HC Deb 03 July 1883 vol 281 cc181-92

Mr. Speaker, I beg to move the Motion that stands on the Orders of the Day in the name of the Prime Minister, in accordance with the statement which he made in the House yesterday—namely, That Government Orders have precedence, this Evening, of the Notices of Motions and the other Orders of the Day, and that Government Orders have precedence To-morrow.


Do I understand that this is an Order merely for to-day and to-morrow, and that next week, when a Motion is made to take private Members' nights for the remainder of the Session, we shall then have an opportunity of considering the whole of the subject?




wished to express the great regret of himself and other Members that this course on the part of the Government would prevent the Committee stage to-night of the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday (Durham) Bill being taken. This was a measure which had already been read a second time by a majority of 3 to 1; and it was of so much importance that he trusted the Government would give a Saturday Sitting in order that it might be pushed forward.


could not say that he felt at all pleased with the precedent that was being set on this occasion. The principle on which the Business of the House had hitherto been conducted was this—If the Government wished to interfere with the days allotted to private Members, they either obtained the general consent of the House and of the Members who had secured those days, or at the end of the Session, when Public Business became urgent, a full statement of the intentions of the Government was made to the House. Neither of these courses had been taken, and he felt considerable alarm that this should be taken as a precedent, and that Governments in the future should come down and demand two or three days of private Members' time without conforming to either of the conditions he had named. He did not wish to oppose this Motion; but he thought it should not be allowed to pass without some protest.


also would not oppose this Motion; but he wished to fix upon the attention of the Government the strong necessity there was for not allowing Supply to get further into arrear. He trusted that on Monday the House would have a statement from the Prime Minister that a certain proportion of Mondays and Thursdays would be devoted to this object, for Supply was already in a very backward state, and a considerable number of Votes yet remained to be taken. He quite agreed that it was desirable that those measures which the Government desired to pass should be properly considered; but it was equally important, and not less the duty of the House, that it should insist on having ample opportunities for dealing with Supply.


agreed with what had fallen from the hon. Member who had last spoken. He thought the Motion ought to be agreed to only on the condition that a distinct statement was made on Monday as to the intentions of the Government with regard to the Bills before the House. The House also ought to insist on another matter, which was that if private Members' nights were taken the Government should not take up the "fad" of one particular section, otherwise he was quite sure the House would not grant the facilities which the Prime Minister desired. He hoped also that some arrangement would be made so that recourse need not be had to Saturday Sittings. Last Session, it would be remembered the House had an Autumn Sitting for the discussion of the New Rules, and just before the House rose in December the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) gave a promise that the House should have an opportunity of reviewing the operations of the Sessional Order relating to the Grand Committees before the middle of this July. [Mr. GLADSTONE dissented.] The right hon. Gentleman shook his head; but there could be no doubt that there was a distinct understanding. He should like to know what the Government were going to do in the matter?


said, he had no doubt that, after the Motion of the Prime Minister on Monday had been made, very little time would remain for private Members. But there was a question in which he was more particularly interested—the South African Question. He understood the Prime Minister to state that he was quite aware that a discussion would be desirable before the close of the Session. He (Mr. Forster) could only state that discussion was made more desirable by the statement that the Envoys were coming over from the Transvaal; and, as they would hardly arrive in this country before the Session closed, it was important that there should be some Parliamentary discussion before the Prorogation. The subject could not be very conveniently discussed in Committee of Supply; but he did not know that any other time could be asked. He hoped, however, that his right hon. Friend would consider the matter between now and Monday; and if it was decided to take the debate on the South African Vote, one night at the beginning of an evening would be fixed.


