Sir, in conformity with the statement which I made on Monday last, I beg to move that, for the remainder of the Session, Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motions on Tuesday, Government Orders having priority; and that Government Orders have priority this day, and each succeeding Wednesday.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the remainder of the Session, Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motions on Tuesday, Government Orders having priority; and that Government Orders have priority this day, and on each succeeding Wednesday."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ MR. THEODORE FRY
said, he hoped that, as the Government were about to take the whole of the time of the House, they would give some facility for further proceeding with the Durham Sunday Closing Bill. Her Majesty's Government knew that at the last General Election they had had no stronger body of supporters than those who advocated temperance principles; and if another Session were allowed to pass without any temperance measure being passed, he was afraid that the consequences at the next General Election would be very disastrous to the prospects of the Liberal Party.
§ MR. GIBSON
said, that in consequence of an uncertainty as to the real intentions of Her Majesty's Government on the subject which prevailed in the public mind, he wished to know whether it was the intention of the Government 1100 to take any further action with reference to the Irish Sunday Closing Bill, the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of which had not been discharged, but had been postponed until the 23rd of July? Every Irish Member had received a large number of telegrams upon the subject, and it would relieve them from a great deal of anxiety if the Prime Minister would state that the Government would endeavour to ascertain the general feeling of Irish Members in reference to this measure before they took any further action upon this important Bill.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
wished to repeat the Question he had put to the right hon. Gentleman a few days ago—namely, Whether the Government would give facilities for the discussion of the following very important questions:—Our position with regard to India, where Lord Ripon's innovations were convulsing the whole country; the effect of the action of France in different parts of the world upon British commerce, and especially in Madagascar and Annam; the danger of a war between France and China; and the great question of South Africa? There were also two matters relating to home affairs which urgently required discussion—namely, that which related to the housings of the poor and the Criminal Law Amendment Bill.
§ MR. J. LOWTHER
observed, that it was important that the House should understand the exact position in which it stood. He had understood the other day that the Government, in asking for the remaining time of private Members, did so under exceptional circumstances and for specific objects. The exceptional circumstances were that the Government desired to proceed with Government Bills, which, speaking generally, were of a non-political and non-contentious character. It had further been understood that this proposal for the appropriation of the time of private Members by the Government was not to be carried into effect without the general consent of hon. Members. In his opinion that was a very fair proposition, and the Prime Minister appeared to be desirous of abiding loyally by it. The right hon. Gentleman, however, was now being pressed from various quarters by hon. Members to afford facilities for the passing of particular measures which had been introduced by private Members, 1101 In these circumstances, he thought that the House should have a distinct understanding that this surrender of the remainder of the Session was for the purpose of proceeding with Government measures alone. He also wished to refer to another point. With regard to the date of the Prorogation he did not wish to commit the Prime Minister to any actual date; but he thought that it was generally understood that if the House gave up the time at its disposal for the prosecution of Public Business the right hon. Gentleman would give some indication as to how long their labours were likely to be protracted. He wished, further, to ask whether any representations had been made to Her Majesty's Government by any Foreign Powers with regard to the alleged laxity of British regulations respecting quarantine and other precautions against the importation of Asiatic cholera into Europe? He bad noticed from the ordinary channels of information that considerable alarm prevailed in this respect. It was not for him to inquire the grounds for that alarm. It might be that the action of Her Majesty's Government with regard to the protection of man and beast from disease had not tended to re-assure foreign countries as to our treatment of a subject of this kind. If such alarm prevailed, he asked if Her Majesty's Government would take care that not only were proper precautions adopted to prevent the spread of the disease, but that their being adopted was sufficiently made known?
§ MR. BRYCE
said, that the private Members would not begrudge the time which the Government now asked for, if they felt that proper use had been made of the time of Parliament previously; but the fact was that the time of the House up to this point had been very largely wasted. Why had there been so many "Counts-out" this Session? The reason was because there were no means by which important Motions could be brought on, to the exclusion of trumpery ones. The Prime Minister had said there were two methods of dealing with the time of the House, so far as disposable for private Members. The one might be called the method of chance, and the other the method of choice. He submitted that the method of chance had broken down; and he would, therefore, urge upon the House 1102 and upon the Government the great importance of considering, before next Session, whether some means might not be adopted whereby the time of the House might be applied, especially on Tuesdays and Fridays, to really useful discussions, and to the advancement of Motions in which a considerable number of Members took an interest.
