§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister if he can now give the House any further information with regard to the proposed course of Business? There are several questions upon which I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will be able to enlighten us. In the first place, as to the Business of this evening, we want to know what the Government propose to do with reference to Votes on Account? We did not understand that we should be asked for another Vote on Account, until, at all events, the Government were in a position to tell us which of their measures they were prepared to proceed with, and which they considered it necessary to withdraw. I am quite aware that the Government withdrew a certain number of measures some time ago; but we fully expected that they would be in a position to state that there were others which they would be prepared to withdraw also. ["No!" from the Ministerial Benches.] If not, then I think we ought to be assured on one or two points—that a reasonable time for the closing of the Session ought to be announced, and that we should also be assured that we shall have a proper opportunity for the discussion of Supply; otherwise it would be unreasonable, I think, under the present circumstances, to ask us to make a Vote on Account. I wish also to ask what is the order in which the other Business is to be taken, when the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Bill 562 will be proceeded with, and whether the right hon. Gentleman is able to name a day on which he will be prepared to allow a discussion on the Motion of which I have given Notice with reference to the Suez Canal?
Sir, the demand of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir Stafford Northcote) is, in general terms, a reasonable demand; and I can make even now, to a certain extent, an answer to it, which I hope to enlarge, upon receiving more positive information on certain subjects, in the course of a very short time. But I may point out to the right hon. Gentleman that, as he is aware, a discussion on the new question of the Suez Canal having arisen, and we not being quite certain what demand it may make upon us, it has somewhat deranged our expected proceedings. As regards the arrangement of Business that is still pending, I am prepared to say this, without waiting at all—that, in the first place, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, a full and fair time ought to be, and shall be, given for the discussion of Supply. We shall not attempt to throw over the further discussion of Supply until we have disposed of the legislative Business which we hope the House of Commons will be disposed and competent to deal with. There are three Bills of importance, to which I referred on a former occasion as still awaiting the final view of the Government—namely, the Contagious Diseases Acts Amendment Bill, the Bill for the Amendment of the Criminal Law, and an important measure with regard to Education in Wales. With regard to these three, I may state now that we do not entertain any expectation of being able to proceed with any of them. That will considerably lighten the list, and I think that when I see my way as to the Suez Canal discussion, I shall then undertake to state to the House more fully what we propose with regard to the arrangement of Business. As far as regards the earlier parts of the right hon. Gentleman's inquiries, I do not think that at present, probably for a week or more, it would be safe or judicious for anyone to make any anticipation as to the close of the Session, gladly as I should feel myself on the expectation of attaining that much-desired point. With respect to the important question of the Suez Canal, with 563 which the right hon. Gentleman closed, we are quite ready to place Monday at his disposal; but in doing so, I wish distinctly to express the attitude and view of the Government without any argument on the subject. We do it out of deference to the right hon. Gentleman, and to the position in which he stands as the Representative of a very considerable portion of the House, and not because we ourselves can say that we believe public advantage will arise at the present time from any discussion, prospective in its character, upon the matters connected with the Suez Canal. I wish, Sir, to go a little beyond that, especially as it tends to narrow and not to widen the possible points of difference. Examining the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, I am able to say, on my own part, and on the part of my Colleagues, with regard to the proposition contained in it—namely, that there ought to be no recognition of supposed rights or claims of the Canal Company in the terms therein described, we entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. I may state that without any qualification. At the same time, it may be for the convenience of the House, if I also go on to state that what we contemplate as desirable in the actual state of affairs is, that after what has recently passed, as regards the dropping of the Agreement, some time should be allowed to the great trading and shipping interests of the country to consider the question carefully in its various bearings, with a considerable number of rather complex matters attached to them, partly economical and partly political; and, secondly, that we do not contemplate, as in any way within the limits of probability, any early resumption of any negotiations of such a character as would possibly bear upon the question of the claims of M. de Lesseps and the Suez Canal Company. Having said that we are in agreement with the proposition contained in the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman, I am bound to say that we entertain very strong objection indeed to the passing of any such Resolution by the House, from which we anticipate very grave public disadvantages, which we even think there may be a disposition, when they are stated, to acknowledge; and our course will be to support the Amendment of which Notice has been given by my hon. Friend the Member 564 for Hull (Mr. Norwood). But that is without the smallest prejudice to what I have said as to our being in agreement with the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
Sir, I do not knew whether the House will allow me to make a single observation. The observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister seem to me to be rather in the nature of, I will not say an appeal to me not to proceed with my Motion, but an indication that the Government would prefer that I should not proceed with it. I wish to state, without going any further, that my object is to insure and obtain for the House, at all events, its full freedom of judgment in a matter in which I am under the impression at the present moment its freedom has been compromised by the proceedings of the Government. We can only meet that by the discussion which will take place, I hope, on my Motion on Monday.
