§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
, in rising to move the Resolution of which he had given Notice relating to the Sittings of the House, said, he thought the House would perceive that this rule was designed for the convenience of the House and in the belief that an arrangement of this kind would conduce to the better discharge of Public Business. He pointed out that the prolonged Sittings of the House during the last two or three years had had a serious effect not only on the health of hon. Members, but on the mode in which the Business of the House had been conducted. During last Session the House sat 277 hours after midnight, and there must have been many hon. 1401 Members—probably a large majority of the House—who had duties to perform before coming to the House in the afternoon. In these circumstances it was clearly impossible for an ordinary human being to continue to devote his powers of mind and body to the discharge of his duties in the House. Hon. Members were practically too exhausted to do so. He (Mr. W. H. Smith) said nothing of those who had to conduct the Public Business of the country, and who were responsible not only for the duties of Government, but for the working of the various public offices. It was, however, highly desirable that Ministers should be in a condition to devote the best of their intellect and physical powers to the discharge of their onerous duties. At present, owing to the prolonged Sittings of the House, it was practically impossible for Ministers of the Crown to be in that condition; and therefore the Government had framed these Rules with the object of meeting earlier in the day and rising earlier at night. In recommending this Rule to the consideration of the House it must be understood that the Government did so on the understanding that the question of half-an-hour later in meeting or half-an-hour earlier in separating was not one of principle nor a matter to which the Government were so wedded as to persevere against the general feeling of the House. This Rule had been framed by the Government to meet to the best of their ability the interests of all Parties in the House; and, therefore, on matters of unimportant detail they were prepared to make such concessions as were generally desired. Reference was made in the Rule to certain proceedings which were to be exempted from its operation. It was often practically impossible to put those proceedings down for the early consideration of the House; and even if it were possible, they would be blocked altogether by the operation of the Rule of Adjournment, and hence serious public mischief might arise. It rarely happened, however, that there was any serious difference of opinion upon those Orders; but if there was it was necessary that the hour of closing Debate or Adjournment should be made with reference to those proceedings. He thought also the House would agree that the House should not be counted precisely at 9 o'clock; and he trusted the provision made in the Rule would 1402 meet with the acceptance of hon. Members. But this, again, was one of the provisions upon which the House itself must express an opinion. The Government recommended it for the consideration of hon. Members as one which had been generally represented to them as a provision for the convenience and conduct of Business. With reference to the paragraph as to the Speaker ascertaining by the preponderance of voices that the majority of the House desired that Business under discussion should be deferred until a later day, he stated that some public inconvenience had arisen on days on which opposed Business finished, say at 10 minutes to 7 o'clock on a Morning Sitting or a quarter to 6 o'clock on Wednesday. The Bill opposed in these circumstances did not come on next day, but there was no knowledge as to the particular day on which it would come on; it was therefore proposed to give this preponderance of voices in order that a day might be named for the consideration of the Bill. He concluded by moving the adoption of the Rule.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, unless the House otherwise order, the House shall meet every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, at Three of the clock, and shall, unless previously adjourned, sit till One of the clock a.m., when the Speaker shall adjourn the House without Question put, unless a Bill originating in Committee of Ways and Means, or unless proceedings made in pursuance of any Act of Parliament or Standing Order, or otherwise exempted from the operation of this Standing Order, be then under consideration:
That at Eight of the clock the Speaker or Chairman, as the case may be, shall suspend the sitting by leaving the Chair until Nine of the clock. If, after the resumption of business, at Nine of the clock, and before a quarter-past Nine, notice be taken that 40 Members are not present, the Speaker or Chairman shall, unless 40 Members are sooner present, suspend the sitting until a quarter-past Nine, when he shall count the House or Committee.
That at half-an-hour after midnight on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, except as aforesaid, and at half-past Five of the clock on Wednesdays, the proceedings on any business then under consideration shall be interrupted; and, if the House be in Committee, the Chairman shall leave the Chair, and make his report to the House; and if a Motion has been proposed for the Adjournment of the House, or of the Debate, or in Committee That the Chairman do report Progress, or do leave the Chair, every such dilatory Motion shall lapse without Question put; and the business then under consideration, and any business subsequently appointed, shall be appointed for the next day on which the House shall sit, unless the Speaker ascertains by the preponder-
ance of voices that a Majority of the House desires that such business should be deferred until a later day:
Provided always, That on the interruption of business the Closure may be moved, and if moved, or if proceedings under the Closure Rule be then in progress, the Speaker or Chairman shall not leave the Chair, until the Questions consequent thereon, as provided in the Rule ' Closure of Debate,' have been decided:
That after the business under consideration at half-past Twelve and half-past Five respectively, has been disposed of, no opposed business shall be taken; and the Orders of the Day not disposed of at the close of the sitting shall stand for the next day on which the House shall sit:
That a Motion may be made by a Minister of the Crown at the commencement of Public Business, to be decided without Amendment or Debate to the following effect. ' That the proceedings on any specified business, if under discussion at half-past Twelve this night, be not interrupted under the Standing Order, "Sittings of the House:"'
Provided always, That after any business exempted from the operation of this Resolution is disposed of, the remaining business of the sitting shall be dealt with according to the provisions applicable to business taken after half-past Twelve o'clock."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
said, he begged to put a question to Mr. Speaker on a point of Order. He wished to know whether the Rule would be put as a whole, or paragraph by paragraph?
§ MR. SPEAKER
The Rule will be put as a whole, and it will, therefore, be competent for hon. Members to discuss the general questions which it involves. The first Amendment will be taken in its order.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
said, that, with reference to the general provisions of the Rule, he should in discussing thorn be able to rely upon a personal experience of some 30 years. In criticizing the Rule he should endeavour to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) in the same spirit as that in which the right hon. Gentleman's statement had been conceived. The House had heard with pleasure that Her Majesty's Government did not desire to thrust these Rules as they stood down the throats of hon. Members without considering the various Amendments to them of which Notice had been given, or which might be proposed. As to the Rule generally, it could not be denied that the experience of the last few years showed the necessity of its main principles being adopted. In his opinion, there ought 1404 to be a fixed time when the Business of the House should be brought to an end, because it was impossible that the House should go on in the future sitting night after night till two, three, or four o'clock in the morning. The cardinal object of the Rule appeared to be to put an end to the late Sittings which had so long prevailed, and as far as it went in that direction, he should cordially support it. With regard to the proposed adjournment of the House for an hour, or an hour and a quarter, at 8 o'clock, he thought that the present custom of the dinner should be followed, and that the Speaker should leave the Chair without Motion at the end of a speech for some 20 or 30 minutes only. That would be better than the Speaker leaving the Chair at any fixed hour, regardless of whether an hon. Member was in the middle of his speech or not. If the course he suggested were adopted, the House would have more time for the transaction of its Business, and might perhaps be able to adjourn for the night at half-past 12 o'clock, instead of at 1 o'clock, so that the opposed business should cease at 12. [Cries of "Hear, hear!"] He gathered from the cheers from all sides of the House that his proposal in that respect was not an unwelcome one. He quite agreed, however, in the suggestion that it would be necessary to modify the half-past 12 o'clock closing Rule to the extent of empowering Ministers to move, in the case of an important debate, that the time for closing should be extended, but notice of this should be given, and appear in the Order Book. It would be too much to lay down a hard-and-fast line that would require a Minister, who was engaged in malting an important speech on some great question, to sit down suddenly in the middle of his speech at 12 o'clock. He took it that such an Amendment as he suggested would not be opposed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. He assumed that as the House now met nominally at a quarter to 4 o'clock, under the new Rule it would meet nominally at a quarter to 3 o'clock in the afternoon, but this was a mere detail, and 3 o'clock would probably be satisfactory. But what he most cared for was the continuance of the present practice as to dinner, and opposed business ceasing at 12.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
said, he was 1405 afraid that the Rule as it stood would kill the dinner hour, as it was called, when younger Members had an opportunity of addressing the House. He hoped, that the nature of the Money and other Bills, which were to be excepted I from the Rule requiring all contentious business to cease at a fixed hour, would be more clearly defined, and that it should not be sufficient for a measure to contain one money clause to enable its mover to proceed with it at any hour. As the Rule stood, somebody was sure to count the House on its re-assembling at 9 o'clock; and as it could not resume Business in such a case until a quarter past 9 o'clock, the Speaker would be kept sitting uselessly in the Chair for a quarter of an hour every night. He, however, regarded the present dinner hour as very valuable, and as being in accordance with the traditions of the House, which encouraged young Members to speak. "With respect to that part of the Rule which gave a Minister of the Crown power to move the suspension of the Standing Order as to the termination of a debate at 12.30, he saw no objection to it if there were any safeguard for its being carried out in the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman spoke. But other Ministers might take different views, and he should suggest that such a Motion should require the assent of either the Leader of the Opposition or of some Privy Councillor who had filled certain important offices, so that practically it had the assent of both sides of the House.
§ SIR ROBERT FOWLER (London)
said, he rose in consequence of a remark which had been made by the right hon. Member for South Edinburgh opposite (Mr. Childers). He took exception to the proposition of the right hon. Gentleman, that there should be no alteration as to the period during which the Speaker or Chairman of Committees should leave the chair, so that the House might be able to adjourn half-an-hour earlier than was proposed under the Rule they were now discussing. Every hon. Member must feel that these Rules would make a very great change in the habits of the House. Last Session they used to rise at 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning, and he thought it would be sufficient at all events to provide that the proceedings should come to an end at 1 o'clock It 1406 would be apparent to every hon. Member that a provision of that kind would bring about a very great change. It would, in future, be possible for the House to adjourn at 1, which would bring about a very great change, and he thought a sufficient change, without introducing any further modification. At the present moment there was a Rule which prevented the counting of the House before 4 o'clock.
§ SIR ROBERT FOWLER
said, that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Childers) would remember that, in the Parliament of 1848, the same custom prevailed in reference to the Sittings of the House at 9 o'clock, when there had been a Morning Sitting, as the House was never counted until a quarter past 9.
§ SIR LYON PLAYFAIR (Leeds, S.)
said, he was sorry that he was unable to agree with the hon. Baronet who had just spoken, especially in regard to the dinner hour; but he congratulated the Government on having brought the sittings of the House within the power of the human constitution. Those who had experienced any sitting up to all hours of the night knew that after midnight a great difficulty arose in regulating the debates. Hon. Members became irritable, and the difficulty of preserving order in the House always arose after midnight, when Members were tired. He thought the Government had made a little mistake. It would have been better if they had fixed half-past 12 instead of 1 o'clock as the hour at which contentious Business should end. The greater proportion of hon. Members could then leave, and only those hon. Members would remain who had special business to attend to. With regard to the proposed adjournment for an hour for dinner, he wished to point out the danger of that Rule. In the first place, by saying that there should be a dinner hour there would be a great temptation to leave the Precincts of the House, and some difficulty would be thrown upon the Whips in keeping a quorum at 9, or after 9 o'clock. If the Business were allowed to go on as at present no time would be lost. Moreover, there were other and even more important dangers than that. They all 1407 knew that the House could be prevented by certain tactics, such as keeping hon. Members in the Lobbies and persuading them not to come into the House, from proceeding with Business and preventing certain measures from being discussed. This Rule would give Members full power to carry out those tactics, and it would frequently be found that at a quarter past 9 o'clock the whole of the Business of the House was stopped. He hoped the Government would see the advantage of closing all contentious Business at 12 o'clock, and having no dinner hour at all. It had worked well hitherto, and was of great use to young Members. He therefore trusted that the Government would be prepared to consider favourable Amendments to carry out the changes he had indicated.
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)
said, that the criticism of the hon. and learned Member for East Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) showed that he had not read the Rules with which he found fault. They were clearly expressed, and carefully guarded against the evils which the hon. Member deprecated. He (Mr. Gedge) strongly objected to the proposal to adjourn the House from 8 to 9; but as he had put on the Paper two Amendments dealing with the matter, he would not now discuss it.