§ SIR WILLIAM HART DYKE
remarked, that he was not going to oppose the Motion of the Prime Minister; but, at the same time, he thought that he had a right to make one or two observations in reference to it before this surrender of the rest of the time of the Session was made to Her Majesty's Government. He wished to make an urgent appeal to Her Majesty's Government that measures of such importance as the National Debt Bill should not be passed through the House in the month of August, when they could not be properly discussed. The Session had been a very arduous one, and he must say that the Motion appeared somewhat of a sarcasm upon the time and trouble taken last autumn in passing the Rules of Procedure. What hon. Members had a right now to demand was that the Government should give a stronger guarantee than they had yet afforded to the House that in the hot weather, when everybody was exhausted, important Bills should not be proceeded with. He wished to point out that the "Counts-out" which had occurred this Session had proved most disastrous to Supply, the progress of which ought to be the first object of any Government. It was known that the first day when Supply could be taken after the Easter Recess afforded a splendid opportunity for getting Supply; but this Session the Government had allowed the House to be counted out on that day. When the House was called upon to make these sacrifices of time to Government Business it had a right to demand in return that the Government would, next Session, endeavour to get Votes in Supply at an earlier period, and would take precautions against the House being counted out so frequently.
MR. JOSEPH COWEN
said, he wished to put in a plea on behalf of the long-suffering person the private Member, and to make a suggestion respecting him. He did not rise to oppose the Motion, as he thought it 1103 not only a necessary, but an inevitable one. There was some work they must do, and some that it was desirable to do before the House separated. The credit of Parliament, as much as the credit of the Government, was involved in their doing it. It was unreasonable to ask Members to sit into September to consider Bills that could not pass, or to debate Resolutions that resulted in nothing. An unnecessary speech made then or any other time would only result in keeping them longer in London than they wanted to stop, and would not, he was sure, be popular with anyone. He could not join in the condemnation of the Government that had been uttered by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He thought that whatever might be said of their proceedings in other Sessions, they could not complain this year. The Prime Minister had never brought the power of his majority to bear upon them in matters of Business. They had never heard that hateful word "Urgency." Indeed, the Head of the Government had shown a greater concern for the liberties of private Members than the private Members had very often shown themselves. But when all this was said, the fact remained that this Motion was a curtailment of private Members' privileges. Motions like that were accustomed to be made at the end of the Session; but they used to be made at the beginning of August. They were so made in last Parliament. Then they were advanced from the first week of August to the last week of July. One Session it was the 30th of July; another, the 27th; then the 14th; then the 16th; then the 13th; until it had become, this Session, on the 1st of July. [An hon. MEMBER: Not the 1st, but the 11th.] Well, it was true that this was the 11th; but the Government had had control of all the time of the House since the 1st. The broad fact was this—that, year by year, the Government had infringed upon the time of private Members, sometimes taking a day or two, sometimes a week more than had been taken in the year previous. The result was that there was a month's less time at the disposal of independent Members than there was seven or eight years ago. The encroachment was so steady, and apparently so slight, that it was imperceptible. But if anyone referred to the records of the House he would find that in 10 years a 1104 very great change had taken place. Formerly private Members had by far the larger share of the time of the House, and so recently as 1872 the time was about equally divided. Now the Government had more than two-thirds, and sometimes three-fourths of it. During the three last Sessions the House sat 3,500 hours, and private Members had only 1,000 of these hours in which they could initiate Business, while the Government had upwards of 2,500 hours. Hon. Members were probably not aware of it, but that was the fact. It was quite true that private Members took a larger part in the consideration of Government Business than they formerly did; but they certainly had far less time for the discussion of their own special topics than they once had. His hon. Friend the Member for Tower Hamlets (Mr. Bryce) had said they neglected the opportunities they possessed, and he complained of the number of "Counts-out" there had been this Session. There was a good deal of misapprehension on that head. Private Members had been accused of a remissness they were not guilty of. These were the facts. There had been 13 "Counts-out." One of them was on a Wednesday, and it took place under rather singular circumstances. It was accidental. Another took place half-an-hour after midnight, and could not be fairly called a "Count-out." That left 11. Four of these "Counts-out" had taken place after the House had been sitting very late the previous day, or, rather, the same day. The Sittings on the occasions he referred to had been continued until half-past 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. Some Members were required to be again at Westminster at noon to take part in the Grand Committees. The House itself re-assembled at 2 for a Morning Sitting, and went on until 7. It was unreasonable to expect that Members could sit until half-past 2 and 3 o'clock in the morning, and then meet—many of them at noon, and all of them at 2—sitting until 7, and be ready for a resumption of duty at 9. In condemning Members for not attending, these circumstances should be taken into account. But three "Counts-out" had taken place on Friday nights, when the Government were as much interested in the Business as private Members 1105 were. Now, there was every reason to believe that these "Counts" had occurred with the connivance or approval of the Government. