HC Deb 28 June 1883 vol 280 cc1707-13

asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether the time has not now arrived when he will consider the advisibility of asking the House to give the Government Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, in order that progress may be made with Government measures, without unduly limiting the necessary discussions on the Estimates, or unnecessarily prolonging the Session without any public advantage?


asked whether the Prime Minister would remember that on Wednesday next he had a Motion on the Paper touching the administration of the Income Tax, a subject which years since ought to have obtained the consideration of the House?


wished to remind the right hon. Gentleman that on Tuesday next the Committee stage was down on the Paper on a Bill which had been read a second time by a large majority. He referred to the Bill for closing public- houses on Sunday in the county of Durham. [Ironical cheer from Mr. WARTON, and cries of "Oh, oh!"] Although to some hon. Gentlemen that measure might appear rather a small one, it was one which largely affected not only the county, but one in which other parts of the country were much interested.


With regard to the observations just made, it is convenient I should refer to the matter, and I would do it in this way—that, undoubtedly, the Bill of which the hon. Member speaks is one which has very great interest, indeed, with respect to a particular portion of the community, as well as to the inhabitants of a particular county; but the position of an opposed Order of the Day on a Tuesday night is not a favourable position, and not worth much; because it often happens that if a House is made on a Tuesday night for the discussion of Motions, these Motions are invariably continued beyond half-past 12 o'clock, and an opposed Order cannot be taken. That is only by-the-bye, because I should be sorry that my hon. Friend should think we differ from him on this subject, and I sincerely hope that he will be able to find an opportunity, either on that or some other night, for bringing it under the consideration of the House. In answer to the Question of my hon. Friend (Mr. Heneage), I have to say that we have only considered this matter to a limited extent; but we have arrived at the conclusion that it would be agreeable to the general desire of the House that we should ask to have the 9 o'clock as well as the 2 o'clock Sitting for Government measures on Tuesdays. That is not an immoderate demand, as I hope, and I ought to say, in making that request to the House, that we propose not to interfere with a Motion which stands for Tuesday week in the name of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin), on the subject of the importation of foreign cattle suffering from infectious diseases, and which, undoubtedly, would command the attention of the House for discussion. With regard to the remainder of the Question of my right hon. Friend, I do not wish wholly to pass it by, because I think the position of the House is rather peculiar at the present moment. My hon. Friend points to the objects he has in view—first of all, that the discussions on the Esti- mates may not be unlimited; and, secondly, that the Session may not be unnecessarily prolonged without public advantage. What we wish to do is this. We wish to accept very thankfully all the time, to the full extent that my hon. Friend has pointed out, that the House is disposed to give us, provided it be done with the general assent and good-will of the Members; but we do not think that the Government would act wisely in endeavouring to overbear, by the mere force of an ordinary majority, the opinions of the great body of the House. But, having said that, I think I might point out to the House what is the actual position. The House is now aware of all the important measures in the hands of the Government on which the Government desire to take its decision during the present Session. I think I may say, and without fear of contradiction, these two things. First of all, that these are measures of very considerable public interest and importance; and, secondly, that as it happens, to the great satisfaction of many—perhaps to the less satisfaction of some—they are matters in which Party interests and Party sectional feelings are very little, if at all, involved. Moreover, under these circumstances, these measures which are in the hands of the Government, and form the staple employment for them to propose to the House, I feel stand somewhat in a different position than that which they would be placed in if they were only the measures of this side of the House as contrasted with that side of the House. Under these circumstances, I think it is certainly matter for the House to consider whether they would be disposed, with a view to the effectual handling of these measures, and with a view to the general convenience of the House and the proper discussion of the Estimates, to give us the remaining time, or a portion of the remaining time, at an earlier period than has commonly been the case. But I am persuaded that I shall act more wisely, having said this much, by leaving the matter for some days in the hands of the House, and endeavouring thoroughly to collect what is the general feeling, than by endeavouring to exercise pressure. Of course, I should say whenever we find any case analogous to the case of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lincolnshire, we should be prepared to act upon similiar prin- ciples, and take care that a discussion of that kind, generally interesting to the House, should not be interfered with.


Of course, it is early in the Session, according to the ordinary practice, for the Government to begin to take the Tuesdays. At the same time, after proper consideration, the House might be willing to make that concession, if it were assured as to the Business which the Government intends to proceed with, and that it is not in contemplation to favour us with an unduly prolonged Session. I understand from the Prime Minister that he does not at present intend to make the proposition, but that in a few days he will make a proposal in regard to this matter. Therefore, I shall content myself with giving Notice that when it is made we shall expect to have something definite as to the measures to be taken up, and the order in which they are to be taken up. We shall be very anxious to know what are the intentions of the Government in regard to several of them, especially the Agricultural Holdings (England) Bill.