§ MR. BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
said, he was grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) for allowing the Resolutions to be discussed, not as a Government measure, but as a matter which was introduced in order to suit the convenience of hon. Members. He suggested that when no Private Business was under discussion the House should proceed at once to Questions, instead of wasting half-an-hour in doing ing nothing. Day after day—as Mr. Speaker was well aware—they sat there doing nothing between 4 o'clock and half-past 4 o'clock. Even then the hours fixed during which hon. Members would have an opportunity for speech would be short. As a private Member, he would make an appeal to right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Benches to somewhat curtail their remarks. There was a tendency on the part of right hon. Gentlemen to imagine that if one right hon. Member spoke for an hour, it was necessary for them to speak for an hour and five minutes, followed by some 1408 other right hon. Member, who spoke for one hour and ten minutes. If right hon. Gentlemen would more fully consider what they were going to say, he was sure they would be able to put their speeches in a much smaller compass. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House always spoke with commendable brevity. He put what he had to say into a short compass; but it was impossible to say the same of other right hon. Gentlemen sitting on both sides of the House. The question really was whether they should end all contentious Business at half-past 12. Under the Rules, as they were at present drafted, there would be an automatic closure at the end of the Sitting. It would, however, mean that if they were not to close contentious Business until half-past 12, very few hon. Members would be able to get away until near 1 o'clock, and many hon. Members would find it impossible to get to bed until a quarter to 2 or 2 o'clock. It was these last half-hours that really told upon the constitutions of hon. Members. He thought it would be of great advantage if the Members of the Government were able to obtain a good night's rest, and by that means be ready to attend to their office work in the morning, He believed that the late hours last Session had been disastrous to some Members of the Government, as they were bound to be in regard to any Member who had to remain in attendance until the end of the Sitting, in order that they might devote their attention to the Business of the country.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said, that the Rule greatly diminished the chance of private Members' Bills and Motions. It was quite true that the system of blocking which had come into practice much interfered with the chances of private Members nowadays. Their measures were invariably blocked; but still there did remain some opportunities for them, and occasionally a private Member's Bill was brought on without a block having been attached to it. If, however, the closure was absolutely applied by the rising of the House at 12 o'clock, or half-past, it would be impossible to find time for private Members. It not unfrequently happened that a useful discussion arose on a Motion of an hon. Gentleman which did not stand first on the Notice Paper, and the debate went on until half-past 1 1409 o'clock; but under the proposed new Rule, as the House would rise at half-past 12, any Member who disliked a Motion would only have to extend his remarks a little in order to defeat the Motion. He believed that this year there were some 200 Bills introduced by private Members, but practically only one each Wednesday could be brought on for discussion. He was quite ready to admit that Bills of first political importance ought to be blocked, in order to secure that they should be properly discussed; but there were other Bills which did not involve matters of controversy or Party considerations which were desired by the country, and which might be satisfactorily passed. He believed that a great deal of good had been effected in the past by Motions introduced by private Members; and he asked whether it was quite right to diminish the slender opportunities which private Members now possessed in reference to measures of an important character, which nevertheless had strong claims to be commended to an over-pressed Government? He would appeal to the Government to give way on this point, and to prevent the evil from which private Members would otherwise suffer. There were three methods by which the evil might be avoided. The first was, to appoint a Committee to make a selection of the Private Bills and Motions which ought to be proceeded with, to determine which of them were deserving of discussion. The second was, to give the House power to vote as to what Bills should be advanced and fixed for a particular day. And the third method was, that hon. Members should be enabled to express their preference for certain Bills and Motions in the Order Book by subscribing their names to them. In that way it would be shown what Bills and Motions ought to be taken, and the legislation of the House would be increased. He hoped that before they came to the end of the Rules the Government would meet that difficulty, and that they would exercise their power as to the time which was to be given to private Members.
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Mr. RAIKES) (Cambridge University)
said, he did not propose to follow hon. Members who had taken part in the debate in a general survey of the new Rules. He had only risen to follow the 1410 observations of the hon. and learned Member for (South Aberdeen (Mr.Bryce), who had just sat down. He (Mr. Raikes) thought that the hon. and learned Member, in his desire to promote the interests of private Members, had drawn rather a gloomy picture of the effect of the proposed new Rules. The hon. and learned Member had spoken as if no half-past 12 Rule had been or was still in existence. At present there was a Rule in existence which prevented opposed Business from being taken after half-past 12 o'clock. The hon. and learned Member had spoken as if opposed Motions were never talked out in order to prevent Motions from being brought on. The New Rules would not prevent that. They did not appear to him to inflict any injury on private Members. This Rule would not impose any more effectual stopper on private Members than the present half-past 12 Rule, nor would they alter the Order of the House in regard to Business on Wednesday, except in directing that a discussion upon a Bill should cease at half-past 5 instead of a quarter before 6. The case of unopposed Bills which were discussed after half-past 12 was one which undoubtedly required consideration. He much doubted whether the suggestion with respect to the precedence of private Members' Bills would find acceptance in the House. It was not clear how any such plan would work. Was each Member only to have one vote for one Bill, or to vote on each of, perhaps, 140 Bills? He was inclined to support the proposal that, after Whitsuntide, the order of private Members' Bills should depend upon the stage which they had reached. He agreed also with the remark of the hon. and learned Member for Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) that the words "otherwise exempt" required further elucidation. If the hon. and learned Member for South Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce), to whom he always listened with respect, would put down one of his alternative suggestions, the Government would give it every consideration. At the same time, he did not see how they could discriminate between the Bills of private Members except by drawing a distinction in favour of those which had already been considered by a Select Committee. He thought that a Bill 1411 which had gone through the ordeal of a Select Committee ought to have preference given to it over another Bill which had not gone through that ordeal.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
said, he desired information upon a variety of points which he thought were better raised upon the general Rule rather than in discussing Amendments. He wanted, in the first place, to know what would be the position of Committees sitting upstairs if the House met at 3 instead of 4 o'clock? Did the Government propose to alter the time at which Committees upstairs should meet? Twelve o'clock had been the hour for meeting, and 4 o'clock for adjournment. Surely four hours a day were not too long, although they were certainly long enough to bestow on Business which involved such an enormous outlay and such large interests. The cost of Private Bill legislation was increasing day by day, and. it would be unwise to impose upon suitors an extra burden which would be involved in limiting the hours from four to three hours. The hon. Member for the Poplar Division of the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Buxton) had called attention to the fact that a considerable waste of time took place after Mr. Speaker took the Chair. That was a matter which was well deserving of consideration. It would be much better that the House should meet at 3.30, and Public Business to begin at 4. The proposal to allow from half-past 12 to 1 for non-political matters was unwise; but many non-political Bills were of vital importance to the country. He was of opinion that half-an-hour was not sufficient for Bills to be discussed which, like the Merchandize Marks Bill, were not of a political character. That Bill was in Committee for a considerable time late in the evening. He had a strong sympathy for the Rule that they should close the Sittings of the House at a particular hour, say 1 o'clock; but he greatly doubted whether that time was sufficient to carry out the machinery of the House in regard to what might be called political polemics. he supported the suggestion of his right hon. Friend the Member for South Edinburgh (Mr. Childers) to do away with the proposed adjournment of one and a quarter hours, which was neither one thing or another. It was not the 1412 dinner hour. Hon. Members could not go to their residences, dine, and come back again within that time. The suspension of Business at a Morning Sitting from 7 until 9 was quite intelligible. It would tend to augment the number of Counts, and would spoil the tone of the House at the time Business was resumed. Then, again, he protested against interfering with the vested rights of young Members who were anxious to train themselves in the art of speaking, and availed themselves of the dinner hour for that purpose. He thought that the Speaker or Chairman should be able, as at present, to retire at any hour. It would be an admirable understanding that, when the Speaker or Chairman retired, the adjournment should only be for a fixed period; but he did not see that it was necessary, when a Speaker or Chairman left the Chair, that the whole Business should be suspended for an hour and a quarter. He thought it would be far better to say that the Public Business should begin at 4, and that any contentious debate should close at 12.
§ MR. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
said, that a great majority of the younger Members in the House were of opinion that the dinner hour should not be lengthened, and the House suspended from 8 to 9.15, as was proposed by the present Rule. It was their opinion that the proceedings should go on during the dinner hour. If it was considered desirable that the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees should retire for a certain time, that could be easily arranged. An adjournment from 8 to 9 would render it absolutely impossible for a young Member ever to have a chance of speaking in the House, and it was well known that the present dinner hour was invaluable to Members addressing the House for the first time. He agreed with the remarks of the hon. Member for the Poplar Division of the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Buxton) as to the length of the speeches which were delivered from the Front Benches. They were, unfortunately, growing longer and longer; and if, in addition, private Members were to have the dinner hour taken away from them, it would be perfectly impossible for them to speak at all and to make the voice of their constituencies heard. That was, in his opinion, an important fact to consider. 1413 It must also be remembered that obstruction, if it could be so called by the legitimate talking of a yearly increasing number of Members, had developed to a great extent, and could not altogether be prevented. More hon. Members spoke now than ever they did before, and their constituents expected them to speak. As they were limited to those hours in the evening when the great guns were not going off, it was important that there should be no adjournment of the House for dinner. It was also desirable that there should be neither Counts or Divisions during the dinner hour, so that no scratch Division might be taken.
MR. CRAIG-SELLAR (Lanarkshire, Partick)
desired to comment upon the remarks of his right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) on two points. The right hon. Gentleman objected to the proposal that the House should meet at 3 o'clock instead of 4, on the ground that in that case the Select Committees would sit for three hours only instead of four. That objection could be met by the Committees meeting an hour earlier. He saw no serious difficulty in Select Committees meeting at 11 o'clock in the morning instead of 12, now that the House was going to adjourn at or about midnight. As to Private Bill Committees, he hoped that the House would have some proposal from the Government for dealing with them, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) would be good enough to inform the House what the proposal of the Government was in regard to Private Bill legislation. In reference to the dinner hour, he would suggest that the time during which the Speaker or the Chairman should vacate the Chair should be limited to an hour, or, if it were preferred, to half-an-hour. He quite agreed that there should be no fixed Rule. He congratulated the House upon having come to the consideration of these Rules with an unbiassed mind, and he trusted that there might be an early prospect of transacting the Business of the country in the middle of the day instead of, as hitherto, in the middle of the night.
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
said, he wished to draw attention to the Report of the Select Committee of 1886, which recommended that 40 Members 1414 should have the right to challenge a Division; and he approved this security for the publicity of the votes of Members for the information of their constituents. The principle was also affirmed by the praetise of other Legislatures, and of Municipal Corporations. He would point out that the present opportunities of private Members were very limited, and under the new Rules they would be still more so. He knew the Government had a great difficulty in keeping a House during the dinner hour; but, speaking the views of a large number of young Members, he was certainly opposed to the House adjourning for dinner. An objection had been raised by the right hon. Member for South Leeds (Sir Lyon Play-fair), who said that after an adjournment there would be great difficulty in making a House again, and that on some occasions the House might be taken by surprise and counted out. No doubt, under the proposed Rule, there might be a tendency in that direction, unless a time were fixed for making a House. He would venture to suggest that if, on the re-assembling of the House, attention was called to the fact that there were not 40 Members present, Mr. Speaker should suspend the Sitting for five minutes, or for some limited period, in order to prevent the House from being taken by surprise. He was of opinion that the debates might be profitably closed at 12 o'clock, and he trusted that their knowledge of that fact would induce hon. Members to be more economical in the use of the time at their disposal, and they would certainly be more readily detected by their constituents if they wasted the time of the nation.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)
said, he should like to say a few words before the discussion closed. He thought the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hunter), that the House should relegate to a Committee to be nominated by the Speaker the advancement of measures, would, if adopted, be very dangerous. He was astonished that such a suggestion should have been made by his hon. Friend, who was thoroughly acquainted with the system which prevailed in the United States. In that country the Committee had absolute control, not only for the advancement of Business before the 1415 House, but of the fate of measures, which meant that the House did not control its own Business, but that a small Committee, or the Chairman of the Committee, controlled it, and did what the House itself should do. That the House should part with all control over legislation was altogether unsuitable to the genius of the House of Commons, and altogether dangerous. There was great danger in too much devolution. If anyone wanted to understand the dangerous tendency of devolution, he could not do better than study the history and practice, not only of the American Congress in that respect, but of the State Legislatures. The lesson to be learned was that great danger would surround any proposal on the part of Her Majesty's Government to part with any of the powers of the House of Commons in order to relegate them to a Select Committee. Another point he wished to allude to with all possible respect was the proposal of his hon. Friend the Member for the Poplar Division of the Tower Hamlets (Mr. Buxton)—namely, that the Leaders of the House had absorbed, and were absorbing, a great deal too much time of the House. The object of all these proposals, and all these new forms of Procedure, was to get more time in which to transact the Business of the country. The present complaint was that the House had not sufficient time to do the Business that came before them, therefore the great object was to economize the time of the House. Speaking with all respect and deference to the Leaders of the House, and in a spirit of perfect impartiality, he was bound to confess that they would get no economy of time until right hon. Gentlemen consented to speak with the same limitations the House expected from private Members. Last year the average length of speeches of right hon. Gentlemen was at least an hour. That average had risen during the present Session until it had reached one hour and and a-quarter. Private Members meekly submitted to this usurpation on the part of those who ought to protect their rights. They would, in the end, come to this—that, no matter what Rules of Procedure might be adopted, private Members would have no rights to protect. Right hon. Gentlemen should bear in mind the bad example they were setting their fol- 1416 lowers. He regretted to say that that example was spreading. Only a week ago two private Members and two official Members occupied the whole of one day's Sitting—one of them, the hon. Member for the Rushcliffe Division of Nottingham (Mr. J. B. Ellis), having occupied an hour and a half. He was afraid that it was the overweening vanity of hon. Members which had led to this abuse. He thought they ought to be animated by a desire to make the most of the limited time at their disposal, so that they might give all their time to the advancement of Business.
