HC Deb 19 June 1885 vol 298 cc1603-6

May I proceed to say that I have had an intimation from Lord Salisbury that it is his intention that a Motion shall be made in the House of Lords proposing an adjournment of that House until Tuesday next; and I have, in reply, stated to Lord Salisbury that, he having announced that intention, I would make a Motion to a similar effect in the House of Commons. I therefore move that this House, at its rising, do adjourn until Tuesday next.

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


On a previous occasion I asked the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister whether there was any truth in the rumour that demands had been made by Gentlemen opposite for certain assurances of support from this side of the House, as a condition of their taking Office. We anticipated that to-day the new Writs would have been moved for. So far as we can gather from public report and from the public Press they are not moved for to-day—not in consequence of any difficulties which Lord Salisbury finds in forming a Government, but owing to his not having received such assurances as he would desire from Her Majesty's present Government with regard to the support which they would give to the present Opposition in the event of their taking Office. Now, I think we ought to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether this is the case or not, for a very large number of us in this part of the House do very strongly object to any sort of assurances of support being given to Gentlemen opposite in the event of their taking Office. Naturally, we should not engage in factious opposition or obstructive opposition. That, I may say, we leave to hon. Gentlemen opposite. I have no doubt that, if any measure were brought in which would be for the benefit of the country, we should give it our cordial support. But we claim the right to reserve our judgment as to what we shall do until we see what course hon. Gentlemen may pursue in the responsible position they have rushed in to assume for themselves. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman how long these adjournments are to last, because it seems to me that if they are to last until right hon. Gentlemen opposite obtain the assurances which we are told they require, we shall go on adjourning and adjourning until next November.


It is certainly not for me, I think, to take upon myself to answer the final question of my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, as to how often these adjournments are to be repeated, and how long they are to last? Of course, that depends upon circumstances not under my control. However, I do not object to the substantial renewal of the Question which my hon. Friend put to me on Monday. But I think the short speech we have heard from him tends to illustrate the difficulties of the situation, and how slippery is the ground upon which we tread when we deal with these matters; because my hon. Friend has said that he and the majority of hon. Members on this side of the House believe—and I rather think he is speaking truly—[Loud laughter.] I should be very sorry to appear to doubt the veracity of my hon. Friend. What I meant was that I thought the hon. Member was speaking accurately in expressing the opinion which he has formed, that many Gentlemen on this side of the House, at any rate, for whom he thinks he can speak, are exceedingly averse to giving any assurance whatever. But it was with some surprise, after hearing the hon. Gentleman lay down that doctrine, that I heard him proceed himself to give to the Party opposite two most important assurances—first of all, that they might rely upon it, as a matter of course, that there would be no factious opposition in the event of their assuming Office; and, secondly, that if they proposed good measures they should receive cordial support. It appears to me that my hon. Friend, who has been to-day in one of his most bountiful rumours, has made most valuable gifts and promises to hon. Gentlemen opposite, which I trust, when the time comes, they may be able to take advantage of. I am not in the position in which I was when I replied to the hon. Member on a former day, when I stated that there had been no communication between Lord Salisbury, who has received the honour of a commission from Her Majesty to form an Administration—no communication between Lord Salisbury and his Friends, and myself, on the part of the Cabinet that was lately effectually responsible for the Government of the Queen, and is still in possession of the Seals of Office. I am not in a position to repeat that statement, as I then made it. It was true at that time; but it would not be true now. I have received certain overtures and requests from Lord Salisbury in relation to the subject-matter that has been generally presented to the mind of the hon. Member by statements in the public prints. What I have to say is this—that I can give assurance to my hon. Friend that, should there be any results from any correspondence that may have taken place, or may take place, between Lord Salisbury and myself, that result, and everything relating to that result that it can be material to know, will be made public property; and there will be no secret or confidential arrangement or understanding of any kind between the two Parties in this matter, which I should deem to be wholly unsuitable to the character of the situation. From the first moment that I heard of any possibility of communications of this kind, that was the very first view of them that occurred to my mind; and I am bound to say—and I have great satisfaction in saying it—that Lord Salisbury himself entirely concurs in that view. That being so, I think the House will feel, so far as this matter is concerned, that they are perfectly safe at the present moment. I may, perhaps, go a step further, and say that it is quite true that, under very peculiar circumstances, which we ourselves described as probably unprecedented, and certainly quite exceptional, an arrangement was made between Gentlemen who have the confidence of the Party opposite and ourselves with relation to a Parliamentary measure of great importance. I take this opportunity of thanking the House for its remarkable forbearance and the generous exhibition of confidence that distinguished their conduct on that occasion, and by means of which the entire House was enabled to carry through a settlement of a most vital nature. But that generosity, and that confidence, would, I think, be abused if we were to attempt to repeat anything like a similar proceeding on the present occasion. I have never felt that, at a time when it might please Her Majesty, as it has pleased Her Majesty, to make known to me any communication received from Lord Salisbury—and that has been the only channel through which communications have taken place—it would be consistent with my duty as an outgoing Minister, or as a loyal subject, or as a faithful Member of this House, to decline to receive, or reply to, what Her Majesty may be pleased so to communicate. But the pledge I give is not the result of any apprehension of pressure; it is what I myself feel to be right, that absolute publicity should attend any communications of this kind should they come to any result which can possibly have a bearing on public affairs.

Question put, and agreed to.

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