HC Deb 24 April 1884 vol 287 cc481-9

Member for the City of London, rose in his place, and asked leave to move the Adjournment of the House for the purpose of discussing a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., the intention of Her Majesty's Government to propose a Morning Sitting To-morrow.

The pleasure of the House not having been signified—


The right hon. Gentleman proposes to call attention to a definite matter of urgent public importance—namely, the intention of the Government to take a Morning Sitting to-morrow. The House will judge of the importance of the matter. It is my duty to ask the House that leave be given to the right hon. Gentleman. Is the right hon. Gentleman supported by 40 Members?

And not less than 40 Members having risen in their places—


rose to move the Adjournment of the House. He said that nothing would induce him to take such a course except the conviction that the rights and privileges of independent Members had been very gravely interfered with, and were, in fact, in very great danger. There were but three days in the week upon which private Members could call attention to matters of importance, and by the action of the Government these were practically taken away. On more than one occasion last Session he had been fortunate enough to gain an oppor- tunity for proposing a Resolution on a very important subject—namely, the readjustment of our fiscal system; but the Government had stepped in on each occasion and prevented him from carrying out his purpose, and now they intended again to frustrate his object by taking a Morning Sitting to-morrow. What was the use of Members of experience, charged with the interests of important constituencies, coming down to that House when they were not given an opportunity of making their voices heard? Members might as well pair off at once, and leave the administration of the country to a Dictator. He trusted that the Government would see that the course which they were pursuing interfered with the independence and dignity of the House.


seconded the Motion. The Government might well pause to consider whether they were not going a little too far when so quiet and Constitutional a Member as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London was driven into such a course as that which he had been compelled to take on that occasion. There was no desire to intervene between the House and the Financial Statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Had it not been for the impatience of some Gentlemen below the Gangway opposite—had they but shown the right hon. Gentleman a little indulgence, it would not have been necessary to move the Adjournment. The Government, he held, ought to show more consideration for the rights and privileges of private Members. In the present Session four Morning Sittings had been taken before Easter; and since the re-assembling of the House every private Members' day had been taken up. To show the extraordinary inconvenience of the course which was taken, it was not only private Members' crotchets that were interfered with, but even so important a measure as the Metropolitan Board of Works (Further Powers) Bill was postponed three times before Easter in consequence of the Morning Sittings which were held. The Prime Minister knew that no previous intimation of a Morning Sitting had been given; it had been quite sprung upon the House, and hon. Members had been taken by surprise; and as no formal Motion was now made in order to fix a Morning Sitting, Mem- bers had little or no opportunity of protesting against such Sittings.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjonrn."— (Mr. Hubbard.)


said, that he had a Motion on the Paper for to-morrow of a very important character on the form of Government in Jamaica. On three separate occasions he had obtained an opportunity of making that Motion, and on three separate occasions the Government had induced him to withdraw it. It was an important matter, for the reason that absolutely the only way in which the people of Jamaica could make known their grievances in that House was by getting some private Member to ballot at the Table for an opportunity of bringing the matter before the House. There were at the present time on the Table of the House some very important Papers having reference to Jamaica; and he hoped that if he were obliged to withdraw his Motion again to-morrow, Her Majesty's Government would give him another opportunity of bringing it forward.


It is not my business to discuss the question whether any change has ever taken place in the practice of the House. All I can say is, that what has been done in this case has been the course which has been adopted for many years past. Besides, Notice was given on Wednesday that there would be a Morning Sitting on Friday. ["No!"] Well, the circumstances under which a Friday Sitting would be taken were stated; and judging from the cheers of the Opposition it was clear that the contingency anticipated would arise. What I want now to do is, to suggest to my right hon. Friend opposite a course which he can take, and which I think he will see will give him a full opportunity of discussing the question he is desirous of bringing forward. To-morrow the first Motion is a Motion by the right hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Wigtonshire (Sir John Hay) regarding Portpatrick Harbour. Therefore, the subject in which my right hon. Friend is interested can only be brought forward for discussion, and not as a Motion; and I take it for granted that my right hon. Friend would then make an interesting speech at about 10 o'clock to-morrow night, when he would have abundance of time to inform us of his view. He will not, however, then have an opportunity of taking a Division upon his Motion. What I would suggest is this. I will undertake at the end of my Budget Statement this evening to move the Income Tax Resolution. My right hon. Friend will then, at the end of my Financial Statement, have an opportunity of making the precise Motion he proposes to make, but cannot actually make, to-morrow. That, I think, is a fair offer; for my right hon. Friend will, in fact, be in a better position by adopting the course I have suggested than he would be in if he brought forward his Motion to-morrow.


