HC Deb 15 June 1885 vol 298 cc1536-40

Mr. Speaker, I have received authentic information that Lord Salisbury has undertaken the formation of a Government, and I have likewise received an expression of a desire, to which I am sure the House will be as ready to conform as I am, that I should move to-day that the House, at its rising, should adjourn until Friday next. That accordingly is my intention, and I believe it will be quite conformable to precedent, as it is to the reason of the case, in this necessarily early stage of the arrangements. That being so, we have before us the question whether it is desirable to proceed with the Lords' Amendments to the Redistribution of Seats Bill—a matter upon which, as I have said before, I am in the hands of the House. But my opinion is that, on the whole, it is for the public interest and for the satisfaction of all parties that we should proceed to deal with them and to complete the measure. There is another arrangement, rather less in magnitude, but which, at the same time, touches matters of feeling in relation to Royalty of such a nature as makes it desirable for me to submit to the House whether another exception ought not to be made to the more usual practice. The House will remember that some time ago—I do not know how many weeks ago—it was determined, by a very large majority, to introduce the usual Annuity Bill for the marriage of Her Royal Highness tie Princess Beatrice. That Annuity Bill has reached its third reading, and, although it is true a limited opposition was made to it on its first stage, that opposition has not been revived. The House has, therefore, on the various stages of the measure, except upon one occasion, given its unanimous assent to the Bill. As there are practical arrangements connected with that measure, and as it touches the relation of the House towards the Throne, and the loyal feelings of the House, my opinion is that there will be a general disposition on the part of the House to approve that course, if I should proceed to move the third reading to-day. There is another portion of the arrangements as to which I do not propose to take a similar course, for reasons which, I think, will be obvious. The custom has always been, besides the Annuity, to propose the grant of a capital sum. But towards the grant of that capital sum in the present instance—which is precisely based upon former precedents—owing to the course of Business, the first stage which is to procure the voting of that capital sum has not yet been taken. I have not the smallest doubt in my own mind that that capital sum will be voted with the same readiness and the same loyalty as was the Annuity. But the House has given no decision upon it, and I wish to call attention to that point—that the House has given no decision upon it, and has not become a party to it. The proposal itself is a responsible act, and I think it is better, being a responsible act, however sure we may be of the decision the House will give, that we should properly reserve it to the House, to be dealt with in the usual manner, upon the proposal of a responsible Government. Consequently, I do not intend, as far as I am concerned, to take any steps in regard to that proposal; but with respect to the third reading of the Annuity Bill, the House will probably be inclined unanimously, as it has been on the later stages of the Bill, to think that, under these circumstances, it is just to make that also an exception to our usual methods of proceeding, and allow the Bill to go forward to the House of Lords by reading it a third time tonight. I beg leave to move that the House, at its rising, do adjourn until Friday next.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House will, at the rising of the House this day, adjourn till Friday next."—(Mr. Gladstone.)


I presume that we may infer, from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, that he will limit his proposals this evening to taking the first and fifth Orders of the Day, omitting the intermediate ones, and that, after the fifth Order has been disposed of, he will move the adjournment of the House?


May I ask whether it will be possible to make another exception in a matter of great interest throughout the country—that is, to allow the introduction of the Bill for the prevention of the disqualification by reason of medical relief? I am sure that exception would be received with much gratification throughout the country. I do not know to what extent the Bill will be opposed on either side of the House; but it will be simply carrying out an act of justice in preventing the disqualification of a largo number of the new voters.


If I may be permitted to answer that question, without giving an opinion on its merits, I certainly should say that I do not see how such an exception could be made. This is a matter which falls within the category of general legislation, with which the House, I take it, is not now disposed to deal. No doubt, it is perfectly competent to the House to deal with it—it is perfectly competent for my hon. Friend to propose it. I do not wish to say one syllable by which, in any degree, his proposal could be subjected to prejudice. But as regards the important rule to which, upon very special grounds, we are led to ask for one exception, I can see no resemblance whatever between the two cases.


I took a vote on the first reading of the Princess Beatrice Annuity Bill, and was defeated. I shall, therefore, not oppose the Bill on its subsequent stages. But there is another question which I would venture to ask the right hon. Gentleman. It is this. We have recently seen, in authoritative newspapers, statements that there is some species of negotiation going on between the Leaders of the present Opposition and Her Majesty's Government, and that Her Majesty's Government are about to give certain assurances to the Conservative Party that should they take Office they will not oppose them. In The Standard it is stated that they must do this as patriots, because the present Ministry have brought the country into such a deplorable state that they ought to be thankful to anyone who gets it out of that state. But in The Times it is stated that Ministers ought to take this course, and, indeed, that they intend to take this course, and that without it the present Opposition will not take Office, because the Ministers themselves have committed a species of suicide. Now, I think it is desirable that these statements should be put to rest at once. We know perfectly well that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite during the present Session did their best—especially, I believe, on Monday last—to turn out Her Majesty's present Advisers, though they were warned beforehand that, if they did so, they would have to accept Office. Under these circumstances, I would ask the Prime Minister whether there is any truth in these statements, and whether anything beyond that aid will be afforded to the Leaders of the Conservative Party to carry on the Government which the Conservative Party have afforded to Her Majesty's present Advisers during the present Session? It would set at rest a very strong feeling which is felt in the country on the subject, if the right hon. Gentleman could give some sort of assurance that these statements, however authoritative they may appear, have no sort of foundation.


With regard to what has fallen from my hon. Friend, all that I can say is that I have no cognizance of any such communications as he has referred to. I can commit nobody, I can promise nothing, I can refuse nothing. I simply state that I am absolutely without information. At the same time, as regards the matter of form, I may explain that it may be requisite to take a different course with regard to the adjournment. Substantially, the meaning of the Motion is that no opportunity shall be given for making a House for going on with Business between this time and Friday. That is the real object we have in view. We are now going to consider, and per- haps dispose of, the Lords' Amendments to the Redistribution of Seats Bill. They will be returned, in the shape in which they may receive the assent of this House, at once to the House of Lords. I think it probable, from what I hear, that the House of Lords will deal with them this evening, or if not this evening, at any rate tomorrow morning. [An hon. MEMBER: The Lords have adjourned.] At any rate, the Bill will probably be in a condition to receive the Royal Assent before Friday. [Lord RICHARD GROSVENOR here made a communication to the right hon. Gentleman.] I have just received intelligence that the House of Lords has adjourned. That being so, I have only to say that the original intention will be fulfilled.


Does the right hon. Gentleman propose Friday?


Yes, Sir.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House will, at the rising of the House this day, adjourn till Friday next.

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