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No, no!] The Prime Minister did not appear to be of that opinion; but he would recollect that they had both been present more than once when the House was counted out, and when everyone could see there was no great alacrity shown by the supporters of the Ministry to keep the Business going. They all knew the occasions he referred to. The Government did not want discussions about the county franchise or about re-afforest-ring Ireland, and there were many ways of preventing them without appearing to do so. They all knew that on those occasions a "Count" was in the air. When they talked of "Counts-out," the reasons for them should be recollected. The chief cause was not attributable to any want of interest on the part of private Members; but it sprang from the way in which Business was arranged. There was great competition for private Members' nights—sometimes as many as 20, 30, or 40 Gentlemen balloting for places. Local, personal, and comparatively unimportant subjects just stood as good a chance of getting a first place as very important questions did. When they considered the stress there was upon Members, they could not be surprised that there was no great disposition to make a House at an Evening Sitting for the discussion of insignificant questions. He would say, in passing, that one of the Rules laid down by the Speaker was not complied with in the balloting. It was understood that men ought not to ballot in groups for their Bills and Resolutions, and yet they did so. A number of Gentlemen interested in a question all balloted for it at the same time. The result was that they got more than their share of nights, and they had a great advantage over an individual Member, who observed not only the letter, but the spirit of the Rule. What he wanted the Government to do was to devise some means by which the House would have an opportunity of selecting its Business. They had no control over it as it stood now. There were many ways in which this could be done, and he supposed every Member who had thought upon it would have a plan. The present was not the time to discuss such plans; but he might say that it was unreasonable 1106 for the same subject to be submitted and talked about Session after Session. He held that when a matter had been fairly brought before the House one year, it should not be in the power of Members to bring it forward next year to the exclusion of other proposals of equal interest. It was in that direction—limiting the number of times that a subject could be debated—that relief might be found. They ought to reckon, not by the Session, but the Parliament. There was no matter that more required the attention of the House than this—the apportionment of the time of Members in the way that a majority of the Members desired. But the Government were not guiltless themselves of misappropriating the time of the House. The Session commenced with a long array of Bills in the Queen's Speech. Twenty or 25 were set down on the programme. Some of them were read a first time, some a second, and some got into Committee. A good deal of time was spent in pushing them forward to this stage, and. then they were abandoned. Nearly 20 Bills during the present Session had been dropped in this way, and the time occupied with them—equal, at least, to a Parliamentary week—had been really thrown away. When they were introduced again, all the work would have to be done afresh. They would have to go through the same form as they had already gone through. He called that bad economy. The Government, instead of providing 25 Bills, should have produced only a sufficient number to keep the House working. They should go on with them day by day until they were passed; and then, if time permitted, they could submit another half-dozen, and deal with them in the same way. If this method were adopted, they would never have such a block as had recently taken place. Throwing such a number of Bills into the legislative mill only produced confusion. There, as elsewhere, it was "more haste, less speed." He thought that that was a matter the Government might with advantage consider before next year. It was said this Session had been exceptional. All Sessions were exceptional. It would be an exception if the Session was not exceptional. It was certainly an exception to see three of the main Bills of the year supported by all Parties in the House; and yet that 1107 was the case. The Bankruptcy Bill, the Tenants' Compensation Bill, and the Corrupt Practices Bill were supported by men of every shade of politics. They might differ in detail, but they agreed in principle. It had been customary for hon. Gentlemen sitting behind him to indulge in a lot of meaningless accusations against groups of Members in that House about obstructing the Business. Again and again Gentlemen in that part of the House, as well as on the opposite side, had been charged with Obstructive practices. He hoped those who made such charges would bear in mind what was taking place that day. They were really giving to the Government—a month before the usual date—all the time of the House; and there was and had been no resistance, except in detail, to the leading measures of the Session. There had not been Obstruction; and if any delay had arisen it had been in consequence of the manner in which the work had been arranged, or in consequence of the very unusual pressure that Members had had to labour under.