The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has omitted to notice the true position of affairs. I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that on Tuesday last I distinctly asked a Question with regard to the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Bill, whether the promise made by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster of a Ministerial statement respecting that Bill would be made at a Morning Sitting, and the answer was in the negative. ["Hear, hear !" and "No, no !"] The answer was certainly understood on this side of the House to be in the negative, and the House was then left under the impression that no Morning Sitting would be held. What happened yesterday? Why, Sir, an announcement was undoubtedly made that, under certain circumstances, a Morning Sitting might be held. It was then said that in the event of the House not advancing to-day a certain Bill—[Mr. WARTON: Three Bills.] Yes; three Bills were mentioned, two of which were mentioned as Bills waiting for one of the Grand Committees, and it was said that it was important that one of these Bills should be advanced a stage for that purpose. I am not going to make any remarks on the so-called Grand Committees; for if I denied that they were what have so properly been called the grand failures, I should be guilty of two acts of indiscretion—one of stating what is not the fact, and the other of tempting hon. Gentlemen to follow me into an irregular discussion. Then, again, the Sale of Intoxicating Liquors on Sunday Bill is a measure which is likely to be the subject of prolonged controversy, and one which, is likely to create a good deal of feeling in Ireland, and yet the House is left in the dark as to that. Without wishing to continue this discussion, I would venture to point out that there could be no surer way of retarding Public Business than by allowing hon. Members to come down to the House in absolute uncertainty as to the Business to be transacted and of the hour at which it is to meet.


said, he, as well as the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, had endeavoured in vain for two Sessions to obtain a day for the discussion of the question of the Government of Jamaica. There had been Papers of great importance referring to Jamaica laid upon the Table, and no opportunity for discussing them had been given. It was only fair that a loyal and important Colony should be allowed the opportunity of having its grievances stated, as this was the only means it had of having the redress to which it was entitled. In the circumstances, he would make an appeal to Her Majesty's Government to give the hon. and gallant Gentleman or himself an opportunity of bringing on the Motion.


wished to point out that the course which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had proposed was one which, instead of facilitating Public Business, would decidedly impede it. It was always understood that the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a Statement upon the finance of the country. But if a side issue were raised, it would result in a red herring being drawn across the scent, and an entirely new method of advancing Public Business being introduced. The proper course was to proceed with the discussion of the Budget that evening. [Mr. GLADSTONE: No.] Then it seemed they were not to discuss the Budget that evening. If, however, the Budget were discussed, there would be more time for the discussion of the other matter to-morrow.


The right hon. Gentleman, if he will kindly reflect upon previous history, will see that he has fallen into an error of fact. The Budget is never discussed, for a practical purpose, on the day on which it is introduced. ["Oh!"] Never. I think I have heard 50 Budgets brought forward in this House; and it is a matter of the most elementary practice of the House that the Budget is never discussed on the day on which it is brought forward. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman will see that he has fallen into an egregious error. The old practice was until, I think, 10 orl5 years ago, that only a few questions followed the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and a day was then fixed for the discussion, if there was to be a practical discussion. Now, there is no doubt a practice under which hon. Gentlemen, without raising a positive issue to be decided by a Division, can give their opinions and set forward their views with regard to the finance of the country after the introduction of the Budget; and that is the very thing my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has proposed to the House, and he has proposed that it should be done on Thursday night with a practical issue, instead of on Friday night without a practical issue. I wish, therefore, simply to say that this is a perfectly regular proceeding; and if the right hon. Gentleman will ask any of his Friends sitting on the Bench with him, they will tell him it is regular. I wish to say one word with regard to Jamaica. I agree with my hon. and learned Friend behind me (Mr. Serjeant Simon) that it is very desirable that it should be discussed, and my right hon. Friend near me has pointed out a way in which it may be done. If the Motion about Jamaica stands second to-morrow, it would come on about 9 o'clock, in the middle of the dinner hour. But after the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. J. G. Hubbard), which can only take a very short time, there will be an excellent opportunity for discussing it.


