HC Deb 28 April 1884 vol 287 cc829-36

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [25th April], "That the Bill be now read a second time."

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be further adjourned till To-morrow, at Two of the clock.


I object to the Bill being deferred until to-morrow at 2, and move that it be deferred till Thursday.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "To-morrow, at Two of the clock," in order to insert the words "upon Thursday," —(Mr. Warton,) — instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he thought there ought to be some general understanding as to the extent to which Morning Sittings should be taken at that time of the year, so as to protect the rights of private Members who had balloted for those days on which the Morning Sittings were taken four weeks a-head. The Motion was made at 10 minutes to 1 o'clock in the morning for 2 o'clock in the afternoon—that was to say, giving an interval of only 13 hours; and the Notice was quite insufficient to enable those Members successful in the ballot to make a House amongst their Friends for the next evening. The Government should give some assurance that, as the Reform Bill had been treated by them as one of urgent importance, further progress would be made with it on Government nights, and that it would not be taken on private Members' nights. If it were proposed on any future occasion to put it down for a private Members' day, he trusted the Motion would be strenuously opposed.


said, he was glad the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Brodrick) had made a protest against the manner in which the rights of private Members were infringed by Her Majesty's Government. He did not know whether the House had noticed the extraordinary inconsistency of the Prime Minister as to Morning Sittings and Evening Sittings during the past fortnight. The -Government had deprived him (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) of a night he had obtained. He had appealed to the Prime Minister to make a House, and the right hon. Gentleman had refused point blank; but last week he had made three or four suggestions as to private Sittings, and ultimately, when asked by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Hubbard) to make a House, he had done so, and had then come down and rated the right hon. Gentleman because there were not a large number of his Friends in attendance at 9 o'clock. To-night the Prime Minister refused to assist in making a House, even for such an important subject as the position of the Elementary School Teachers appointed between the years 1846 and 1851 with respect to pensions, which was to be brought on by the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Surrey. That hon. Gentleman, therefore, was perfectly justified in the protest he had made, not only on the ground of the rights of private Members, but also on the ground of the advantage of the Government, and the Parliamentary time and advantage which these Morning Sittings afforded to the Government. Several of the last Morning Sittings taken by the Government had not advanced Public Business one iota, and it had not been the fault of hon. Members on that (the Conservative) side of the House. It was not the fault of the Conservative Party. The fact was that Morning Sittings, when taken by the Government from private Members, really afforded an invitation to what was called "Obstruction." Since he (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) had been in the House, he had never taken any part, direct or indirect, in Obstruction. ["Oh, oh!"] Well, he knew he had been unjustly and recklessly accused of it; but he challenged any hon. Member who jeered in that way to give a single instance in which he had either moved or seconded Motions for the adjournment of the House, or made dilatory speeches. The other day he was accused of Obstruction when he asked a question—Cries of "Order!"]


I must remind the hon. Member that the Question before the House is that of the postponement of an Order of the Day.


said, he was sorry to have wandered from the strict Question before the House; but he really thought the Government should give some more satisfactory reason than they had given, for, at a period of the year for which there was no parallel, taking private Members' days, and preventing hon. Gentlemen from bringing forward questions of great public interest.


said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) had thrown out a challenge which, even if it had been more in Order than it appeared to be, he should have hoped hon. Members on that (the Ministerial) side of the House would not have taken up, as it would have been a pity to prolong this discussion. He (Mr. Gladstone) had simply risen to notice what had fallen from the hon. Member for West Surrey (Mr. Brodrick). It would be impossible for him to give any pledge as to Morning Sittings, or to say anything more than that it was only fair that due Notice should be given of them; but as regards the Motion of the hon. Member for West Surrey, he understood that the attention which it very properly commanded would insure it an audience on that evening. He had certainly understood that, on Friday last, it was stated that they would ask for a Morning Sitting on Tuesday. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett) had suggested that, in reply to an appeal that he (Mr. Gladstone) should assist the hon. Member to make a House on the evening on which he had a Motion on the Paper, a contemptuous refusal was given. That was not the case. He (Mr. Gladstone) had simply stated, without the least contempt, that the Government could not accept any obligation as to making a House at 9 o'clock. With regard to the Motion down for to-day, he understood it was on a very important subject, and that, from the interest taken in the question, there would be no difficulty in making a House.


