§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
I rise to move the Motion that stands in my name—namely,That whenever the Local Government (England and Wales) Bill is appointed for a Tuesday it shall have priority over all Orders of the Day and Notices of Motion, and that so much of the Order for Morning Sittings of the 7th of June as relates to Tuesday be rescinded.I wish to call the attention of the House to the fact that the Bill I have referred to is one of great intricacy and detail, and that, although we have been en- 80 gaged upon it in Committee for 10 days, we have only made progress with it to the extent of 10 or 11 clauses. There are 125 clauses in the Bill, and I am sorry to say that there are 480 Amendments of which Notice has been given that remain to be disposed of, altogether irrespective of a number of new clauses that cover several pages of the Order Book. Under these circumstances, I trust that the House will not think that I am making an unreasonable demand in asking for further facilities for proceeding with that measure. I trust that hon. Members who are affected by this proposal will see the necessity for the request I am making, and as I believe it is the desire of hon. Members on both sides that this Bill should be passed this Session, I trust that the proposal I am making will receive the cordial assistance of the House.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That whenever the Local Government (England and Wales) Bill is appointed for a Tuesday it shall have priority over all Orders of the Day and Notices of Motion, and that so much of the Order for Morning Sittings of the 7th of June as relates to Tuesday be rescinded.
—(Mr. William Henry Smith.)
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
The House must naturally feel that the right hon. Gentleman is most reluctant to demand any further interference with the rights of private Members. Undoubtedly the case is a very remarkable one, arising out of the nature of the subject, and I think that the demand of the right hon. Gentleman is, under the circumstances, quite fair, and I hope that the House will freely accede to it. I wish, however, to take this opportunity of saying that there are two subjects upon which it might be for the convenience of the House that we should receive information either to-day or on some day not very far distant. The first point is, that the House will be glad to know whether we can now understand that, with a view of winding up the Session at some time or another, we have before us all the Bills of importance which it is the intention of the Government to present during this Session. I do not say all the Bills, because I am well aware that departmental necessities frequently require the presentation of a number of Bills of minor importance towards the close of the Session. If more Bills of 81 importance are to be introduced before the close of the Session, I think that the time has now come for introducing them or for making known their name and character. I further wish to know whether the right hon. Gentleman will, as soon as he is able, give any light as to the intention of the Government to proceed with the Bills they have already introduced. I think that we have reached a period of the Session when information of the kind is generally asked for. I do not, however, press for any conclusive statement from the right hon. Gentleman on these matters to-day.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
In a few days I hope to be able to satisfy the right hon. Gentleman upon the points which he has raised. There is one Bill which I hope to be able to introduce, and which I do not think will become the subject of any great amount of discussion. It is a Bill to create a Minister of Agriculture. It will be small in the point of volume, and I trust that it will not excite opposition even from the most economical Members of the House. With regard to the other measures to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, I will consult with my Colleagues and will give the information, as to the intentions of the Government, at the earliest possible date.
§ MR. S. SMITH (Flintshire)
said, he had a Motion on Evening Continuation Schools on the Paper for Tuesday. He, however, would not oppose the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, but hoped that facilities might be given at a later date for the discussion of the subject of evening continuation schools, in which a great interest was taken by the working classes.
§ MR. DILLWYN (Swansea, Town)
said, he thought that the Government were making this demand for further restrictions upon the rights of private Members at too early a period of the Session. Private Members always got the worst of it when the two Front Benches united to press on Public Business. The Government had had this year additional powers, which they had freely used, and extra facilities ought not so early to be asked for. He had special claims with respect to his Motion. He hoped the Government would consider the reasonableness of his request, and give an opportunity to 82 favourably discuss the question of the Welsh Church in the course of the present Session.
