Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the several stages of any Bills for the Registration of Voters, in England, Scotland, and Ireland, have precedence of all Orders of the Day and Notices of Motions, on every day on which they shall be set down, by the Government, as the first business of the day."— (Mr. Gladstone.)
§ MR. PARNELL
said, that before the Motion was put he wished to ask the Government their intentions with regard to the question of registration in Ireland, which had been left in a most unsatisfactory condition owing to the non-fulfilment by the Government of statements as nearly as possible amounting to pledges made by them so long ago as the end of the Session of 1883. he did not propose in any way to discuss the merits of the three Bills to which it was proposed on the present occasion to give precedence over all other Business. What he desired to know was, what the position of Her Majesty's Government was regarding the pledges given by the Government to assimilate the Registration Law in 166 Ireland to that of England? Regarding this question he thought it was in the first Session of this Parliament that a Bill was brought in by the hon. and learned Member for Kildare (Mr. Mel-don) for the assimilation of the registration system of the two countries, and that Bill passed through that House, but was thrown out by the House of Lords. The Bill was considered of such importance that the Chief Secretary for Ireland at that time (Mr. W. E. Forster) used some very strong expressions with regard to the action of the House of Lords, and pledged the Government with regard to it that he would introduce fresh legislation in the following Session. That promise was forgotten and broken in the midst of the exciting events which ensued in the following Session, and it was not until the Session of 1883 that the Bill was re-introduced, with the result that it again passed through all its stages in that House, practically without a division; but it was again thrown out by the House of Lords. Replying to a Question put by him on the 22nd of August, 1883, as to what course the Government proposed to take, the Prime Minister said that Her Majesty's Government viewed with great regret the fact that the Bill did not pass into law. He could not be expected, he said, to give the exact arrangements of the Business for the next Session; but he added that possibly the Bill for Registration in Ireland would form a part of a measure of a more important character, referring, of course, to the Franchise Bill. Well, it did not form part of the Franchise Bill, which had since passed into law. The Bill now before Parliament did not carry out the pledges given by the Prime Minister, as it did not assimilate the law. Therefore, he thought they were entitled to ask, before they gave up the public time to those Registration Bills for England, Ireland, and Scotland, that the Government should redeem its repeated pledges to assimilate the law between England and Ireland. The position in which the Irish Registration Law stood at the present moment was a very serious one. It was one rendering almost entirely nugatory the passage of the Franchise Act, which rendered the extension of that Act to Ireland a fraud and a delusion. That Act was supposed to confer the franchise on between 167 500,000 and 700,000 persons in Ireland; but in default of legislation assimilating the law these persons would be left at the mercy of a threepenny stamped notice of objection served through the post. He could not think that the Government had designedly shoved them into such a pitfall; and it was, therefore, that he availed himself of this opportunity to urge upon the Prime Minister that, before he dealt with these three Bills, he should first fulfil the pledges of himself and his Government, repeatedly and solemnly expressed, that they would introduce a Bill placing the people of Ireland in the same position regarding registration as the people of England and Scotland. It was rumoured that the understanding with Lord Salisbury would prevent a clause being added to the Registration Bill dealing with the subject; but if this were true a more scandalous breach of faith, whether intentional or not, was never perpetrated by any Government. Until he heard the answer of the Government he could not say what attitude he should adopt with regard to the English and Scotch Bills; but at present he was disposed to think he must oppose them.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
said, he did not question the right of the last speaker to raise the question he had raised; but he wished to make an appeal to the Government. The Prime Minister was again asking private Members to sacrifice the whole of the time at their disposal; and while he did not deny that the occasion justified the present proposal he thought when such a demand was made private Members, in their turn, had a right to demand from the Government a detailed announcement of their legislative programme for the remainder of the Session. It was absolutely impossible, under this system, for a private Member to bring forward any Motion, however important. The case of the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed) was an illustration of this; he could not ask the Government for a day for his Motion on the Navy—a subject which was of national importance, and as to which there was the greatest anxiety out-of-doors, and to attempt to ballot for a day was a farce. He hoped the Prime Minister would grant the hon. Member for Cardiff the time he had demanded, and also lay the programme of the Session before the House.