SIR STAFFORD NOETHCOTE
It does seem to me, Sir, that the discussions which, from time to time, take place in the House with regard to the cause of the delay in the conduct of Business, are not very edifying to the outside world. They are, perhaps, rather calculated to diminish the respect with which the House is held when we spend so very large a portion of our time in wrangling amongst ourselves. As to the causes which retard the progress of Business, there has been in the past a very simple formula, which has explained everything. It has always been Obstruction; and by Obstruction was meant the conduct of Gentlemen on this side of the House. But whenever we have come really to grapple with this question we have discovered many other causes at work, some of which were not preventible, and others which were. No doubt there are faults which belong to us all. But we ought not to let a discussion like this close without considering how much is owing to the mismanagement of the Business by those charged with the conduct of it. There is no doubt that every year the difficulty of conducting the Business is greater and greater; and allowance must be made for this. But it is the business of 1108 the Government to manage the affairs of the House so as to reduce the difficulty to a minimum; and I venture to say the Government fails signally in that duty. Take, as an instance, the application to get the time of the House on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. There have been no fewer than three discussions on this subject of the time of the House being given to the Government, when it might all have been concentrated and dealt with in one day. If the Government had only made up their minds sooner what measures they were to give up and what not, and held out a fair prospect of the time at which the Session would close, they might have had this extra time given them at an earlier period. Even now we cannot feel that the statement of the Prime Minister the other day was a final statement. It is impossible to believe the Government can accomplish the whole of the programme which was then announced. It is all very well to say we do not want to sacrifice our measures too early; but keeping them on the Paper leads only to wasting time, and the Goverment ought to make up their minds without the necessity of any discussion of this kind. I hope what has been said will lead to our giving up the pleasurable excitement of attacking one another all round, and endeavour to set ourselves to the task of getting through the necessary Business of the House in a proper manner, and within a reasonable time. I am quite sure if this is done the Government will receive the co-operation of the House; but if they endeavour to keep measures before us which they know must be abandoned they will keep up a state of irritation which is not good for the progress of Business or the character of the House.
Sir, when the right hon. Gentleman commenced his remarks by saying that wrangles amongst ourselves were far from edifying, and led to discouraging observations by the public at large, I thought the preaching of the right hon. Gentleman excellent; but the right hon. Gentleman proceeded to repeat these wrangles, and to dwell upon them at as great length as anyone. The other observations, made at greater length, were not of a wrangling description at all. [Mr. WARTON: Oh, oh!] The hon. and learned Member for Bridport is so habitually accustomed to 1109 interfere with the course of Business in this House that I am not surprised at his interruption. The right hon. Gentleman says he thinks the manner in which the Government have proceeded with regard to their request of the time of the House illustrates their want of ability in the management of the Business of the House, which he looks upon as the main cause of the evils under which we live. The right hon. Gentleman says the practice of the Government is to say Obstruction is the great cause of the difficulty. If the right hon. Gentleman did me the honour of attending to anything that falls from me, he would know that I always said that the main, the great cause of our difficulty, and that which gives power to Obstruction and makes Obstruction worth pursuing, is the great increase in the Business of the House, which goes on increasing year by year. I do not agree at all with the right hon. Gentleman as to what he has said in regard to the particular instance he has mentioned. What we felt was, that we were making an appeal to the House at an unusual time and under exceptional circumstances, and that we should not attempt to take the House by surprise; because, if we had attempted to do so by proceeding in the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman recommends—namely, that at once we should have made that demand—I believe we should probably have spent the whole night discussing, in a temper not favourable to the progress of Business, the unreasonable conduct of the Government. The great matter on these occasions is to proceed with the general concurrence of the House, when an extraordinary demand is made on it for its time. That is the object we have in view; and I am happy to say, notwithstanding what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman, that we have had the general concurrence of the House, and that the House has admitted the fairness and equity of the spirit in which we have proceeded. The only other person, besides the right hon. Gentleman, who has introduced invidious remarks, is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Kent (Sir William Hart Dyke), and he, too, is very learned on this subject, and has given an instance of the gross mismanagement of the Government. He says the first day after the Easter Recess is a splendid day for obtaining Votes in Supply; but, instead of 1110 that, the Government allowed the House to be counted out. The right hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong, and does not know the most elementary facts of the case. The House met on Thursday after the Easter Recess; and the House wont into Committee of Supply, and continued in Supply until 1 o'clock in the morning, and obtained a number of Votes.