§ SIR EDWARD BIRKBECK (Norfolk, E.)
said, he wished to ask when the Bill relating to the Minister of Agriculture would be introduced? The Bill had been often promised. The right hon. Gentleman had given the same answer with reference to its introduction on five different occasions during the Session. The Representatives of agricultural constituencies wished to know whether the Bill was to be introduced in that House or in the House of Lords, and when? Even if the Bill did not pass this Session, the agricultural interest wished to see it, and its provisions could be discussed with advantage during the recess.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)
said, he wished to ask what the intentions of the Government were with respect to Scottish Business? He would remind the Government that last year it was not until August they brought forward their legislative programme for Scotland. He had not the least desire that the Government should undertake legislation for Scotland, but if the Government were going to bring forward legislation they ought to introduce it in a reasonable time, when there was a prospect of discussing it fairly. Unless the Government gave the House some assurances of that kind, particularly in view of the Scottish Universities Bill, introduced in "another place," he should be prepared to oppose the Motion.
§ MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
said, he desired to ask what the Government intended to do as to the renewal of Lord Ashbourne's Act? There was a strong feeling in the North of Ireland that another £5,000,000 would be voted by Parliament for the renewal of that Act; and he should be glad to know what the intentions of the Government were with regard to it.
§ MR. SETON-KARR (St. Helen's)
said, he wished to be informed whether the right hon. Gentleman would fulfil the obligation he had entered into and give a day for the discussion of the subject of colonization? The First Lord of the Treasury was under an obligation to everyone interested in the subject of State colonization. He (Mr. Seton-Karr) had withdrawn his Motion previously on the assurance of the right 83 hon. Gentleman that he would have a better opportunity. He desired to be informed what that better opportunity would be? He was quite aware that the exigencies of Public Business overrode the claims of Private Members' Resolutions, but in this case the right hon. Gentleman had given a distinct pledge that an opportunity would be afforded for a debate on colonisation. He might be told that this opportunity would occur on the Vote for £10,000 for crofter colonisation. But as he understood the rules of the House, it would only be possible to move to reduce this Vote. Now he did not want to reduce the Vote. He wanted to increase it. He doubted if it was possible to discuss the whole principle of colonisation on this Vote. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would afford an early opportunity of discussing what many hon. Members conceived to be a very important question.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
said, that if he might give a little advice to hon. Gentlemen opposite, it would be never to trust to any Ministerial assurances as to time. Ministers were always very ready to give general, vague promises which they seldom kept. The hon. Gentleman should show a little independence. If he and his hon. Friends on the Opposition side could get, say, 100 hon. Members on the other side of the House to vote with them, Ministers would be placed in a different position with regard to those demands than they were at present. There was no one in the House more anxious than he was to promote the progress of Public Business. At the same time, he thought that the House ought to remember, in view of those perpetual demands which were being made on the time of private Members, that they were due, not to obstruction on his side of the House, but to mismanagement by the Treasury Bench. What occurred at the beginning of the Session? The right hon. Gentlemen the First Lord of the Treasury asked for every day in order to pass certain Procedure Resolutions. What was the plea on which the Resolutions were asked for and the promise given if they were carried? That the days of private Members should not afterwards be taken. But ever since that time there had been persistent raids on the part of the Treasury Bench on the time of private 84 Members. They had given the Government a great deal of rope during the Session; and he was only sorry to say that they had not put it to a use which he would not specify. The Government had so twisted and knotted this rope that they now came and asked for more time in order to unravel it. Where were the Estimates at this moment? They had never before been put off to such a late date as this Session. The Business of the country had been carried on by Vote on Account, and the result was that the consideration of the Estimates was thrown back to the latter end of the Session, when it would be impossible to discuss them. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had wasted night after night by insisting on the discussion of a Bill which had now disappeared from the Paper. But now the right hon. Gentleman proposed to bring in another Bill in order to find a paid Office for some friend of his own, which he and his hon. Friends should very possibly oppose in the interest of economy, if not in the interest of the country, unless it was understood that the salary to be given to the Minister for Agriculture was to be taken from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. At the present time they were engaged in considering the magnum opus of the Government. Did any hon. Member pretend that there had been obstruction of that Bill? Not at all; every one believed that the discussion had been fair and legitimate. As to the Resolution of the hon. Member for Swansea Town (Mr. Dillwyn), he pointed out that it was a remarkable coincidence that last week Her Majesty's Government were nearly defeated on a Resolution affecting Wales, and now, with a Motion for the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church looming in the distance, the Government took Tuesdays for their own Business. There were certain Resolutions brought forward by private Members which were very distasteful to certain hon. Members on his own side of the House. It seemed to him that the whole of this Session had been made up of one long series of manœuvres to evade a vote on those discussions. Last week the right hon. Gentleman agreed to give facilities for the consideration of the Sunday Closing Bill to certain intemperate temperance Unionists, certain Sabbath-breaking Sabbatarians, 85 who wanted an excuse in order to be able to vote with the Government on the 9th clause of the Local Government Bill against their own assurances, convictions, and promises.
