HC Deb 22 June 1883 vol 280 cc1379-82

said, he was sorry to have to take up the time of the House on this occasion; but he wished to do so for the reason that he had endeavoured, for the last two or three months, to find an opportunity to draw the attention of the House to a certain matter without being successful. The matter to which he alluded was one of considerable importance. It was a matter involving the right of procedure; and, seeing that the Prime Minister was in his place, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give him his attention whilst he dealt with such an important subject. The point he wished to raise was as to Bills brought down from the other House, and it had reference to something which had occurred on the 20th of March this year, which happened to be the last day before the Easter Vacation. On that day a Clerk came down from the House of Lords—a Clerk in a peculiar wig—and brought with him a packet of Bills from the Upper Chamber. He (Mr. Warton) was very much interested in one of the measures which was in the packet—a Bill upon which he felt very strongly—namely, the Payment of Wages in Public-houses Bill. Whether that was a good or a bad Bill was not of the slightest importance in regard to the mattes to which he was drawing attention; but being anxious to learn something about it, and to oppose it, and to prevent its too rapid progress through the House, he had gone to the Clerk at the Table—al ways a most courteous gentleman—with a Notice of opposition in his hand. He had made inquiries of this gentleman, being anxious to ascertain the procedure in regard to Bills brought up from the House of Lords, and to learn it from the right source; and he had been told that, although the Bill had been brought in, no one had moved it. The Clerk was good enough to tell him that his suspicions were correct—for he had suspected that no one had moved the measure. He had naturally concluded from this that the Bill was not being advanced a stage at all. He was aware that it was always customary to give a first reading to a Bill brought up from the House of Lords without opposition; but he had not quite understood—nor did he yet quite understand—how the proceeding was done. he did not know whether the laying of it on the Table constituted a first reading, or whether the Question was openly put from the Chair? If the Question were put openly from the Chair they would know whore they were, and would be able to give such opposition to a measure as they wished. However, on the occasion to which he referred, although he had a Notice of opposition ready in his hand, he could do nothing, as nothing seemed to be done with the Bill. When they met again on the 29th March, after the Easter Holidays, what did he find? Why, he found this Notice on the Paper—"Payment of Wages in Public-houses Bill—Second Reading." On this he had appealed to Mr. Speaker; but Mr. Speaker would not assist him. He asked whether it was right that a Bill, of which they had not seen the first reading, should be put down for the second reading on the day following the first reading — for as they could not do anything during the Vacation it was really the day following—and lie had been answered in the affirmative. He had asked Mr. Speaker whether, in the spirit of the Half-past Twelve Rule, there ought not to be the same breathing space between the first and second readings, and Mr. Speaker had told him the proceedings were perfectly regular. No doubt that was so; but it was because they were regular, and because they were dangerous, that he wished now to bring the matter before the House. Subsequently, he was told that the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. S. Morley) had done something or said something—what it was he did not know. The hon. Member might have gone up to the Table, and said he wanted the Bill to be read a first time; but whether he had done so or not he (Mr. Warton) could not say. At any rate, the Question was never put from the Chair. He preserved most carefully the catalogue of Bills as they appeared in the useful list published every night. Well, the list contained, under the head of Bills which had come down from the House of Lords, the name of the Irish Sunday Closing Bill, which had come down in the same packet as the Payment of Wages in Public-houses Prohibition Bill, tied with the very same piece of red tape. It was dated as having came from the Lords on March 20. These two Bills were brought in on the same night, laid on the Table in the same way, and the same thing was done with them, yet one was put down for second reading, whilst a record was simply placed against the other "Brought from the Lords." He was not able to move a Resolution; but he mentioned this matter in order to induce Mr. Speaker, or the House, or Her Majesty's Ministers, to say something about the Rule adopted, or which ought to be adopted, in this matter. The first reading of these Bills should be put from the Chair, or moved by someone, so that they might know where they were. He drew attention to this matter as much in the interest of the Liberal Party as of Her Majesty's Ministers, because the Liberal Party was now in a majority; but the day might come when they would be in a minority, and when Bills of which they disapproved might be brought up from the House of Lords.

Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,

House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock till Monday next.