HC Deb 19 February 1885 vol 294 cc863-9

It will be a convenience to know when the Government can give me a day for bringing on the Motion of which I have given Notice. I shall be glad to bring it forward on Monday if possible; if not, on the very earliest day I can get.


The desire of the right hon. Gentleman to have as early a day as possible for the Motion of which he has given Notice is also the desire of the Government. It is a most natural desire, and the wish of the Government is to second that desire by every means in their power. I know of no reason for any hesitation, except it be that I presume'—I may be corrected in that matter, and if so I shall take notice of the correction—the House would wish to be in possession of the Papers relating to Egypt before it comes to the debate. My noble Friend the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice) has just made a statement with regard to the Papers which leads us to suppose that Monday will be the latest day when they will be in the hand of hon. Members. There is, however, I believe, some information over and above that which is contained in these Papers, which concerns the War Department as much or rather more than the Foreign Office, properly so called, and I am not quite certain whether that information will be in the hands of hon. Members on Monday. I think, perhaps, the most convenient course will be to allow this question to stand over till to-morrow, with the understanding that we shall certainly give the first day upon which the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members generally will be in a position to approach the consideration of the question. As I have been asked this Question as to the course of Business, it will probably be convenient that I should enter more at large into the arrangements for the Business of Parliament. On a former occasion when Parliament met in February for what may be called a continuing Session, the right hon. Gentleman who was at the time the Leader of the House made a statement with regard to the Sessional Business, which statement conveyed the same information as would ordinarily have been convoyed in a Queen's Speech. But the circumstances of the present case are, however, materially different. They differ in this most important respect—that one large and somewhat complex Bill, which might occupy a moderate time or might occupy a long time, is already in the hands of the House; and it is quite understood, apart from necessary calls, such as that conveyed by the Notice which has been given by the right hon. Gentleman, that that Bill—namely, the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill—is a Bill which the Government are pledged to push forward, and which it will be their desire to ask the House of Commons to expedite, even if it is thought fit to do so by means involving some departure from the usual arrangement of Business. We have come, therefore, to this conclusion—that, so far as this House is con- cerned, time available for the purposes of important legislation—I do not now speak of secondary Bills—the time at the disposal of the House for Bills of the first-class will really depend upon the rate of progress which the House may make on the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill. Consequently we could not venture to arrive positively, even in our own minds, at a conclusion upon legislation of that class—as to the introduction or non-introduction of Bills—until we shall see, from the advance actually made with that Bill, what time is likely to be at the disposal of the House. I do not propose, therefore, to make any statement, so far as this House is concerned, except one, and that refers to a subject which must be considered of primary importance in regard to its pressing and urgent character, and with regard to the pledges given by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, on the part of the Government—namely, that we intend to introduce in any circumstances, and, as we hope, to pass, in this House, a measure relating to the relief of the crofters in the Highlands. We hope, however, that some use may be made of the time of Parliament, at least in the other House. I do not think I am guilty of any irregularity in stating that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to introduce promptly into the other House the following Bills:—A Bill to enable the Australian Colonies to associate for certain purposes; secondly, a Bill for the amendment of the Lunacy Laws; thirdly, an Extradition Bill; and, fourthly, what is known as the Secretary for Scotland Bill. These are the Bills with regard to which, it appears to us, it may not be inconvenient that they should be introduced in the other House of Parliament.


The Under Secretary of State for India (Mr. J. K. Cross) has given Notice of a Motion for next Monday on a matter of some importance; and my right hon. Friend (Sir Stafford Northcote) has also given Notice of a Motion which he may probably bring on upon that day. If the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman should come on upon that day it would be inconvenient to the House and the Government that the two Motions should be before the House at the same time. May I, there- fore, ask the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary to defer his Motion until some other day?


We will endeavour to make the best arrangement in our power. I do not state anything positive at the present moment; but I do think with regard to what I may call a Constitutional point, such as the Notice of my hon. Friend, we ought not lightly to lose any time in submitting the Motion to the House.


Can the right hon. Gentleman name a date when it will be convenient to lay on the Table the provisions of the Crofters Bill?