§ MR. W. P. SINCLAIR (Falkirk, &c.)
rose to Order. He wished to know whether the hon. Member was in Order in saying that certain Members of that House were prepared to vote against their assurances, convictions, and promises?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he could explain. He did not say how those hon. Members were prepared; he said they had to choose between their convictions and pledges to the Government. The point was this, that while the Government took the days of private Members for the Local Government Bill they yet gave a day for the discussion of Sunday closing. Against that proposal he protested. The House ought to have an understanding that the hon. Member for Swansea would have an opportunity of submitting his Resolution to the House, and that no facilities should be given in consequence of the present vote to Liberal Unionists. If the right hon. Gentleman did not give a satisfactory answer, he hoped his hon. Friend would divide the House, and that the vote would be taken as if given on the Disestablishment of the Welsh Church.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)
said, he was not prepared to form one of the 100 Members alluded to by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), but he wished to join in the appeal made to the right hon. Gentleman by the hon. Baronet the Member for East Norfolk (Sir Edward Birkbeck). Many hon. Members heard, with considerable satisfaction, the announcement made by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury, but that satisfaction was qualified by the recollection that they had had during the Session some half-a-dozen similar announcements which came to nothing. The matter was one which excited considerable interest in the agricultural portion of the community, and he hoped that in a few days his right hon. Friend would be able to say when they should see the introduction of the Bill.
§ MR. ROWNTREE (Scarborough)
asked, whether the right hon. Gentleman could say when the Government 86 intended to introduce a Bill, which had been virtually promised, to carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Sea Fisheries in England?
§ MR. CUNINGHAME GRAHAM (Lanark, N.W.)
said, he desired to urge upon the Government to promise to grant a day or half a day for the discussion of the question of the unemployed. If not attended to, he feared that as soon as the cold weather set in, the trouble would be as keen as before, and some popular tumult would probably force the subject upon the attention of the House.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
in reply, said, he was aware he could speak again only with the indulgence of the House, but he hoped it would be accorded him. He had great sympathy with the hon. Member opposite in his desire to keep up and continue the education begun in the elementary schools. The Royal Commission had only just reported, and he believed the Report was not yet in the hands of the Queen. When they had time to consider the Report there was every reason to hope that, from the information furnished by the Royal Commission, they would be enabled to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion on the subject. He trusted he had satisfied the hon. Member that there was no desire on the part of the Government to impede the consideration of the question, which was of great importance, and in which they felt a great interest. With respect to the Bill for the creation of a Minister of Agriculture, the Government were of opinion that it was not desirable to introduce it when they could not make progress with it. They had had on hand for the last three months a very weighty measure, and it would have been impossible to suspend the progress of the Local Government Bill in order to introduce a Bill for the creation of a Minister of Agriculture. But he hoped such a Bill would be brought in either in that House or in "another place" within a very short period. With regard to Scotch Business, it was the desire of the Government to give ample time for its consideration. The Scotch University Bill ought to be passed after having received full consideration at the hands of Scotch Members and of the House. His hon. Friend had referred to the question of colonization. He was still of opinion 87 that his hon. Friend had exercised a wise discretion in withdrawing his Motion. It was unfortunate that he had been deprived of his opportunity last week, but that was not the fault of Her Majesty's Government in the true sense of the term. His hon. Friend would, however, have a fitting opportunity of stating his views on the discussion of the Vote for the colonization of the Scotch crofters. The hon. Member for Northampton was exceedingly anxious that the Government