§ MR. ASHMEAD-BARTLETT
said, he should support the protest. The House had been given to understand that when the Redistribution Bill was disposed of they would revert to the normal state of affairs as regards the time of the House. The Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister looked very much like a breach of faith with the House on the part of the Government; and he hoped someone on the Front Opposition Bench would enter a protest against it. Private Members had had their rights absorbed for the last two or three Sessions; whereas if the Government had managed their Business with a little more order and foresight those rights might have been better respected. Let hon. Members consider what was the position of the House. They were refused information upon every subject of importance. The Government were drifting along day after day, and hon. Members had no means of obtaining information. They could get no replies; and the only thing that there was any certainty at all about was that whilst our Government were drifting the Russian Forces were advancing. The House by departing from the old rule, had placed it in the power of Ministers to adopt a most offensive demeanour to hon. Members asking Questions—a tone they would never dared to have assumed under the old régime. It was the impunity which Ministers enjoyed in regard to private Members' rights which led them to adopt their offensive tone. There was no sufficient reason for the Motion of the Prime Minister, whose great anxiety seemed to be to hustle forward the General Election sooner than the proper time. The Government were hourly plunging the country into greater dangers abroad; their Expenditure was increasing enormously; whilst an immense Floating Debt was being incurred. Day by day they postponed a statement of the real state of affairs, and tried to stave off the financial crisis. The result would be that if the General Election went against them the Government would throw upon other shoulders the difficulty and responsibility of dealing with the enormous liabilities which they had incurred. All he could do was to enter a protest against the way in which the rights of private Members were being trampled upon by the Government.
said, he thought he should best consult the convenience of the House by not attempting any reply to the speech they had just heard. The speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) reminded him of a duty which he thought was incumbent upon him on the present occasion; and that was to say that in submitting to the free judgment of the House the Motion he now made he was not unmindful of the pledge previously given, which was that when the Government saw their way with regard to the Redistribution of Seats Bill, when they had disposed of the Committee and Report stage of that Bill, they should then have the map, so to speak, of the residue of the Session sufficiently unrolled to make it their duty to state what they proposed to do with regard to other legislation. With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell), he was not sure that he clearly understood him. The hon. Member for the City of Cork was perfectly justified in the reference he had made to the promise which had been made in 1883; but he must see that the Government had not treated Ireland in this matter differently from England and Scotland. Registration reform was urgently needed in the three countries; but the hon. Member claimed that the Registration Law of Ireland should be proceeded with before Parliamentary Reform generally was carried out. [Mr. PARNELL: No; simultaneously with it.] The Registration Law of England was in urgent need of important reform; and although the Government were most anxious to carry out these reforms, they had not as yet attempted to touch them, and his impression was that English Members, who warmly concurred with the Government in desiring that changes should be effected in that law, would be rather indulgent during this Session lest they should prejudice the whole of the legislative changes which they were now endeavouring to effect. That being so, it was certainly no recession from the views of the Irish Government, or the Government at large, if they had felt that the first object of their Registration Bills during the present year was to enable them to complete the great scheme with regard to the Parliamentary representation of the people, and to render 170 an early Election possible. If this Motion were carried by the general support of the House, they should at least get to the subject of English registration, of Scottish registration, and of Irish registration; and whatever the views of the Government might be, whatever the circumstances might be, it would be in the power of any hon. Member to raise, for the free and unbiased consideration of the House, any matter which was relevant to the subject of registration. Consequently this Motion would give the hon. Member for the City of Cork an opportunity, which, without it, he would much loss surely enjoy. As to pledges, it would be perfectly impossible for him on this occasion—it would be almost an irregularity for him—to enter into that question. He should only say that while he understood the pathetic laments of the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. A. J. Balfour) and the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett), he felt it difficult to understand any opposition to this Motion on the part of those who thought it an object of paramount importance that the Government should immediately reform the administration of Ireland.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
said, he was afraid it was absolutely necessary, in view of inconvenient precedents in the future, that independent Members below the Gangway should be a little obstinate on this subject. It was perfectly shocking and heartbreaking to him to observe the political torpor into which the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) had sunk on this occasion. That hon. Member used in former times to be the great champion of private Members' rights. The hon. Member had been a sort of Bergen-op-Zoom, a virgin fortress, which no Government could capture; but now he had shrunk into a condition of torpor, and took no interest in the rights of private Members—a melancholy spectacle, on which he would not enlarge further. The argument of the Prime Minister would doubtless have been admissible, and would hare been unanswerable, had it come at a different period of the Session. But the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman was premature. There was no reason why the House should be wasting its time in discussing that Motion at that moment. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that the Government were under 171 a pledge, when the Redistribution Bill was passed through Committee, to lay their programme of legislation before the House. The House naturally desired to know what the object of the Government was in bringing forward this Motion at the present time. The Redistribution Bill had not yet passed through Committee, and the Report stage of that measure would probably take up three or four nights—therefore, it was not an extravagant view to take to assume that the third reading of the Bill would not be finished much before "Whitsuntide. There would, therefore, be ample time to make this Motion when the Redistribution Bill was finished. What, then, was the reason which the Government had in advancing this Motion so far before the time it was needed? He was bound to ask the question in the interests of private Members. They were obliged to be suspicious of the motives of Governments; and he was not more suspicious of the intentions of the present Government than he was of those of others, because there was sometimes a Freemasonry, sometimes amounting almost to a conspiracy, between the two Front Benches to give each other as much latitude as they could. The Prime Minister had said that there were going to be very important reforms effected by the Registration Bill.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
But it is quite obvious that the Registration Bill will effect important reforms.
