HC Deb 12 March 1886 vol 303 cc697-713

, in rising to move— That, pending the judgment of the House on the Report of any Committee appointed to consider the Business of the House, it shall be an Order of this House: That Notices of Questions be given by Members in writing to the Clerk at the Table, without reading them vivâ voce in the House, unless the consent of the Speaker to any particular Question has been previously obtained, said: I am anxious that the House should allow me, for a few moments, to bring before it the special question of which I have given Notice. Now, Sir, I am quite aware of the force of the argument which may be raised against this Motion—namely, that the Government having proposed to constitute a Committee to inquire into the whole question of the Procedure of the House, it is, therefore, premature on the part of any hon. Member to approach the subject in a fragmentary manner in an endeavour to grapple effectively with it. The branch of the subject, however, to which I wish to call attention is one upon which there is practical unanimity in the House. I believe that the disadvantages of the present system have shown themselves to be so great within the last few years, that the House will have no difficulty in arriving at a unanimous decision concerning the need for improvement. The object of my Motion is, if possible, to prevent what has really become a great waste of public time. There can be no doubt that the Questions put in this House have assumed, in recent times, a most inordinate length, and there can be little doubt that the Forms of the House have been much abused. Formerly, it was always understood that the Questions should be submitted to your judgment, Sir, in order that you might eliminate anything of an argumentative nature in them, or anything outside the limit of a proper Question. But the habit which has been adopted within the last few years has been to place Questions before the House without due Notice, thereby escaping the supervision of yourself and of the Officers of the House; and by that means many Questions have assumed that argumentative character which it was originally intended not to allow. I propose my Motion with a view of putting a stop to this irregularity in our proceedings, and to bring back the Questions to the form formerly adopted. I believe the adoption of the Motion which I have ventured to place on the Paper would leave the Questions very much in the position which they occupied until recent years. Perhaps I may be allowed to show the House how these Questions have grown in modern days. I can remember the time when, in the ordinary practice of the House, it was very rare to see on the Notice Paper more than 20 Questions. I have here a list showing the remarkable way in which they have grown. Up to 1874 there was hardly an occasion when that number of 20 was exceeded, and the House proceeded with the real Business of the evening at a reasonable hour. On the 23rd of June, 1874, the number of Questions rose to 37. In 1880 they rose to 44 on one occasion, and later in the same year to 47. In 1881 the number of Questions was 57; in 1884 the number rose to 61; in February of that year to 63; in April of the same year the number was 72; in November, 1884, the number rose to 87; and in December the number was 78. In March of the present year the number, on one occasion, was 77; while yesterday the number was 86. Not only has the practice of putting Questions grown immensely, but there has arisen another practice of putting a number of supplementary Questions which spring out of the answers given, with the object of arguing against the view drawn out by the original Question, thereby becoming a sort of speech, and involving a great waste of the time of the House. I believe that this is contrary to the spirit in which Questions should be brought before us, and certainly constitutes a great waste of the time of the House. Hon. Members are aware that, in recent times, the House did not begin Business till 5.30, or even later; and I venture to think they will agree with me in saying that Questions have, in fact, grown to be an abuse of our proceedings, and of the legitimate opportunity which undoubtedly ought to be afforded of making inquiries on important subjects of Ministers. To remedy the abuse, I think it is not necessary to wait for the decision of the Committee on Procedure; and the Motion which I have placed on the Paper is that all Questions should be submitted to you, Sir, or to the Officers of the House, without being read vivâ voce in the House, unless your consent should have been previously obtained. I will not detain the House further, because I believe that there is great unanimity on the subject; and I have ventured to bring it forward because I believe that the House has the remedy in its own hands, and may, to a very considerable extent, remove the grievance of which we complain. I beg to move the Resolution of which I have given Notice.