Then what does the right hon. Gentleman mean? He says he alluded to Friday night, but Friday was not the first night after the Easter Recess. Thursday was the first night.
The right hon. Gentleman quoted from an authority as to the importance of the first night. There was a Motion down as to Parliamentary Representation on Friday, and the question was whether the House would be occupied all night with that Motion. It was not whether they should go into Supply or not; and, if the Motion had come on, the right hon. Gentleman, little as he knows of these matters, must have known that it would take a long time. To part from these subjects, which I am very sorry to have been obliged to allude to, and turn to other matters which are not controversial, the hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Cowen) has made a speech on subjects of great interest and importance, to which the Government will give their best consideration. We could not arrive at any decision now, and an academic discussion would not be of any great practical advantage. One point I will mention. The hon. Gentleman has referred to what we undoubtedly very much lament—namely, that on several Fridays this year the House has been counted out. The practice of late has been to lay the whole responsibility of keeping a House on Fridays on the Government. Undoubtedly it is the duty of the Government to use every effort to make and keep a House on Fridays. I was present on one or two occasions on Friday night when the House was counted out, and I ask the hon. Gentleman to tax his memory as to what was the proportion of Members on the two 1111 sides of the House, and he would agree with me that the Opposition, who at any rate constitute two-fifths of the House, made a contribution of not more than one or two Members towards making up 40. I only refer to that because I do not think it possible for the Secretary to the Treasury to secure—for he cannot command—the attendance of Members except of those who are in Office; and I believe he has usually had 15 to 20 Members who are in Office on the Treasury Bench on these occasions. But the matter must rest on the judgment of the House, and if the Opposition did not attend at that time, I do not blame them. The reason is the extreme severity of the labours of the House. That is the real reason; and for the Government's sake, instead of finding fault with one another, let us recognize this fact. No addition is made to human strength, and no addition is made to human time. The Business of the country most rapidly increases, and together with the necessary Business of the country, the disposition on the part of the House, and the spirit in which the Government is conducted, leads to a great enlargement of its functions and to the intervention of private Members. There is one subject I would venture to point out, because I think I can do it without reproach. We have now got to pay the price for the manner in which our time was disposed of before Easter. There was a full month which, so far as the general Business of the House is concerned, was entirely lost—one fortnight on the debate on the Affirmation Bill, and another fortnight on the Address. With regard to the debate on the Affirmation Bill, the blame of that is laid by the Opposition upon us, and it is laid by us on the Opposition. We say they created the difficulty which we then endeavoured to enable them to escape from, and they say we made a most improper attempt to alter the fundamental principles of the Constitution. I am only referring to that now as a misfortune. With regard to the causes we are not agreed; but we have got to pay the price, undoubtedly, of that expenditure of time, whoever be responsible for it. But the other subject is one of importance, and stands in a totally different category, and I do put it to the House, without reproach to anybody or anything, that there cannot be a practice more inconvenient with regard to Public Business 1112 than if that innovation which has lately crept in of indefinite discussion upon the Address were to harden into habit. That fortnight in February will, infallibly, have to be paid for by a fortnight in August or September, and I hope hon. Members will, with reference to the opening of the next Session, bear this subject in mind. They do not then see I the consequences of that expenditure of time. If we are in earnest in the endeavour to save time, I am sure there is one way in which that anxiety can best of all be exemplified, and that is by recurring to the practice which prevailed through times of the greatest political excitement—namely, the practice of disposing of the Address on the day on which the House met. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) has made the speech of a Leader of the Opposition, and he seems to be in some kind of competition with the right hon. Gentleman opposite. It is quite evident that the Session, according to the view and appetite of the hon. Member, who is young in point of Parliamentary experience, ought to last all the year round, in order to enable him to do what he seems inclined to do—namely, to take the whole management of the Executive Business of the country into his own hands. I am able to comfort the hon. Gentleman in regard to two of his subjects in this way. He complains that the Government have taken the whole time of the House, and that there will be no time to discuss either the question of Indian affairs or the conduct of France, I believe, with regard to Madagascar; but on Friday the 3rd of August, the hon. Gentleman has the most demonstrative proof that we have not taken the whole time of the House, because he has himself put down a Notice for the discussion on that day of Indian affairs. I presume he will then enter upon that discussion, and should he be moderate in the time he occupies, there is another hon. Member sitting on this side of the House who comes behind with a Question with regard to the affairs of Madagascar; so that, in those circumstances, there will be some comfort for the hon. Gentleman. I must not be drawn by the speech of the right hon. Member for North Lincolnshire (Mr. J. Lowther) into the rash attempt to name at this moment a date for the Prorogation. Until we are clear of the main and greatest subjects before us, it would 1113 be vain to do anything of the kind. With regard to the progress of the Corrupt Practics Bill in Committee, or the progress of the Agricultural