§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I beg to ask whether the First Lord of the Treasury proposes to make any statement as to the course of business, and whether the Government have formed the intention of summoning Parliament for a new Session in November?
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
The House will remember that I undertook to make a statement respecting the course of public business, if, as I then hoped, the Committee on Procedure should report at an early date. I now hear from my right hon. Friend the Chairman of the Committee that it has adjourned until Monday, and that after what has occurred in the Committee we cannot hold out any certain expectation of an immediate termination of its labours. In these circumstances, I have thought it advisable and respectful to the House not to delay making a statement as to the course which the Government are prepared to take for the future conduct of public business. The first question which the Government had to consider was whether it was desirable in the second half of July to interpose a prolonged and possibly an acrimonious Debate in order to secure the passing of a Standing Order to which they attach great importance in the present Session. I had hoped that that Standing Order would be received with favour in all parts of the House as an improvement in our procedure; but I need not refer further to the opinion which I formed, as it does not appear to be shared unanimously by hon. Members. The Government have decided in the negative—that is to say, not to press this Standing Order in the course of the present Session, at the same time reserving to themselves absolute freedom of action in the future. It follows that they will not proceed with the Land Purchase Bill or the Tithe Bill before the prorogation; but, having regard to the great importance of those measures, they intend to re-introduce them at the earliest opportunity in the next Session, which, as at present advised, they propose shall begin at a much earlier period than is customary. In this way, whilst it is the desire of the Government and the intention of the Government to deal at an early date with that which they regard as important legislation, it will also be possible to meet the wish expressed this Session by the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division, and supported in the Division which followed, for a much earlier prorogation of Parliament. It now remains for me to indicate generally the more important measures with which the Government intend to proceed this Session. They are the Housing of 1321 the Working Classes Bill, the Police Bill, the Heligoland Bill, the Local Taxation Bill, and the Census Bill. There will also be one or two Departmental measures which I need not particularise. In these circumstances, I think I may assume that the House will be ready to give Wednesdays for public business, and I shall make the necessary Motion on Monday next.
§ MR. SEXTON
The right hon. Gentleman has not told us the date at which the Government propose that the new Session shall begin.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
We intend that we should meet at a much earlier period than usua', and the Motion of the right hon. Member for the Bridgeton Division pointed to a meeting in November. As at present advised, Her Majesty's Government think it would be right to ask the House to meet in November, but we hope not until after the first part.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
I hope the Government will give an opportunity (to ascertain the general feeling of the House as to whether the meeting of Parliament should be in November or at -an early date in January. At all events, the right hon. Gentleman should take some means of ascertaining the general feeling of the House.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider the climatic conditions that prevail in London in November. When we met in November, 1888, for the purpose of considering the Land Purchase Bill, the fog rendered Deb do almost impossible.
§ *MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
Are we to understand that the Land Purchase Bill will be the first measure dealt with in the new Session?
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for North Longford will see that any condition of atmosphere which would tend in the slightest degree to the shortening of Debate would be a great advantage. With regard to the question of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, I am sure he will see that it, rests with the Government to recommend Her Majesty as to the period at which Parliament should be called together, and I think it is necessary that they retain to themselves that responsibility. They have not formed the conclusion at which they have arrived without first 1322 taking due precautions to ascertain the feeling of hon. Members.
MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)
I wish to express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bring the Census Bill forward at a time when there can be a discussion upon it.
§ MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
Can the right hon. Gentleman state what the Departmental Bills are?
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
From the right hon. Gentleman's experience, both in the Government and in the House, he must know what the Departmental Bills are. The Government will endeavour to give a fair opportunity to the House to discuss the Census Bill, but I may add that there is no change in it. It will practically be the same as the Bill of 1880, which, I believe, met with general approval.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I wish to know whether the House is to understand from the answer given very succinctly by the right hon. Gentleman that the Government have already determined that the Land Purchase (Ireland) Bill is to take precedence of all other important measures in the coming Session, thereby reversing the order in which it stood with regard to the Tithe Bill in the present Session? I wish also to ask with regard to the right hon. Gentleman's answer to the question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, that it rests with the Government to advise Her Majesty as to the period of the prorogation and summoning of Parliament—in which, of course, I quite agree—whether that is a reason why the House should have no opportunity of expressing its opinion upon a matter so very gravely affecting the convenience of Members, and likewise a matter concerning the progress of public business, upon which hon. Members must be supposed to have some opportunity of forming an opinion which may be of use to the Government in determining what advice they should tender to Her Majesty?