I beg to second the Motion; and before the right hon. Grentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer rises to reply there is one point to which I should like to call his attention. I know there is a legitimate complaint on the part of the Government of the great waste of time which takes place in reference to putting Questions on Mondays and Thursdays, which are Government nights; and what I wish to ask is, whether something cannot be done in order to secure that Questions shall be answered more generally on Tuesdays and Fridays than upon Government nights? Friday is a semi-Government night; but it not unfrequently happens that no Government Business is transacted on Fridays, and it seems to me that it would be for the convenience of the Government to substitute Tuesdays and Fridays for Mondays and Thursdays. Now, I understand that there is an indisposition on the part of Members of the Government to answer Questions on Tuesday nights. I am informed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke), when he was Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, particularly requested the hon. Member for the East Toxteth Division of Liverpool (Baron H. De Worms), who was then Member for Greenwich, to address his Questions on Government nights, because, in that case, he was sure to be present. The consequence is that a whole string of Questions is put down on Government nights; while the Paper on other nights is comparatively free. I should have thought that the Government would rather object to their time being occupied, instead of that of private Members, and it is with this object that I have called attention to the matter. I certainly shall support the Motion which has been moved by my right hon. Friend. I believe there will be great unanimity upon it, and I hope the House will adopt it, without waiting the decision of the Committee on Procedure.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "Notices of Questions be given by Members in writing to the Clerk at the Table, without reading them vivâ voce in the House, unless the consent of the Speaker to any particular Question has been previously obtained,"—(Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


I will first answer the Question which has been put to me by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, and I can assure him that the Government have no feeling whatever as to the putting of Questions on Government nights. If they have any preference on the subject—not that I am entitled to express any preference on their behalf—it would be rather in favour of Questions being asked on private Members' nights. I do not know who is the informant of the hon. Member as to the desire of any Member of the Government in regard to the putting of Questions; but the doctrine, as I have always understood it, is that it is the duty of every Member of the Government to be here at 4.30, and to remain until the rising of the House, and I believe that in whatever capacity we may serve we always fulfil that duty, and it is not within my knowledge that any Members of the Government have departed from that rule. In regard to the Motion, I can express my entire concurrence with the right hon. Gentleman opposite, though it is a delicate matter for a Member of the Government to express an opinion upon, as they are the victims in the matter. It is not for them to complain. Everybody must feel that the growth of Questions is a serious evil, and that it has made a very serious inroad upon the Business of the House. When I first became a Member of the House there were few Questions put, and those only on really important subjects. It was rarely that they occupied a quarter of an hour; whereas they now frequently take one and a-half and even two hours. It is, of course, for the House to judge what steps they will take in the matter. The Government have no authority to intervene, or to dictate to the House in any way upon the subject. If I may venture to allude to what takes place outside the House, I must say that I cannot but observe that in the newspapers the Questions occupy very often twice as much space as the rest of the report. So long as the newspapers thus encourage the practice it will continue. Personally, I should be glad to see a return to the old practice, when none but really important Questions were asked. Everybody will agree that some Questions are much more important than others; but it is not so much the actual Question as the preliminary canter which is objectionable. There is generally a sort of hostile counter-Question, and then Questions are asked one against the other, which not only occupy time, but excite a certain amount of warmth, of feeling. As to the substance of the right hon. Gentleman's Motion, it is well-known that the Government have intended to submit a proposition to the same effect to a Committee of Procedure; and, therefore, if the House is generally in favour of the Motion, I shall be happy to support it. If the first clause of the Motion were omitted, and the last sentence were agreed to, it would become a Sessional Order, and would read thus— That Notices of Questions be given by Members in writing to the Clerk at the Table, without reading them vivâ voce in this House, unless the consent of the Speaker to any particular Question has been previously obtained. I would appeal to the House to adopt the latter part of the Resolution; because, if it becomes a Sessional Order, it will conduce to the saving of time, and will prevent the fighting Questions and the counter-Questions which we all deprecate, and which have become such an irregularity in our proceedings. In that form I shall be happy to support the Motion.


I am delighted to hear that it is the duty of the Members of the Government to remain till the rising of the House; but I am afraid that it is a rule—as it was shown to be last night—more honoured in the breach than the observance. I have listened with pleasure to my right hon. Friend behind me (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), and I have no objection whatever to the main part of his Resolution. Indeed, our own proposals went further, and required that some kind of classification of Questions would be made. But the Committee will deal with the whole subject, and will consider any proposals which Her Majesty's Government may think it proper to make. I will only venture to say this in regard to Questions put in the House—that although they may not form part of the most important Business of the House, yet, at the same time, it must be admitted that they excite a great deal of interest, for at no time during the evening is the House so full. Therefore, though we may be extremely anxious, as far as we can, to classify Questions, the House would not be very willing to limit the right of addressing Questions to the Government of the day. I hope, too, that the Government will remember that the time of the House is occupied, not merely by the Questions put, by also by the answers given, which I trust the Ministers will make as concise as possible.

MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

I do not rise for the purpose of making any special comments of my own, but merely to say that I think some of the remarks which fell from the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution, and from hon. Gentlemen who have taken part in the discussion, deserve a better answer than they have received. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman who leads the Opposition to talk about the classification of Questions; but it must always occur to hon. Members who represent Irish constituencies that, for many years, Question time has been for Ireland the most important time of the House. But Questions which are of the greatest interest and importance to hon. Members from Ireland and their constituencies may not appear of equal importance to the Authorities of the House, or to those right hon. Gentlemen who have very much the direction of the Business of the House. The privilege of putting those Questions is the only possible means at our disposal for bringing serious grievances to the notice of the House, and of frequently getting them redressed. Unattached, as I am, to either of the great Parties in the House, I feel bound to take this opportunity of protesting, in the strongest possible way, against the theory being accepted by the Committee which is supposed to deal with the Rules of Procedure in the House that Questions, although they may occasionally swell to a considerable length, at any time result in the waste of the time of the House. There was one striking observation which fell from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it was that he had noticed that the public Press devote a larger space to reporting Questions and answers than to the other political Business. Now, in the course of some years spent in political life I have noticed that the public Press is very much in the habit of reporting what the public want to read; and no better proof can be given than that mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman that the public take a greater interest in the Questions and answers than in the speeches of hon. Gentlemen. So far, therefore, from adopting the advice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it would, on the contrary, be only reasonable and right that the Committee to whom we are about to refer the Rules of the House should take into their consideration for their guidance what the action of the Press is. I think, also, that we might, with benefit to ourselves, notice what part of our proceedings is reported at the greatest length, and get an indication from it of the importance which the public attach to our proceedings. I will only add, in conclusion, that if the practice of asking Questions in this House has had an extraordinary development, it is due to the fact that the House is becoming steadily more and more democratic. There is a larger section of private independent Members who, while they continue upon certain great issues to follow the Leaders who sit upon the Front Benches, are not content to do nothing but vote. After the first year, or even the first few months of the new Parliament are over, it will be found that the only way for a Member not high among political Parties of the House to direct attention to a grievance and to get it remedied is by asking Questions.

MR. JOSEPH COWEN (Newcastle-on-Tyne)

I entirely agree with the observations of my hon. Friend (Mr. Dillon); because I think that if we curtail the Questions we shall be curtailing the Privileges of the House. It is not the use, but the abuse, of Questions that is objectionable. There has, however, been a reason for the multiplication of Questions of recent years, and that is the persistent encroachment upon the rights of private Members which was made in the last Parliament by the Government. If you attempt to dam up water in one direction it will burst forth in another; and, therefore, pressure has been put upon hon. Members to bring forward grievances in the shape of Questions. But the object of my right hon. Friend the Member for the Epping Division of Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson) is to do away with a manifest public nuisance; and I think the House will concur with my right hon. Friend that the nuisance is one which ought to be checked. No one wishes to curtail the right of Members to question Ministers; otherwise Ministers would soon become despotic. Much of the abuse of questioning is not in the Questions themselves, but in the ambiguous manner in which they are answered. At the same time, there are, undoubtedly, a large number of Questions which are purely of local interest; and I think the House will agree that if anything is to be done we ought to insist that they and the answers should be printed and circulated. [Cries of "No!"] My hon. Friends say "No;" but there are a large number which are of interest only to a small number of Members—probably not more than 100 persons—out-of-doors. And ought a small Question, which concerns 100 in number of individuals, to stop the whole Business of the nation? It will be quite possible to preserve the right intact, and at the same time to lessen the time occupied by frivolous, local, and unnecessary Questions. I have already suggested whether it would not be possible for you, Sir, of your own motion, to take the initiative, and direct certain Questions and answers to be printed without a distinct order from the House. There can be no kind of objection to that course, and I think it would be a useful proceeding if it were adopted.

MR. SEXTON (Sligo, S.)

