the people of Scotland, and the people of Ireland were almost entirely unrepresented in that so-called representative Assembly. The House was representative of the aristocracy, of the squirarchy, and of the capitalists; but it was in no sense of the word representative of the toiling masses of the English, Scotch, and Irish people. [Cries of "Question!"] He believed that he was speaking to the Question.


I must remind the hon. Member that the Question before the House is a Motion for the amendment of the Standing Order in regard to Public Business.


said, he had been endeavouring to show that the present hours of the House might be suited to the wealthy, but that they were not suited to the toiling classes of the country. By way of enforcing that argument, he was attempting to show how those hours suited the House, because it was really not a representative Assembly. The proposals of the hon. Member for Gloucester, of the hon. Member for Gateshead, and of the other hon. Members who had placed Amendments on the Paper, proceeded altogether in a wrong direction, because the reform of the House which was really necessary was to be sought not in facilitating legislation after midnight, but in the House meeting at 12 o'clock in the day, and transacting the Business of the country in the grave and sober manner in which it ought to be transacted.


desired to say a few words on the Motion which had been presented to the House. He had always been a strong supporter of the half-past 12 o'clock Rule; and if he thought that his hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk) in any way desired to do away with that Rule he would be the last man in that House to support him. But he did not consider that the proposition of his hon. Friend in any way affected the principle of the half-past 12 Rule. In the first place, when the half-past 12 Rule was introduced, there was not the slightest idea that it would ever be applied to the introduction of a Bill, or would operate in preventing a discussion from being taken on a first reading. Therefore, when it was passed, it was never contemplated that through its means Bills would be prevented from being even introduced into the House at all. But what had been the result? At first the introduction of a Bill was occasionally opposed, and the consequence of the existence of the half-past 12 Rule was that it was prevented from being brought in. But this year they had witnessed the establishment of an entirely new state of things. It had become almost the invariable rule to put down a blocking Notice against the introduction of Bills, and the consequence was that a great number of valuable measures had been prevented from being submitted to the House at all. There was another point to which he wished to call the attention of the House. As a general rule, the only chance a private Member had of getting a day for the discussion of a Bill was by introducing it in the early part of the Session. It generally happened that, after the first day of the Session, every Wednesday until the end of the Session was filled up. According to the ordinary practice of the House, hon. Members balloted on the first day of the Session for the opportunity of bringing forward their Bills. The Bills themselves were usually introduced on the second day of the Session. It generally happened that the debate on the Address lasted until 12 or half-past; and if any hon. Member chose to place a blocking Notice on the Paper no Bill could be introduced on that second day. What had happened in this very Session? The hon. and learned Member for Bridport (Mr. Warton) blocked an important Bill relating to Irish Business, which the Irish Members generally supported—namely, the Bill of the hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Meldon) dealing with the question of the Irish franchise. It was blocked on the first day of the Session. The Irish Members were most anxious to have it discussed; but the blocking Notice of the hon. and learned Member for Bridport stood in the way, and it could not be introduced, while other Bills of far less importance obtained precedence over it. What would be the result? Hon. Members who had Bills down for introduction on the second day of the Session, if they found their measures were going to be blocked, would in self-defence block other Bills, so as to put themselves on a level with other Members. The introduction of all Bills would, consequently, be postponed from day to day, and hon. Members who had placed their names on the back of Bills would be obliged to wait in the House from day to day, in order to get a chance of introducing them. That was the result which would inevitably follow if the proposal of the hon. Member for Gloucester was not adopted. He therefore thought it would be to the advantage of all private Members that they should pass the Resolution of his hon. Friend, excluding the stage of the introduction of a Bill from the operation of the half-past 12 o'clock Rule. The second part of the Resolution related to Bills which had passed through a Committee of the House. That Rule, as had already been stated by the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington), was quite familiar to the House, because it had already been in force for one Session. The hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), whom he was glad to see in his place, had been quoted by the Chairman of the Standing Order Committee as a great supporter of the half past 12 Rule; but, if he were not mistaken, it was on the Motion of that hon. Member that the original Resolution relating to Bills which had passed through Committee was adopted. Nobody, therefore, could say that the adoption of the second part of the Resolution of the hon. Member for Gloucester would be in any way hostile to the working of the half-past 12 o'clock Rule. Under these circumstances, he (Mr. D. O'Conor) was prepared to vote for both of the proposals of the hon. Member for Gloucester.