§ MR. HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
said, that as an independent Member he hoped that the Government would consent to alter the proposed Rule, so as to secure to private Members the few privileges which they now possessed. He thought that if the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) was to throw his suggestions into the form of an Amendment; it would meet with considerable support. The right hon. Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes) had spoken of the present practice of blocking Bills to prevent their coming on after half-past 12 o'clock; but he (Mr. Vincent) ventured to remind him that many useful Bills—though blocked— became law which were called on at 20 or 25 minutes past 12. Under the present automatic closure of contentious Business at midnight this advantage would be taken away, and nothing, so far as he could see, put in its place. The proposed adjournment of an hour for dinner would, in his opinion, be almost valueless. It would be altogether impossible for the majority of Members to leave the House at 8, go home, dine, and return to the House in time to take part in any discussion that was resumed at 9 o'clock.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
said, he would not detain the House for more than a minute or two. The officials of the House would be perfectly satisfied with half-an-hour for dinner, and it was immaterial to them whether it was a fixed interval or not. He might say for himself, and he thought he might say for the Speaker, that there was no desire on their part to ask for an adjournment for an hour. It was quite sufficient that a Rule should be laid down for the retirement of the 1417 occupant of the Chair from the House for a short period without fixing a period for that retirement to take place. It would be quite sufficient if it were understood that half-an-hour, or whatever time might be fixed, should be allowed for the retirement of the Chairman. Hon. Members would then know precisely when the Business would be resumed. He agreed with the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) that the experiment which the House was about to make might not be free from difficulty, but certain of the difficulties attached to the experiment could be foreseen. Will regard to Private Bill legislation, for example, why could not Commitees sit at 11 instead of 12? He certainly felt the difficulty as to the transaction of minor Business after midnight, and he thought it might be necessary to reconsider that matter. One point to which attention ought to be drawn was the scandalous custom which permitted a great deal to be done in the House which ought not to be done in it. He referred to the arrangement of private Members' business. It was a scandal that so much time should be wasted in balloting at the beginning of every Session, with the result that the order of subjects was settled by chance, without any regard to their importance. He suggested that Members originating Motions and Bills should inscribe them in a book, and that the supporters of such Motions or Bills should then subscribe their names to them, each Member being only allowed to put his name to one such proposal. The Motion or Bill after which there was the greatest number of signatures would then be taken first, and the others in their order according to the support given to them. He did not foresee any difficulty in carrying out that plan. All the arrangements might be made in a bureau, and the system could be put in practice periodically through the Session.
§ Mr. TOMLINSON (Preston)
said, that, apart from the question of susspending Business during the dinner hour, it would be a great convenience if the Chair could be vacated at an approximately certain hour. It might be that a Member of the Government, or a private Member, took a close interest in a Bill in Committee, and did 1418 not wish to be absent for a moment, and, in view of that circumstance, a suspension of the Sitting for a definite period might be of very great value. Perhaps sufficient consideration had not been given to the very arduous duties of the occupant of the Chair in that House; and he thought it would ease the labours of the Chair if it were possible to give the Deputy Speaker and Chairman greater powers than they now possessed for dividing the work between them. With reference to the argument of some hon. Members, who said that he opposed the suspension for the dinner hour because in that time inexperienced Members were accustomed to address the House, he thought it would be a serious danger to the progress of Business if it were to go forth that two hours— from 8 to 10—were for the special advantage of inexperienced speakers, because it would simply lead to an aggravation of the existing waste of time, he hoped, therefore, that if the proposal for a dinner hour suspension was rejected, something would be said in deprecation of the idea that after a certain hour none but in experienced speakers should address the House.
§ GENERAL GOLDSWORTHY (Hammersmith)
said, there was no doubt that the constituents of Members expected them to take some part in the Business of the House, not merely by voting, but by expressing their constituents' opinions. It had been almost impossible for private Members during recent Sessions to lay their views before the House. A great deal of time was wasted; and he thought that it would be well to commence work from the time when Mr. Speaker took the Chair. He knew that many Members incurred great fatigue in consequence of having to remain in their places so long before Business commenced, and there were many on that side of the House who considered that 12 o'clock was a proper time for terminating the proceedings of the House. A great deal of time was, under the present arrangements, taken up by long speeches of one or two individuals; and he and his hon. Friends thought it was only reasonable that the ordinary hours of rest should be secured to everyone connected with the House. The Members of the Government had not only to attend the House for many hours, but also to do the very hard and 1419 important work which, had to be gone through at their various Offices; and anyone who watched the Members of the Government during the last Session must have seen how much the long hours of attendance had told on their health.
§ MR. WARMINGTON (Monmouth, W.)
said, he gathered that the result of the proposal of the Government would be that private Members would have no opportunity of taking part in the Business of the House. That, he thought, would constitute a great danger; because, even at the present time, private Members had no exaggerated, powers, and to adopt the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House would be practically to extinguish their rights altogether. There certainly seemed to be a considerable waste of time between Mr. Speaker taking the Chair and the commencement of Public Business. It was seldom the case that the Private Business of the House occupied 30 minutes; and yet that space of time was devoted to that purpose. He could not see why Private Business should not be put down amongst the Orders of the Day, and taken in its proper place, and the Public Business commence directly it was concluded. In that way they would save 20 minutes in each Sitting, or almost two hours every week. He was in favour of that arrangement, which would in no way interfere with the course of Business or with those in charge of the Administration.
§ MR. ISAACS (Newington, Walworth)
said, he hoped the Government would pause before changing the hour of meeting to 3 o'clock. There were in the House upwards of 120 Members of the Legal Profession, besides many members of other Professions, and men who were connected with the commerce of this great country. Three o'clock was an unusually early hour at which to ask those Members to come down and legislate on public affairs; and it was more in behalf of the latter class than of Gentlemen of the Long Robe, who were quite able to defend themselves, that he pleaded. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon those men were actively engaged in their business matters, which were then in full swing; and it would be to them a great inconvenience to be required to come down at that hour. It should also 1420 be borne in mind that an hon. Member who wished to secure a seat must arrive some time before the House met on the occasion of a debate of an important or interesting nature. Members, under these circumstances, would, therefore, have to reach the House at half-past 2 to secure seats. He thought the Government would do well to reconsider the proposal to allow the House to adjourn for an hour or an hour and a-half. He certainly considered it necessary that Mr. Speaker should have a period of rest afforded him. To ask him to take the Chair at 4 o'clock, and remain uninterruptedly until 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning, was more than could be expected. But he thought an arrangement might easily be made that when Mr. Speaker was out of the Chair his place should be taken by the Deputy Speaker, and in that way there would be continuity in the Business of the House, which would not be interrupted. He thought it hard that new Members, who were diffident in laying their views before the House, should be deprived of the dinner hour which was found to be convenient for their purpose, and he should not like to see it taken away from them. He ventured to think that the hour for terminating Business should be 12 o'clock; and that Members who came down at 4 o'clock and remained till midnight devoting themselves to Business had done as much as the country could expect of them. It was only last night that two Members, who had to go to Woolwich, and could otherwise have gone by train, were obliged, owing to the late hour to which the House sat, to go that distance of 12 miles by carriage. He suggested that when midnight arrived the House should adjourn.
§ MR. RANKIN (Herefordshire, Leominster)
said, it was his intention to support the Amendment which the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had put on the Paper, if it were moved, because he thought it would be a great advantage to those Members who had to leave town to do so on Friday instead of on Saturday. With, regard to the question of the dinner hour, he thought that one hour would be of no use whatever. If they were to have any cessation for this purpose, two hours would be necessary; but that would be a serious inroad on 1421 the time of the House, and he should, therefore, strongly support the suggestion that for the purpose of relieving Mr. Speaker in his very arduous duties the Chair should be taken in his absence from 8 to 10 o'clock by the Deputy Chairman. He was also of opinion that the Business of the House should terminate at 12 o'clock rather than at half-past 12. With those slight alterations he should support the Resolution of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House.
§ DR. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)
said, that if the dinner hour were abolished, the rights of private Members would be altogether extinguished. Those rights had been lately in a state of suspended animation. Even if private Members were sometimes considered to be bores, they were bores whom their constituents expected to address the House, and their only chance of speaking was to get up in the dinner hour. Speaking as a medical man, he thought it very important that the House should cease Business at 12 o'clock, because no human constitution could stand the strain of so many hours work as was required under the present system. For those who could stay in bed as long as they liked it did not matter so much; but the work was too hard for Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench and others who could not do so. He hoped they would bring back their Rules to something like common sense, and enable Members to go to bed and rise at a reasonable hour.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH)
said, that probably the majority of hon. Members would be of opinion that the views of the House on the general question had been sufficiently gathered to enable them to proceed with the consideration of the substantive Amendments to the Rule which were upon the Paper. He had no hesitation in repeating—as he had stated earlier in the evening—that the desire of the Government was to meet the convenience of the House and to provide for the despatch of Business by men who wore in a physical condition to discharge it with advantage to the country. With regard to the second paragraph providing for the suspension of the Sitting at 8 o'clock, he might state at once that, having gathered the sense of the House on that point, the Govern- 1422 ment would not press it. He thought it ought to be understood that in recent years it had become the practice for the Speaker to retire for a limited period between 8 and 9 o'clock, and that practice would be continued, except that the House would probably agree that the interval might very well be extended to half-an-hour. The hon. and learned Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy) had referred to the proviso in the first paragraph of the first Rule excepting from the operation of the Rule as to adjournment at 1 o'clock occasions when—A Bill originating in Committee of Ways and Means and proceedings made in pursuance of any Act of Parliament or Standing Order, or otherwise excepted from the operation of this Standing Ordermight be under consideration. It was proposed to amend this provision so as to make the exceptions from the Rule of Closure at 1 o'clock perfectly clear and definite. Reference had also been made to the provision in the Rule that a Minister of the Crown might at the commencement of the Sitting move that the proceedings on any specified Business be not interrupted at half-past 12 o'clock under this Rule. It had been urged that Notice of this Motion ought to be required. It was the practice of the House that Notice should be given' of a Motion of this kind, and it was therefore unnecessary to make provision for this in the Rule. The Notice, according to the general practice, would appear on the Notice Paper of the day. Then, with regard to the provision for the suspension of the proceedings at half-past 5 o'clock on Wednesdays instead of at a quarter to 6, as at present, this was to obviate a difficulty that now existed. If a Division was taken at half-past 5 o'clock it would be over at about 20 minutes to 6 o'clock, and that would leave time for taking up the next Business on the Paper before the quarter to 6 was reached, when all Business must cease; whereas at present, if a Division was taken shortly before a quarter to 6 it was not over until after a quarter to 6, and all the remaining Business stood postponed until the next day. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) had objected that if the House met at 3 o'clock and Public Business commenced at half-past 3 1423 o'clock the Private Bill Commitees would be seriously interfered with, but by Resolution of the House the Committees might be authorized to sit until half-past 3 o'clock; and as hon. Members would in future get to bed earlier, probably—so long as the House chose to continue the present system of consideration, of Private Bills by Members of the House—such Committees might meet a little earlier than at present. The subject of Private Bill legislation had been fully considered, and the Government would propose that a Joint Committee of Members of this House and of the House of Lords should be appointed with a view to considering the whole subject of Private Bill legislation in Committee and devising a scheme which would be for the interest of the promoters of Private Bills and of the public. It was a very complicated and important subject, and if it could be solved it would relieve hon. Members of work which at present fell upon them, and at the same time assist in securing an extension of the system of devolution of Committee work with regard to Bills which, under the present Rule, occupied a large portion of the time of the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Mr. E. Robertson) had made some remarks with regard to the length of speeches delivered from the Front Benches. That was a matter with which the Government could not deal, but which must be left to the House itself to decide by the means which it possessed of giving expression to its feelings when unduly long speeches were made. With regard to the observations of the hon. and learned Member for South Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce), he (Mr. W. H. Smith) could only say that it would be difficult for the Government to propose any scheme by which the rights of private Members would be further restricted; but when private Members brought forward any scheme on this subject the Government would consider it. As to the reference which had been made by the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Courtney) with regard to the danger of "Counts-out," during the short period that he (Mr. W. H. Smith) had had the honour of occupying his present position he had had to remain in the House throughout the whole of the Sitting, and he had noticed during the latter 1424 part of last Session that on the return of the Speaker attempts were not infrequently made to count the House— the attempt being repeated on some occasions more than once on the same evening within a few minutes. He hoped that those hon. Members who were in favour of the retention of the present practice with regard to the dinner hour would set their faces against this most inconvenient course, which resulted in hon. Members being called back to the House in the middle of their dinner, and also in the loss of several minutes while the Count was taking place.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
said, he did not rise for the purpose of prolonging the discussion, for the spirit of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks left nothing to be desired. But there was one point — namely, that raised by the hon. and learned Member for South Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce)—to which he had given no answer. If the proposal with regard to the dinner hour were dropped and the present practice of an interval of half-an-hour were continued, then he thought that the proposal in the Rule that Business should be interrupted at half-past 12 o'clock ought to be altered to 12 o'clock.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, there was an Amendment on the Paper with regard to that point. He had already stated that the point was one with regard to which he did not desire to put any pressure on the House. He wished to carry the House with him, because he assumed that the House, as a whole, was desirous of assisting in the conduct of Public Business. For his own part, he thought half-past 12 o'clock a reasonable hour; but in that matter he was ready to defer to the wish of the House.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
said, he understood the Government to offer no objection to the suggestion made, if it should find favour with the House at large. With regard to the suspension of proceedings between 8 and 9 o'clock, he thought the present elastic arrangement was convenient, and carried with it some subsidiary advantages. He regarded as the most important announcement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) the extremely satisfactory proposal to meet the difficulties felt in the House and the 1425 country as to the conduct of Private Bill legislation. He thought the proposal to have a Joint Committee of the two Houses of Parliament to consider by what plan the purposes of Private Bill legislation could be carried out was extremely fair and reasonable, and one from which the House might hope to obtain a satisfactory scheme when the time arrived. He also felt the force of the right hon. Gentleman's reply to the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) that the fact that hon. Members would come down earlier made it easier to terminate Business sooner than he proposed. He (Mr. John Morley) had been a little disappointed at the treatment of the criticisms of his Friends the hon. and learned Member for South Aberdeen (Mr. Bryce) and the hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Courtney), with regard to the House affording greater choice and discretion as to the Bills which it might consider and further. The right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Raikes), in reply to his hon. and learned Friend, said that a private Member would be at no greater disadvantage under the present proposals than he was already under the operation of the half-past 12 Rule. But that he thought was not quite an accurate account of the matter, because, for ex-ample, the half-past 12 o'clock Rule did not preclude the furthering of Unopposed Business; again, that Rule did not apply to Bills in the Committee stage. Speaking for himself, he thought with regard to the three methods proposed by his hon. and learned Friend that there was great difficulty in the way of the first, which contemplated the appointment of a Selecting Committee by the Speaker; and next, that the proposal that the House should declare its choice and preference would be found to be a very cumbrous and unworkable method of procedure. The third plan did not appear to be open to so grave objections; that he thought might be made into a workable expedient, and he hoped that some measures would be taken to bring it into that form.
