§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)
asked the hon. Member for St. Pancras, Whether he would postpone further dealing in Committee with the Tithe Rent Charge (Extraordinary) Redemption Bill until a reprint of the Bill and the Report of the Select Committee were in the hands of hon. Members?
§ MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)
said, he was unable to accede to the request of the hon. Member. To accept the suggestion would be equivalent to the abandonment of the Bill. He was informed that the reprint of the Bill would be in the House in the course of an hour or two.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
, appealing to the Government, asked whether it was in conformity with the understanding that contentious legislation would not be pushed forward that the Government Whip should assist in a division on a Bill in charge of a private Member as occurred last night?
THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. CHILDERS) (Edinburgh, S.)
said, the Government considered that, in giving the support they did to the Bill in question, the principle of which was affirmed by a very large majority of the House, they were acting quite consistently with the understanding referred to.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That for the remainder of the Session the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means and all stages of Money Bills have precedence of Notices of Motion and Orders of the Day on every day on which they may be set down by the Government."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Londonderry, S.)
asked what the Government proposed to do with regard to Private Bills, and he referred more especially to the Belfast Main Drainage Bill? He understood that the Government intended to give a stage to the Municipal Franchise (Ireland) Bill.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE) (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
said, his impression was that the Municipal Franchise (Ireland) Bill was one which had received the general assent of the House. If that was not the case he was afraid he must reserve to the Government the right to consider further what course they should take in regard to it. He wished it to be remembered, however, that his statement the previous night referred to Public Bills.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)
said, he hoped the Government would exercise such influence as they could in order to prevent any private legislation being proceeded with that could be called opposed, because it was obvious that a Parliament which was to last only for some 10 days longer ought not to undertake any such Business, whether it was in the hands of a private Member or of the Government. That was the general feeling not only in the House, but in the country; and they knew very well that if that view were not taken here it would be taken in "another place."
§ MR. SEXTON
reminded the Government that the Belfast Main Drainage Bill was postponed to the 21st instant, with the view that, in the meantime, the House of Lords might be afforded an opportunity of dealing with the general question of the Municipal Franchise in Ireland. If that opportunity were not afforded, or if, being afforded, the House of Lords should not make use of that opportunity, he wished to know whether they could not make further progress with the Private Bill?
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT) (Derby)
thought they ought to have some intimation 1493 as to the attitude taken, especially on the opposite side of the House, with reference to the Irish Municipal Franchise Bill. If Gentlemen opposite were not opposing the Bill, then it would practically become a non-contentious Bill and might go on. But if they were opposing the Bill, and the Municipal Franchise (Ireland) Bill was not to be proceeded with, then, of course, hon. Members below the Gangway were restored to their former position with reference to the Belfast Main Drainage Bill.
§ MR. PLUNKET (Dublin University)
observed, that he knew nothing about the Belfast Main Drainage Bill; but the Municipal Franchise (Ireland) Bill was opposed both by one of the hon. Members for the City of Londonderry (Mr. Lewis) and also by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Thanet (Colonel King-Harman). As he understood, their opposition was on the ground that there was a great deal of very serious matter in the Bill, and that there would not be time properly to consider it before the end of the Session. He had himself received various communications in reference to the clauses of the Bill, and it was clear it would take a good deal of time adequately to consider and discuss them. It might be taken, therefore, as an opposed Bill.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
said, he felt bound to complain that the Government had supported private Members in bringing on contentious Business at an early hour that morning, in contravention of the Prime Minister's statement. An Amendment to a Bill raising novel and contentious matter had been brought forward and discussed last night.
explained that the Bill, which had been taken up the previous night, had been before the House on a previous occasion, and had been read a second time and passed through Committee. Some Amendments to be added on Report had been left over.
said, that these Amendments were considered and advanced a stage the previous night. The clause to which reference had been made was passed without a division. Considering the circumstances, he thought 1494 they were strictly bound to abide by the undertaking given.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT (Sussex, North-West)
said, he objected to the course which it was proposed should be adopted with regard to the proposal of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). He thought it would be strongly opposed.
§ MR. PLUNKET
said, it had been his privilege to be there at 4 o'clock that morning, and he had tried to understand the proposal of the Home Secretary. What they objected to was that these changes—especially of the hon. Member for Northampton, which was a very important one—should be brought forward for the first time under such circumstances. Especially so, considering what had taken place in the course of procedure upstairs.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
asked, was the right hon. and learned Member in Order in referring to the proceedings of a Committee which had not yet circulated its Report among Members?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Report has been laid on the Table of the House, and therefore, I apprehend, the right hon. and learned Member would be in Order.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, that with regard to the clause which stood in his name, he believed that they had a majority of the House last night, and could have passed it if they liked; but a desire had been expressed by hon. Members opposite that the discussion should be taken to-night, and, therefore, they had withdrawn the clause on the understanding that it should be taken to-night.
said, that the hon. Member was right; they had never got to the discussion of the clause last night.
§ MR. STUART-WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
said, it was true that he and his Friends had agreed that it should not be taken last night; but not upon any understanding that it should be taken to-night.