No, Sir; from his experience of the House of Commons the hon. Gentleman will understand that we could not think of producing the provisions of the Crofters Bill until we produce the Crofters Bill itself. That is a Rule of the House, especially where you have to deal with a matter of great difficulty and importance, and no one knows better than the hon. Member that this is a matter of very great difficulty, which must be dealt with in the most serious manner. We are desirous not to lose any time in proceeding with that Bill; but as regards the Bill we are substantially dependent upon the progress that may be made with the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill. Subject to that one consideration, I do not at present know of any other subject of importance to which we should wish to give precedence over the Crofters Bill.


When will the Report of the Boundary Commissioners for England be laid upon the Table?


It has been laid upon the Table to-night. I have laid four documents upon the Table, the Report of the Boundary Commissioners for England in two parts, one for the counties, and one for the boroughs; and the Reports of the Boundary Commissioners for Scotland and Ireland. The English Reports for the counties, and the maps, will be circulated to Members to-morrow morning. The second part of the English Report will be circulated, I hope, on Saturday morning. The whole of the Scotch Report will be ready to-morrow morning. Of the Irish Report, 100 copies will reach here to-morrow from Ireland, and will be sent to the Vote Office, where Members will be able to receive them, as far as they go, their names being taken, so that copies may not be left at their residence I cannot say when all the Irish copies will be received for distribution, as there has been considerable delay in the printing in Ireland.


Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that the Crofters Bill is not to be printed until the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill has been practically disposed of? I can quite understand that it would not be taken up seriously until progress was made with the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill; but I do not understand why it should not be in the hands of Members until that Bill has been almost disposed of.


No, Sir; I did not state that, nor anything approaching to it; but what I said was that it was necessary to ascertain our position practically by the actual progress which we make, and by the disposition the House may show as to proceeding rapidly with the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill, before we could make any arrangements with regard to the other Bill. I did not mean to say that the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill should be passed through the House before the Crofters Bill was introduced, for, of course, there ought to be ample time for the consideration of the Crofters Bill before we proceed with it. We are unable at present to measure our own time; and it is only by measuring our own time, and taking into consideration the requirements of the House, that we are able to proceed with the Business of the House. I think the Crofters Bill is a question that would be better dealt with by Notice to the House.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if it is the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill on the subject of Intermediate Education in Wales; and, if so, when?


With regard to that subject, I am afraid it is included in that category of measures with respect to which, important as they are, and urgent as they are, I am obliged to withhold any declaration on the part of the Government until we can form some judgment of the time likely to be at the disposal of the House. I am sanguine enough to hope that the House may be disposed to proceed with considerable promptitude in dealing with the Parliamentary Elections (Redistribution) Bill; and if that is the case—and hon. Gentlemen will feel the immense importance, on every ground, of proceeding with that measure rapidly—the manifestation of such a disposition would enable us to judge of the time at the command of the House for other Business.


I wish to ask the Under Secretary of State for India, whether it is proposed to authorize any payment out of the Revenues of India for the Expedition to the Soudan?


The proposal to be made on Monday will be made upon the basis of the proposal that was made with regard to the Abyssinian Expedition.


Does that proposal involve the authorization of the expenditure of any part of the Revenues of India upon the Expedition?


A full explanation will be made on Monday; but I may say now that all the extra expenditure will be charged upon the Revenues of this country.


Is it by inadvertence that the right hon. Gentleman has omitted any reference to the renewal of the Prevention of Crime (Ireland) Act?


No, Sir; I did not consider that the moment had arrived when it was necessary, or would be convenient, to make any declaration on that subject.


I would ask the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, whether the Government have drafted a Bill on the Report of the Select Committee on the Labourers' Question? The Report was framed by the Solicitor General for Ireland, and adopted by the Government. If they have not yet drafted a Bill, do they propose to do so, and to press the measure forward until it is passed?


Yes; it is my intention—and I have already given Notice of it—it is my intention to ask for leave on Monday to introduce a Bill to amend the Labourers' Act, and also to introduce a Bill for the establishment of local Bankruptcy Courts in Ireland. Perhaps I may be allowed to say that to-morrow it is my intention to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the Laws relating to Salmon and Trout Fishing in Ireland; and, in these circumstances, I assume that the Bill on the Paper relating to that subject will not be pressed.


Is it the intention of the Government to proceed this Session with the Sunday Closing (Ireland) Bill?


I am not prepared to make a full statement on that subject.


May I ask the Secretary to the Treasury, if it is the intention of the Government to proceed with the Shannon Navigation Bill this Session?


Yes, Sir; it is my intention to introduce a Bill to-night on that subject.