§ MR. BROADHURST (Nottingham, W.)
said, he desired to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) whether it would not be well to have independent Tellers? If that arrangement were 1426 made they would have much more independent voting.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, the Amendment he was about to move embodied no Party question. There were many hon. Members in favour of it, and it almost spoke for itself. It was intended, in a Parliamentary sense, to substitute Wednesday for Friday and Friday for Wednesday. Its effect would be that on Wednesday they should sit at 3 o'clock and continue to do so during the evening, and on Friday they would commence business at 12 o'clock and rise at 6 o'clock. He gathered that the House used formerly to sit on Wednesday all the evening as on any other day, and that it was only when the hour of rising became exceedingly late that it was considered desirable to have a break and sit in the morning. That arrangement was very desirable in view of the late hour to which the House had sat during recent Sessions. But they were going to change all that now and go to bed at a reasonable time, and he did not think they would require so long a rest as they had now on Wednesday evening. The question was, on which evening, whether Wednesday or Friday, would it be most convenient to have a holiday? No doubt a reason could be alleged in favour of Wednesday, but if they had the evenings of both Wednesday and Friday lion. Members would probably be glad of it. There were many hon. Members engaged in business, who had their houses at a considerable distance from London, and who went from town on Saturday morning and remained until Monday morning. It would be a great convenience to those hon. Members to go down on Friday evening instead of Saturday morning, and it was the same with those hon. Gentlemen who, living in London, were accustomed for their health to leave town on Saturday. The objections to his proposal were somewhat of a social character. Those who were in favour of it were told that they were going to alter the whole system of London hospitality because people were in the habit of giving dinners on Wednesday. But why should they not give their dinners on Friday? Those who were of an hospitable turn might save by this; they might give a 1427 dinner on Friday and use what remained on Saturday. A friend of his had raised another objection to the scheme, and said—" I want to enjoy my Wednesday." "Well," he remarked to him—" You will be able to enjoy your Friday;" but the reply was—"If the Morning Sitting is on Friday my wife will expect me home, whereas if it is on Wednesday I can stop up in London." Of course, he could give no answer to that argument. They ought to bear in mind that the Government were in no way obliged to make a House on Wednesday. If the Amendment were carried it would be desirable to alter the Rule which now required that on a Wednesday Mr. Speaker should wait until 4 o'clock unless a House was made earlier; for if a wild and reckless Bill were down on Friday, it was probable that a House would be made on that day, and it would be outrageous that Mr. Speaker should lose the whole day. He left the matter entirely in the hands of the House to decide, and he trusted that every hon. Member would decide as he thought best in his own interest, for it was not a question affecting the interest of the Government.
§ MR. ERNEST SPENCER (West Bromwich)
said, he rose to second the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere). The hon. Member having spoken so ably had left him little to say on the subject, but he thought it would be a decided advantage to adopt the proposal, and he knew but of one valid objection against it—namely, that four days' continuous sitting would be a great strain on the health and strength of the officials of the House. The weight of that argument in the past would have been very considerable, but it would not be so strong now, because of the change in respect to the Sittings of the House which were about to take place. He had no doubt that the officials of the House would view this proposal with favour. The substitution of Wednesdays for Fridays would more materially affect hon. Gentlemen who lived in the country, and he was entitled to say on their behalf that they viewed this proposed alteration with considerable satisfaction, as it would enable them to devote not only more time to their homes but to their business affairs. He was also of opinion that hon. Members generally 1428 would gladly avail themselves of increased opportunities of seeking that change of air and scene which was rendered so very necessary by the prolonged Sessions of last and previous years.
§ Amendment proposed,
§ In line 1, after the words "otherwise order," to insert the words "the Standing Orders relating to Wednesday Sittings shall he longer apply to the Sittings on Wednesday, but shall apply to the Sittings on Friday, and the Standing Orders relating to Fridays shall no longer apply to the Sittings on Friday, but shall apply to the Sittings on Wednesday, and."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
MR. BARING (London)
said, he emphatically opposed the proposal to sit late on Wednesdays. Although he was but a new Member in that Parliament, he had sat, and satiate, in previous Parliaments, and he found that he could with the interval of Wednesday sit on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; but he entirely objected to that interval being taken from him. A good night's sleep on one night out of four was as little as a man could get on with, especially at his age, and many Members were a good deal older. He might add that he had hitherto lived in the country, and should be glad to have Friday as well as Wednesday; but as he could not got both, he very much preferred the latter day.
MR. CRAIG-SELLAR (Lanarkshire, Partick)
said, that in the Committee which sat to consider this subject the proposal which was embodied in the Amendment was supported by the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), the hon. Member for the Everton Division of Liverpool (Mr. Whitley), and by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith); and although it was lost on a Division, that Division was a good one, and it justified an appeal to the House on the present occasion. The argument of the hon. Member for the Everton Division of Liverpool was that there were a number of hon. Gentlemen engaged in business at Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, and Liverpool, and in Scotland; that those hon. Gentlemen were compelled, to a certain extent, to neglect their businesses; but that if they could get down on Friday they would be able to pay some atten- 1429 tion to them without neglecting their duty to their constituents. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had limited himself to the one point of the convenience of hon. Members; and the proposal was, no doubt, very much to their convenience that they should have three nights in the country instead of two. His own opinion was that the four days' continuous work would be bettor, and more work would be done, than if they had a break in the middle of the week to be followed by two more days of Public Business. If they could not get away before 2 or 13 o'clock in the morning, it would be impossible to have four continuous nights; but if they were to have the early closing movement carried out he saw no hardship in the proposal. No doubt there was something in the argument that it was difficult to make a House on Friday morning; but if the Bill to be considered were an interesting one it was certain there would be a House on Friday, just as there was now on Wednesday. It had never been found, when at the end of the Session Wednesdays became public property, that there was any difficulty in getting a House; and he had no doubt that the same would be found to be the case with regard to Fridays; and with regard to the social arrangements of London, there would only be a change to which those arrangements would easily adapt themselves.
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Mr. RAIKES) (Cambridge University)
said, the hon. Member who had just spoken (Mr. Craig-Sellar) had given a very fair account of what took place in the Committee, and had very justly stated the arguments, as well as the decision, at which the Committee had arrived. The Committee rejected this proposal when it was brought before them, and he (Mr. Raikes) trusted that the influence of that Committee would not be lost on the House that evening. What they ought to look to was how the House was to be made the best working legislative machine; and, regarding the question from that point of view, would they not say that the House was likely to do its work better if it worked two full days, then half-a-day, and then two full days, followed by a rest on Saturday and Sunday, than it would if it ground away for four consecutive evenings, and then 1430 sat in a perfunctory manner on the Friday afternoon? They heard much talk about private Members' Bills, but he thought they would hear very little of such Bills if the only day upon which they could be taken was the Friday, no could not help thinking that his hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Baring) expressed very fairly and justly the view of those hon. Members who had constant occupation in the daytime, and who yet came down to the House in the evening and gave an earnest attention to the debates. It would be impossible for such Members to give to their Parliamentary duties that full and complete attention they now gave if it was necessary for them to attend for four days without a break. He had some experience of the House, having sat in it for a good many years, and he confessed the belief that it would not be competent for hon. Members who sat on the two Front Benches to carry on their work with that vigour and that elasticity which was required of them if they were to be confronted by each other for four consecutive days. On a Wednesday Members had an opportunity, when Party feeling was highly exasperated and passions were running high, to give quiet consideration to a subject; and it no doubt frequently happened that they re-assembled on the Thursday in a much better condition to settle some great question than they were in when they separated on the Tuesday night. This question, although it was one which might not appear to some to be of great importance, was one which demanded the utmost consideration, and he asked the House to think once, twice, and thrice before it departed from a system which the experience of many Parliaments had proved to be satisfactory, and embarked on a new arrangement for which no argument had been advanced, except that it might be convenient for hon. Gentlemen to live with one leg in London and one leg in a country house.
§ MR. NORRIS (Tower Hamlets, Limehouse)
said, he could not help thinking it was the continuity of the work of the House which told on the constitution; that their mental and physical powers were entirely exhausted by the continuity of the work. For himself, and he could speak for many Metropolitan Members, the interim in the middle of 1431 the week was of very great advantage; indeed, he was sure the existing arrangement was the best for hon. Members generally. He believed, too, that the officials of the House would be very sorry to know that any alteration had been made in the existing arrangement in regard to the rising of the House on the Wednesday.
