HC Deb 20 March 1883 vol 277 cc941-3

said, he wished to call the attention of the House to a matter of Public Business. When the Transvaal debate was adjourned last Friday, a question was put to the Prime Minister as to the day the adjournment should be fixed for, and it was decided that it should be April 3. Yet last night, or rather this morning, between 2 and 3 o'clock, in the absence of any Notice, and in the absence of those hon. Gentlemen who were interested in the Business to take place on Friday, April 6, a Motion was made from the Treasury Bench, and carried, that the adjournment of the debate should take place until April 6, the effect of which had been to displace the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) with reference to the National Expenditure. Under these circumstances, he ventured to ask the Prime Minister, why, after he had given Notice to the House that the Government would propose that the Transvaal debate should be adjourned till Tuesday, April 3, the Government, in the absence of the Prime Minister, and without Notice, proposed that that debate should be adjourned till April 6, and whether, having regard to the Motion of the hon. Member for Burnley, that course met with the right hon. Gentleman's approval?


Sir, I can on no account exempt myself from responsibility with respect to the change of day, effected by a Motion made at a late hour last night, from the Tuesday to the Friday; but I will give an explanation to my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler). It is quite true that I named the first Tuesday after the Recess, because we were anxious that the Transvaal debate should be resumed on the earliest day that could properly be taken for it. But I then learnt, in such a manner that I could not doubt the authenticity of the information, that there was great objection indeed to going on with it on Tuesday. There is this, too, to be said with regard to taking up the debate again at a Morning Sitting on Tuesday, that when the House resumes at 9 o'clock, there is, by a common understanding, no special obligation on the Government to keep a House, and it is difficult for the Government to come under such an obligation. If they did, they would be obliged to solicit hon. Gentlemen to attend three nights a-week for the keeping of a House, and that would be to impose too considerable a strain upon hon. Members. I suppose that will be accepted as a reason; but, at any rate, it was for what we believed to be the general convenience of the House that I agreed that this change should be made. I admit the point of my hon. Friend's Question, and I must assure him that it did not escape attention; but I cannot think really that he will find it necessary to conclude that the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) will suffer in consequence. The House will meet at 9 o'clock, and, at any rate, from that hour to 1 o'clock, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Burnley and those who desire to dis- cuss that exceedingly important Motion, will have their time secured, because we shall make every effort to secure their having a House for the purpose. The hon. Member knows the position in which we stand. There are some things the Government can do; but we cannot manufacture time. We cannot ask the House to give Monday or Thursday evenings for the purpose of continuing that debate. Short of that, our desire is to make arrangements which will be most convenient for the House; and I think, upon the whole, the arrangement now proposed may be thought less inconvenient than the former one.