§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH (Bristol, W.)
I beg to ask the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, Whether he proposes to continue the debate on the Government of Ireland Bill from day to day, or if he proposes to adopt any other arrangement?
§ THE FIRST LORD (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE) (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
The right hon. Gentleman on a former day spoke of usage as being in favour of an immediate application to the House of Commons for power to continue this debate from day to day. I have taken the trouble to look back to the two most important legislative measures of the last Parliament—the Land Act of 1881 and the Franchise Act of 1884. The second reading debate on the former measure was carried on for eight nights, from Monday to Thursday, without any continuance from day to day, although it was undoubtedly a first-class measure of urgency and importance. The Franchise Act of 1884 was in a like manner continued for six nights, in the same way from Monday to Thursday. I have certainly, however, an impression that when there is something like obvious necessity or advantage—which we shall learn shortly after the debate opens—and if there is likely to be a great demand on the part of Members to state their opinions, in that case we shall not scruple to make application to continue the debate de die in diem.
§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
explained that his reference to usage was based on earlier precedents—the Reform Act of 1866, the Irish Land Act of 1871, and the Irish Church Act. He thought it had been usual in issues of the greatest moment to continue the debate de die in diem.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
If the right hon. Gentleman is quite sure about the precedents he quotes I will at once give way. But my recollection is not to the effect stated by the right hon. Gentleman. I admit that in former times the House was extremely liberal in the concession of continuous debate on matters of first-class importance. The first great Reform Act was taken, one almost might say, every day for months and months together; but the disposition now on the part of private Members has naturally grown up, in the altered state of representation, to press for much more time to present to the House matters on their own responsibility.
§ LORD RANDOLPH CHURCHILL (Paddington, S.)
called attention to the fact that on Tuesday and Friday last the House was counted out at an early hour. Looking, therefore, to the character of the Notices on those days in the current week, he asked whether it would not be, looking to the great importance of the question, a waste of public time if the debate was not continued de die in diem? As to the precedent of 1866, he might perhaps say that it was a consecutive discussion, with the exception of one Tuesday, when Sir Fitzroy Kelly, on behalf of the Tory Party, insisted on the House devoting its attention to a discussion on the Malt Tax.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The importance of the question of the Malt Tax when Liberal Governments were in Office sank into total insignificance when the Conservatives were in Office. I cannot deviate from the clear Notice which was given to the House last Friday, and in accordance with which hon. Gentlemen had been allowed to make their arrangements.