§ MR. WHITLEY (Liverpool, Everton)
said, he wished to re-assert the opinion he expressed on the Procedure Committee. He was sorry to hear the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster General (Mr. Raikes), because he recollected that the argument urged against any alteration of the hours of sitting on Wednesday was the convenience of Members and the late hours. Now, however, late hours were to be done away with, and therefore the position was altogether changed. Some hon. Members had treated the question as one between town and country. He regretted to hear the private convenience of Members quoted as an argument against the proposed change. Let the House consider for a moment what was the position the Representatives of many Provincial constituencies occupied. During the sitting of Parliament such Members had no opportunity whatever of coming in contact with their constituents, and of consulting them upon the important measures which might be introduced. He did not know anything that would be of greater advantage than the personal contact with their constituents which Members would have if they could go down to their constituencies from the Friday night to the Monday. He declined to discuss the question as one of private convenience. It was unworthy in Members of the House of Commons to cite private reasons rather than the public good in favour of the change now proposed. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) was in favour of this proposition when the Procedure Committee sat, and he (Mr. Whitley) could not understand the change in the opinion of the Government. He was quite aware the proposition would probably be opposed by the occupants of the two Front Benches; but that was no reason why independent Members, who believed that the Business of the country would be better consulted by an early adjournment on the Friday night, should 1432 not support the change. He cordially supported the Amendment.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 105; Noes 167: Majority 62.1434
|Agg-Gardner, J. T.||M'Ewan, W.|
|Austin, J.||M'Laren, W. S. B.|
|Barry, J.||Mallock, R.|
|Bickford-Smith, W.||Marum, E. M.|
|Biggar, J. G.||Mulholland, H. L.|
|Bolton, T. D.||Neville, R.|
|Bond, G. H.||Nolan, Colonel J. P.|
|Broadhurst, H.||Nolan, J.|
|Brunner, J. T.||O'Brien, P. J.|
|Burt, T.||O'Hanlon, T.|
|Campbell, H.||O'Hea, P.|
|Carew, J. L.||O'Kelly, J.|
|Carmarthen, Marq. of||Parnell, C. S.|
|Clark, Dr. G. B.||Penton, Captain F. T.|
|Coghill, D. H.||Pickersgill, E. H.|
|Conway, M.||Pinkerton, J.|
|Corbet, W. J.||Power, P. J.|
|Cremer, W. R.||Price, T. P.|
|Crilly, D.||Quinn, T.|
|Crossman, Gen. Sir W.||Rankin, J.|
|De Cobain, E. S. W.||Reed, H. B.|
|Dillon, J.||Richard, H.|
|Dimsdale, Baron R.||Roberts, J.|
|Ellis, T. E.||Robertson, E.|
|Esslemont, P.||Roe, T.|
|Evershed, S.||Rollit, Sir A. K.|
|Eyre, Colonel H.||Rowntree, J.|
|Farquharson, Dr. R.||Russell, Sir C.|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro-||Russell, T. W.|
|Finucane, J.||Samuelson, G. B.|
|Firth, J. F. B.||Sellar, A. C.|
|Fox, Dr. J. F.||Sinclair, W. P.|
|Fulton, J. F.||Stack, J.|
|Gaskell, C. G. Milnes-||Stansfeld, rt. hon. J.|
|Gent-Davis, R.||Stevenson, F. S.|
|Gill, T. P.||Stewart, H.|
|Gray, C. W.||Sullivan, D.|
|Hamilton, Col. C. E.||Sutherland, A.|
|Hayden, L. P.||Thomas, A.|
|Holloway, G.||Thorburn, W.|
|Hooper, J.||Tuite, J.|
|Hoyle, I.||Vincent, C. E. H.|
|Hughes, Colonel E.||Wardle, H.|
|Joicey, J.||Watt, H.|
|Kendrick, W.||Wayman, T.|
|Kilbride, D.||Whitley, E.|
|Lafone, A.||Wilson, H. J.|
|Leahy, J.||Woodhead, J.|
|Lees, E.||Wright, C.|
|Lyell, L.||Wroughton, P.|
|Macdonald, W. A.|
|Mac Innes, M.||TELLERS,|
|Maclure, J. W.||Labouchere, H.|
|M'Carthy, J.||Spencer, J. E.|
|Acland, A. H. D.||Atherley-Jones, L.|
|Addison, J. E. W.||Bailey, Sir J. R.|
|Ainslie, W. G.||Baird, J. G. A.|
|Aird, J.||Balfour, rt. hon. A. J|
|Allison, R. A.||Baring, T. C.|
|Amherst, W. A. T.||Barran, J.|
|Anstruther, H. T.||Bartley, G. C. T.|
|Barttelot, Sir W. B.||Goldsworthy, Major-General W. T.|
|Bates, Sir E.|
|Beach, right hon. Sir M. E. Hicks-||Gorst, Sir J. E.|
|Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.|
|Beadel, W. J.||Grimston, Viscount|
|Bentinck, W. G. C.||Grotrian, F. B.|
|Bethell, Commander G. R.||Gully, W. C.|
|Haldane, E. B.|
|Blundell, Colonel H. B. H.||Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F.|
|Bridgeman, Col. hon. F. C.||Hamley, Gen. Sir E. B.|
|Bristowe, T. L.||Harrington, E.|
|Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F.||Heathcote, Capt. J. H. Edwards -|
|Brookfield, A. M.||Heaton, J. H.|
|Burghley, Lord||Herbert, hon. S.|
|Buxton, S. C.||Hill, right hon. Lord A. W.|
|Caine, W. S.|
|Caldwell, J.||Hill, Colonel E. S.|
|Cavan, Earl of||Hoare, S.|
|Channing, F. A.||Hobhouse, H.|
|Charrington, S.||Houldsworth, Sir W. H.|
|Childers, rt. hon. H. C. E.|
|Clarke, Sir E. G.||Howorth, H. H.|
|Cobb, H. P.||Illingworth, A.|
|Cochrane-Baillie, hon. C. W. A. N.||Isaacs, L. H.|
|Jackson, W. L.|
|Collings, J.||Jarvis, A. W.|
|Commerell, Adml. Sir J. E.||Jennings, L. J.|
|Corbett, J.||Kay-Shuttleworth, rt. hon. Sir U. J.|
|Corry, Sir J. P.|
|Courtney, L. H.||Kerans, F. H.|
|Craig, J.||Kimber, H.|
|Crawford, D.||King, H. S.|
|Crossley, E.||Knowles, L.|
|Dalrymple, Sir C.||Lawrence, W. F.|
|Davenport, H. T.||Leake, R.|
|Dawnay, Colonel hon. L. P.||Legh, T. W.|
|Dixon, G.||Llewellyn, E. H.|
|Dixon-Hartland, F. D.||Long, W. H.|
|Dorington, Sir J. E.||Maclean, J. M.|
|Buncombe, A.||M'Arthur, A.|
|Dyke, right hon. Sir W. H.||Madden, D. H.|
|Maple, J. B.|
|Egerton, hon. A. de T.||Matthews, rt. hon. H.|
|Elton, C. I.||Mattinson, M. W.|
|Ewart, Sir W.||Maxwell, Sir H. E.|
|Fenwick, C.||Milvain, T.|
|Fergusson, right hon. Sir J.||Morley, rt. hon. J.|
|Field, Admiral E.||Moss, R.|
|Fielden, T.||Mundella, rt. hn. A. J.|
|Fisher, W. H.||Murdoch, C. T.|
|Fitzgerald, R. U. P.||Noble, W.|
|Fitz - Wygram, Gen. Sir F. W.||Norris, E. S.|
|Northcote, hon. Sir H. S.|
|Fletcher, Sir H.|
|Flower, C.||O'Brien, J. F. X.|
|Folkestone, right hon. Viscount||Parker, C. S.|
|Pelly, Sir L.|
|Forwood, A. B.||Playfair, right hon. Sir L.|
|Fowler, rt. hn. H. H.|
|Fowler, Sir R. N.||Plunket, rt. hon. D. E.|
|Gardner, H.||Pomfret, W. P.|
|Gathorne-Hardy, hon. A. E.||Provand, A. D.|
|Raikes, rt. hon. H. C.|
|Gedge, S.||Rasch, Major F. C.|
|Giles, A.||Rathbone, W.|
|Gilliat, J. S.||Ritchie, rt. hn. C. T.|
|Robertson, Sir W. T.||Temple, Sir R.|
|Robertson, J. P. B.||Tomlinson, W. E. M.|
|Robinson, B.||Trevelyan, right hon. Sir G. O.|
|Sandys, Lieut.-Col. T. M.||Trotter, H. J.|
|Waring, Colonel T.|
|Selwyn, Capt. C. W.||Watson, J.|
|Sidebotham, J. W.||Webster, Sir R. E.|
|Smith, rt. hon. W. H.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Smith, A.||Will, J. S.|
|Smith, S.||Williams, A. J.|
|Spencer, hon. C. R.||Williams, J. Powell-|
|Stanhope, rt. hon. E.||Wortley, C. B. Stuart-|
|Stephens, H. C.||Wright, H. S.|
|Stewart, M. J.|
|Talbot, J. G.||Douglas, A. Akers-|
|Taylor, F.||Walrond, Col. W. H.|
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he would move to insert "half-past" after "at" in line 2. The effect of the Amendment would be that the House would meet on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday at half-past 3 o'clock, instead of at 3, as proposed by the Government. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had himself given a good reason for the Amendment, because he had pointed out that Committees of the House would sit till half-past 3; and if they did so it would be difficult for Members serving on Committees to find places in the House if it met at 3 o'clock. It was all very well for Members of the Government and for right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who sat upon the Front Opposition Bench to come strolling down to the House at half-past 3 and find their seats reserved for them; but, unfortunately, private Members would be obliged, if the House met at 3, to come down before 3 in order to secure a place. He had thought of putting down an Amendment in the Rule to the effect that it should not come into force until a scat was provided for every Member; but if the House was to meet at an earlier hour he hoped that the First Lord of the Treasury would agree to the modest proposal of a Committee to take into consideration whether means could not be adopted for enlarging the House so as to find seats for all its Members. That proposal was always opposed by the two Front Benches. And why was that? Because the two Front Benches had got their places; and they said to other Members—" Come down at 3 o'clock; come down and pray; come down and pray for us." Let them come down and pray for themselves, and know what it was to be dragged down half-an-hour before the House met in order to 1435 get a seat. He trusted that whether the hour of meeting was 3 or half-past 3, his suggestion as to the appointment of a Committee would be acceded to. There was a subsequent Amendment placed on the Paper by an hon. Gentleman that the hour of meeting should be 4 o'clock, but at present the House met at a quarter to 4; and he thought that it would be a reasonable proposal to split the difference and make the time of meeting half-past 3. Moreover, if they were not to have the hour's relaxation in the middle of the Sitting, even if they were to meet at half-past 3, the Sittings would last longer than the First Lord of the Treasury originally suggested. That was not a Party question; but one on which Members on both sides of the House ought to vote for what was best for the country and what was best for themselves.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 2, after the word "at," to insert the words "half-past."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'half-past' be there inserted."
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)
said, he had an Amendment upon the Paper providing that the House should continue to meet at 4 o'clock. It might be convenient to discuss his Amendment in conjunction with that of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Labouchere); and, therefore, he hoped the Speaker would see his way to put the Question, "That 'three' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. SPEAKER
It is not in my power to do that. I must put the Question, "That the words 'half-past' be there inserted." If the Question is negatived, it would be competent for the hon. Gentleman to move his Amendment.
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE
said, he did not propose any change in the existing arrangement. In spite of what the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) said, he asserted that the proper thing to do was to insert "4 o'clock," because he saw that on their Agenda Paper there was the Notice that the Speaker would take the Chair at 4 o'clock. [" No; a quarter to 4!"] Then he asked permission to move "a quarter to 4," so as not to alter the existing arrangement. He presumed that if "three" or "half-past three" were adopted, that would be prayer time, and the result would be very inconvenient 1436 for a large number, almost all the Members of the House. In the first place, the convenience of business men must be consulted, and it must be borne in mind that in these democratic days there were many more men of business in the House than formerly. Again, the expenses of Committees would be largely increased if the time for holding Committees was cut short. If hon. Members had to run away to secure seats, even though the Committees might agree to sit after the House had commenced Business, there would practically be a diminution of the time Members could give to Committee Business. [Cries of "Agreed, agreed!"] He should be very glad if the House would agree to his proposal. In any event, he hoped they would not agree to meet at 3 o'clock.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, that if the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) had any knowledge of the work which Members of the Government had to do, he would hardly talk of them strolling down to the House. It would undoubtedly be a convenience to a great many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen if the hour of meeting were fixed at a quarter to 4 instead of 3 o'clock. But the Government had to consider, in proposing Rules to govern the Business of the House, the convenience of the House, as a whole, and what time it was necessary to allow for the transaction of Public Business. The Government felt that when they asked the House to agree to conclude the Sittings at a given hour, they should also ask the House to meet somewhat earlier, in order that the time for discussion might not be unduly limited. Inasmuch as they proposed that the transaction of Opposed Business should cease at half-past 12, they thought it would be right to ask the House to meet at 3 o'clock. The question, however, was one for the House to decide. The Government could not take upon themselves the responsibility of seriously limiting the period for the transaction of Public Business; and, on the whole, they thought it right to adhere to the proposal to meet at 3 o'clock. Reference had been made by the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Gedge) to the serious inconvenience which might arise from the time allowed for the Sittings of Committees being cut short. His hon. 1437 Friend could hardly have been present when the question was raised in the general discussion which preceded the debate upon the first Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), or he would know that it was generally thought it would be reasonable, if the House rose earlier, that the Committees should meet earlier than now.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
said, he thought a way out of the difficulty raised by his hon. Friend's Motion would be found by agreeing to the proposal which he (Mr. John Morley) made when he addressed the House a short time ago, and which the First Lord of the Treasury did not look exactly unfavourably upon. The objection to meeting so early as 3 o'clock would to a considerable extent be met, if the right hon. Gentleman would agree to conclude Opposed Business at 12 o'clock, instead of half-past 12 o'clock, because then they would be rewarded for their virtue in coming down—strolling down or otherwise—at 3 o'clock, by being able to get away at 12 o'clock, so far as great debates were concerned. His right hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) had pointed out that half-an-hour would be too short a time for the House to get through the Legislative Business which was non-contentious, but which was, nevertheless, important and necessary. If the First Lord of the Treasury would accede to the suggestion to substitute 12 o'clock for half-past 12 o'clock, 1 o'clock might still remain in the paragraph at the bottom of the page, which would give an hour in which to get through the non-contentious Business on the Paper.
§ SIR ROBERT FOWLER (London)
said, he had much pleasure in supporting the Amendment of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), as he considered it a fair compromise. Four o'clock was, no doubt, a very convenient hour of meeting for a large number of Members. Speaking, as he did, on behalf of those who were men of business, it would be very inconvenient to come down to the House earlier than 4 o'clock. It would, too, be inconvenient for many Members of the Legal Profession to come down before that hour.