§ SIR HENRY JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
remarked that a very important question had been raised by this discussion. Two Bills had been introduced dealing with the payment of Returning Officers. One of these had been a harmless Bill which had not met with 1495 opposition, and to which he had himself given such assistance as he could in order to effect a satisfactory amendment of the Act of 1875; but now, on the Report stage of that harmless Bill, the gravest possible question of principle had been raised, and it had been sought to add a clause to the Bill which had never been the subject of discussion either on the second reading or in Committee, and which involved the very grave principle that official expenses of elections should be cast on the rates instead of upon the candidate. There was another matter. There was a Schedule coming on to alter all these charges; they could not go into Committee on that subject, but would have to deal with it on the Report stage, in which they would only be able to speak once, and would, therefore, be unable to discuss the matter properly. He did not wish to offer any factious opposition; but he had considered it right to call attention to the grave question involved in commencing on the Report stage the discussion of an entirely new matter.
§ MR. DWYER GRAY (Dublin, St. Stephen's Green)
said, that there had been an understanding arrived at with reference to the principle of franchise in connection with the Belfast Main Drainage Bill. The Bill was adjourned for three weeks on the general understanding, very strongly urged by hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway, that they approved unanimously of a reform in the municipal franchise in Ireland, and preferred that the larger Bill should pass the Upper House, instead of the reform being introduced into a Private Bill, referring only to a single town. The Irish Members yielded to that suggestion, and the Bill was now adjourned for three weeks. Now that they had secured that position for the Belfast Main Drainage Bill they were told hon. Members were opposed to the Municipal Franchise (Ireland) Bill, and wanted to obtain a full discussion of it. They knew what that meant. They wanted to kill the Bill. The adjournment of the Belfast Main Drainage Bill would be of no avail if it was to be included in the general Resolution which the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government announced—that he intended giving to Private Bills in the new Parliament the same status and position which they had occupied in this Parliament. 1496 The result would be, therefore, this—that while the Belfast Bill would be then in a position to go on, the Municipal Franchise (Ireland) Bill, notwithstanding its position, and it having passed its second reading unanimously, would be lost. He thought it was therefore only fair that the Government should give an undertaking—seeing that the Conservatives had changed their plan—that the Belfast Main Drainage Bill should not come under the Resolution regarding Private Bills which it was intended to bring forward. The only way, in fact, to do justice in regard to this matter was that if the Conservatives now thought fit to destroy the Municipal Franchise Bill, they should make them responsible by refusing to allow the Belfast Bill to pass.
§ SIR JAMES CORRY (Armagh, Mid)
thought the proposition just made a most extraordinary one. He believed it would be most mischievous to punish the promoters of the Belfast Drainage Bill because a great many hon. Gentlemen might have something to say regarding the Municipal Franchise Bill before it passed the House.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
said, he would remind the House that in connection with the contention of the right hon. and learned Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) it should not be forgotten that the Schedule was not brought on unexpectedly. The matter had been the subject of discussion for a whole I Wednesday, and received the favourable consideration of a large majority of the House. At that moment he did not believe 10 Members had a single objection to the Schedule. It was a mistake to think that they would not have the fullest opportunity of discussing the Bill, in addition to the Schedule, on Report. It was competent to move an Amendment to each single item.
§ MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON (Shropshire, Oswestry)
complained that the Government had taken up extremely contentious matters in the small hours of the morning. What he wanted was that the right hon. Gentleman should tell them now what was going to be done, and not keep them up till 2 o'clock in the morning before they knew what was going to be done.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said, he thought the discussion should not be allowed to drop until they got some information 1497 from the Government as to whether, in the event of the rejection of the Municipal Franchise Bill, they could defeat the Belfast Main Drainage Bill. They had no desire to defeat the Bill, but they wished hon. Gentlemen to show how much there was of bona fides in their promises. When they saw the Belfast Bill in danger they declared their desire to see the question of the franchise settled on a broad basis. A fair and reasonable compromise was entered into; but the moment this was done blocking Notices were put down on this Municipal Franchise Bill, so that the very Gentlemen who had expressed their desire to see the Municipal Franchise Bill were the men to come forward to block it. They wanted to know whether, if this opposition was persisted in, the Government would accept the Belfast Main Drainage Bill?
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, there was no doubt that there had been a vast majority of Members in the House at the time who would have supported the hon. Member who moved the rejection of the Bill if a precise understanding had not been come to. He trusted that the Government would prevent what would undoubtedly be a breach of faith.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA (Monaghan, S.)
said, that this was really a public question, inasmuch as it was proposed that a large sum of public money should be levied and expended by a small and by no means popular body.
§ MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)
said, he could confirm what had been said regarding the compromise come to with reference to this Bill.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT) (Derby)
thought there could be no doubt that in this matter those who were opposing the Belfast Main Drainage Bill were placed in a position of the most unfair disadvantage, because two different kinds of language had been held on the Front Bench opposite. The right hon. Member for Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth) had strongly supported the extension of the Irish municipal franchise, and the right hon. and learned Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Plunket) had declared war against it. The question, however, was how they were to deal with the Belfast Drainage Bill. He did not know whether the 1498 opponents of the Bill desired that it should be rejected entirely, or only that a clause should be grafted upon it. He understood that they would be satisfied with the latter course. The Order might be discharged; but it was for those who were interested in the matter, and who knew more about it than he did, to say what course ought to be taken under the circumstances of the breaking of the engagement which had been made.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH (Hants, Basingstoke)
thought it would be extremely unjust to the promoters of the Bill now to discharge the Order, which had been postponed till a certain day.
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
said, he held that the promoters of the Bill would not, under the circumstances, have the slightest right to complain of the entire loss of the Bill this Session.
§ Motion agreed, to.