HC Deb 18 May 1885 vol 298 cc720-3

said, he desired to draw the attention of the House to the effect of the Motion now made by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. The question was whether the Motion was made as a matter of privilege or of strict right. There had been only one instance of the course now proposed having been taken under the new Rules, and on that occasion he had considered it his duty to take exception to it. There was something far more involved than the fact of enabling the Government to arrange the order of Business. In former times, on such a Motion, a Member could move an Amendment. Then came the new Rule as to Supply on Monday and Thursday. But the effect of the new Procedure was only a limitation and not a derogation of the rights of private Members. As the Government had allowed Supply to lapse on Friday last, it was a matter of doubtful propriety for the Government to take advantage of their own wrong, and attempt to go into Supply on Monday without Question put. He did not know whether any hon. Member was prepared with any Amendment; but he should be glad to know from the Speaker whether it would be competent to move any such Amendment?


said, he thought the House was indebted to the right hon. Gentleman, and hoped that the matter would not be allowed to drop without an authoritative decision from the Speaker as to what the practice ought to be under the new Rules. He submitted to the Chair that it was a question of Order whether the Government by the "Count-out" on Friday had not allowed the Order of Supply to lapse, so that it was necessary there should be made from the Chair the Motion which had just been put to the House. He wished to know whether Amendments, in these circumstances, might be moved, and a discussion take place on any grievance which any hon. Member might bring forward either with or without Notice? He would call attention to the specific words of the 21st Rule of the 21st November, 1882, which was the Standing Order under which the House immediately resolved itself into Committee of Supply. That Order was couched in these words— Whenever the Committee of Supply stands as the first Order of the Day on Monday or Thursday, Mr. Speaker shall leave the Chair without putting any Question. That implied that if Mr. Speaker had put the Question, an Amendment could be moved and grievances might be brought forward. He submitted that Mr. Speaker, on the present occasion, by putting the Question, had himself admitted and proved most conclusively that the case did not come within the 21st Rule, because, if that Rule applied, the Speaker ought not to have put any Question at all, but should have left the Chair without Question put. As the Speaker had found it necessary to put the Question, it followed that the 21st Procedure Rule did not apply, and as the Question had now been put, "That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee of Supply," Amendments might be moved and a division taken. It was a matter of the utmost importance that the right practice should be settled by the ruling of the Chair.


In reply to the hon. and learned Member, and to the right hon. Member for North Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth), I have to say that this question was raised, if I remember rightly, towards the middle of July last year. I was quite clearly of opinion, and I then ruled, and I am quite clearly of opinion now, that no debate of a general character, or with reference to grievances, can arise upon the Motion, "That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee of Supply." I think the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down is not making a distinction which should be j made between the Motion, "That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee of Supply," and the Motion, "That I do now leave the Chair." The Motion, "That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee of Supply," is not at all analogous to the Motion which was made on Friday, "That I do now leave the Chair," to which Motion, by the Rule of the House, any Amendment can be moved, as was done on Friday last. I do not see that any penalty can be placed upon the Government of the day by the fact that a "Count-out" took place on Friday. I have looked into the matter, and I regard the Motion, "That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee of Supply" as a merely formal Motion to set up Supply—as formal a Motion as a Motion to postpone an Order of the Day, or to take any Order of the Day in any sequence on any future day. It is merely a formal Motion, and quite different from the Motion, "That I do now leave the Chair." I may also remind the House, with reference to what has been said by the right hon. Member for North Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth) as to the Rules, that before the new Rule of 1882 the debate on the Motion, "That I do now leave the Chair," on going into Committee of Supply on Monday, was limited and restricted by a Standing Order of the House, passed, if I remember rightly, in the year 1872, and practically enforced, with very few exceptions, from that date up to 1882, when the now Standing Order was passed which imposed still further limitations. This is, in fact, a Standing Order to restrict debates on the Motion for going into Committee of Supply on Monday. There is, therefore, no force in the objection that the new Standing Order has altered the condition of affairs in this respect. I may say that I regard the Motion,'' That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee of Supply," as merely formal, and that when it is passed I shall leave the Chair without Question put, in accordance with the Standing Order, which enacts that when Committee of Supply stands first, as it will then stand first, on Monday, I shall leave the Chair without putting any Question.


I wish to say one word in regard to the remarks which fell from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth). I feel bound to notice the accusation contained in the statement that it is unfair that the Government should take advantage of its own wrong, and I wish to appeal to the House to judge what sort of a wrong it is. There is no doubt that the Government are responsible, as a general rule, for keeping a House on Friday, and that is well understood; but I must also point out that this has reference to an ordinary state of things. In an ordinary state of things, it is the imperative duty of my noble Friend near me (Lord Richard Grosvenor), as it has been that of those who preceded him in his office, to do all he could to keep a House on three days a-week. But the noble Lord has had the duty cast upon him, this year, of keeping a House for 50 or 60 days in succession, and on every day of the week without intermission except two or three days at Easter. This has been an extreme aggravation of the very difficult duties of the office held by my noble Friend. In these circumstances, no one will, I think, be disposed to pass very strict judgment upon the noble Lord or upon hon. Members for what occurred on Friday last, after they have had cast upon them the duty of keeping a House for such a length of time. Indeed, a House has been kept without the occasional relief of a "Count-out" for a longer period than in any previous Session.


I am quite sure that no one could wish to reflect upon the manner in which the noble Lord (Lord Richard Grosvenor) discharges his duties—a manner which commands the respect of the whole of the House; but, while we all recognize the additional severity of the duties he has had to perform in the present Session, we must also bear in mind that there is this to be said on the part of the House—that private Members have been deprived of a larger portion of the time of the House usually allotted to private Members than in any previous Session, and, therefore, they consider that they have an exceptional claim to have a House kept on Fridays.

Question put, and agreed to.