§ COLONEL NOLAN (Galway, N.)
said, that the First Lord of the Treasury did 1438 not sit upon a Committee more than once in five years, and therefore it was all very well for him to suggest that Committees should meet before 12 o'clock. He (Colonel Nolan) strongly objected to Committees being required to meet earlier. If Members were to get an hour's exercise after breakfast, it was absolutely impossible for them to meet before 12 o'clock. If they did not meet before 12 o'clock, the Sittings of Committees would be cut short, which would be most unwise. He trusted the House would see its way to adopt the suggestion of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere).
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE (Exeter)
said, the First Lord of the Treasury had said that the first business of the House was to consider the convenience of its Members. He (Sir Stafford Northcote) submitted it was even more important to consider how Public Business was to be carried on. If the House was to sit from 3 o'clock until half-past 12 that would allow of nine and a-half hours' discussion, but it would seriously curtail the hours during which Ministers had to transact their Departmental business. It was hardly possible for Ministers to get down to their offices before 10 o'clock, and that would allow them five hours in which to do their Departmental business, which was to be criticized in the House. He should be glad if the Leader of the House could see his way to make some such concession as that suggested.
§ MR. ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
said, it was necessary to bear in mind the important question raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) —namely, at what hour Public Business should close at night, because upon that one point many others depended. He was anxious that Public Business should close at midnight. Not alone would it be better for the House itself, but it would be striking a blow in favour of better hours for London generally. Moreover, if they closed Business at 12 o'clock, the advantage to the Press, particularly the country Press, would be very great; indeed, it would be a been which would be recognized and appreciated the country through. Reference had been made to the possible inconvenience of Ministers in respect to their Departmental work. Speaking as a business man, he believed that one hour 1439 spent by Ministers in their Departments before 12 o'clock was infinitely more useful than two hours hurriedly spent after 12 o'clock. Not only would Ministers be able to do their own work better, but they would be able to see the work in their Departments was done better. But if they closed Opposed Business at 12 o'clock, it seemed to follow inevitably that the House should meet at 3 o'clock. He did not see that there need be any curtailment of the time given to Committee work upstairs. Committees could meet at 11 o'clock, and in future it would be quite as easy for Members engaged in Committees to meet at 11 o'clock as to meet at 12 now, considering the late hours to which the House was often kept sitting.
§ MR. DIXON-HARTLAND (Middlesex, Oxbridge)
said, he agreed with the hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Sir Robert Fowler) that it would be impossible for business men to attend upon the House at 8 o'clock. The custom of the House was that to secure a seat a Member could affix his card to it if he were present at prayers. The House was not large enough to accommodate all its Members, and therefore the result of meeting at 3 would be that every business man and every man engaged in the law would be unable to secure a seat. He trusted that the First Lord of the Treasury would yield to the suggestion that they should meet at half-past 3 o'clock instead of 3.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, they had not only to consider the convenience of the House, but the question of the despatch of Business. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) had suggested that they should fix 12 o'clock as the hour at which Opposed Business should cease. If the Government accepted 12 o'clock instead of half-past 12, it appeared to be absolutely necessary they should adhere to the proposal to meet at 3 o'clock. His hon. Friend (Mr. Dixon-Hartland) had mentioned a difficulty with which he (Mr. W. H. Smith) fully sympathized. It was, of course, a matter of very considerable importance that hon. Members who frequented the House should be able to obtain a seat, and if any method could be found by which seats could be secured for Members who took an interest in the 1440 House without requiring them to come down at 3 o'clock he should be very glad to adopt it. But the paramount duty they had to discharge was to secure the due order of Business in the House under conditions which would conduce to its efficiency. After listening to the arguments which had been advanced on both sides of the House, he had come to the conclusion that 12 o'clock should be fixed as the hour when debate on Opposed Business should conclude. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) had referred to the Business which might follow Opposed Business. His (Mr. W. H. Smith's) impression was that the interval they had provided was sufficient in which to dispose of Unopposed Business. The right hon. Gentleman was under the impression that there might be discussion upon Business which was not opposed. If the right hon. Gentleman would put on the Paper any suggestion which would conduce to the transaction of Unopposed Business between 12 o'clock and a later hour, whether half-past 12 o'clock or 1 o'clock, he (Mr. W. H. Smith) would give it his best attention. He saw some difficulties in the way of the suggestion made, because it was exceedingly difficult to detect the character of any observations which might be made in reference to a Bill.
§ MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said, he greatly regretted to find himself on this question at variance with the occupants of the two Front Benches. He was in favour of eight hours' work for all men engaged in physical labour. The hon. Member spoke just now of the exhaustion of brain and body produced by the work of the House. The hon. Member's brain must be of a very weak kind. The brain work entailed in the case of the majority of Members in following the debates of the House was of the lightest possible description but, in his opinion, the physical labour was of a very severe and exhaustive description. He thought there ought to be a law in every country where it was necessary confining physical labour to eight hours out of the 24, and he did not see why they, legislators, who were undoubtedly condemned to work of the most laborious kind, should be required to have far more than eight hours a day. There was one point upon which they ought to have a thorough understanding, and 1441 that was what course the Government were going to adopt with regard to the proposed adjournment for dinner. Was that abandoned? [Cries of"Yes!"] He was very glad of that. From 4 o'clock until 12 o'clock was eight hours, and in his opinion it was sufficiently long to keep the House occupied.
MR. OSBORNE MOEG AN (Denbighshire, B.)
said the hon. Member for the Uxbridge Division of Middlesex (Mr. Dixon Hartland) and the hon. Member for the City of London (Sir Robert Fowler) had dwelt upon the great inconvenience which would result to business men and lawyers if the House met before four o'clock. What, however, they had to consider was the convenience of Members generally; and it seemed to him a monstrous thing that some 300 men of comparative leisure should be obliged to waste half the day and sit up half the night in order that 30 or 40 lawyers and bankers might make enormous incomes.
§ MR. HENRY H. FOWLER
said, he should like to have a distinct understanding from the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury as to the construction he placed upon the term "unopposed Business." There were two classes of what might be technically called "unopposed Business." There was the class of Business which, not being blocked, was allowed to be taken after half-past 12 on an ordinary night, and which consisted of measures of practical import, Government measures and other measures, and the carrying of Bills through stages of Committee which had previously passed the second reading. Practically, all second class Bills were now passed through Committee after half-past 12 o'clock at night. There was the other class of unopposed Business which occurred after a quarter to 6 on Wednesdays, when it was in the power of any individual Member of the House to stay all further progress in respect of that Business. Was he correct in understanding the First Lord of the Treasury to mean that after 12 o'clock, or half-past 12, it would be in the power of any individual Member of the House by saying "I object" to put a stop to all the Business upon the paper; because if so, he did not hesitate to say that the Business of the House would be brought to a standstill. It would be impossible to carry on 1442 either the legislation or the administration of the country if they put it in the power of any individual Member—and during the time he had been in the House there had always been individual Members ready to exercise that power, Members well known for their tendencies and powers in that direction—it would be in the power of any individual Member to stay progress in the case of 20 or 30 Government Orders and Bills of the greatest importance. If they were to do work after 12 o'clock, which, was now done after the close of a big debate, an hour was the very least time that ought to be allowed them.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, the right hon. Gentleman could hardly have read the last paragraph of the Rule, which stated that no opposed Business was to be taken after the close of the debate. He did not entertain the fears the right hon. Gentleman appeared to entertain as to the course of Public Business, or as to the course of Government Business. It would be in the power of the Government to ask the House to consider early in the evening measures which were now taken at the end of the evening, so that consideration might be given to them in the manner, and to the extent to which he was sure the right hon. Gentleman thought consideration should be given. As far as Private Bills were concerned, he trusted that the House would exercise due discretion and due judgment in reference to Bills promoted by private Members. If there was a fixed hour of closing, the danger which the right hon. Gentleman referred to must, under any circumstances, be encountered. It would be obviously quite possible for any two or three Members to occupy, in the discussion of any Bill, all the time allowed in order to shut out all other Business. There must be on the part of the House a desire fairly to promote the progress of Business.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:— Ayes 100; Noes 214: Majority 114.—(Div. List, No. 14.)
§ MR. BROADHURST (Nottingham, W.)
said, he rose for the purpose of moving the Amendment which stood on the Paper in his name, and he would like to say a few words in support of it. His proposal was as follows:—In line 3 1443 to leave out the words "One of the clock a.m.," and insert "half-past Eleven of the clock." He would ask the right hon. Gentleman's attention to his principal reason for moving this Amenedment, and it was that the later hour named in the right hon. Gentleman's proposal would still leave the evils which the right hon. Gentleman complained of unremedied and untouched. His (Mr. Broadhurst's) object in desiring that the adjournment should take place at an early hour was to give all Members of the House opportunities of selecting their own means of returning home, which they did not possess at present. Up till now all hon. Members had either to walk home or to pay expensive cab hire. The latter might be within the reach of right hon. Members, but there were a number of Members who could not indulge in it, such number being rather on the increase than the decrease in future elections. It was a curious fact that nearly all the train services in the metropolis ceased at 12 o'clock, or very near that hour, and that omnibus services ceased at somewhere about the same time. If Members could leave the House at half-past 11, or certainly not later than 12, they would be able to travel comparatively long distances for a small sum, and would be able to occupy much cheaper residences than could be obtained within easy walking distance of the House. Then there were a great number of people employed in the House who were not Members, to whom it was of still greater importance that they should leave earlier in order to proceed home by train, or a cheaper mode of transit than a cab, and in their name, as well as in the name of many hon. Members, he pressed his Amendment upon the House. He did not believe in the argument used by the right hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler), nor in the fears entertained by right hon. Members opposite—namely, that it was possible to coerce Members of the House into a more expedient mode of transacting their Business by Rules or hours of sitting. It would be necessary to trust to reason, and he entirely endorsed the remarks of his hon. Friend below the Gangway (Mr. Dillon) that eight hours work of the kind transacted by Members of Parliament was quite sufficient, and was quite as much as could be done 1444 efficiently and to the satisfaction of the country. While the Government were engaged in this sensible re-arrangement of the Rules of the House, he hoped they would freely work and do it thoroughly. He was certain of this, that in a very few Sessions, if not at once, the House and the country would find that they had lost nothing by reducing their hours of labour, but that they had added greatly to the efficiency of the work they are doing. He believed they would in the future be able to do quite as much work as they had done in longer hours in the past. He had no fear that the arrangement proposed would result in lengthening the Session. He did not believe that the proposal of the Government, even if his (Mr. Broadhurst's) Amendment were accepted, would add a fortnight to the length of the Session, but thought, on the contrary, it would rather have a tendency to shorten it. The lessening of the number of hours they sat would certainly be a great blessing to every Member of the House, both physically and mentally, and he believed that the legislation passed by the House would be more thorough, because it would be performed by men who were more competent than hon. Members were at present by reason of late sittings. On that subject he had received a great number of promises of support from both sides of the House, and he hoped that, should the First Lord of the Treasury not agree to accept his Amendment, he would at any rate assure his Followers that they were perfectly at liberty to vote as they chose on the question, and were not to be guided by the Whips at the door as they entered the House to take part in a division. He would not trespass on the House more than to express a hope that hon. Members fully gathered his reason for moving the Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 34, to leave out the words, "One of the clock a.m.," and to insert the words, "half-past Eleven of the clock p.m."—(Mr. Broadhurst.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
said, that he was in favour of the Amendment which had been moved; but there was 1445 also an Amendment of his own that the hour of closing should be 12 o'clock, subject to the disposal of unopposed Business. Perhaps it would be convenient for the First Lord of the Treasury to tell the House now whether, 3 o'clock having been adopted as a time of meeting, he did not propose to accept his Amendment to terminate opposed Business at midnight.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, that it was understood, when the hour for commencing Business was fixed at 3 o'clock, that the Amendment would subsequently be agreed to providing for the termination of opposed Business at 12 o'clock. That was his answer to the Amendment. It was obvious that they could not adjourn the House at half-past 11, unless they agreed to close their debates at a much earlier hour. What had taken place in the House was, he thought, sufficient to show that the feeling and sense of the House was against the closing of opposed Business earlier than 12 o'clock. Much as he desired to meet the views of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Broadhurst) and the convenience of those he represented, he was compelled, in the interests of the convenience of the House itself, to adhere to the Rule he proposed, and to ask the House to close its Business at 12 o'clock. As the hon. Member was aware, the hour would remain as in the original Resolution, unless the Amendment were withdrawn and another Amendment were proposed. He (Mr. W. H. Smith) did not attach any great importance to leaving the hour for adjournment at 1 o'clock, because, as hon. Members would see, the meaning of the Rule was that the House should meet at 3 o'clock, and continue until 1, unless previously adjourned. If, therefore, the House decided to conclude its opposed Business at 12 o'clock, the House might adjourn at any moment thereafter that the unopposed Business was got rid of, provided it was before 1 o'clock. The House would adjourn at 1 o'clock in any event — whether the unopposed Business was disposed of or not. The House would see that it was not material that they should alter the hour from 1 o'clock to any earlier hour, although the fact that they had practically agreed in concluding opposed Business at 12 o'clock might appear to leave it open to doubt that they would sit till 1 o'clock. 1446 Of course, the House would adjourn as soon as the Business was got through.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
said, he thought it meet that they should understand what the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury meant by the word "opposed." At the present time, they could not oppose a Bill after it had got into Committee. They could oppose a Bill on second reading, and on going into Committee; but when once it got into Committee, he presumed it would be taken as unopposed Business. If the Government meant by "opposing," the opposition of any one Member to a measure or a Motion, the House was aware that that opposition practically meant that five minutes after the hour fixed for the adjournment of the debate, all kinds of Business on the Paper would be disposed of. Did the Government mean that a Bill, on getting into the stage of Committee, or any later stage, could be opposed as measures could now be opposed, after a quarter before 6 on Wednesdays? Did they mean that any one Member could prevent any Business being proceeded with?
