HC Deb 15 May 1885 vol 298 cc626-31

Mr. GLADSTONE and Mr. BULWER rose together amid some cries of Order.


I wish, Sir, to ask a Question.


The right hon. Gentleman is in possession of the House.


I have to fulfil an engagement on the part of the Government, that I would to-day mention to the House any Bills which might be considered of first-class importance which we intend to introduce during the present Session. In fulfilling that engagement I will confine myself strictly to matters of fact, and shall make no reference to some important Bills for the amendment of the law in England which are now in the House of Lords. Neither shall I refer to Bills of considerable importance that are already on the Notice Paper of this House with respect to England. The time has not arrived when it would be possible to give to the House information which is usually given at the close of the Session with regard to any conclusions which the Government may have arrived at as to the withdrawal of certain Bills or proceeding with them. I will only venture to remind the House that we are now not at the beginning of a Session, and that, therefore, we shall not present to the House a list of Bills framed as if we were. We are, as I conceive, much nearer to the close of the Session than the beginning; and although many will, no doubt, be disappointed at the inability of the House to prosecute certain important and interesting subjects of legislation, yet we have this consolation—that the House has accomplished a very great legislative work already—a work, perhaps, quite enough in itself to commemorate this Session as one distinguished in the important description of its Business. The Bills which we intend to introduce are these. I may mention one Bill, though it is now on the Paper, and therefore not strictly within the purview of what I have to say—namely, the Crofters Bill, because that is a Bill to which we not only attach a very great deal of importance, but to which we also think it our duty to give a special precedence in order to its being passed into law at a very early period, if, happily, it meet with the approval of the House. There is also a Bill before the House of Lords relating to Scotland—namely, the Scottish Secretary Bill, which has just been introduced there, and which we hope will reach this House, and which we are very desirous to see passed into law. With regard to Wales, we propose to introduce a measure for the promotion of intermediate education; and in order that we may give that Bill every chance which it is in our power to afford, we propose to introduce it on a very early day—I hope, certainly, before Whitsuntide. With respect to Ireland, of course there is one subject which is not a matter of choice but of necessity for us to consider—namely, the subject of the Prevention of Crime Act. Upon that subject I have to say, without entering into any detail, which would be quite contrary to the rule and practice of the House, that we shall embody various provisions of that Act which we deem to be both valuable and equitable in a Bill, and it will be our duty to press it upon the attention of the House with a view to its being passed into law. There are two other subjects on which we should have been most anxious had the circumstances of the Session been more favourable—that is to say, had not the House of Commons gone through already so much exhausting labour—there are two other subjects upon which we should have been most desirous to present measures to the House, one of them relating to local government in Ireland, and the other relating to land purchase in Ireland. I will not attempt to determine at this moment the comparative value of those measures, which may be differently viewed by different persons, and by different sections of the House; but I will say that both of them are measures with regard to which the Government feel that they have unfulfilled obligations, and it is a matter to them of great regret that they cannot ask the House to deal with either of them during what remains of the present Session in a satisfactory manner. ["Oh, oh!"] I am bound to say that some indications which have just reached my ears do not at all seem to weaken any opinion I might formerly have entertained as to the duty which we have with respect to those subjects, and as to the fact, very much to be regretted, that we have no power of redeeming this obligation during this year. So that, having referred to the Bills with regard to Scotland already before Parliament, and that there are important Bills in the House of Lords, I have only to mention the proposal we shall feel it our duty to make in regard to the subject-matter now touched by the Prevention of Crime Act, and also to ask the favourable attention of the House to the Welsh Intermediate Education Bill when it is introduced. I may say, with respect to the Prevention of Crime Act that we shall endeavour to find a very early day for the introduction of the Bill to which I have referred, but it will be after the Whitsuntide Recess.


as a point of Order, wished to know whether it was competent for the Prime Minister, or any other Member of the House, after answering a Question, to proceed to make a statement having no reference to the Question answered, and so prevent another iron. Member from putting a Question, as he was about to do when the right hon. Gentleman interposed his statement?


The right hon. Gentleman was quite regular. He was making a statement, and had not finished it when the hon. and learned Gentleman put his Question; and the hon. and learned Gentleman can put any Question he pleases after the right hon. Gentleman has sat down.


With reference to the statement which the right hon. Gentleman has just made, we understood him to say there were certain valuable and equitable provisions of the expiring Irish Act which he proposed to renew. I wish to know whether those valuable and equitable provisions will, when renewed, apply to Ireland only, or to the United Kingdom generally?


I do not think I ought to enter upon any explanation with regard to the particulars of the Act. The best satisfaction I can give to the hon. and learned Gentleman, and to the House, is the engagement I have entered into, that we will endeavour to find an early opportunity after Whitsuntide of introducing the Bill.


asked when the second reading of the East India Loan Bill would be taken?


said, he could not name a day for the second reading; but every facility for the discussion of the subject would be afforded. With regard to the course of Business next week, on Monday the Government proposed to proceed in Committee of Supply in the first instance with a Vote on Account, which it was necessary to take; secondly, they proposed to hear the statement of the Lord Advocate on the Crofters Bill, and to obtain the first reading of that measure; and, thirdly, they proposed to take the Telegraphs Acts Amendment Bill. On Tuesday and Wednesday, as the House was aware, they would have no control over the proceedings. On Monday he hoped to be able to state exactly what they intended to do on Thursday. The Government were anxious to make what might be found the most convenient arrangement with regard to moving the adjournment of the House for the Whitsuntide Recess; but he could not state until Monday what that arrangement would be.


What is the amount of the Vote on Account?


It is for six weeks.


Considering the disappointment there will be that there is to be no remedial legislation for Ireland this year, I would earnestly beg the right hon. Gentleman to consider whether one very small measure might not be introduced—that is to say, such an amendment of the Tramways Act as will enable railways to be made in the South and West of Ireland, for which that measure was specially intended?


Nothing I have said would preclude the consideration of any proposal of the kind. I am only under a pledge to the House to state what Bills might be considered of first-class importance which would be undertaken by the Government in the present Session. When my hon. Friend says there has been no remedial legislation for Ireland this year, I would remind him that Ireland has received this year an Act of enfranchisement. [Derisive laughter from the Irish Members.] I think I heard expressions of ridicule; but I hope that measure may be considered in the nature of remedial legislation.


said, he meant legislation special to Ireland.


Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Government intend to take any measures for passing the second reading of the Labourers Act before the introduction of their new Coercion Act?


I have not used the expression "Coercion Bill." ["Oh, oh!" from the Irish Members.] Well, it is best to keep our good humour under all circumstances. We are very desirous of securing an opportunity of going forward with the Labourers Bill; but I am not in a positon to give a particular pledge about it.


With reference to the answer given by the Prime Minister to an hon. Member opposite, I wish to ask, if it should be the intention to extend any of the provisions of the Prevention of Crime Act to the United Kingdom, whether he will give fair Notice of such intention on the part of the Government, so that the people of Eng- land may know that they, too, are to he subject to coercion?


I will certainly undertake that anything that is done in relation to the subject-matter now embraced in the Prevention of Crime Act will be done with fair Notice.


asked for what period it was proposed to ask the House to renew the Act?


That will be one of the provisions of the Bill; and if I state one provision of the Bill, there is no reason why I should not state the others.