said, it might, perhaps, be convenient to the House and the right hon. Gentleman, if he stated that, under the circumstances at present existing, he did not wish to hold the right hon. Gentleman to the conditional promise he had made as to finding a convenient time for the discussion of the Motion of which he (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) had given Notice nearly a month ago—that this House should resolve itself into a Committee to inquire into the state of affairs in South Africa. Since that time Her Majesty's Government had taken a very important decision with regard to Basutoland—the principles or the necessity of which he did not at all desire to question; and as to the details, they were not, and, perhaps, could not be, in a condition to be discussed at present. With regard to the Transvaal, he had been desirous, ever since the commencement of the Session, to bring this question under the consideration of the House, and he thought he had some reason to complain that he not been able to do so. He did not wish to dwell upon that now. What he had been anxious to do was, to prove to the House that the Transvaal Convention had failed, and that Her Majesty's Government were responsible for that failure. He thought that the very fact that Her Majesty's Government were preparing to revise that Convention, not yet 18 months old, in concert with persons who, for whatever reasons, had been unable or unwilling to fulfil their obligations with regard to it, showed that it was a failure; and, that being admitted, as he thought it must be admitted, surely it followed that the Government who concluded the Convention were responsible in the matter? Therefore, as the case which he desired to establish seemed to be incontestably proved by facts, he had no wish to call the attention of the House to what had already passed on that subject. But he thought there was much force in the views already expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster), especially after the statement that had been made, that the Convention was to be considered by Her Majesty's Government in concert with Envoys from the Transvaal, who could not arrive before the autumn; and it was surely desirable that they should have some distinct statement of what the Government contemplated in the revision of the Convention. He thought they ought to have a full opportunity of debating the matter in the House, and he doubted whether it would be an entirely satisfactory opportunity to do so on the Estimates. He would have thought, after the view expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford, that he, and those who agreed with him, might have been disposed to obtain by distinct Motion some expression from the House as to the direction in which that revision should take place. He had also been anxious to bring under the consideration of the House the condition of affairs in Zululand. He observed that his hon. Friend the Member for the North Biding of Yorkshire (Mr. Guy Dawnay), who had great personal knowledge of this matter, had given Notice of a Motion standing on the Order Book, which raised in direct and distinct terms an issue before the House. He did hope that, as he was not now asking the right hon. Gentleman to fulfil the conditional promise he made in regard to his Notice of Motion, he would favourably consider the claims of his hon. Friend the Member for the North Riding for an opportunity for discussion. It was a matter which had never been discussed in the House, and one on which those on his side of the House held very strong opinions, and on which they thought the judgment of the House ought to be taken.


pointed out that the Motion calling upon private Members to give up their Wednesdays was made very much earlier than was usual. In 1878 the Motion was not made until the 15th of July; in 1879 it was the 14th of July; in 1880 it was the 12th of July; in 1881 it was the 1st of August; and in 1882 it was not made until the 24th of July. He did not rise to oppose the Motion; but he wished to point out that they might almost as well be asked to give up Wednesdays altogether—[Cheers.]—for now it was absolutely useless to put down private Members' Bills after the middle of June. [Renewed cheers.] If that was the opinion of the House, of course he would not complain; but till it was made known he thought private Members had a right to protest. He thought the principle involved in the question under discussion was a very serious one.


said, he was glad to see the Home Secretary in his place, as he was in the House when the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for War made the statement referred to. There were a large number of Amendments on the Paper, chiefly in the name of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) and himself; and they waived those Amendments on the distinct understanding that the House should have the fullest opportunity of revising the proceedings of the Standing Committees. He only wished to say one word with respect to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) about Supply, and he hoped it would be pressed on the Prime Minister. Nothing could be more satisfactory than the way in which the Prime Minister had fulfilled the pledges with regard to Supply; but there were two Votes which he wished the Prime Minister to except from the ordinary course—namely, the Vote for the Representative in the Transvaal, and the Vote for Major Baring. The appointment of Major Baring would mark a new departure; and there could not be a better opportunity than on that Vote of reviewing the past conduct of Her Majesty's Government with regard to Egypt.