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, that it was, perhaps, not in the power of the First Lord of the Treasury to pronounce on this matter more authoritatively than any other Member of the House. What was opposed Business was perfectly well understood, especially in relation to Business taken after a quarter before 6 o'clock. The same understanding would apply in connection with Business taken between 12 and 1 o'clock in future, whether Bills were in Committee or not. If a Motion was made to proceed with any Bill, and if a Member got up in his place and merely said "I object," further progress would be stopped; not only in the case of the second reading, but in the case of a Bill in Committee if a Member challenged a Division, it at once became opposed Business, and could not be dealt with. Therefore, it was probable, if the House were to stop opposed Business at 12 o'clock, and the present Order was maintained, in the course of 10 minutes all Business on the Paper would be got through, unless there was a great change in the authoritative ways of independent Members. It had been argued that it would be convenient to alter the hour for the adjournment of the House 1447 from 1 o'clock to an earlier hour; but he (Mr. Courtney) did not agree with those who expressed that opinion, and he did not think the House would suffer anything in having the later period fixed. The House would rise when its Business was disposed of. They were making a great experiment, of which no one could quite foresee the working, and it might come to pass that, after a little time, they might find that the necessary Business of the House could not be done under these Rules. Then it might be found convenient to alter the principle about to be laid down. He would suggest that the hour of 1 o'clock should be maintained, and that the question should be left open for some definition of the Business to be done between 12 and 1 o'clook. He would urge that the word "One" should be maintained, although that hour might never be reached, or anything near it.
MR. BROAD HURST
said, that if it was the general wish of the House that the hour of 12 should be fixed, after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman opposite he would withdraw his Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said he desired to move the omission of the following paragraph: —That at Eight of the clock the Speaker or Chairman, as the case may be, shall suspend the sitting by leaving the Chair until Nine of the clock. If, after the resumption of Business, at Nine of the clock, and before a quarter-past Nine, notice be taken that 40 Members are not present, the Speaker or Chairman shall, unless 40 Members are sooner present, suspend the sitting until a quarter-past Nine, when he shall count the House or Committee.These words constituted a portion of the Rule providing for the dinner hour, and it had been understood that he would not press them.
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)
said, that if these words were left out, he would be precluded from moving an Amendment to them. Could he bring on his Amendment as a substantive Motion later on?
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, that the hon. Member's Amendment would be in keeping with a later part of the Resolution and could be moved later on.
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the proposed new Rule," put, and negatived.
§ Amendment proposed, in Rule I, line 14, to omit the words "half-an-hour after."—(Mr. W. H. Smith.)
§ Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Rule," put, and negatived.
§ MR. DONALD CRAWFORD (Lanark, N.E.)
said, he wished to move the following Amendment:—Rule I, line 16, after "interrupted," leave out to end of line 25, and insert, "and the question then under consideration shall be put, unless at the times before mentioned a Motion shall be made, 'That the Debate be now adjourned,' which Motion shall be decided without Amendment or Debate. If such Motion be resolved in the affirmative, the Business under consideration shall stand adjourned until the next day on which the House shall sit. If the Motion be resolved in the negative, the Question under consideration shall be put forthwith.He said the Amendment he had to move was a very simple one, but he thought it required a few words of very brief explanation — more than any of the Amendments which had preceded it. The object of his Amendment was to decide what was to become of the Business under consideration at the close of the evening, and whether the arrangement proposed by the Government was best, or whether another was not more desirable and more natural and even more consonant with the spirit of the whole Rule which they were discussing. He should like to point out to the House that if the Rule remained exactly as it stood, every night in the week would become the same as the Wednesday was at present. Whatever Business was under discussion at the close of the day would stand adjourned until the following day; and they all knew from experience that the Procedure on Wednesdays frequently led to a great waste of time, and was a great inducement to the practice of talking out Business. Accordingly the object of his Amendment was to produce what had been described as an 1449 "automatic closure." That was an object which had no pretension to novelty. Indeed, he was surprised that no other hon. Member had put an Amendment on the Paper to this effect. When the Rules of last year were under the consideration of the House, there was an Amendment to the same effect in the name of an hon. Member, and he knew that other hon. Members and that a right hon. Gentleman of great experience on the Front Bench had favoured the idea, and had in previous years devoted attention to it. The difference between the proposed new Rule and his proposal was simply as to what was to be the ordinary Rule. His proposition was that, as an ordinary Rule, a debate should continue until 12 o'clock, at which hour the question under discussion should be put, and the debate concluded; but that it was to be open to any Member of the House to move the adjournment of the debate, if there was a desire that the debate should be adjourned, and the question of adjournment would be decided without Amendment or debate. The proposal of the Government, on the other hand, was that, as an ordinary Rule, there should not be an immediate conclusion of the Business under discussion. He did not think it had been made quite clear what was the meaning of the Speaker ascertaining by the majority the voice of the House. It contained the admission that it might be very inconvenient for Business to be adjourned till next day, and he thought it would be much more consistent if the opinion of the House were taken at the close of the evening, unless there were reasons to the contrary.
Amendment proposed,In line 16, to leave out from the word "interrupted," to the word "day," in line 25 inclusive, in order to insert the words "and the Question then under consideration shall he put, unless at the times before mentioned a Motion shall be made 'That the Debate be now adjourned,' which Motion shall be decided without Amendment or Debate. If such Motion be resolved in the affirmative, the Business under consideration shall stand adjourned until the next day on which the House shall sit. If the Motion be resolved in the negative, the Question under consideration shall be put forthwith."—(Mr. Donald Crawford.)Question,That the words, 'and, if the House be in Committee, the Chairman shall leave the Chair, and make his Report to the House; and if a Motion has been proposed for the Adjournment 1450 of the House, or of the Debate, or in Committee, That the Chairman do report Progress, or do leave the Chair, that every such dilatory Motion shall lapse without Question put; and the Business then under consideration, and any Business subsequently appointed, shall tie appointed for the next day on which the House shall sit,' stand part of the Question.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, the Government, in framing these Rules, had fully considered the proposal which the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had made; but it was found that there was a serious objection to it. It was exceedingly probable that a question might be brought under the consideration of the House at a very short time before the hour for closing the debate had arrived. It might be a Bill, a Motion, or a Vote in Supply, and by the Rule proposed by the hon. and learned Member automatic closure would immediately take place. It would be a very inconvenient thing to introduce a Rule which would in many cases force a premature closing of the debate on an important question. The Government were, therefore, of opinion that the question should be raised in a formal manner, that the closure of the debate should take place. The words of the Rule had been fully considered and duly weighed by the highest authorities, and, under all the circumstances, he thought it best to adhere to the Rule as it stood.
§ MR. DONALD CRAWFORD
said, that by the words he proposed the Question could be put, "That the Debate be adjourned," and if carried there would be no Division on the Main Question. The decision would rest with the House, and not with Mr. Speaker.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, the proposal of the hon. and learned Member would give the majority the power of closing the debate without discussion, which was a thing he should hesitate to recommend.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 23, to leave out from the word "sit" to the word "day," in line 25, inclusive.—(Mr. Francis Powell.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
said, he regretted that the Amend- 1451 ment he was about to move—which, was of some importance—was not on the Paper. Under the Rule as it stood, when 12 o'clock was reached they might be in this position—that the second reading of a Bill having been moved, an Amendment might have been proposed to leave out "this day" and insert "this day six months," and the Question might be "That the words proposed to be left out; stand part of the Motion." If then, the Closure was to apply to that, and that alone, the result would be that the House might take a Division on the Question "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Motion," and then stop. But he (Mr. Courtney) thought the House ought to be allowed to proceed to the Question "That the Bill be read a second time." He believed the intention of the present Rule was to apply the Closure Rule of last year in its entirety at the suspension of Business at 12 o'clock. If that was the case, he submitted that the Rule should be read thus—The Speaker or Chairman shall not leave the Chair until the Questions consequent thereon, and any further Motion as provided in the Rule 'Closure of Debate,' have been decided.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 29, after the word "thereon," to insert the words, "and on any further Motion."— (Mr. Leonard Courtney.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he had not the least objection to the Amendment. He was under the impression that the object of the hon. Gentleman was already provided for in the Rule, but it was better always to avoid the possibility of a difference of opinion arising in future.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 31, to leave out the words "half-past."—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words ' half-past' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. HENEY H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
said, the House had decided that the Main Question under discussion should cease at 12 o'clock, and it was also decided that they were willing to sit until a quarter to 1 o'clock to deal with what was called the routine business of the evening. The 1452 right hon. Gentleman had also said that if they were to have a Rule for closing the Sittings of the House at a fixed hour, there must be an intervening period during which unopposed business could be taken. To that he (Mr. H. H. Fowler) assented. He asked the House to concede that the interval between 12 o'clock and a quarter to 1 should be available for carrying on any business on the Paper, and not at the mercy of any individual Member who might put a stop on the Paper. He would propose that the Rule should read thus—After the Business under consideration at a quarter before 1 has been disposed of, no fresh opposed Business shall be taken.If the Rule remained, as at present, it would result that nothing but great measures would be carried during the Session; Bills and Motions relating to the ordinary Administration of the great offices could not be proceeded with because they would be at the mercy of private Members. He feared that if the Rule remained in its present form it would break down completely in five or six weeks, and they would be in a worse position than at present.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that the House had already decided that the Business of the House should close at 12 o'clock. The effect of the right hon. Gentleman's proposal would be to prolong opposed Business till a quarter to 1. He believed that the difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman wished to obviate could be met by a judicious arrangement of Public Business. The Government would put down minor Bills of a contentious character as the first Business of the evening, and they would be considered between half-past 3 and half-past 4 or 5 o'clock. His experience was that a Member who desired to prevent the third Order, for instance, being taken, would prolong the discussion on the second, and by that means the time would arrive when the Rule for closing came into operation. He was afraid that, having adopted the early closing Rule, they must submit to the conditions attached to it. While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for the assistance which he desired to render the Government, he (Mr. W. H. Smith) was obliged to express his opinion that this proposal was not a practicable one, that it would not work to the right hon. 1453 Gentleman's satisfaction, and that it might be availed of for the purposes of obstruction.
§ MR. W. A. M'ARTHUR (Cornwall, Mid, St. Austell)
said, he thought the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) was a very useful one, and should certainly give it his support.
§ MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, E.)
said, that what he understood his right hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) to propose was that between 12 o'clock and a quarter to 1, the Business which the present half-past 12 o'clock Rule admitted to be taken should continue to be taken. He put it to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) and his Colleagues, whether that was not a very reasonable proposal? Under the operation of the present half-past 12 o'clock Rule Business of great value was taken, Business which in one sense might be opposed, but which in another sense was unopposed. He thought the Government would do well to accept the proposition of his right hon. Friend.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he understood the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. H. H. Fowler) to suggest that the Business which was at present unblocked, and was taken after half-past 12 o'clock, should be taken between 12 o'clock and a quarter to 1 o'clock if it was opposed. It was obvious, then, that any Member who really opposed the Business would have the power of stopping it.
§ MR. HENEY H. FOWLER
Not if the Bill has passed a second reading, and the Speaker is out of the Chair.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he thought the right hon. Gentleman would see that if there was a real disposition to oppose Business, it should not be proceeded with. He recalled the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that the House had practically decided to conclude Public Business, so far as opposed Business was concerned, at 12 o'clock, upon the understanding that the House met at 3 o'clock. If three-quarters of an hour, or an hour, were allowed afterwards for the transaction of the Business on the Paper, his impression was that if there was the 1454 slightest opposition to any measure, it would not be possible to pass it through any stage at all. It was an easy matter to occupy three-quarters of an hour in what was called "reasonable discussion." There was opposed Business and there was unopposed Business. If Business was unopposed it would pass, but if it was opposed, the fact that they had got an absolute closure at a quarter to 1 o'clock would make it quite certain that they would make no progress with the Business, but they would all be kept there until a quarter to 1 o'clock.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. HENEY H. FOWLER
said, he did not intend to put the House to the trouble of a Division. This was an experiment, and they would all see how it would work. Proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)
said, he proposed to omit the words "by a Minister of the Crown," in line 35. He understood that the object of this paragraph was on the occasion of great debates to give an opportunity of extending the time for discussion on probably the concluding night only. It seemed to him there was no reason for limiting the making of that Motion to a Minister of the Crown, and on general grounds there was no precedent for a Rule of this kind. Besides, the expression "a Minister of the Crown" was somewhat ambiguous. He did not know how far it would include hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who sat on the Government Bench or not. The only kind of precedent there could be for anything of the sort was that it was only one of Her Majesty's Ministers who could make a Motion which would put a charge on the Public Revenue. But that was a totally different matter to this. During the discussions on the Rules of the House, especially on the question of closure, the House negatived the idea that the Motion for Closure should be limited either to a Minister or a Privy Councillor, preferring that it should be competent for any individual Member of the House to move the Closure, and, as they all knew, private Members had moved it. Upon Constitutional as well as pracitcal grounds, he was of opinion that these words ought to be omitted.