Only the reforms which we desire to see carried out in relation to the arrangements for the redistribution of seats.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL
remarked, that the Government appeared to occupy a very extraordinary position, for it appeared that they were attempting reforms which they did not purpose to carry out. This was an admirable reason for the Government not 172 taking away the rights of private Members, and tying the hands of the House. He need scarcely point out to the Prime Minister that there were several Orders of pressing importance upon their Notice Paper. Some of these had already been several times postponed, and the Government should at once say what course they intended to pursue with regard to them. If the time had not arrived for the Government to make this statement, as well as a statement with regard to other matters about which the House was expecting information, he certainly thought that the period had not arrived for the House to sacrifice all the time of private Members, and all their opportunities, to the Government. Under these circumstances he should move, and he expected that the Government would assent to the Motion, the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Lord Randolph Churchill.)
§ SIR CHARLES W. DILKE
said, the noble Lord had entirely ignored the fact that there must be an interval between the Committee stage and the Report stage of the Redistribution Bill; and the Government had thought it would be the general desire of the House that that interval should be utilized for the purpose of proceeding as rapidly as possible with measures which were essentially necessary to the early bringing into force of the extended franchise and the Redistribution Bill. A general desire was expressed, before the noble Lord returned from India, to hasten the General Election as much as possible, and there were certain measures which were essential for bringing about that General Election. These were three Registration Bills, which might also involve each another Bill. In face of these facts, the Government had thought the House would desire that Wednesday and Friday next should be given up to these measures rather than to give those days to measures which, under the peculiar circumstances of the present year, would be time wasted. The noble Lord had spoken of the Freemasonry between the two Front Benches; but be could assure the noble Lord that no arrangement had been entered into between the two Front Benches on the subject of these measures; the Bills were those which both Conser- 173 vative and Liberal Members were anxious to see pass into law. Although it might be open to the House to consider whether it ought not to carry large measures of registration reform, the Bills were not of that character, but simply contained the provisions that were necessary to give effect to the Seats Bill. In answer to the hon. Member for Cork, he might state that neither the freedom of the Government nor that of the House was limited with respect to these Registration Bills. The Government were simply doing their duty in presenting them, as it were, in the naked form of what was necessary to give effect to the legislation of the House. The noble Lord who had moved the adjournment of the debate was under a misapprehension in supposing that the Report stage of the Redistribution Bill was likely to last as long as he had described. From his experience during the Committee stage, he was convinced that the Report stage would not last long, and at its conclusion the Government would be able to make a full statement as to the Business of the Session.