Bills, nothing can be more rash than to say how long they are likely to take. When we have got rid of these questions, then, perhaps, we may become a little bolder in our calculations. With respect to Government Bills, I do not think we have been very indefinite, because we have sacrificed eight Bills of great importance; and with regard to three other Bills of importance we have also stated that we hold thorn to be disposed of entirely according to time and convenience, and these are really the majority of what I may call the disputable or controvertible Bills in the hands of the Government. I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. J. Lowther) says as to our position with regard to legislation in the hands of private Members, that so far as regards the time of the House we have taken we are not at liberty to dispose of it for the furtherance of private legislation. I do not mean to say that the hopes of private legislation are extinguished for the year. Members are at liberty, if they think fit, to keep their Bills on the Paper, and to avail themselves of such opportunities as the closing days of the Session may afford. Indeed, there are usually a few days towards the end of the Session when private Members have a very good chance of passing some of their Bills. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) referred to the Irish Sunday Closing Bill, and the mode of proceeding that had been adopted. With regard to that Bill, and also to the Ballot Act Continuance Bill, I was precluded by the Forms of the House from at once moving the discharge of the Orders, because I believe the proper course is to keep those Bills on the Paper until the Bill for their continuance had been introduced. Of course the right hon. and learned Gentleman may take advantage of that circumstance in any way he likes; but the course of the Government has been distinctly defined. I do not think I can give any further declaration with respect to the Bills of the Government on the present occasion.
The question was two fold—first of all, Had we re- 1114 ceived any remonstrance from Foreign Governments with regard to what had been done or not done in Egypt? There are no such remonstrances of any kind whatever. Then with regard to precautions, if the right hon. Gentleman refers to the instituting of quarantine in this country with reference to cholera, I believe I am accurate in stating that no quarantine has even been established in this country for the purpose of excluding cholera since 1832, and the reason why it has not been done since is because on that occasion it was found to be an entire failure. I do not know that it is necessary for me to detain the House any longer.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the Prime Minister had spoken of the accumulation of Business; but he begged to point out to the right hon. Gentleman that that accumulation was quite artificial, and was due to two causes. It used to be the habit of the House to require a statement on every Bill proposed to be introduced before the House admitted it to the Notice Paper. The omission of that practice had been very injurious, and had led to the gross accumulation of measures with which the House knew it could not deal. Hon. Members indulged themselves in promises to their constituents to introduce Bills when they ought to know that they had not the slightest chance of passing them. That was a fictitious practice, and highly derogatory to the House of Commons. In this respect even the Prime Minister could not be held to be guiltless, because previous to his accepting Office he put forth a programme which he had been unable to fulfil. It appeared to him that the House was wanting to itself, and that independent Members did not consider the duties of their positions, otherwise they should claim that before Easter, and again before Whitsuntide the Order Book should be examined, if not by the Government, at all events by a Standing Committee of that House, which should undertake the task of reporting to the House the measures which it deemed to be pressing, and with which the House could properly deal within the time allowed to its deliberation.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, that the public were getting disgusted at the waste of time in these discussions about the transaction of Business. Under Party Government, Conservatives na- 1115 turally thought Liberal legislation mischievous, and Liberals thought the same of Conservative legislation. Hence, the method adopted was a premium on delay. A large amount of work was proposed to be done which there was no chance of carrying through, because it was perfectly well understood that the House would rise by a certain date. The true remedy was, that at the beginning of the Session, the Government, to whatever Party it belonged, should put down an amount of work which could not take up too much of the time of the House, and that work should be considered before the Session closed. That would be a self-acting closure, and everybody would be interested in getting through the work.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
asked whether it had occurred to the hon. Member who had informed the House that the public were getting sick of the waste of time in the House, that he had himself not long ago contributed very much to that waste of time of which he complained? He rose, however, now, not for the purpose of opposing the proposition which had been made, but to enter his protest against the Government taking so much of the time which should be at the disposal of private Members. With reference to the Resolution which had been passed last night on the subject of the importation of foreign cattle, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said that it would be impossible to carry it without further legislation. He had accordingly given Notice that morning that on Monday next he would ask the Prime Minister in what way the Government intended to give effect to the Resolution; because, as the House had passed it by a majority, he presumed that the Government would take stops to give effect to it. He expected, therefore, that the Government would introduce some Bill for that purpose, and in these circumstances their plans might have to undergo some modifications. He would not now move the adjournment of the debate; but he hoped the Prime Minister would consider the question, and give some further information on Monday.