I have no proposal to make now; but I have given Notice that it is our intention on Monday to ask that we may be allowed Tuesday nights for Government Business. We have pretty well signified to the House the subject of the Bills which we intend to introduce; but, at the same time, we shall be happy to give any further information on the subject.


asked whether the Government would not consider the question of a Saturday Sitting for the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday (Durham) Bill?


inquired if the Prime Minister was aware that next Tuesday he had first place for a Motion regarding the better housing of the multitude of the people? That was, at least, as important as the Motion of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Chaplin) on the following Tuesday. He would like, if the House would permit him, to read a short note on this subject—["Order!"]—he would not do so without the permission of the House; but the question affected a vast number of people on whom the House and the country depended for its prosperity.


The hon. Member is not asking a Question.


said, his Question was, Whether the Government would give some other opportunity before the end of the Session for bringing on his Motion, or give any promise that they would deal with this important subject themselves?


asked the Premier at the same time whether, if the Government took both Morning and Evening Sittings on Tuesdays and Fridays, he would recommend that the natural hour of meeting, 4 o'clock, should be resumed?


said, he could quite understand the reasons which induced the Prime Minister to announce that he would take Tuesdays and Fridays at rather an earlier date this Session; but he would ask him whether it was not within his power to find some method of marking the proceeding as exceptional, depending upon the exceptional nature of the Government Business before the House, so that it might not be drawn into a precedent in future Sessions?


I think, with regard to the exceptional nature of the reasons which my hon. Friend is perfectly entitled to notice, the very character of the conversation to-day will probably be sufficient to record and make plain the considerations which will guide the House if it should act in the direction which I have indicated. I quite agree with the noble Lord that perhaps after next week, and after the disposal of the Motion to which reference has been made, it may be right that we should return for the general convenience of the House to the ordinary hour of meeting. With regard to what has been stated by my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Broadhurst), I would point out that I do not in the slightest degree question the importance of the subject which he proposes to open; but my hon. Friend will feel, I think, that a Motion of that kind proposed on the 3rd of July cannot be intended to be the basis of legislation of a positive kind during the present Session; and if that is so, it is quite evident that it places his Motion on a different footing from the Motion of the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire, who, although aiming, I rather think, at legislation, yet legislation of a kind that might probably, if it were adopted, be comprised within a couple of lines or within a very limited space indeed. Under these circumstances, I certainly hope that before the close of the Session my hon. Friend may have an opportunity of explaining his views upon the subject with all that intelligence and all that information which we know he possesses in regard to matters upon which he addresses the House.


asked whether he was to understand that the Intermediate Education (Wales) Bill had been definitely abandoned from the statement of the Premier that the Government did not propose to bring forward any Bills other than those of which the House were already in possession?


No, Sir. My declaration was made with a reservation. I spoke only of the principal measures of the Session. With regard to measures that do not come under that description, and do not promise to occupy a large space of the time of the House, it is impossible to make any abstract declaration.


asked the Prime Minister whether, should he ascertain before Monday that the feeling of the House was in favour of the Government taking Wednesdays as well as Tuesdays and Fridays, he proposed to enlarge his Motion so as to include Wednesdays? Having, himself, charge of a Bill on the Paper for next Wednesday, he had a personal interest in the question.


With respect to the Question of the hon. Member, I think we had better reserve to ourselves a perfectly impartial consideration, whatever the information we may receive with regard to the feeling of the House, and act upon it, though subject always to the condition that the House shall not be taken by surprise.


asked whether the Government proposed to find any more work for the Grand Committee on Law—[Mr. WARTON: No, no!]—and in particular, seeing that the Scottish Members were so assiduous, whether the Government would not consider the possibility of referring certain Scotch Bills to that Committee, adding 15 additional Members—[Mr. WARTON: Oh, oh!]—and, if necessary, enlarging the functions of the Committee for that purpose?


That is a subject on which I do not think we should take such a step as that indicated by my hon. Friend without ascertaining that it was agreeable to the general wish of the House. But I could not answer a Question of that kind without Notice.


asked the Speaker, with regard to the Navy Estimates, Whether it was in Order for the Government to take Votes 15 and 16 that night, taking into consideration the fact that when the Committee last reported Progress they were in the middle of Vote 2?


, in reply, said, it was quite competent for the Government to do so, and that it was not altogether a question of Order, but a question of the convenience of the House.