HC Deb 15 August 1889 vol 339 cc1355-61

I wish to make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House with reference to the business of to-morrow. He was kind enough to consent to a motion yesterday to report progress, in order that we might see the Amendments of the Government to the Tithes Bill. I have had an opportunity of briefly looking at these Amendments, and I find that the effect of them is that of the old Bill two lines remain. But that is not all. In the form in which, the Paper stands at present, we have not only the Government Amendments on the new Bill, but also on the old Bill, which still remain, and I have got the two put together as they now stand on the Paper, and they constitute some yards—that is to say, the Amendments of the Home Secretary to the old Bill and the Amendments of the Attorney General to the new Bill. Now, that is not the most convenient form in which we can deal with them, and in the ordinary course it would be the custom of the House that the Government, making material alterations in a Bill, should move formally that the Bill be recommitted, in order to insert the Amendments they desire to insert and to exclude those parts they do not desire to retain. Unfortunately there is an obstacle in the way of that—namely, that all the Amendments upon the Paper are excluded by the ruling of the Chair upon the instructions rejected by the Government. The Chairman of Committees laid it down that nothing could be admitted which sought to lay the burden on the owner only. Now, these Amendments do that. Therefore the whole of the Amendments proposed by the Government are Amendments that cannot be put. In these circumstances I would ask the First Lord of the Treasury at all events not to attempt to go on with the Bill to-morrow. It is quite impossible in a Bill of this magnitude, affecting a great interest and many millions of what has been called, and I think properly, national property, and containing important propositions—propositions to which I have no objection, on the contrary, as far I understand them, I am very much in favour of the general proposals of the Bill.


Order, order! The right hon. Gentleman is now travelling beyond the appeal he proposed to make to the Leader of the House.


I am making an appeal, Sir, to the right hon. Gentleman not to put this Bill down for tomorrow, and I do so now in order that the Bill may not be met to morrow with a Motion that the Bill shall not be proceeded with. It would be much better if the right hon. Gentleman would arrange to set down other business which at this period of the Session it is necessary to go on with. If the House will indulge me, I will not go into any argumentative matter except to point out that this Bill includes extremely important matter which we should be allowed to consider fully, so that, if necessary, we might be able to put down Amendments. We ought not to be called upon at 24 hours' notice to take this Bill into consideration. It is one of our rules of legislation that we do not deal with property of any kind without giving the owner notice. With reference to this new Bill, I do not speak adversely to its principle. I should be very glad to see that principle carried out; but it is absolutely necessary that the House should be placed at least in as good a position as it would be in after a Second Reading. If I were adverse to the Bill I should certainly demand that we should have a Second Reading discussion, but all I now say is this, that the House must be placed in as good a position as it would be in after the Second Reading of a new Bill—that hon. Members should be able to move such instructions as are necessary for dealing fully with the Bill in Committee. Generally speaking, it seems to me perfectly clear that we cannot go on with this Bill to-morrow. We have no time to put down Amendments which are necessary for dealing with it and, on the whole, these are matters as to which gentlemen ought not only to know what they think themselves, but also, I venture to say, what their constituents think of the provisions of a Bill so utterly novel as this. Therefore I venture to submit to the right hon. Gentleman that it is quite idle to endeavour to go on with Committee on this Bill to-morrow, and I would suggest that he should postpone it, at all events until next week. I would also submit that instead of endeavouring to cobble up a Bill by striking out all except two lines and putting in Amendments, it would be far better to withdraw this Bill and introduce to-morrow a new Bill, and then to proceed to the consideration of that new Bill in the proper manner. That would be by far the most convenient course, because practically we shall have to deal with the Bill in that manner, however the question is put before us.


It is highly satisfactory to hear that the right hon. Gentleman is entirely in favour of the principle of the Amendments the Government have put on the paper in reference to this Bill. He must, therefore, be most desirous that the Bill should be proceeded with as rapidly as possible. I gladly recognise the extremely kind consideration of the right hon. Gentleman. He has objected that the Government are proposing a new Bill. What the Government are doing is simply this. They are inserting and giving effect to an instruction—a Debate, which was supported by the right hon. Gentleman himself and by almost every Member on that side of the House—an Instruction that the Bill should place the liability on the owner. The right hon. Gentleman in supporting the proposal, obviously saw his way to giving practical effect to it in the Bill, or he would not have supported it. Now, following up that desire he says that it is absolutely necessary to have more than 48 hours to consider a proposal which all who desire that the Bill should be effectual think should be at once ratified by the House of Commons.


The right hon. Gentleman has not quite understood me. What I said was that you must revoke the decision of the House rejecting the Instruction.


