HC Deb 18 February 1886 vol 302 cc581-5

Sir, I wish to give Notice that I shall, on Monday, move to refer the question of the Procedure of the House of Commons to a Select Committee. I may add that it was our intention to propose that this Select Committee should be of a number considerably exceeding the usual number of 15. Perhaps I may be permitted to go further, and state for the convenience of the House, and as far as we can forecast it, the course of Public Business. First, with respect to the Address—which comes on to-night—it may be for the convenience of hon. Gentlemen to know that we propose, after having fully considered the subject—a novel one in some points of view—to accept the Address in substance exactly as it is—that is to say, the portion of it which may be considered to be virtually adopted by the House down to the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Collings), which was carried by a majority; and likewise the remaining portion of the Address down to the close, as far as the substance is concerned. But the lapse of time requires some grammatical changes—strictly and purely grammatical—to make the Address congruous and consistent with reference to the circumstances which now exist. I could state those grammatical changes; but I think they would be hardly intelligible to the House, and that I had better reserve them. Then, Sir, I have to say that, that being the case, we should not be able to give our assent, I am afraid, to any Amendments that might be moved to the Address—one of which we have already heard from my hon. Friend the Member for North Bedfordshire (Mr. Magniac)—for the obvious reason that if we were to entertain any one Amendment we could not consistently refuse our assent to the introduction of other subjects, and I think considerable confusion would probably result. I may also say, in regard to one of the Amendments of which Notice has been given, relating to the crofter population, that my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. Trevelyan) will tonight give Notice of his intention to introduce a Bill, on a very early day, with reference to that subject. So much for the subject of Procedure, and so much for the subject, urgent undoubtedly, of the crofters. After that the House will, I am sure, have regard to the date which we have now reached. We are now at the 18th of February. There are Right days at the command of the Government, according to the usage of the House, between this time and the 22nd of March, on or about which date it is absolutely necessary to introduce a Financial Bill for the purpose of observing the law in regard to the Accounts of the year and passing the Estimates. These Right days, we must calculate, will probably be required in the main for disposing of the Supplementary Estimates of the present year, and for dealing with the great Votes of the Military and Naval Services, in order to place those Services in cash, and, in conformity with usage, to enable the Business of the country to proceed in a regular manner. We do not, therefore, contemplate any serious interruption to that course of Business within the period I have named. An hon. Member opposite, the Member for South Belfast (Mr. Johnston), has given me Notice of his intention to ask a Question to-morrow with respect to the state of Ireland, and the intentions of Her Majesty's Government as regards Ireland. I will anticipate the answer to the Question as far as I am able, because I have no doubt the House will make all due allowance for the circumstances of the case, notwithstanding all the information I can give. Sir, from the first moment—and the first moment has hardly passed since the Cabinet met for the first time on Monday—we have made our first care the state of Ireland, and the subject will be one occupying our unceasing attention. I may say—for, indeed, it has been announced in the addresses of various Members of the Government to their constituents—that we do not propose to meet the case of Ireland by suggesting to the House, at the present moment, the re-enactment of repressive criminal legislation. Of course, we are well aware, as the hon. Gentleman who has just given his Notice has observed, that the state of Ireland requires the closest attention, and is not to be disposed of by merely negative assertion. Our desire is, and our endeavour will be, to introduce measures of a positive and substantive character in the House, which may deal with the case of Ireland in the various aspects in which it is now presented to us, both in respect to social order, which must necessarily be on all occasions the question first offering itself to the notice of an Executive Government, with respect to the great subject of land, and with respect to any measure which requires attention in connection with the future government of Ireland, and the method of that government. The time which will necessarily be occupied with the financial Business of the year will be studiously applied by us to maturing as rapidly as possible—[Laughter from the Opposition] —I do not know whether the implication is that there are Gentlemen in this House to whom the state of Ireland is a subject so easy that they have in their minds, ready for production, some simple and satisfactory method of dealing with it. That is not our view of the matter. Our view is that the subject is one of the greatest importance, and one of very great complexity and of enormous responsibility. Therefore, we shall not fear to ask the House for such time as may be necessary for us to give the subject the consideration which we think it requires. I was about to say that after that necessary financial Business has been gone through—and I named the 22nd of March as the date when the House will probably have disposed of the most urgent matters of Supply—by that time I shall hope to be in a condition to make some further indication to the House as to either the whole or some part of the proposals we may have to make for dealing with the substantive and positive—and I hope in a somewhat permanent form—with the great question of the state of Ireland. That, Sir, is what I have to say on the subject of the course of Public Business. If there is any other question which hon. Members wish me to answer I shall be very glad to do so.