I agree with my hon. Friend (Mr. Cowen) in one respect and disagree with him in another. There is nothing surprising in finding the two Front Benches agreed on such a Motion. If Ministers had their way they would gladly assent to any Motion for putting an end to Questions altogether; for it is one of the most irksome proceedings of the House, in the opinion of Ministers. I do not think, however, that the convenience of Gentlemen who are liberally paid to devote themselves to the public service, or their opinions, should be conclusive on the present question. I disagree, however, with my hon. Friend on another point. He has spoken of local Questions, and I find that a strange misapprehension exists on this subject. It is precisely to that class of Questions known as local Questions that it is necessary to attract the force of opinion in the House and the country. In matters of Imperial policy relating to some matter within the common knowledge of the Empire there is not much danger of harm. The danger is when some Jack in Office in a remote locality tramples on the rights of the people. It is exactly where there is no free current of public opinion in Ireland that Members ought to appeal to that publicity which the House and the Press of the nation provide. I invite hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway and in all parts of the House to consider this as a question, and to regard it as one which affects the well-being and the right of their constituents. Although hon. Members may rush at the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, they may find, in the end, that they have come to a hasty conclusion, and, when it is too late, that they have given up one of their most valuable rights. I must say I think, in regard to the Motion before the House, that it is a matter which had much better be left to the discretion of the House than settled by any hard-and-fast rule. I think, Sir, if you were questioned on the subject, you would admit that your attention has already been drawn to the practice of reading out Questions in advance. A short time ago I was obliged to call attention to the practice resorted to by certain Orange Members of reading out Notices of Questions of a vexatious and frivolous character; and when, in the face of the House, I appealed, Sir, for your judgment, you stated that you desired to have the opinion or action of the House upon this practice of reading Notices of Questions in advance. Since you were pleased to deliver that opinion from your place, the Orange Members have been reduced to dumbness. No one Member of the Orange Party has ventured to read out a Notice of a Question. Then, I think, Sir, that your opinion may be left to fructify in the minds of hon. Members before we are driven to adopt so severe a measure as this. Then, in the second place, we are waiting for the decision of the Committee on Procedure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Sir Michael Hicks-Beach) wishes to carry the matter still further, because he wishes to leave it in your hands to classify the Questions.


I proposed that it should be referred to the Committee on Procedure.


I apprehend that all Questions of this nature should form part of the subject referred to the Committee; and the right hon. Gentleman is, I believe, to be a Member of the Committee which it is proposed to nominate to-night. Therefore, it is hardly fair that he should take upon himself to anticipate the work of a Committee of which he is to be a Member. There are to be 33 Members of that Committee, and I trust that this, as well as all other questions in regard to the Procedure of the House, will be left to it, and that the House will not be placed in the absurd position of arriving at a conclusion which may turn out to be contrary to that which the Committee may adopt.

MR. CRAIG-SELLAR (Lanarkshire, Partick)

I dissent altogether from the views of the hon. Member for South Sligo (Mr. Sexton); and I should be glad, if I were in Order, to move an addition to the Motion of the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Epping Division of Essex (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson), to the effect that the Standing Order should not only extend to such Questions as he suggests, but that Mr. Speaker should be authorized, or a Committee should be appointed, with authority to distinguish between Questions that are local and Questions that are Imperial, and that local Questions which could be answered very much better by the Department should be answered by the Department, either by communication or letter from the Minister in charge of the Department, whereas Imperial Questions should be answered by Ministers in the House. Many of my constituents write to me on matters of local interest, and I have always found, on going to the Department, that I could get a much better answer than I should have got if I had put the Question to a Minister in this House. I also find that the answer obtained in this way did not take up more time than the preparation of a Parliamentary answer; but there was a considerable amount of practical convenience gained both in the information supplied to my constituents, and in saving the time of the House by preventing unnecessary Questions from being put to Ministers. I think, therefore, there ought to be some means of distinguishing between local and Imperial Questions, so that local Questions might be answered by the Department and Imperial Questions in the House of Commons. We have had since the new Parliament assembled some 60, 70, and even 80 Questions asked of the Government in the course of a single day. But how many of them are Imperial Questions? The bulk of them are local Questions, which would be much more satisfactorily answered by the Department. The suggestion I would make is that a Committee should be appointed to consider what Questions should be put in the House from day to day, and to distinguish and divide them between Imperial and local Questions. Then I think that the Standing Order proposed by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Epping Division of Essex would do much to stop the plague of Questions now inflicted upon us. In olden times there used to be a deluge of Questions before Easter and Whitsuntide; but that was accounted for by the fact that hon. Members were about to leave town for the holidays; but the deluge now begins from the commencement of the Session. I think that such a Committee as that which I have suggested would do a great deal to stop the evil, and to give the House more control over its Business. And there are other matters which may be usefully referred to this Committee—for instance, the question of balloting for precedence in regard to Motions. I might say a good deal about that, for it is a practice which is, undoubtedly, liable to great abuse. In a local paper I happened to read the other day, it was asserted that certain hon. Members had combined together in order to avail themselves of the ballot in favour of a particular Motion.