1455 Amendment proposed, in line 35, to leave out the words "by a Minister of the Crown."—(Mr. Buchanan.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words 'by a Minister of the Crown' stand part of the Question."
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, that these words were inserted in order to provide that a competent Member of the House should be the person to make the Motion. There was no desire to restrict the making of the Motion to a Minister of the Crown as a special privilege. It was usual, when a Motion of this character was to be made, that it should be made by a responsible Member. It was a customary thing for a responsible Member of the Opposition to ask whether it was the intention of the Government to suspend the Standing Order, and it was afterwards understood that if a Motion for the suspension of a Standing Order was made, it would be made by the Minister who was responsible for the conduct of the Business of the House of Commons for the time being. If it was the feeling of the House that the words "by a Minister of the Crown" should be omitted, he had no objection to offer. Of course, it must be borne in mind that a Motion could only be made after Notice of it had been placed upon the Paper. He trusted that this explanation would satisfy the hon. and learned Gentleman.
§ MR. BUCHANAN
said, he desired to ask if it was not a fact that there was absolutely no precedent for a limitation of this kind upon the rights of individual Members?
§ SIR ROBERT FOWLER
said, he would remind hon. Members that the words "Ministers of the Crown" were inserted by the then Government in the Rules proposed in 1881. Similar words were also inserted in Rules passed in the time and upon the recommendation of the late Lord Beaconsfield.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he would advise his hon. and learned Friend not to persevere with his Amendment, as it was quite understood that the words meant the Leader of the House or someone representing that Gentleman.
§ SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT (Sussex, N.W.)
said, that these words raised a very important question. There were many Ministers of the Crown who would not trench on the time of the 1456 House by asking for this kind of indulgence. If, however, the power were exercised very often it would become an absolute abuse, and they would be in precisely the same position as before the Rule was passed. A great debate might last for three or four nights, and upon each night it might be asked that the debate should be continued beyond 12 o'clock. If my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House (Mr. W. H. Smith) gave them the assurance that it was only on some extraordinary occasion that it was intended this Motion should be made, he saw no objection to these words remaining in the Rule.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he had no hesitation whatever in giving his hon. and gallant Friend the assurance he required. He could hardly suppose it was probable a Minister of the Crown could desire to prolong debates beyond the period decided for the closing of Business. The object in view was to afford the opportunity of closing a great debate in a manner which would conduce to the proper conclusion of very grave and important questions. It would be obviously improper that the Minister or the Member of the Opposition who had to wind up a very important debate should be exposed to the necessity of crowding his observations into a few minutes.
§ MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
said, they were told that the words meant the Leader of the House for the time being. But the words as they stood said something quite different. They included any Junior Lord of the Treasury, and he objected strongly to leave the House at the mercy of any irresponsible Member of the Government. They had perfect confidence in the present Leader of the House; but it was reasonable to suppose the right hon. Gentleman would not always be the Leader of the House.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, the Government had adopted words which they believed would lead to the protection of the House, If these words be omitted it would give the right to any hon. Member to get up at half-past 4 o'clock, and move that the proceedings on a particular Bill in which he was interested should not be concluded at 12 o'clock. The privilege might be exercised by hon. Members very much to the inconvenience of the House. He did not think the hon. and learned Gen- 1457 tleman (Mr. Haldane) need, have any fear that the power would be exercised by any Junior Lord of the Treasury.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment proposed, line 38, leave out "half -past."— (Mr. W. B. Smith.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Rule."
§ MR. C. T. D. ACLAND (Cornwall, Launceston)
said, he would like to ask what would be the position of the House in reference to the blocking of Bills? As he understood the matter, the present custom of blocking would be entirely done away with. Would a notice of opposition to a Bill be considered to render that Bill an opposed Bill?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, the present process of blocking would entirely disappear under the new system, but it would be quite open to any Member to give Notice of opposition. A Notice of opposition did not of itself constitute opposition.
§ Question put, and negatived.
§ MR. HOWORTH (Salford, S.)
said, the proposition he had now to make was one suggested to him by several hon. Members on both sides of the House as being one likely to be extremely convenient. It would be in the recollection of the House that very often last Session the House sat in Committee to a very late hour of the morning, and that it was necessary for the Speaker to sit up the whole night in order to perform the mere perfunctory duty of closing the Sitting. It seemed to him (Mr. Howorth) it would be well if the House, like every other Legislative Assembly in Europe, empowered its Speaker to appoint a Deputy to perform a perfunctory duty of this kind. It would be distinctly a great relief to the Speaker if he could depute the Chairman of Committees to perform this duty. If there were any occasions on which it was necessary that the Speaker should be recalled for the purpose of assisting the Chairman of Committees, that was provided for by the words he had inserted in his Amendment. If he might, he would add another clause to the Amendment, providing that the Speaker should be able to depute someone to take the Chair between 8 and 10 o'clock at night.
§ Amendment proposed,
§ At the end of the Question, to add the words —" That whenever the House is in Committee at half-past Twelve of the clock a.m. the Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means may, at the request of Mr. Speaker, take the Chair as Deputy Speaker, for the purpose of concluding the Business of the Sitting."—(Mr. Howorth.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he was inclined to think that his Amendment, which came next, was better than that of the hon. Gentleman.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton was much wider than that proposed by the hon. Member for Salford.
§ MR. HOWORTH
said, he was willing to withdraw his Amendment in favour of that of the hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Amendment proposed,
§ At the end of the Question, to add the words—"That the Chairman of Ways and Means do take the Chair as Deputy Speaker when requested so to do by Mr. Speaker without any formal communication to the House. And that Mr. Speaker do nominate, at the commencement of every Session, a panel of not more than five Members to act as temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested by the Chairman of Ways and Means."—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
said, he entirely concurred in the object of the Amendment, but thought the hon. Gentleman should insert words which would bring it into force in the Session already begun.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, that if the House desired it, he would accept the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Northampton. It appeared to be a very reasonable proposal; it would be an improvement in their procedure that the Speaker himself should nominate five Members to act as temporary Chairmen of Committees.
§ MR. HOWORTH
said, he wished to know whether the Amendment enabled Mr. Speaker to depute the Chairman of Committees to close a Sitting?
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the Amendment did not mention that, but of course Mr. Speaker would be able to depute such power to the Chairman of Committees.
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, he hoped he should not be misunderstood in what he was about to say; but he thought the second part of the proposal a considerable innovation in the practice of the House. No doubt, the choice Mr. Speaker would make would be excellent; but the House appointed its own Speaker and Chairman, and he would ask whether it would not be a great revolution in their established customs by a single Rule to invest the Speaker with authority to appoint five additional Chairmen?
§ MR. RAIKES
pointed out that Mr. Speaker was able, by the existing Rules of the House, to appoint five Deputy Speakers, and if he was competent to do that, surely he was more than competent to appoint five Deputy Chairmen.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he had the following Amendment on the Paper:—Rule 1, leave out lines 8 to 13, inclusive, and insert,—" That if, during the first quarter of an hour from the resumption of business after the Speaker or Chairman has retired from the Chair, notice be taken that 40 Members are not present, the Speaker or Chairman shall, unless 40 Members are sooner present, suspend the sitting until the termination of the said quarter of an hour, when he shall count the House or the Committee.He proposed to alter the Amendment by leaving out the words "from the resumption of business," and by substituting the words "returned to" for "retired from." The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury (Mr. W. H. Smith) had pointed out the inconvenience and trouble that would often occur from some hon. Member taking it into his head to move a Count directly Mr. Speaker returned from his temporary retirement. The right hon. Gentleman had expressed a hope that hon. Members would not put the House to this inconvenience; but it seemed to him (Mr. Labouchere) that it would be well for them to prevent it as far as they could. This Rule would be a great advantage to the Whips, who, as a rule, had great difficulty in keeping hon. Members during the dinner hour. The greatest trouble would be at about 9 o'clock.
At the end of the Question, to add the words.—"That if, during the first quarter of an hour after the Speaker or Chairman has
returned to the Chair, notice be taken that 40 Members are not present, the Speaker or Chairman shall, unless 40 Members are sooner present, suspend the sitting until the termination of the said quarter of an hour, when he shall count the House or the Committee."— (Mr. Labouchere.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)
said, he had given Notice of an Amendment which he thought would effect the desired object better than the words of the hon. Member for Northampton. By his Amendment no notice would be taken that 40 Members were not present between 8 and 10 o'clock, but if on a Division between those hours it should appear that 40 Members were not present, Business would be suspended until 10 o'clock, at which hour notice could be taken that 40 Members were not present. The House had done something to give Mr. Speaker a rest, but it had done nothing as yet to take rest itself. It would give hon. Members a rest if they knew that between 8 and 10—just as between 12 and 4 on a Wednesday—the House could not be counted. He would submit his Amendment to the House.
§ MR. SPEAKER
The House already has an Amendment before it. If that Amendment is unsuccessful, of course it will be competent for the hon. Member to bring his on.
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE
Would the hon. Member for Northampton accept his (Mr. Gedge's) Amendment in place of his own?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he understood the hon. Member for Northampton to propose that if on the Speaker's return to the Chair notice should be taken that there were not 40 Members present, and there should not be that number of Members in their places when the House was counted, the Sitting would be suspended for a quarter of an hour with Mr. Speaker in the Chair. It would be rather hard on Mr. Speaker that he should be kept in the House for that time while hon. Members were being brought in to form a House. There would be practically a suspension of Business during which the Speaker only would suffer, and he would surfer very often, for 40 Members would have no inducement to enter the House before 1461 the expiration of a quarter of an hour, for there would be no danger of the House being counted. The Member interrupted by the Count would be left in the House; and he and the Speaker would have to sit looking at each other for a quarter of an hour, which would hardly be a dignified condition of things. He certainly could not consent to the proposal of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stockport, which would only add to the difficulties of the case.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he thought his proposal, if accepted, would obviate a good deal of trouble. But if the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House did not think so, he would not press it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
Resolved, That, unless the House otherwise order, the House shall meet every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, at Three of the clock, and shall, unless previously adjourned, sit till One of the Clock a.m., when the Speaker shall adjourn the House without Question put, unless a Bill originating in Committee of Ways and Means, or unless proceedings made in pursuance of any Act of Parliament or Standing Order, or otherwise exempted, as hereinafter provided, from the operation of this Standing Order, he then under consideration.
That at midnight on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, except as aforesaid, and at half-past Five of the clock on Wedesdays, the proceedings on any business then under consideration shall be interrupted; and, if the House be in Committee, the Chairman shall leave the Chair, and make his report to the House; and if a Motion has been proposed for the Adjournment of the House, or of the Debate, or in Committee That the Chairman do report Progress, or do leave the Chair, every such dilatory Motion shall lapse without Question put; and the business then under consideration, and any business subsequently appointed, shall be appointed for the next day on which the House shall sit, unless the Speaker ascertains by the preponderance of voices that a Majority of the House desires that such business should be deferred until a later day.
Provided always, That on the interruption of business the Closure may be moved, and if moved, or if proceedings under the Closure Rule be then in progress, the Speaker or Chairman shall not leave the Chair, until the Questions consequent thereon and on any further Motion, as provided in the Rule "Closure of Debate," have been decided.
That after the business under consideration at Twelve, and half-past Five respectively, has been disposed of, no opposed business shall be taken; and the Orders of the Day not disposed of at the close of the sitting shall stand for the next day on which the House shall sit.
That a Motion may be made by a Minister of the Crown at the commencement of Public Business, to be decided without Amendment or Debate, to the following effect: "That the proceedings on any specified business if under discussion at Twelve this night, be not interrupted under the Standing Order 'Sittings of the House.'
Provided always, That after any business exempted from the operation of this Resolution is disposed of, the remaining business of the sitting shall be dealt with according to the provisions applicable to business taken after Twelve o'clock.
Provided also, That the Chairman of Ways and Means do take the Chair as Deputy Speaker when requested so to do by Mr. Speaker without any formal communication to the House. And that Mr. Speaker do nominate, at the commencement of every Session, a panel of not more than five Members to act as temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested by the Chairman of Ways and Means.