The right hon. Gentleman is, I think, incorrect in his views. I think he will find it is possible for the Committee to entertain the Amendments put on the paper by my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General. At all events it does not rest with him or me to determino whether that is so or not. It was understood that the Amendment which stood on the paper in the name of the hon. Member for Essex, and several other Amendments which put the liability on the owner, would have been accepted.


The Chairman of Committees laid emphasis on the point that no Amendment which sought to put the liability on the owner would be admissible.


We shall see when the time comes what the Chair- man of Committees thinks. I am sure the House will think I should not be justified in responding to the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman. We wish to prosecute this Bill Hon. Gentlemen opposite have had 48 hours for the consideration of the Amendments of my hon. and learned Friend, because they were indicated as clearly as they could possibly be by my hon. and learned Friend yesterday. They are admitted by the right hon. Gentleman himself to be valuable, useful Amendments, involving all the principles required for the settlement of this question, and we shall ask the House to deal with the question, and to deal with it without any loss of time.

* MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

I rise to a point of order, Sir. The right hon. Gentleman has just stated to the House that the Amendments now placed on the Paper are Amendments to carry out an Instruction which was defeated by a majority of four. That being so, I ask you whether the Instruction moved by the hon. Member for Maiden having been negatived on Monday night, it is competent for the Government to place on the Paper Amendments practically in the spirit of that Instruction?


That is hardly a question that ought to be addressed to one, but I do not think the Committee would go back on the Instruction.

* MR. G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)

Will it be possible to issue a Memorandum showing the Amendments, and giving a clear idea of the alterations intended to be made in the Bill?


For the convenience of Members I have directed that a number of copies of the Bill showing my Amendments shall be deposited at the Vote Office by 5 o'clock.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)

On a point of order, Sir, I would put a question to you in reference to a decision of Mr. Speaker Brand in 1880. When Mr. Forster introduced a clause into the Irish Relief Bill as a new means of dealing with relief—namely, that the tenant should be compensated for certain cases of disturbance—the Speaker ruled that a now Bill was required, and a now Bill had to be introduced. Now the House has decided to reject the Instruction carrying out the principle which the Government are embodying in their Amendments. In these circumstances, I ask whether it is not necessary that an entirely new Bill should be brought in which the House may have the opportunity of passing under the ruling of the Chair? And if the Amendments of the Government are proposed, will not the House be deprived of the rulings of the Speaker and—I am not making any complaint—left entirely to the rulings of the Chairman of Committees?


On the point of order, Sir, I desire to call your attention to the fact that yesterday there stood on the Paper a series of Amendments proposing to change the word "occupier" into "owner," and as far as I could I ascertained these Amendments would not be ruled out of order. The statement I made yesterday was that I should be prepared to accept those Amendments. My present Amendments are to the same effect.


I also rise to the point of order. The Attorney General has missed the point. It was indeed ruled that the word "owner" might be substituted for "occupier," if it was not a matter of being the owner only, instead of the occupier, as an alternative. In the same way the ruling was in respect of distress—that distress could not be struck out of the Bill; it must remain in the Bill as an alternative. But the Government Amendment propose to strike out distress without alternative, and to leave the responsibility on the owner only. But as the right hon. Gentleman insists, I now beg to give notice——


Order, order! We must decide upon the point of order first. The hon. and learned Gentleman asks me a question whether an Instruction having been refused by the House, the Amendment might not contravene that Instruction. It will be for the Chairman of Committees to decide when the House is in Committee, whether the Amendments on the Paper are such as can be moved, notwithstanding the refusal of the House to grant the Instruction at an earlier stage. I do not anticipate any discrepancy between the ruling of the Chairman and my own. The Chairman in Committee is within his jurisdiction and considers what is proper and right, and I have every confidence that he will give a right and fair decision.


Perhaps, Sir, I have not made myself clear. What I wish to point out is that on the occasion of the ruling to which I have referred the House was in Committee, and Mr. Speaker Brand decided that the particular Amendment was outside the scope of the Bill. The corresponding question is—the House having refused a particular Instruction, and the Government having put down an Amendment within the scope of that Instruction—is it in order to submit to the Speaker whether the proposed action in Committee can, as a matter of order, be taken, in view of the fact that the particular Amendment in Committee on the Irish Bill was submitted to Mr. Speaker Brand.


This matter is, if I may respectfully say so, rather improperly brought before me. It is difficult to say whether the ruling of my predecessors affords an exact parallel to this case. But, as I have said, I am quite content to leave the matter in the hands of the Chairman of Committees, who will deal with the question when it arises. I do not think that any case has been made out for reference to me as Speaker.


I beg leave to give notice that I shall oppose proceeding with the Tithe Rent Charge Bill to-morrow.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I would ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether it would not be more decorous, not to say more decent, as the Bill affects the whole agricultural interests, to wait until the new Minister of Agriculture is present to give us his views of the matter.