§ SIR WILLIAM HART DYKE
said, he did not remember any Parliament in which the Government of the day had been treated with as great generosity by private Members as this Government had been by this Parliament. There was something that was practical, if not, indeed, unanswerable, in what had been said by the noble Lord. If the argument of the President of the Local Government Board went for anything, the Motion was a very large demand upon private Members for a very small result. They were all left completely in the dark with reference to the proposals of the Government as regarded the remainder of the Session. He supposed the approaching death of this Parliament accounted for the comatose state of private Members; but it was hard upon them all that they should place their political lives and fortunes at the mercy of the Government. Up to Easter great anxiety was displayed as to the position of the Navy, and that anxiety had found a considerable echo out-of-doors. He did not know whether some fairy wand had been passed over the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed), but up to Easter, in his view, there was not an iron-clad in the Navy which was not in danger. Many of them would like to know what pres- 174 sure had been brought to bear upon the hon. Member to induce him to shut off steam in an abrupt manner. There were many other things with reference to which they would like to have information; and private Members felt that they were not getting any quid pro quo. While asking them for these sacrifices Ministers left them completely in the dark as to whether, when the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill and the Registration Bills were passed, a semi-animate House would be asked to indulge in further legislation. He wished to repudiate the suggestion that those who sat on the Front Opposition Bench had no sympathy with the aspirations of private Members.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, no doubt in ordinary circumstances private Members ought to look with suspicion upon a union between the two Front Benches to sacrifice the rights of private Members; but the simple question now was whether anyone wished to prolong the agony preceding the General Election by putting it off until the beginning of next year. He was certainly under the impression that the Registration Bills were necessary to expedite the work of legislation, and so facilitate an early Election.
said, that the Registration Bills had nothing whatever to do with the question of an earlier Election than the 1st of January next. The Bills which the Government were so anxious to obtain precedence for were purely technical Bills, and they merely applied the existing Law of Registration to the newly-enfranchised voters. It did not seem that there was any really practical necessity for this Motion at all. The Bills were not likely to create much controversy in the House, and having passed a Select Committee they might very well be taken at 1 o'clock in the morning. Perhaps some Irish Members might desire to introduce Amendments into the Irish Bill; but, however urgently required they might be in them-selves, they had not been introduced into the English Bill. There were several urgent matters awaiting discussion, in particular the Motion of the hon. Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed) as to the Navy; and the Government would have saved time if they had devoted to some of these questions as well as to Supply the interval between 175 the Committee and the Report stages of the Seats Bill.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, the concluding suggestion of the hon. and learned Member was one that was well worthy of consideration. With regard to the Motion of the hon. Member for Cardiff, it seemed to him that that was a fitting opportunity to endeavour to come to some arrangement as to the time when it should be taken, and to obtain from the Government some pledge as to the time that could be devoted to the debate. It was perfectly natural that private Members should look with jealousy on a Motion of this kind; but, at the same time, it ought to be remembered that the particular object which they had in view was to finish up all the Business connected with the Redistribution Bill and the altered representation of the people, and to get it fairly out of the way before they came to the discussion of the other Business of the Session, which, as they could perfectly well see, must take up a great deal of time. There were the financial measures which would have to be taken up, and there would probably be some important discussions on foreign policy and on other measures which were in the minds of all persons, and which they knew would have to be discussed before the end of the Session. It was always inconvenient to have measures which would have to be passed indefinitely standing over. It would probably be more convenient for the House to clear itself of the group of Bills connected with the Franchise Bill at a time when it could do so without a material sacrifice on the part of the House before discussing the Motion of the hon. Member for Cardiff.
§ MR. H. H. FOWLER
said, he wished to point out the absolute necessity of proceeding with the English Redistribution Bill without delay. The Bill, as originally drafted, provided that the first step in the new registration should take place on the 15th April. To-day was the 20th, and the Bill had not yet come from the Select Committee. The Committee had altered the Bill so that the first step in registration should take place seven days after the Royal Assent had been given. An entirely now system of registration was to be applied to counties, and a class of officers had to per for in important functions, many of 176 whom were entirely inexperienced in their duties. The demand of one and all of these officers was that the Bill should be passed as soon as possible. Quite apart from any political or Party question or the rights of private Members, he could assure the House that if the new registry were to come into force on the 1st of January next year the Bill must be proceeded with without delay.
§ MR. GREGORY
said, he thought that if delay and confusion were to be avoided the Registration Bill must be passed as rapidly as possible. He hoped that the labours of the Select Committee would enable the House to pass the Bill in much the same form as that in which it would come down to them.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, that the hon. Member the Under Secretary of State for the Home Department had referred to the great danger of delay in regard to the English Bill. With regard to the Scottish Registration Bill, they had been told that the Scottish registration would be dealt with by clauses inserted in the English Bill. That was not now to be done, and it was only this evening that he saw a Notice on the Paper that the Lord Advocate was to introduce a Bill dealing with the Scottish registration. He would like to have a statement from the Government that they would not take the Scottish Bill during the present week, as it was desirable that the matter should be thoroughly considered.