said, he did not rise to speak to the question at issue, but in a few words to do all he could to remove a misunderstanding which, owing to pure accident, had occurred in connection with this Motion, and which had acted, to a certain extent, upon a number of hon. Gentlemen. It was this—that they on that side of the House had been given to understand that the Government intended to support the Rule as it stood. He would not, of course, state that fact if he had not the authority of the noble Lord opposite (Lord Richard Grosvenor) for so doing; but the result had been that many hon. Members and right hon. Gentlemen were absent, who would have been present had the accidental misunderstanding in question not arisen. It now appeared that the Government were inclined to support the proposition of his hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk); he thought that the most proper course would be to adjourn the debate. He threw out this suggestion in perfect good faith, because it was quite clear that, whatever conclusion might be arrived at, it would hardly be satisfactory to the House, and the matter would have to be argued again.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Sir R. Assheton Cross.)


Sir, on the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire that a number of his Friends had left the House in consequence of the communication made to them, it is, of course, impossible for Her Majesty's Government to oppose the Motion for adjournment. I regret extremely that there should have been any misunderstanding of the nature alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman. Until a short time before the House met, I was not aware that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister would not he able to be present. I have indicated my opinion generally that the Rule ought to be supported; but I certainly have no intention of precluding the consideration of the Amendment proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester. Under the circumstances, I feel we cannot do otherwise than assent to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman.


said, that he and several hen. Members on that side of the House were rather astonished at the turn which the debate had taken. Had this been a Government Motion one could have understood the position; but as it was the Motion of a private Member, surely the right way would have been to consult with the hon. Member in charge of it, and then there could have been no misunderstanding whatever. The misunderstanding which had arisen was certainly owing to no fault on the part of his hon. Friend the Member for Gloucester, but to something that had occurred on the Front Bench. Surely, as the noble Marquess had admitted there was some mistake, hon. Members were entitled to ask for au assurance that the debate should be resumed during the Session, because if an adjournment took place, or if the Motion had to be balloted for over and over again, it was clear that it would be shelved altogether. He trusted, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government would promise some facilities for the resumption of the debate.


thought it right to remind the House that this Motion had been upon the Notice Paper for four weeks. The noble Lord described by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South West Lancashire as the "Whip" had not consulted him, nor had he (Mr. Monk) consulted the Government upon this matter. He had seen the noble Lord at 10 o'clock that evening, who informed him that he thought the Government would oppose the Motion. The question, however, was the course to be pursued under the circumstances. If he assented to the adjournment of the de- bate, he supposed the Motion would become an Order of the Day; but it would be very low on the list, and there would be little probability of his being able to bring it forward again during the Session. After the speeches made on both sides of the House, and the remarks contributed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross), he felt there must be a desire on the part of the House that the question should be put to the vote at no distant day. For that reason he appealed to the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India to give facilities for the question to be brought to an issue at an early period. If the noble Lord would accede to this proposal, lie would at once assent to the Motion for the adjournment.


said, the proceedings appeared to him, on the whole, to be somewhat novel. It would seem that there was a system by which the Business of the House was, to a certain extent, conducted and settled by private communications behind the Chair of Mr. Speaker. On the present occasion. when a matter concerning the whole House was brought forward, the noble Lord the Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Richard Grosvenor), without consulting the hon. Member whose Motion was before the House, had put himself in communication with hon. Members sitting on the Front Opposition Bench, and informed them that the Government intended to oppose the Motion. That information was disseminated amongst Gentlemen sitting on and behind the Front Opposition Bench; but those occupying seats below the Gangway were not honoured with any communication upon the subject. In his opinion, nothing was wore calculated to detract from the dignity of Parliamentary proceedings than the system to which he called attention. He appealed to the noble Lord the Secretary to the Treasury that, in future, he would be good enough to communicate to hon. Members below the Gangway, who did not belong to either the Conservative or Liberal Party, as well as to other hon. Members, the course which the Government intended to pursue with regard to any question in which the whole House was concerned. He would also ask the noble Lord to ascertain that the communications which, in future, he might make to hon. Members sitting on that side of the House were a little more reliable than that which had been made in the course of the evening.