We shall, Sir, I apprehend, upon the resumption of the debate on the Address in answer to Her Majesty's Gracious Speech, have an opportunity of commenting upon the somewhat surprising statement of the right hon. Gentleman with reference to the intentions of the Government towards Ireland. It would not, of course, be in Order for me to make any comment upon that matter now; but I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to be good enough to inform us precisely of the grammatical Amendments—as he has been pleased to characterize them—which it is the intention of the Government to make in the Address, so that we may have an opportunity of considering them before being called upon to resume the debate. I would further ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will place on the Paper the terms of the Reference to the Select Committee on the subject of Procedure; and whether it is his intention to frame any Resolutions or Standing Orders of the nature of those which I placed on the Paper when I was responsible for the Business of the House, in order to give that Committee some material for its consideration with the authority of Her Majesty's Government?


Undoubtedly I will place upon the Table the terms of the Reference to the Select Committee as we shall propose them; and I will then make such a statement of our intentions in regard to the proceedings of the Committee as I hope will, in substance, meet the views of the right hon. Gentleman. With respect to the grammatical Amendments which we propose to make in the Address, I will explain them at once to the right hon. Gentleman, if he has the Address in his hands and will be good enough to follow me. I conceive the Address to have been substantially, though not formally, adopted by the House down to the word "tenure" in the paragraph relating to agriculture which was adopted upon the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Jesse Col-lings). The first Amendment is in the paragraph relating to Ireland, in the last paragraph but one of the second page, the ninth line from the bottom of the page. The next paragraph will not require any amendment whatever, as far as I can see, until we get to the word "leads," towards the close of the paragraph. When we get to near the end of the paragraph, in the fourth line from the end, I shall propose to substitute the word "led" for the word "leads;" and in the last line but one to substitute the word "look" for the word "looks." The next paragraph relates to the mea- sures which it was the intention of the late Government to submit to Parliament; but as we could not very well recognize any responsibility in reference to their intentions, I propose to substitute the word "would" for the word "will," in the first line of that paragraph. In the last line but one of the same paragraph, after the word "Ireland," I propose to substitute the word "was" for the word "is;" and after the word "measures," in the same line, to substitute the word "would" for the word "will." The next Amendment is one which is intended to correct an error in the original drafting of the Address. The last paragraph but two of the Address runs thus—"Humbly to thank Her Majesty that a Bill for facilitating the sale of Glebe Lands," and so forth. That passage will require the insertion of certain words. We do not mean to be critics of the style of those who have gone before us; but we think the paragraph requires the insertion of some words to thank Her Majesty for making known to us that the Bill for the sale of Glebe Lands "would" be introduced. Then, in the second line, I propose to strike out the "word" will," and insert the word "would." The next paragraph—the last but one—does not appear to require any amendment whatever; and in the last paragraph we propose to strike out nearly the whole of the second line. The paragraph now runs— Humbly to assure Her Majesty that our careful consideration shall he given to the subjects which Her Majesty has recommended to our attention, and to the measures which may be submitted to us. Of course, we cannot refer to the subjects and measures which the late Government proposed to submit; and we, therefore, propose that the last paragraph should read as follows:— Humbly to assure Her Majesty that our careful consideration shall be given to the measures which may be submitted to us. These are the Amendments which we propose.

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