§ MR. STEVENSON
said, he rose to express his dissatisfaction that the Government were making no provision for the promotion of temperance legislation, which would inflict the greatest 1116 disappointment on the promoters of the Temperance Cause, who were the most loyal supporters of Her Majesty's Government. It made very little difference to private Members whether their time was taken up by the Government or not, because the present state of matters was a continual triumph for the hon. and learned Member for Bridport, who had no following whatever in the country. He sometimes thought that the friends of Temperance on this side of the House would fare better if they were in Opposition, for they were hindered by their unwillingness to hamper a Government which they were proud to support. There ought to be some process of selection by which the time at the disposal of private Members might be given to Bills which were considered of importance, instead of being sacrificed to Bills of not the slightest consequence. A Member ought to be entitled to give Notice that his Bill should have precedence, and the question ought to be decided at once by a Vote of the House. The Bill for Sunday Closing in the county of Durham had passed a second reading, and if a Saturday were given to it, its passing would be secured. He hoped even yet that before the Session closed something would be done to meet the views of the great Temperance Party. If nothing were done, it would cause great disappointment in the country, and would do serious damage to the Government.
§ MR. ONSLOW
wished to ask the Prime Minister if he still intended to carry out the suggestion he threw out a few nights ago, to take the Navy Estimates on Monday and the Agricultural Holdings Bill on Tuesday, in the event of the Corrupt Practices Bill being finished on Friday? The Prime Minister also threw out the suggestion that there would be a Morning Sitting on Tuesday; and he would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he intended to have one?
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, he should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question with reference to Scottish Business, which he was sure it would be recognized was considerably in arrear. The matter to which he wished to call the attention of the Prime Minister was the new Local Government Board for Scotland. He was not now going to discuss the value of that measure; but he had 1117 received several communications on the subject, and believed that it would greatly expedite the consideration of the measure if, instead of taking up the time of the House in discussing it during the remainder of this Session, the Bill itself were submitted to the Conveners of counties in Scotland, so that they should have a general opinion derived from Scotland with reference to the value of the measure. By that arrangement, the measure, if it was to become law, would do so with more general assent than if it were passed through the House without the opinion of Scotland having been taken in the matter. With regard to the Business of the House, he believed the real cause of all the delay was the Half-past 12 o'clock Rule. He said that on the authority of the evidence which the Speaker had given before the Parliamentary Committee on that point; and so long as the Half-past 12 Rule was continued so long should they have a block of Business, and the real cause of that block ought to be known to the country.
§ MR. VILLIERS STUART
said, he hoped that some effort would be made by the Government to carry the Bill relating to the condition of the Irish labourers. In his opinion, in view of the previous failures of the Government to deal with the question satisfactorily, they ought to give the hon. Member for Gal-way (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) facilities to carry the Bill introduced by him—namely, the Labourers' (Ireland) Bill.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
asked the Prime Minister whether he would fix a day for bringing forward the proposals regarding the Suez Canal?
§ MR. MOORE
said, he would endorse what had been said by the hon. Member for the county of Waterford (Mr. Villiers Stuart). He hoped the Government would give the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) facilities to carry his Bill dealing with the question of labourers' dwellings in Ireland, as that Bill was certainly a step in the right direction.
§ MR. J. N. RICHARDSON
said, that as to the Irish Sunday Closing Bill, the expression of opinion from Irish Members on Monday night only feebly represented the feeling of the country on the question. Since he entered the House that day a bundle of telegrams on the 1118 subject reached him from Ireland; but he would only trouble the House with one of them, which was as follows:—The surrender of the Sunday Closing Bill unfortunate for the Government. Will Chief Secretary not redeem his pledge? Strong feeling here. Press hard. Thanks for help.