It is quite true that no practical issue is discussed on the night of the Budget, as the right hon. Gentleman says; but I do not think that my right hon. Friend contemplates raising any issue upon which we should come to a vote. Undoubtedly, there is always a fair latitude after the Financial Statement for obtaining certain explanations. I think the course proposed is not altogether fair to my right hon. Friend. This is very early in the Session to be taking so many Morning Sittings; but it is for my right hon. Friend to consider whether he can come to any arrangement with the Go- vernment as to the time at which he can bring on his Motion—for instance, whether they will undertake to make a House and keep a House for him tomorrow evening?


Yes; we will.


asked whether the arrangement suggested by the Chancellor of the Exchequer would prevent his Motion coming on?


No, Sir.


begged to renew his appeal to the Prime Minister with regard to the Irish Education Bill and the Purchase of Estates (Ireland) Bill. He wished to say there was a very strong feeling indeed among the Irish Members that the right hon. Gentleman was making a mistake in giving preference to the Sunday Closing measure. He spoke with impartiality in this matter, for he never gave a vote for or against the Sunday Closing Bill, and he did not intend to do so; but he thought the right hon. Gentleman might in this matter interpose his authority, as the Gentlemen responsible for Irish affairs both inside and outside the House seemed to go against the prevalent Irish feeling in small things as well as large. Several times in the course of the present Session representations had been made over and over again to the Chief Secretary and other Members of the Government in vain. He thought they were acting most unwisely and most injudiciously, and contrary to the feelings of the vast majority of the Irish Members, in giving preference to this Bill, which was an exceedingly contentious one. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Education Bill and the Purchase of Estates (Ireland) Bill were not yet before the House. That was quite true; but there was a general consensus of opinion among the Irish Members that those Bills transcended far and away in importance the Sunday Closing Bill, and they would not be likely to give rise to any considerable opposition or difference of opinion; whereas the debate on the Sunday Closing Bill would be met with very strong and very obstinate opposition. He made this appeal to the Prime Minister because he believed there was no use in appealing to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, and he said that in no discourteous sense. The right hon. Gentleman's mind with regard to Irish matters seemed to be acting under some outside influences which he was unable to resist.


said, that upon the undertaking of the Government to keep a House to-morrow he would ask leave to withdraw his Motion.


said, he thought the Government arrangements were most objectionable.


said, he must protest against the practice of taking Morning Sittings so early in the Session without giving the House an opportunity of deciding whether there should be such Sittings or not.


asked whether the Government would undertake to bring on the Colonial Vote at a convenient time for him to raise the question of Jamaica?


Yes, Sir.


invited the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to explain his statement made on Tuesday that there would be no Morning Sitting on Friday.


was not aware that he had used the words "Morning Sitting" at all. He had said that the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Bill would be put down for Friday, not with the intention of proceeding with it, but in order to enable him to make a statement as to the intention of the Government with regard to it.


inquired whether the Chief Secretary would inform the House if the Education Bill was ready, and when it would be introduced?


The Education (Ireland) Bill is ready; and, as I have already stated, I shall be prepared to introduce it to the House when the Sunday Closing Bill for Ireland has made practical progress.


said, he did not agree with the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. T. P. O'Connor) in the opinion he entertained of that Bill. He (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) did not regard it with indifference; on the contrary, he was strenuously in favour of it, and would endeavour to be in attendance to support it; but, at the same time, he could not shut his eyes to the fact that, as it at present stood on the Ministerial programme, it was practically blocking all the other Irish measures; and he appealed to the Prime Minister whether he ought not to make some modification in the programme—at any rate with regard to that Bill?

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.