§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether, as the most urgent matters of Supply will probably be disposed of by Monday next, he can now state when he will be in a condition to make that further indication to the House as to the whole or some part of the proposals of Her Majesty's Government for dealing with the question of the state of Ireland, which, on the 18th of February, he hoped to be able to give by the 22nd of March?
§ THE FIRST LORD (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE) (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
The terms used by the right hon. Gentleman are not, I think, quite precisely accurate. On referring to my words, I find that they are, "that after the Votes in Supply are concluded"—for which date I named the 22nd, as to be, in fact, the probable and necessary day for the Votes of Supply to be taken—"by that time I shall be able, I hope, to make some announcement." I have no change to make in the statement I then made before the House. Next week I hope to name a day for the purpose of redeeming the pledge I then gave. Perhaps I may be permitted to repeat the caution which I ventured to impress upon the House on a former occasion, and to recommend, in regard to current rumour upon matters—the truth of which it is impossible to make known at the present time without a breach of an honourable engagement—that, with regard to those rumours, they should exercise a prudent reserve. I may even venture to say a wholesome scepticism. Another word I have to say is this—it would be a comparatively simple proceeding for myself and my Colleagues, if we had nothing to do but to announce the day when that statement could be made in a speech to the House. But, Sir, it would be most unsatisfactory, I think, to the House if, upon any particular day, I were to rise to make a statement, and, at the same time, were not able to inform the House that the Bill for giving effect to that statement had been drawn, and would be very promptly in the hands of the House. It is quite evident that a statement of that kind itself may be im- 1372 portant and interesting, notwithstanding the defects of the Speaker; but, however important and interesting it may be, it cannot form an authentic basis for the judgment of the House. It is the Bill itself that can only become that. The drawing of Bills upon a subject such as may be in prospect is a matter of considerable delicacy as well as importance, and therefore it cannot be carried beyond a certain point. I can, however, assure the House that since I spoke to them on the subject I can really say with truth that not a day has been lost, and that not a day will be lost.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
Might I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will be in a position to answer the Question on Monday? I would also ask him what Business he proposes should be taken on Thursday next?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I cannot add anything to what I have said. That is, that some day next week I hope to name a day. On Thursday next I propose to take a measure which is really urgent—the Crofters' Bill—which has been delayed somewhat beyond our expectations.