§ * THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster
In rising to move, "That the Order for resuming the Adjourned Debate on the Queen's Speech, Motion for an Address, have precedence this day of Notices of Motion and other Orders of the Day," I wish to make an appeal to hon. Gentlemen who have given notice of Amendments to the Address. The House is aware that we have already reached the tenth day of discussion of the Address, and also that very serious and important business must be disposed of before the 18th or 19th of March, financial business of the current year, the matter being of such urgent importance to the House and the country that we ought to proceed to it as speedily as possible, and I would earnestly appeal to hon. Members to allow the debate on the Address to conclude this evening. I am aware there are suggestions of considerable importance in Motions which stand in the name of hon. Members, but I may remind them that during the course of the Session there will be, I fully hope, an opportunity for urging their views before the House and the country. The House is aware that the prolongation of the Debate on the Address has had the practical effect of depriving some hon. Members of their ordinary opportunities for bringing forward Motions and Bills in which they are interested. Under these circumstances I trust that hon. Members will themselves concur in the view I have heard expressed more than once that the debate on the Address should be limited, and that we should then proceed as rapidly as we can with the important business we have to dispose of. I trust 992 I may have the support of right hon. Gentlemen opposite in enforcing that view.
§ Motion made, and Question put.
MR. GLADSTONE (Mid Lothian)
I find great satisfaction in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, for he conveyed to Members, as I understand, as an inducement to assent to his proposal, that they would have fitter opportunities to bring under the notice of the House those matters they desire to raise. I trust I am justified in inferring from that general intimation that the Government do not contemplate during the present Session any great invasion of the time appropriated to private Members. I certainly am one of those who are of opinion that the great length to which debates on the Address have been prolonged of late years is a serious impediment to the important business awaiting disposal. Of course, I do not speak of the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle, because that was a Motion of a very serious character, raising distinctly the question of the existence of the Government, such a question as it has always been usual to raise upon the Address. I refer to a custom which is growing up, that of making the Address the occasion for discussing subjects—of public importance undoubtedly—I do not say frivolous matters, but matters that might be more appropriately discussed under the ancient course of allowing Members a fair proportion of the time of the House. But I do not propose to enter into that now. At present we have before us the fact that, independent of the debate upon the Irish Amendment, we have had three nights of general debate, and are about to have a fourth without any interruption. Under these circumstances, and in view of the nature of the business that is to come on—Government and possibly other business of an urgent character—I certainly think the right hon. Gentleman has made a reasonable appeal, and one that we so far as we can, compatibly with what we deem to be our specific duty, will respond to, and bring about the close of the debate tonight. I have a few words to say on one of the subjects standing for discussion, but I will give a pledge that undoubtedly in what I then say I shall have 993 a lively recollection of what I am now saying, for I am quite in sympathy with the wish of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Motion agreed to.
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