should refuse a day to the hon. Member for Shields for the consideration of the Sunday Closing Bill. To rally the Government for wishing to give facilities in the event of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. J. C. Stevenson) failing to get an opportunity for the discussion of his Bill on the day for which it stood (Wednesday, July 11) was most extraordinary on the part of one who was supposed to be an advocate for Sunday closing, though not a Sabbatarian. The hon. Member had spoken of the use of the rope. The Government, however, might possibly disappoint him on that score; they were not bound to follow the hon. Member's suggestions on all points. He was sorry it was not in his power to respond to the appeal of the hon. Member for Swansea. At no period within the last 10 years had a Tuesday in the last week of July been at the disposal of a private Member. Necessity compelled the Government anxious to bring to a conclusion the Business of the Session to ask the House for Tuesdays long before the last week in July, and he was asking the House to make no new departure when he urged them to push forward a measure which all Parties desired to see passed. A Bill with reference to sea fisheries, to carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commission, would be introduced on Thursday or Friday.
§ MR. CONYBEARE
said, he desired to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) whether he proposed to take up the question of land purchase in Ireland, the amount placed at the disposal of the Government under Lord Ashbourne's Act being nearly run out? He would also appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury to do something with regard to the poor of London, and other large towns. As regarded the Sunday Closing Bill, would 88 the right hon. Gentleman pledge himself that that measure should go beyond the second reading? [Mr. W. H. SMITH shook his head.] The right hon. Gentleman intimated that he would not, so that there would be a day thrown away.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
said, he hoped that the Government would give the House three clear days' Notice of when the Indian Budget would be brought on.
§ THE LORD MAYOR of DUBLIN (Mr. SEXTON) (Belfast, W.)
said, he desired to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland what had become of the Bill for better securing order in Belfast?
§ MR. BOWEN ROWLANDS (Cardiganshire)
said, he felt bound to express his great regret that the Government had not responded to the appeal of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) in regard to the question of the Church in Wales. They had acted in much the same way last year; and he warned the Government not to attempt to ignore the just demands of Wales, as had been done in the past.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
said, he would promise that three days' Notice would be given of the Indian Budget. As to the question put by the hon. Member for North-West Lanark (Mr. Cunninghame Graham) the Government would be very glad if an opportunity could be found for a discussion on that subject, and he hoped that the hon. Members would use their influence to prevent the raising of any unnecessary alarm.
§ SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
said, that his right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) had rested his support of the Motion now made by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury on the ground that the time of the House was to be obtained for for-warding the Local Government Bill, and it was for that reason that he himself personally would vote for that Motion. He could not think that there was any justice in charging those who would vote for that Motion at that period of the Session with a desire to quash the question of the Church in Wales, although he certainly quite sympathized with the feeling of hon. Members below the Gangway at the manner in which the claims of Wales had been treated.
§ MR. T. C. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
said, he must press for an answer to the question put by the hon. Member for West Belfast.
§ THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR) (Manchester, E.)
said, that it was not the intention of the Government to re-introduce this Session the Bill relating to the town of Belfast. The condition of Belfast had distinctly improved, and there was, he believed, no ground for special anxiety at the present time. The clauses of the Crimes Act, together with the new police arrangements of that town, would, he thought, be found adequate to meet any circumstances that were likely to arise.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 251; Noes 131: Majority 120.—(Div. List, No. 183.)