understood that the Government had some difficulty in continuing the debate, but failed to see why they should compromise the rest of the House. Unless some satisfactory arrangement could be arrived at by which the hon. Member for Gloucester should have an opportunity of proceeding with his Motion, which was one of great importance to all sections of the House, he thought they ought to proceed to a division.


observed, that the principal culprit was the hon. and learned Member who represented Bridport (Mr. Warton), a borough which, according to the last Return of the Registrar General, had, he believed, receded to the position of a village. That hon. and learned Member had blocking Notices upon the Paper against 13 Orders of the Day and four Motions. If he understood the Motion of the hon. Member for Gloucester aright, it did not seek the abolition, but the modification, of the Standing Order, and the result of its rejection appeared to him would be that those hon. Members who were refused the power of introducing Bills would be obliged to put down Motions on going into Committee of Supply. The Business of the House would certainly not be facilitated by forbidding hon. Members to have their Bills printed. He trusted the discussion would be allowed to proceed without any further complications.


said, on a former occasion he had given way on a Motion for the second reading of a Bill, which, at the time, there was no doubt would have been carried, in deference to the wish of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire. He was afterwards astonished to find that the hon. and learned Member for Bridport had availed himself of the opportunity for blocking the Bill, and he (Sir John Lubbock) had not since been able to bring it again before the House. He trusted, therefore, that if the hon. Member for Gloucester now gave way he would not be prevented from bringing forward the question on a future evening. Even under those circumstances the result of the adjournment would be most unsatisfactory. They had had an inte- resting discussion, and it appeared to him that the majority of hon. Members present were distinctly in favour of the Motion of his hon. Friend; when, however, the question was again brought forward, it would have to be decided by hon. Members who had not heard the arguments which had been advanced.


pointed out that out of seven Notices which he had placed upon the Paper four had been blocked by the hon. and learned Member for Bridport. He could not complain of the hon. and learned Member exercising his discretion in a matter of the kind, because he was aware that had he not given Notice of opposition in two cases it would have been given by the junior Government Whip. The fact, also, that the hon. Member had removed those blocking Notices at the request of the Government Whip indicated a peculiar mixing up of parties. The hon. and learned Member for Bridport having simply performed his office at the suggestion of others, he did not think the whole blame should be accumulated upon him.


pointed out that no Member of the Irish Party had blocked any Bill by means of the half-past 12 o'clock Rule. He suggested that the hon. and learned Member for Bridport should be "named" by Mr. Speaker on the ground that by putting down blocking Motions he had been guilty of obstruction.


said, it was to be regretted that a mistake had arisen. It had, however, been pointed out by the right hon. Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross), and dealt with in an honourable way. Everyone on that side of the House recognized the manner in which the noble Marquess opposite always met them in matters of the kind. The Motion was one which, if an adjournment were assented to by the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk), should, undoubtedly, be brought again before the House at an early date.


said, it did not rest alone with the Government to guarantee that an opportunity should be afforded for the consideration of this Resolution. It appeared to him some assurance should be given by hon. Gentlemen opposite that nothing like a block or obstruction should proceed from their quarter of the House. It was very proper and reasonable to ask that facilities should be afforded for the bringing forward of this Resolution on an early occasion.


said, the blocking Notice which stood in his name was favourable to Her Majesty's Government, and while that Notice stood he did not apprehend there could be a new Notice.

Question put, and agreed to.

Debate adjourned till Thursday.