said, he would endeavour to answer, as well as he could, the various points that had been raised. As there was an opinion that the public purse was a bottomless purse, and so capable of meeting every call upon it, so there seemed to be an impression in the House that the time at the disposal of the Government after the middle of July was virtually unlimited, and that they could give as much as every Gentleman might want for the discussion of what he deemed to be a very important matter. Now, he (Mr. Gladstone) must point out that the time which they might take, if the House chose to give it—and he was sure the House would bear witness that they had no desire to take it on this occasion, except with the free will of the House—was, after all, only a limited quantity, which it was not in their power to extend, and which they could do no more than distribute as best they could. In taking time to consider the course to be pursued, they had to regard more especially the condition of the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Bill. It was quite true, as the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) had said, that the course proposed was quite an exceptional one, and that there had been a desire expressed in the House that it should be marked as an exceptional proceeding; and he was seconding the wish of the House that it should not be betrayed into making it a precedent, but that it should be distinctly and fully recognized that the proceeding at present asked for should not bind the House. It had been said that he never admitted a citation from Hansard. He believed that in the course, perhaps, of 50 citations from Hansard, which had been made for him or against him, there might have been one or two cases in which he had said that he could not recognize that they fully conveyed his meaning. With regard to what his noble Friend the Secretary of State for War had said about the revision of the Standing Order relating to Standing Committees, he found, on reference to Hansard, that what his noble Friend had said was— If it was proposed to renew the Resolutions, either in their present or in any other shape, it ought to be done when the House was in a condition to fully and adequately discuss them; and he would make every effort in his power to secure that that should take place before the end of July."—(3 Hansard, [275] 517–18.) That accorded with his own recollection. Of course, if the Government made no Motion the matter would fall to the ground; but he would say at once that they would not think it a subject at all fit to be brought forward after the House had ceased the full flow of its attendance; and he therefore trusted that that would be regarded as a satisfactory declaration. With regard to the question of Supply raised by his hon. Friend (Mr. Rylands), although it was quite true that the progress made had not been very great, yet it would not be forgotten that upwards of a fortnight was occupied at the opening of the Session in the debate on the Address, and that there was also an interruption—an unavoidable one, perhaps—which occupied two or three weeks in reference to the Parliamentary Oaths Bill. Under the circumstances, the Government were desirous of doing the best in their power, in the first instance, to dispose of the Committee on the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Bill, and then to launch themselves into Committee on the Agricultural Holdings (England) Bill. He hoped that this would be taken as a distinct and final indication of their intentions to obtain the judgment of the House on these two Bills. With regard to everything else, he did not think any difficulty would arise; but the House would hold them responsible for making the best use they could of the limited fund of time now loft, and hon. Members would be judges of how that was done. He quite agreed that a convenient time might be asked for the discussion in Committee of Supply of the Vote for the salary of Major Baring and for the Transvaal; but he was not able to say at present what desire or what cause there might be for a separate discussion with respect to Zulu-land, and he would rather not say anything then on that subject. He entirely agreed with what had been signified by his right hon. Friend (Mr. Forster) with regard to the Transvaal, and hoped a convenient opportunity would be found for the discussion of the question. With respect to Supply generally, he was sure his hon. Friend (Mr. Rylands) would not desire, by thrusting forward Supply, to prevent the adequate discussion of the legislative measures of the Government. The Government thought it was the desire of the House that the two Bills he had mentioned should have preference till they had got through the laborious stage of Committee. After that, or before that if necessary, they should have no disposition, on the one hand, to throw over those Bills which were of interest and importance to the country, and that the country wished to see passed, nor, on the other hand, to give these Bills an undue preference over Supply. He hoped the House would be disposed to sit patiently until these measures were disposed of. They should have a better opportunity of dealing with this subject when they came to consider it on Monday next.


reminded the Prime Minister that as late as last Thursday he made an engagement with regard to the Navy Estimates, with which at present very little progress had been made. They were engaged in an important discussion on the condition of the Navy, and considerable time would still have to be devoted to it. He hoped, therefore, that an early day would be fixed for resuming the discussion on the Navy Estimates. With regard to the point referred to by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), he hoped also that some early Monday and Thursday would be taken for Supply, seeing that the Government would have Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for their ordinary Business.


expressed regret that the opportunity would be lost, through the arrangements made by the Government, of bringing on the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday Bill, in which he could assure the House the public took great interest.


confessed that he was disappointed that the Prime Minister had not availed himself of the opportunity presented him to take a more decided stand with regard to Wednesdays, because he was sure the House would willingly respond to the Government taking that day. ["No!"] At all events, he was content to leave it on record that if the Prime Minister brought forward any proposal to appropriate Wednesdays he would support him. With regard to Tuesdays, however, the case was very different, and he would make an earnest appeal that there should be no invasion of Fridays before the end of July. He wished to call the attention of the Government to a very important Motion of which Notice had been given for the last Friday of the present month, and which referred to the question of National Education. With regard, also, to the Bill which stood first in the Orders of to-morrow, he desired to state that it would be met by a very substantial opposition; and he trusted that on Monday next the Government would be prepared to take a decided course in respect to Wednesdays.