THE LORD ADVOCATE (Mr. J. B. BALFOUR)
said, it was right that he should give a word of explanation about this. The Scottish Bill was very much simpler than any of the others, because in Scotland they had the valuation rolls, which formed the basis of their voters' list, and accordingly it had been necessary to have a good deal of consultation with those gentlemen who knew best about the working of that roll—he meant county assessors—and the delay in introducing the Bill had arisen from a succession of communications with them, and from their suggestions having been largely taken advantage of, and from having——
§ MR. SPEAKER
reminded the right hon. and learned Gentleman that the scope of the debate had been limited by the Motion of the noble Lord. They were now on the Question that the debate be adjourned.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
pointed out that no reply had been made by the Government Bench to the demand with regard to the Motion of the hon. Member for Cardiff. Unless some definite assurance was given by the Government that an opportunity would be afforded for fully discussing that Motion, he trusted the right hon. Baronet the Leader of the Opposition would resist the Government's proposed interference with the rights of private Members.
§ SIR H. DRUMMOND WOLFF
said, that it was most unfortunate that after the appeal of the right hon. Member for North Devon one Member of the Government after another had left the House. He hoped the hon. Member for Cardiff would bring all possible pressure on the Government to fix a day for his Motion.
§ SIR EDWARD J. REED
said, that he had lost none of the interest in, or zeal on behalf of, the Motion which stood in his name. He had had no communication with the Government on the subject of his Motion, except what had taken place in that House; but the Prime Minister had declared that he would treat the Motion in its original form as a Vote of Censure. He was inclined to consider that the Navy should not be a matter of Party contention— and he heard the statement of the Prime Minister with regret. He hoped he had now brought it out of the region of Party politics, and had modified the terms of his Motion accordingly. Upon the Government must now lie, if they chose to assume it. the responsibility of making it a Vote of Censure. The Government had given no encouragement to anybody to do anything at all but further the passing of the Redistribution Bill; and he thought it was wasting the time of the House to got up and put any further Questions until that Bill was passed. He could only say that the question was one of the most urgent public importance, and he hoped the House would express its opinion upon it as soon as possible without regard to Party polities. He must say that the feeling he was under was that the force, need, and truth of his Motion had been very much enhanced by what had recently occurred.
§ MR. SPEAKER
reminded the hon. Member that he was exceeding the limitation of the Motion of the noble Lord.
§ SIR EDWARD J. REED
said, his remarks were in the nature of a personal explanation. He appealed to the Prime Minister not to make the Motion a subject of Party discussion or Party division.
§ MR. W. E. FORSTER
said, he supported the appeal which had been made by several hon. Members that this important Motion should be considered as soon as possible. It would not be in Order to give reasons for it; but he thought no one could read the papers day by day without feeling that such a Motion, if considered at all by the House, ought to be considered at once.
§ MR. RAMSAY
said, the Government should take care that the Registration Bill for Scotland should be introduced at the very earliest date possible. The simplicity of the measure did not lessen the necessity for its early publication.
§ MR. PARNELL
said, he thought the statement of the right hon. Baronet the President of the Local Government Board was a re-assuring one. He would suggest that as the Irish Registration Bill was more likely to give rise to controversy than the Scotch and English Bills it should be brought on first; or, at any rate, the English and Irish Bills should be proceeded with pari passu.
§ LORD JOHN MANNERS
said, he understood that the hon. Member for Cardiff had given way to the Government in favour of the different stages of the Redistribution Bill; but now, as that Bill was almost through the House, the circumstances had entirely changed. His right hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) now asked the Prime Minister to make arrangements by which the hon. Member for Cardiff should not be prejudiced by the introduction of the Registration Bill. If the House consented to give precedence to those Bills he hoped the Prime Minister would take care on an early day to give an opportunity for the discussion of this most important Motion.