I must point out to the hon. Member that he is travelling away from the Motion before the House. The Motion is— That Notices of Questions be given by Members in writing to the Clerk at the Table, without reading them vivâ, voce in the House, unless the consent of the Speaker to any particular Question has been previously obtained. The hon. Member will see that that Resolution has nothing to do with the question of balloting for priority.


Well, Sir, I feel that I was on the border land, and almost beyond the limits of the debate before the House, and I bow at once to your decision; but I hope the House will consider the feasibility of the proposal I have made—that there should be some means whereby the Questions should be divided into Imperial and local Questions. I hope the Select Committee on Procedure will take up the subject, and consider it with the view of making some provision with regard to it.

Mr. PULESTON (Devonport)

I cannot concur with the speech of my hon. Friend who has just sat down, because there must be a great difficulty at all times in determining what is an Imperial and what is a local Question. For instance, only yesterday there was a Question on the Paper which was of immense consequence to my constituency; but, at the same time, it might fairly be considered an Imperial Question. Nevertheless, that Question might have been put aside as a local Question if a Rule of this sort were adopted. I think, however, that this is an appropriate time for discussing the subject, because the Committee on Procedure is about to be appointed; and it would be prudent, I think, to enter into these questions so as to obviate any little difficulty that may hereafter arise. Therefore, I trust that I shall not be considered entirely out of Order in view of the importance of the question. I quite concur in the remarks which were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. Joseph Cowen) that the Questions are becoming more numerous in consequence of the difficulty in procuring days for private Members. I have had for some time on the Paper of the House a Resolution upon which I propose to discuss the Rules of Procedure. That Resolution, in my humble opinion, would not only meet the point which has been raised tonight, but also many other important questions in connection with the Rules of Procedure. The effect of that Resolution is that no Questions of any kind should be put on the Paper for Mondays and Thursdays, unless declared by the Speaker to be of an urgent nature; and I would also propose that the House should commence its Business promptly at 4 o'clock on Mondays and Thursdays, without the interposition of Private Business.


I must point out to the hon. Member that he is going away from the Question before the House.


I bow, Sir, at once to your decision; but I thought it was a matter which was germane to the Resolution before the House. I will simply add that I quite concur, as far as it goes, with the expression of opinion conveyed in the Resolution of the right hon. Baronet; and I will only take this opportunity of expressing a hope that the question may be carried further, and that the Government may see their way to indicate to the Committee that the Motion I have on the Paper may be considered to be a practical solution of the difficulty.


I earnestly trust that if there is to be anything done in the matter it will not be in the direction pointed out by the hon. Member for the Partick Division of Lanarkshire (Mr. Craig-Sellar).

Mr. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

There is a question, Sir, which I desire to put to you, as to what will be the effect of agreeing to the Resolution as it stands—whether, at Question time, any oral Question whatever can be put—as to the conduct of Business for example? It would appear to me that, if this Resolution be carried, no Question can be put, unless Notice of it has been given in writing beforehand.


As I read the Amendment upon the Paper, it refers to Notices of Questions intended to be asked at Question time on a future day; and, according to the strict interpretation of the Resolution, no oral Question could be put without Notice at Question time, unless with the consent of the Speaker.


The question I wish to put relates rather to a number of Questions, which are frequently asked, as to the conduct of the Business of the House for that particular night, and perhaps the following night. There would scarcely be an opportunity of consulting you, Sir, upon such questions.


In that case no Notice of the Question would have been given. That is how I understand the Amendment.


