§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, When it is proposed to take the Second Reading of the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Bill, which was ordered to be printed on the 16th February?
In reply, Sir, to the right hon. Gentleman, I have to say, with regard to the course of Business during the present week, that we propose to have—and I think we can have, with the general consent of the House—a discussion to-night on the Tenants' Compensation Bill. Whether that discussion will close this evening I am hardly in a position to say. If it does not, we shall, I think, do well to endeavour to close it with as little delay as possible. On Thursday, May 31, it will be necessary for us to ask the House for a further Vote on Account; and that will be put down as the first Order of the Day. If the debate on the second reading of the Tenants' Compensation Bill should not close to-night, we think we shall take it on Thursday, after the Vote on Account has been disposed of. But if we dispose of the second reading to-night, we shall take the second reading of the Corrupt Practices Bill on Thursday. If we do not dispose of the Compensation Bill to-night, the Corrupt Practices Bill will be taken on Monday next. Perhaps, Sir, at the time of the Session at which we have arrived I may refer to a matter which is not directly embraced in the Question of the right hon. Gentleman. We have thought it our duty to make a survey of the present condition of Business, with a view of relieving the House from all feeling of uncertainty with regard to our anticipations; and I wish now to say what, in our view, is the amount of legislative Business which we trust the House will be prepared to grapple with and to dispose of. We are obliged, Sir, to make an important deduction from the announcement made in the Queen's Speech; and I have to state that we do not propose to introduce, during the present Session a Bill, dealing with the Municipal Government of London. That is a matter of great regret to us; but it is an obvious necessity in the circumstances 1106 in which we stand. Having said that, I should also add that there may be measures of secondary importance with regard to which doubts may arise about our persevering with them. I do not, however, wish to refer to those Bills at the present time. But as regards measures of primary importance, to these we hope to adhere; and we also hope—intending ourselves not to spare any effort for the purpose of obtaining the judgment of the House upon them—we hope that the House may generously second us in that intention, and bestow whatever labour may be necessary for that purpose. I refer particularly to the Tenants' Compensation Bills, to the Corrupt Practices Bill, and to the Bills which may return from the Grand Committees, which are now engaged in considering them. Legislation of that kind appears to us to be within the powers and time of the House, If it be right for the Government to announce its own intention independently of the House, I should wish to say that it is our intention to spare no effort whatever to obtain the judgment of the House on these Bills. The House is, of course, supreme with regard to the course which it may take; but I am inclined to believe that the House likewise will enter into that view, and will spare no efforts to further the legislation to which I have alluded during the present Session of Parliament.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will give me facilities for the discussion of the Motion on the affairs of South Africa of which I have given Notice?
I observe, Sir, that the right hon. Gentleman has put down his Notice for Tuesday next, but probably with a slight uncertainty as to whether he can then bring it on. Of course, in what I am going to say, he will understand that I do not in the least presume to interfere with his discretion as to the use he may make of the means at his command for raising a discussion. But our position in relation to the subject is this. We are already under a conditional pledge to find time for a discussion upon the Convention with the Transvaal Government. That condition has been virtually fulfilled, as I conceive, because the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) has 1107 announced that he is ready to move the discharge of the Order of the Day relating to the debate which has been adjourned, provided that an opportunity is found for discussing the Notice of the right hon. Gentleman (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach). I do not, of course, enter into any criticism upon that Notice, but the question before me is whether the Government can give any facilities for its discussion; but I hope he will understand and excuse me when I say that it is our business to consider the present state of our information and the present state of facts in South Africa, so that if we are to contribute time for a discussion a time may be chosen when the discussion shall be profitable, and when the House shall have definite issues before it. As far as regards the question of the Convention with the Transvaal, I expect that very shortly we shall be in a condition to give our views upon it; and, therefore, I do not anticipate any serious delay on that account before we shall be able to meet the wish of the right hon. Gentleman. But there is another subject of great practical importance, and of some complexity and difficulty, the progress of which does not depend upon us, and with respect to which I cannot expect that we shall be quite so soon ready for a discussion. I refer to the state of affairs in Basutoland. The right hon. Gentleman has, no doubt, heard of what has been going on at the Cape—of the great difficulties which the Cape Government has met with, and of its disposition, and the probable disposition of its Legislature, to make an alteration in the present legislative arrangements for the superintendence and regulation of the affairs of Basutoland. That is a question of great importance, and one upon which, undoubtedly, the House would wish to have some definite information before beginning the contemplated discussion. I will ascertain, as nearly as I can, in the next few days, when we may expect to know definitely the course likely to be taken by the Cape Government; and we shall then lose no time whatever in considering what duties that course may impose upon us. As soon as we can give any definite account to the House of these matters we shall be ready to make an arrangement with the right hon. Gentleman for the purpose of a discussion.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
Considering the importance of this question, I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree with me that it ought to have adequate discussion.
Yes. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that no effort will be wanting on the part of Her Majesty's Government to secure adequate discussion.
I think it may wait till after the second reading of the Corrupt Practices Bill, in which the whole country is interested; but we will, undoubtedly, look for a very early opportunity for discussing it. I should not like to bind myself precisely, because it may be necessary to take the decision of the House—possibly in Committee—on some points which are common to both the English and the Scotch Bills before proceeding to the second reading of the Scotch Bill; but I hope it will follow the English Bill at a very short interval.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY
The right hon. Gentleman has described as measures of primary importance those now before Grand Committees. Does he include Bills like the Criminal Code Procedure Bill and the Patents Bill, which have been referred to those Committees, but have not yet begun to be discussed by them?
I said all those measures which may come back from Grand Committees. I am under the impression that four Bills have been referred to the Grand Committees, and I must not anticipate their judgment on those Bills. My answer was intended to embrace those Bills which may come back from Grand Committees. I may state that on Friday next there stands on the Paper an important Motion on recruiting, with regard to which we do not think it right to allow anything to interfere. On Tuesday, also, there are several Questions down with which we should not wish to come into conflict; but, after that, it is our intention to ask the House to allow us to resume Morning Sittings.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on 1109 Tuesday week there is a very important Motion on the Paper with reference to the Purchase Clauses of the Land Act? It seems to me that this is quite as important as any Notice on the Paper for Tuesday or Friday next.
§ VISCOUNT EMLYN
asked if it was intended to introduce and proceed this Session with the Bill relating to Intermediate Education in Wales. It had been promised for two successive Sessions in the Queen's Speech; but, from the statement of the Lord President of the Council, he understood that the details had not yet been decided upon?
I did not make any specific reference to many important measures which are not among the primary Bills of the Session, and affecting the entire country. Unquestionably, a Bill relating to Intermediate Education in Wales is one which we think most important, and upon which we feel it our duty to ask the judgment of the House.
asked if the Grand Committees would sit on the same days on which Morning Sittings were taken?
said, that he had no authority to speak for the Grand Committees; but, so far as the Government could, if the House should be of opinion that their proposal was a wise one, they would communicate with the Members; and, if the House assented to Morning Sittings on Tuesdays and Fridays, he had no doubt that the Grand Committees would make arrangements to prevent the clashing of their Sittings with those of the House.