§ MR. RICHARD
asked the Prime Minister, whether, seeing, as they were informed, that the Welsh Intermediate Education Bill could not be brought on this Session, he could give some assurance to Welsh Members that it would be brought on early next Session, in time for ample discussion upon it?
, in reply, said, the Bill referred to required the careful consideration of Parliament and the country, and it certainly was his hope that the subject would be dealt with at the very commencement of next Session; but, of course, he could not give any assurance on the point. He must venture to appeal to hon. Members who had Notices of Motion for to-morrow evening to clear the Paper, in order that the Report on the Agricultural Holdings (England) Bill might be gone on with, and would especially direct this appeal to the kindness and humanity of the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt) to withdraw the Motion down in his name. ["No, no!"]
§ MR. SALT
said, he was exceedingly sorry when he could not meet the wishes of hon. Members, and particularly those of the right hon. Gentleman; but he was now in this difficulty—that some of his Friends wished him to go on with his Motion to-morrow evening, and some of them wished him not to go on. Therefore, taking all things into consideration, 565 he thought it would be better that matters should remain as they were—["Oh, oh!"]—unless the Government would find him another day for the Motion. They were now at the end of the Session; and probably he would not have another opportunity of bringing his Motion forward, if he gave up this one. He understood, moreover, that it would not be convenient for him to bring forward the question on the Estimates as a matter of Order.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
asked when the stage of Report on the Agricultural Holdings (England) Bill would be taken?
, in reply, said, the debate on the Suez Canal was hanging over them for Monday; and, under present circumstances, he could not tell when the Report stage of the Bill referred to by the hon. Member would be taken.
§ MR. DIXON-HARTLAND
asked the President of the Board of Trade when he proposed to bring forward the Report on the Bankruptcy Bill? He hoped it would be brought forward before hon. Members had gone out of town.
§ MR. CHAMBERLAIN
, in reply, said, that, in the state of Business which had already been referred to by the Prime Minister, it was impossible for him to give any assurance on the point.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said, he would appeal to the hon. Member for Stafford to withdraw his Motion for to-morrow evening. He (Mr. Chaplin) recognized the great importance of the Motion; but it would be very much to the convenience of a large section of the House, if the hon. Member could, by any possibility, consent to postpone it on this occasion, so as to enable the Report of the Agricultural Holdings (England) Bill to be taken.
§ COLONEL KINGSCOTE
said, he would also appeal to the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt) not to proceed with his Motion to-morrow evening.
§ MR. J. G. HUBBARD
said, the question of education was one that concerned the whole country; and, both in and out of the House, there was strong anxiety that the administration of the Education Law should be thoroughly considered. It was all very well to ask the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt) to postpone his Motion; but when would he have another opportunity of bringing it forward? He now had possession of the 566 House, and, under the circumstances, ought to keep it.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, he would urge his hon. Friend (Mr. Salt) not to give way. He (Mr. Stanley Leighton) believed that the withdrawal of the Motion would cause great disappointment.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, that the matter being a very important one, which excited very great interest outside the House, as well as in it, among persons whose opinions ought to be considered, his hon. Friend (Mr. Salt) thought it very difficult to allow the matter to drop altogether. It had been suggested that it could be dealt with in the discussion on the Education Estimates that evening; but his hon. Friend was of opinion that he would be ruled out of Order if he then brought forward his Motion. Unless, therefore, some arrangement was made by which he could have another day, his hon. Friend would hardly feel himself justified in abandoning the position he had gained. He (Sir Stafford Northcote) must point out to the Government that they had the whole of the week now, except Friday evening; and it was rather hard to levy a tax on the small portion of time that now remained to private Members.