§ MR. TREVELYAN
said, the right hon. Gentleman, in arguing for the immediate consideration of the Registration Bills, referred to the extremely important and numerous questions which it was absolutely necessary that the House of Commons should discuss within the next few weeks. But the absolute necessity of these Bills had been questioned in quarters from which 179 he should have thought no question on the subject could come. It was true that these Bills did not contain any provision for an early Election; but they contained most important and necessary provisions in order that any Election, late or early, might be held. The fact that they did not contain any anticipation of the date of the Dissolution only strengthened the case of the Government, because, as his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board said, that made an additional piece of Business of the same nature which would have to be done either by the insertion of a clause in these Bills, or in the Redistribution Bill on the Report; or, as was most probable, by the introduction of a separate measure. He assured his hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff (Sir Edward Reed) and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that the Government considered the discussion of the Motion with regard to the Navy as one of great importance and value, and regretted the postponement of it. The Government would give the earliest consideration they could to the granting of a day for the Motion. [An hon. MEMBER: When?] The moment was not yet. When the complementary Business connected with registration had been disposed of, and the financial Business—which he thought could be transacted more easily than some Members seemed to think—had been concluded, and if hon. Members in different parts of the House should not think it their duty to raise debates on foreign affairs, then the Government would give their very earliest consideration to finding a day for his hon. Friend. That was the very outside pledge that could be given at the present moment. As to the request of the hon. Member for the City of Cork (Mr. Parnell) that the Irish should be placed before the Scotch Bill, he conceived that a Bill which stood for second reading on the Paper had, ipso facto, precedence over a Bill which was not yet in existence. The request of the hon. Member, however, was not so much that the Bill should come on in any particular order, as that it should be brought on in such a manner that it could pass, with Amendments, this Session, and before a General Election. To further that end, the hon. Gentleman and his Friends could do nothing better than allow the Motion of the right hon.
180 Gentleman the Prime Minister to pass as rapidly as possible.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he thought the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down was very unsatisfactory, for he had not included the state of the Navy among things absolutely necessary to be discussed. One would suppose that the condition of the Navy and the defence of the country were not regarded as of importance. It was notorious that there would be no opposition to the despatch of the English and Scotch Registration Bills; why, then, could not a day be found for the discussion of a subject which by the country and by everybody except the Government was thought to be important? Was that discussion to be delayed until the three Registration Bills were passed? By the postponement of the discussion the time of the House would not be saved, nor the reputation of the Government enhanced. At the present time the Government should endeavour to obtain not only the votes of the House, but the confidence of the country; and he knew of no means by which that confidence could be more effectually estranged than by refusing an opportunity for the discussion of the Motion with regard to the naval defences of the country.
§ MR. HEALY
complained that the reasonable request of the hon. Member for the City of Cork had not been complied with. The Government had sent up one Bill to the Committee practically before any attempt whatever was made to advance the Irish Bill. He thought they had reason to say that before any further stage was taken with any Bill, English or Scotch, that the Irish Bill should be placed in the same position as the English Bill.
said, the hon. Member must be under some misapprehension, for if the Seats Bill was finished on Tuesday it was intended to take the second reading of the Irish Registration Bill on Wednesday. As to the Motion of the hon. Member for Cardiff on the subject of the Navy, the observations of the right hon. Gentleman opposite were scarcely called for, having regard to the fact that this was not a Motion that had been pressed on the attention of the Government for many weeks past. It was on the Paper among the Motions for which no day had been fixed; but 181 he thought that in the speech of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster the Government had shown their disposition to consider what they could do within a reasonable time to give an answer on the subject.
§ SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he considered that this was the only way open to the House to protect itself against the demands of the Government on the time of the House. The answer they had received from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster with regard to the discussion in reference to the Navy was that the time was not yet. If they took that for an answer, the hon. Member for Cardiff might not get his Motion discussed until the Greek Kalends. He (Sir R. Assheton Cross) was quite sure the debates on the Navy Estimates would be materially shortened if that discussion were taken without much delay, and the time of the Government and of the House would in the result be materially saved. The subject was one of great national importance, and ought to be debated at an early day.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
asked the Prime Minister whether he would consider this point as to the hon. Member for Cardiff's Motion, and give a definite answer to-morrow?
said, he considered it would be very unwise in the interests of the House to give any answer on the subject until the House had before them the Vote of Credit which the Government proposed to lay on the Table. It would then be seen how far the condition of the Navy might enter into that Vote, and what were all the reasons and considerations connected with it.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 63; Noes 157: Majority 94.—(Div. List, No. 115.)
Original Question put, and agreed to.
Ordered, That the several stages of any Bills for the Registration of Voters, in England, Scotland, and Ireland, have precedence of all Orders of the Day and Notices of Motions, on every day on which they shall be set down, by the Government as the first business of the day.