said, he had secured the first Order on Wednesday week for a subject in which great interest was felt by many Members in the House, and by a large portion of the public—reform of patronage in the Church of England. He had previously been unfortunate in getting an opportunity to bring forward this question, and it seemed as if he would be equally unfortunate this year. Last year he had no reason to complain of the postponement, because the Business then before the House was of an urgent character; but that was not the case now, and he put it to the House whether, under the circumstances, it would be fair for the Government to take Wednesdays? He had been in the House a good many years, and they had always been pottering with the Law of Elections and tinkering the Law of Bankruptcy. In a year or two's time they would probably make an entirely new departure on both these questions.


complained of the late period of the Session at which the Indian Budget was usually brought forward, and asked the Prime Minister to consider whether he would give facilities for the discussion of a Motion which he had on the Paper relating to India, and on which the whole question of the Egyptian policy of the Government would be raised? He also hoped the Prime Minister would be in a position, when the Papers relating to the Ilbert Bill were laid before the House, to state the views of the Government respecting that important matter. He trusted, moreover, that on Monday the Prime Minister would be prepared to state that it was not the intention of the Government to afford special facilities to private Members to bring forward any of the huge number of Liquor Bills which had been introduced. He also wished to know whether the Government would give a day for the discussion of the Congo Treaty, should any Treaty be agreed upon?


remarked, that the affairs of India were generally left over to the end of the Session, and he hoped the Government would afford facilities for resuming the adjourned debate on the Motion of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. E. Stanhope).


said, he wished to complain of the increasing attempts which were being made to dissociate private Members from the active work of legislation. Members were selected by constituencies because they believed them capable of promoting legislation on certain questions; but what opportunities were given them of doing so? If a Member by good luck succeeded in securing Tuesday or Friday for a Motion, the probability was that the Government would seize the morning for their own purposes, and count him out in the evening. If he obtained a place for a Bill on a Wednesday which was not in the Easter Holiday, the Whitsun Holiday, or the Epsom week, he might still find that soon after Midsummer his Wednesday was appropriated to the use of Government. He admitted that individual must give way to public interest; but he thought it hard that individual Members should be treated with injus- tice and caprice by the Government. He thought that it would have been better if the Government, instead of asking private Members to make a sacrifice on the strength of a statement to be made in the future, had made their statement first, and then asked for the sacrifice


complained that the only one of the important Bills which the Government intended to pass that related to Scotland was, the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Bill, and that did not much matter so far as Scotland was concerned, for there were no corrupt practices in that country. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman that there would be great disappointment felt in Scotland unless an opportunity was found of forwarding some of the Scotch Bills now before the House.


considered there was nothing more discreditable in their proceedings than the way in which year after year the Indian Budget was relegated to the last week of the Session. With regard to the Wednesdays in that House, they were a perfect farce, as a rule, and nine-tenths of the Bills brought forward on that day were perfectly absurd and idiotic. The only useful measure passed during Wednesday this Session was the Sea Fisheries (Ireland) Bill, to which the Government had given a reluctant assent. He hoped that if private Members agreed not to enforce their rights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, the Government would not yield to the demand of a few fanatical Radicals to have Saturday Sittings for the purpose of giving them an opportunity of airing their particular crotchets.


trusted that the Prime Minister would stand firm, and would prove a perfect Herod to all those innocents on whose behalf appeals had been addressed to him, not making an exception in favour of any one of them. He would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that the simplest plan would be to take all Tuesdays, all Wednesdays, and all Fridays, and, if there were any pressing legislative difficulty, to have Saturday Sittings also. [An hon. MEMBER: Why not Sunday?] He had no objection. What the country wanted was legislation. What Members wanted was to legislate as speedily as possible, and then comfortably go away to enjoy themselves.

Motion agreed to.

Ordered, That Government Orders have precedence, this Evening, of the Notices of Motions and the other Orders of the Day, and that Government Orders have precedence To-morrow.