§ MR. J. N. RICHARDSON
said, he preferred not to give the hon. Member for Louth the information; and very probably, under similar circumstances, the hon. Member would not be very ready to give him information.
§ MR. J. N. RICHARDSON
said, he would rather not state who the telegram came from; but the hon. Member was perfectly at liberty to have the telegram in his hand afterwards if he desired to see it. The reason he read the telegram was to express his belief that, in his opinion, the Irish Government was as anxious as he was that this Bill should be carried. The Irish Sunday Closers absolved the Chief Secretary from all responsibility in the matter, and he felt that measure was dropped because of the natural competition which took place at that period of the Session between the Bills the Government desired to pass. The Irish Sunday Closing Bill did not receive that consideration from the English portion of the Government which the Irish portion of the Government bestowed upon it. This valuable Bill was sacrified to meet the exigencies of English measures. ["Oh, oh!"]
§ MR. CALLAN
remarked that he really had no desire to see the telegram read by the hon. Member for Armagh. He knew very well the source from which it came. It came, of course, from the Irish Sunday Closing Association.
§ MR. CALLAN
Well, at all events, the publication of the telegram was rather extensive, because the hon. Member for Waterford (Mr. Leamy) showed him (Mr. Callan) a telegram which was precisely in the same terms, and which undoubtedly came from the Irish Sunday Closing Society in Dublin. The executive of this Society had been compared to the three tailors of Tooley Street. It consisted of three Scotchmen—Mr. Henry 1119 Wigham, Mr. David Drummond, and of Mr. Russell—who came over to Dublin to endeavour to introduce their Scotch habits. The hon. Member was proceeding to discuss the merits of the Sunday Closing Bill, when——
§ MR. CALLAN
said, he would not pursue the matter further; but he should have a full opportunity of doing so when the Bill was brought forward in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, and he only trespassed on the time of the House now because the hon. Member for Armagh (Mr. J. N. Richardson) talked about the unanimity of the feeling in Ireland in favour of the Bill. Now, in his opinion, the unanimity was ail the other way.
§ MR. EWART
said, he held that public opinion in Ireland, with a very small exception, was quite in favour of the measure, and he believed that the announcement of the Prime Minister that he intended to drop it had caused a great deal of disappointment throughout the country, as the Government had pledged themselves to pass it. He hoped, under these circumstances, that the Government would reconsider its decision of abandoning the measure for the Session.
said, that the hon. Member for Guildford (Mr. Onslow) was not quite accurate in his representation of what took place. He had never spoken of an expectation that the Committee on the Corrupt Practices Bill would last till Friday, for he hoped the discussion would close to-morrow. He could not make any definite arrangement about Tuesday. An arrangement had already been made that the Navy Estimates should be taken on Monday; but it was impossible to state on what day the Suez Canal discussion would be reached until they had closed the Committee on the Corrupt Practices Bill, and were near the close of the Committee on the Tenants' Compensation Bill. The Government would then make the best arrangements they could, and also inform the House whether they saw any prospect of going forward with the three important Bills which were at present held in reserve. It would be a violation of the understanding between the House and the Government if any exception were to be made in favour of 1120 legislation in the interests of Irish labourers this Session.
§ MR. C. H. WILSON
said, he regretted the fate of the English Sunday Closing Bills; and also that all hopes of further temperance legislation were at an end for this Session. He would, however, warn the Government that it would not be to their advantage to alienate the sympathies of the Temperance Party, which was one of the strongest supporters of the Ministry. He appealed to the Government to promise to help forward temperance legislation next Session, so as to allay the rapidly increasing discontent in the country.
§ MR. WARTON
said, he was glad to find the Prime Minister prepared to stand by his pledge, and he charged with immorality those who had urged him to depart from it. He hoped that if the Prime Minister should have Saturday Sittings at any time he would reserve them exclusively for the transaction of Government Business.
§ MR. ECROYD
said, he believed the Temperance Movement had been greatly prejudiced by the course adopted this Session of bringing in a number of Bills relating to separate counties. He hoped that next year the Temperance Party would concentrate their efforts on the passing of a single measure for the whole country; and he, for one, should be disposed to give it a frank and fair consideration.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, That, for the remainder of the Session, Orders of the Day have precedence of Notices of Motions on Tuesday, Government Orders having priority; and that Government Orders have priority this day, and on each succeeding Wednesday.