HC Deb 07 March 1889 vol 333 cc1160-3

I believe it would be convenient to the right hon. Gentleman and the House if he would state what re the views of the Government with regard to the future business of the House.


I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for giving me an opportunity of stating the course which we recommend for the conduct of business during the next fortnight. The right hon. Gentleman and the House are aware that we are under a necessity of obtaining Votes for the Army, Navy, and Civil Service, Supplementary Votes for the present year, and the excess Votes, in time to get a Bill passed the Houses of Parliament by the 28th or 29th of March. It is our intention, therefore, to ask the House to listen to the statements of the First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord G. Hamilton) and the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) with reference to the proposals of the Government for strengthening the Navy. I do not ask the House to come to any decision or to express any judgment at once on these proposals. It would not be reasonable or fair to ask the House to do so. It would be also unreasonable and unfair that the Government should ask the House to vote on the proposals until the Navy Estimates are considered. I would suggest, therefore, that when the statements have been made by my right hon. Friends, and questions in elucidation of their statements have been answered, it would be for the convenience of the House and the progress of business that we should at once report progress on the Resolution without taking any division until the Navy Estimates are considered. In that case we should propose to take the Supplementary Estimates to-night. On Monday next we shall ask the House to give us the first Vote for the Navy. On Monday week we shall ask for a Vote on Account, and take the Excels Votes, if there should be any, reported from the Committee on Public Accounts. Hon. Gentlemen are aware that we must have the Vote? to which I have referred before the end of the financial year; otherwise we should have to ask the House for a Supplementary Vote. To-morrow I propose to ask the House to pass a Resolution with regard to the arrangements indicated last Session for providing practically two days in the week for the consideration of Supply. I trust that the House will accept that proposal as one intended to remedy some inconvenience.


I will not express any opinion on the last point, as I hope my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian will be here to-morrow, and say something upon it. I understand that the Vote on Account will be taken on Monday week.


I would like to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether his attention has been called to one item in the Supplementary Estimates, namely, the large increase on the Pension Vote There is an addition upon the Vote of something like £8,000, and no names are given of persons who are to receive the extra grants. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not proceed with the Vote to-night,

SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy)

I should like to ask the First Lord of the Treasury if he is aware that the Supplementary Estimates were only circulated this morning, and whether, therefore, he thinks it fair to take them to-night?


The hon. Gentleman is aware that it is not in our power to circulate them before the debate on the Address is ended. The information which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. H. H. Fowler) desires is never given, as I understand, on the Supplementary Estimates, but I shall be exceedingly happy to satisfy him on the subject.

MR. DUFF (Banffshire)

Are we to understand that the light hon. Gentleman asks the House to give up the right of general discussion on going into the Estimates?


I did not ask the House to give up any right, but what I stated implied that the prolongation of the discussion on the Address has forced us into a corner, and as the hon. Gentleman himself is aware, there is no alternative but to ask the House to give us a Vote.


Does the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury notice that the Attorney General has put down on the paper a Bill of a most obnoxious character to a large part of the House—I refer to the Criminal Evidence Bill. Will he give us an assurance that, unless that Bill appears as a First Order on the Paper, there will be no attempt to snap a Second Reading? Will he promise that a measure of such importance will be made the First Order before being taken?


Ample notice will be given of the date on which it is intended to take the Second Reading of this Bill.

LORD C. BERESFORD (Marylebone, E)

I wish to ask the First Lord of the Treasury how many days the House will have between the date when the Government intend to lay the Navy Estimates before the House, and the time when the Government must get the money? Many hon. Members who feel strongly on certain questions have, on previous occasions, been obliged to curtail their observations, or not make them at all, through unwillingness to hamper the Government or prevent them from getting the money by a certain date. I wish to know if we are to have an opportunity of discussing the Wages Vote, on which I have two very important points to raise?


I am afraid I cannot give many days for the discussion of the Wages Vote. Unless the money is obtained before the 18th or 19th of March, as the noble Lord is aware, the wages of the men will not be paid on the 1st of April. The prolongation of the Debate on the Address has left the Government no more time than stated to the House. If the House desires longer consideration for the Estimates before the end of the Financial year, the only result will be that we shall be compelled to ask for more of the time now belonging to Private Members, much as I wish to avoid such a request. But I assure my noble Friend that ample opportunity will be given to hon. Members to raise any question relating either to the Naval and Military Services or the Civil Service.

MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I beg to give notice that on the Vote on Account I shall oppose it generally and particularly, having no sort of confidence in Her Majesty's present Government.

SIR J. PULESTON (Devonport)

Will the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury give us a pledge that the discussion of the Navy Estimates will not be deferred until the end of the Session, and that if there are any points in connection with them that we consider of the first importance we shall have an opportunity of discussing them?


I have indicated the days on which it is proposed to take the Estimates. We shall take the Army Estimates on Monday, and those of the Navy on Thursday, and the Vote on Account for the Civil Service on the following Monday.


I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury a Question on a subject of great importance. I think the right hon. Gentleman stated that we should have vote No. I. (Vote A)—the first Vote in the Army Estimates—on Monday. Well, on more than one occasion we have been obliged to put off the discussion of the Vote, and what I wish to know, and what many military men in this House wish to know, is whether, assuming that the Vote must be passed on Monday, the right hon. Gentleman will on that day announce his intention of giving us another early opportunity for the discussion of these Estimates?


I thought I had already explained my full desire and intention to give every opportunity for the fullest discussion of every question which hon. Gentlemen wish to raise.


We have sometimes been put off for two, three, and even more months, until it has been impossible to discuss the questions at all. I desire that the right hon. Gentleman should give us an assurance that we shall have full opportunity for the discussion of these matters in reasonable time.


I quite hope that I shall be able to give that full opportunity. To say that I will do so, or can do so, would be to enter into an engagement which, I am sure, the hon. and gallant Baronet, knowing the difficulties of the position of the Leader of the House, would not expect me to enter into. We propose to give hon. Members as early an opportunity as possible for the discussion of all the Estimates.