Before we go to a division, there is a question which I should like to put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I understood him to suggest that the first branch of the Question should be omitted, and also that the last sentence should be left out. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby): No!] It would be a moot point whether that ought not to be done, although I am not disposed myself to support the general proposition contained in the Amendment of my right hon. Friend (Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson). I think there ought to be some liberty allowed in extreme and urgent cases for Questions which may spring up without Notice; and in the event of my right hon. Friend so framing the Amendment that it would permit all Questions of urgency to be put without Notice I shall support it.

MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

I fancy that the right hon. Baronet who moved this Resolution cannot have given due consideration to all the circumstances of the case. I am am sure that he has given full consideration to the question of Procedure, and he is certainly one of the most painstaking Members of the House; but, as I read the Amendment, Notices of Questions are to be given by Members in writing to the Clerk at the Table, and it may mean that no Question whatever can be put unless Notice in writing is given of it.


I must state to the hon. Member that Questions without Notice are a different matter. The Amendment only relates to all Notices of Questions; and I understand the Amendment to apply simply to the giving Notice of Questions which it cannot be expected should receive an immediate answer which may be irregular in form, and may contain impeachments against individuals—Notices which would, undoubtedly, be rejected at the Table, but which are given orally, and appear in the Papers.


I object in the strongest manner to any decision being taken upon so important a question to-night. The whole question of our Rules of Procedure is about to be referred to one of the strongest and most experienced Committees ever appointed by this House. I understand that the noble Marquess the Member for the Rossendale Division of Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington) is to be Chairman of the Committee, and that the Leader of the Opposition will be a Member of it. Surely such a Committee will be able to arrive at a satisfactory decision upon the whole matter, and this must necessarily be one of the questions discussed and decided by the Committee. I should be very sorry if the House were to come to a snatched and hurried conclusion upon the question now. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has intimated that he intends to make a proposal before the Procedure Committee which will fairly include the subject dealt with by the Resolution of the right hon. Baronet, as I am informed he intends to propose that a Committee should be appointed by Mr. Speaker for the purpose of classifying and controlling the Questions.


That was one of the proposals contained in the Rules of Procedure submitted by the late Government at the opening of Parliament.


I understood the right hon. Baronet to repeat that proposal to-night. No doubt, it is one of the questions which must come before the Committee on Procedure. Then why enter into a small portion of a subject like this now when there is no actual necessity for doing so? I think that it would be grossly disrespectful to the Committee we are about to appoint if we were to pass this Resolution; and in order to give the House a better opportunity for consideration I will move the adjournment of the debate.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. T. P. O'Connor.)


I hope that the House will decide the question without an adjournment of the debate. Every hon. Member must have noticed the growth of the practice of giving verbal Notice of Questions containing matters of argument and controversy. Allow me to remind the House that although the Committee on Procedure is about to be appointed.


The Question now before the House is the adjournment of the debate.

MR. SEXTON (Sligo, S.)

Before a division is taken, I hope the noble Marquess the Member for the Rossendale Division of Lancashire (the Marquess of Hartington), who, I understand, is to be Chairman of the Committee on Procedure, will pardon me if I make an appeal to him on a small matter, and ask him simply to say whether it is right that this question should be decided before the Committee meet?


Order, order! The Question is that the debate be now adjourned.

THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON (Lancashire, N.E., Rossendale)

The question of who will be the Chairman of the Committee on Procedure will rest with the House itself. The question now before the House is an extremely small one, and I should have thought it possible for the House to arrive at a decision upon it. I am sorry that there should be any necessity for limiting in any degree the right of putting Questions in this House.


Order, order! I must remind the noble Marquess that the Question now before the House is that the debate be now adjourned.


All I wish to say is that the Question before the House appears to me to be an extremely small one, and I do not see that a sufficient reason has been given why the debate should be adjourned, or why the House should not decide upon the question at once.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 54; Noes 235: Majority 181.—(Div. List, No. 29.)

Words added.

Original Question put, and negatived. Resolved, That Notices of Questions be given by Members in writing to the Clerk at the Table, without reading them vivâ voce in the House, unless the consent of the Speaker to any particular Question has been previously obtained.

Resolved, That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee of Supply.—(Mr. Henry H. Fowler.)

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."