§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I wish to ask the Prime Minister a Question with regard to the course of Public Business. Since the time when the right hon. Gentleman made his statement last week a very important incident has occurred, which must, to a certain extent, interfere with the course of Business which he then sketched to the House. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to bring the subject of the Suez Canal Agreement before the notice of the House? I also wish to be informed what is to be the course of Business this evening, because I see the Local Government (Scotland) Bill stands as the second Order for Second Reading immediately after Supply; and I believe it is the intention of the Government to suspend Supply in order to bring on the Local Government (Scotland) Bill. It is desirable to know if that is the intention of the Government, and at what hour they propose to do so?
§ MR. RATHBONE
asked the right hon. Gentleman whether, before he brought the question of the Suez Canal before the House, sufficient time would 1525 be given to those who were seriously interested in the results really to understand the question? [Laughter.] What was fun to hon. Gentlemen opposite was not fun to others. When there were such large interests in question, it was not unreasonable to ask whether Her Majesty's Government would give them sufficient time to receive those explanations, which had been promised from the negotiators of the Treaty as to the grounds for it, and what it meant before they were called upon to decide upon it?
With regard to the Questions that have been put to me, I may say that they are in part answered by the declaration which I have previously made to the House, and by which, at any rate, Her Majesty's Government conceive themselves bound; that we think it necessary to proceed, as I have said, in the redemption of our pledges with the Committee on the Tenants' Compensation Bill, and that we do not think there is any case of urgency which would justify us, as at present advised, and in view of the undertaking we have given, were we to intercept the progress of Committee on these important Bills, except for the necessary purposes of Supply. I believe that was the undertaking, and to that we wish to adhere. With regard to the Scotch Bill to-night, we shall be certainly glad if the House should dispose, as I believe it is quite possible that the House may dispose in Committee, of the remaining Navy Estimates which will be brought before them, in time to enable us to proceed with the Scotch Local Government Bill. We cherish some hope of that, and shall be very glad to go on with the Bill should that happen. But it would not be consistent with the understanding we have given to intercept the Committee on the Tenants' Compensation Bill, except for the necessary purpose of Supply. As to the Question with regard to the Suez Canal, I thank my hon. Friend for what he has said, and in answer to that I have to state that I believe the Report of the English Directors of the Suez Canal has been laid on the Table, and will be circulated to-morrow morning; and that likewise the Papers asked for by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson) will, I hope, be circulated as soon as possible, probably 1526 within the next few days. When we approach the close of the Committee on the Tenants' Compensation Bills, I hope to be in a position to say something of a definite character with regard to the date when we may ask the House to take the discussion on the Suez Canal Agreement. The House is quite aware that the Agreement cannot in any sense go forward, or acquire any validity whatever, without our taking proceedings in the House. In truth, it would fall to the ground without the assent of the House; and I need not say that any idea of smuggling such an Agreement, either at this or any other period of the Session, into vitality or efficacy without its full judgment, would be entirely futile.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I may remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Session is far advanced, and that it will be impossible for the House to be satisfied with the undertaking to bring the Question on at a time when the House will be empty.
I think the passing of an Agreement of that kind in an empty House, in the present lively state of a considerable portion of public opinion, is an event entirely removed from the "range of practical politics," if I may use that phrase.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether, as the Lord Chancellor is not a Law Officer of the Crown, the Rule which holds good with respect to the Law Officers of the Crown will hold good with regard to him; and, whether the Opinion he has given the Government with regard to the cession of the Suez Canal will be laid on the Table?
It would be rash for me to give only a personal answer to the Question; but my belief is that the Lord Chancellor is a Law Officer of the Crown, and, indeed, the Chief Law Officer of the Crown. I hope it is not disparagement to my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General to say so, although it is true that the occasions given to the Lord Chancellor to act in that capacity are so rare that the term "Law Officers" is usually applied only to the Attorney General and the Solicitor General. I remember myself distinct occasions on which I have made reference to the Lord Chancellor in his capacity as Chief Law Officer of the 1527 Crown. But, whether that be so or not, I think it is quite impossible for the lord Chancellor so to sever any one of his capacities from the rest of those capacities as to allow for a moment the, supposition that he can give an opinion in one of those characters which would not be binding in all of them.
§ MR. ONSLOW
asked whether, considering the great interest that India had in the proposed arrangement with, M. de Lesseps, the Prime Minister would agree to telegraph to the different Chambers of Commerce in India the terms of that Agreement, in order to ascertain whether the Viceroy and the Chambers of Commerce of India would agree to the conditions proposed?