said he did not think the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) had quite understood the difficulty. It was quite true that Notice had been given that a Morning Sitting would be taken; but no convenient opportunity had been given the House to decide whether there should or should not be such a Sitting. That was the real difficulty. At present, the practice was merely to announce that the Government intended to have a Morning Sitting; and all hon. Members could do, if they wanted to discuss the propriety of that course, was to sit up to all hours in the morning, to challenge the Motion that a certain Order be deferred till "this day at 2." To his mind, it was only fair that they should make it a Rule that, at this early period of the Session, before Morning Sittings were decided upon, a Motion should be submitted at half-past 4, which Members should have an opportunity of discussing. He recognized the fact that, by a long course of invasion on the privileges of private Members, the Government had secured almost a right to Morning Sittings from the 1st of June to the end of the Session. Morning Sittings, however, had never before been abused to the extent they had this Session. Private Members, clearly, had no means whatever under the existing system of standing up for their rights, and of putting their case before the House. This was a question not at all of Party politics. There were a large number of Radical Members who, in their time, had shown themselves as keen for the rights of private Members as any one on that (the Opposition) side of the House, and these hon. Members should, therefore, aid in the common cause. For his own part, he should put down a Motion for next Tuesday, to the effect that when a Morning Sitting was asked for before June, it should only be granted by Resolution of the House at 4 o'clock. He was willing to leave the Rule as it was after the 1st of June; but, certainly, before that date, he thought the House should have an opportunity, before half-past 12 o'clock at night, of protesting against the way in which the Government were slowly, but effectually, appropriating the privileges of private Members.


said, he would remind the Prime Minister that when the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. Justin M'Carthy) had a Motion down as to the Irish Magistracy, the light hon. Gentleman, on taking his day, gave a pledge that, in consideration of that circumstance, he would not only make a House, but do his best to keep one. Considering, then, the importance of the question to be raised that day by the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Surrey (Mr. Brodrick), he trusted that the Government would strain a point in order to make a House for him.


said, he had understood from the Prime Minister, that the Morning Sitting to-morrow was for the purpose of proceeding with the Con- tagious Diseases (Animals) Bill. The Order, however, which it was now proposed to defer was for the resumption of the Adjourned Debate on the Second Reading of the Municipal Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Bill, and he failed to see why the House, because it might, perhaps, be prepared to give the Government a Morning Sitting tomorrow for the purpose of passing a Bill of the very greatest and most urgent importance—a Bill which was far from likely to raise the price of meat, but which, on the contrary, in his opinion, would be likely to diminish it— ["Order!"]—yes; which would diminish the price of meat, seeing that, at present, there was no security given to the breeders of stock—therefore, although the House might be prepared to give the Government a Morning Sitting, a practice which, contrary to all the Constitutional Rules of Parliament, the Government had carried on that year to an extent to which it had never been carried on before, and which, on almost every occasion on which it had been tried, had failed, should be controlled to some extent by the House; and, in that spirit, they should insist upon it that no Bill should be taken tomorrow but the one for which the Sitting was granted—namely, the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Bill. If the Morning Sitting should be more than sufficient to dispose of that Bill, then the ordinary Business should go on, just as if the House had met at 4 o'clock, with the only exception that there should be two hours' adjournment from 7 to 9 o'clock. He, for one, should therefore certainly vote in favour of the Amendment, unless the Government gave a distinct pledge that the Morning Sitting should be held solely for the purpose of carrying in the Committee the Bill he had mentioned.


said, there was quite enough to justify the Motion in the fact that Morning Sittings were asked for at so early a period of the year. Not only that, but the Government were proposing these Sittings with most unjustifiable frequency. But that was not all—the House should look at the spirit in which this was done. Not only did the Government, at 4 o'clock on Thursday afternoon, propose to rob private Members of their rights, but when those private Members came down at 9 o'clock on Friday, the Government trampled upon them in their depressed condition, and jeered at their impoverished state.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided: — Ayes 127; Noes 77: Majority 50. — (Div. List, No. 75.)

Original Question again proposed.


said, he wished to ask a Question. It was understood by the Opposition that when the Morning Sitting was asked for, it was asked for to take the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Bill, and that alone. He presumed that the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Bill would stand as the first Order at the Morning Sitting; and lie would like to know whether that would be so or not? If that had been understood, there probably might have been no Division at all.


said, the intention, undoubtedly, wag that the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Bill should be the first Order at the Morning Sitting, and it was only proposed to put the Municipal Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Bill down also, in order to utilize any disposable time that might be left for its consideration.


said, he wished to mention another matter on which misapprehension seemed to have arisen. It appeared that there were certain matters connected with money that were moved almost sub silentio at half-past 4 o'clock, and fixed to be taken at the Morning Sitting. That, of course, disposed of the holding of a Morning Sitting, and compelled one to be held. No one was aware of what was being done at the time; for it was perfectly impossible for anybody to know what was taking place. There was no Notice; but the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Courtney) rose and made a Motion, which was agreed to without a word. He hoped that some assurance would be given by the Government that such a practice would not be resorted to again.


said, he was not aware that anything unusual had taken place; for he was under the impression that it had been practically agreed that a Morning Sitting should be held for the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Bill. Of course, it would not be right that the Government should fix a Morning Sitting without Notice.

Original Question put, and agreed to.

Debate further adjourned till To-morrow, at Two of the clock.