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
In answer to the question of the right hon. Gentleman as to the Land Purchase Bill, I have already indicated the views of Her Majesty's Government at the present time. It is impossible to say what circumstances may occur to qualify those views, but it certainly is our intention to put the Land Purchase 1323 Bill forward, so that it can be dealt with by the House at the earliest possible opportunity. With regard to the other questions of the right hon. Gentleman, if he will be so kind as to point out any occasion in his experience on which the House has been consulted prior to the assembling of Parliament at a period unusual, but determined upon with reference to the better management of business, I should be exceedingly glad to consult that precedent. But there are methods of finding out the view of hon. Members with which the right hon. Gentleman is acquainted, and which have satisfied us that it would be for the convenience of the House, on the whole, that we should meet in November, at all events, by way of experiment, with the object and intention of rising in July.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
This is simply a question, not of determining the matter, but of allowing Members an opportunity of expressing their opinion. Undoubtedly, as the right hon. Gentleman is well aware, there have been occasions on which Members of the House have partially expressed their opinion, and the right hon. Gentleman has himself referred to the Motion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton as having been a matter which has given light to the Government in considering the course they will pursue; and now the Government have come nearer to the point and are about to determine the matter, I must own that it appears to me, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it does not seem to him, to be a moderate claim that there should be some opportunity given to the House to express its opinion.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I did not ask the right hon. Gentleman that a vote of the House should be taken upon the matter. The right hon. Gentleman may have communicated with some hon. Members, but I do not think any communication has reached hon. Members on this side of the House upon the subject. I never heard of the suggestion to meet in November until I saw it in the newspapers this morning. All I ask of the right hon. Gentleman is that, having indicated that it is the wish of the Government, they will not announce it as a decision from which they cannot recede. Assuming that the Land Purchase Bill 1324 is to be the first measure nex6 Session, if you meet at the end of the first week in January, you would have three weeks in January in which you might dispose of the Debate on the Address—at all events, I have never known a Debate on the Address take more than three weeks, not even when it was conducted by right hon. Gentlemen on the Bench opposite—I repeat we might dispose of the Debate on the Address and the Second Reading of the Land Purchase Bill before the end of January, and I say that with the assent of hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House. If that were so, on February 1 you might go into Committee on the Irish Land Purchase Bill, and dispose of that stage in the course of February, March, and April. The legitimate object you have in view might be accomplished by meeting on January 10, which would give you four weeks before the usual time of meeting.
§ *MR. J. TALBOT (Oxford University)
I wish to ask my right hon. Friends to bear in mind the great importance of getting the Tithe Bill passed before the winter is far advanced. Therefore, if Parliament meets again in November, I would urge upon my right hon. Friend-that the Government should, if possible, make the Tithe Bill the first measure of the Session.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
As reference has been made by the right hon. Gentleman to the Division on an early occasion this year, and the deductions the Government have drawn as to the feeling, of the House, may I ask him whether he is aware that a very great number of Members voted on the Main Question whether they could get a considerable part of the summer away from the House of Commons, and that a considerable number of Members who voted for the Resolution believed that that could be done by meeting at the end of the first week in January, and it was only in case that failed to secure a good part of the summer that a considerable number of those who voted in the minority would then very likely have gone over and voted in favour of meeting in November or December? I would also ask whether it is not the case that the actual number of 1325 working weeks in the House is, according to the usual proceedings of the Session, 25, and whether, in case we met at the end of the first week in January, those 25 weeks and two weeks for an Easter holiday would not have been secured before the middle of July?
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman to consider how much it would soothe the declining hours of the present Session if the Irish Members were consulted with regard to the allocation of a certain surplus arising out of a certain dropped measure?
§ MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman when he proposes to make his Motion with regard to the Government taking Wednesday Sittings?
§ MR. LEA
Then I give the right hon Gentleman notice that I shall certainly oppose his Motion. I would also ask him whether he is aware that the first business now on the Paper for Wednesday next is the Irish Intoxicating Liquors Bill, the Second Reading of which was carried in this House by a majority of 166; and whether he is aware of the enormous interest taken in that measure in all parts of Ireland?
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
Am I right in supposing that the Government intend to proceed with the Scotch Police Bill as well as with the English Police Bill; and is it intended to proceed with the Scotch Private Bill Procedure Bill?
§ MR.ILLINGWORTH (Bradford, W.)
If the House meets in November, at what time in the new year will it reassemble?
§ MR. SEXTON
I would like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how he proposes to secure for Ireland the allocation of the £40,000 under the Local Taxation Bill within the present year, and whether it cannot be done by a clause inserted in the Appropriation Bill?
§ MR. GOSCHEN
The hon. Gentleman need have no anxiety as to the with drawal of the £40,000 from Ireland. It shall be secured in one way or another, but it would be premature to deal with the matter at the present time.
§ MR. BRADLAUGH
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he will consider the possibility of the Financial Statement for India being presented before the last days of the Session; and whether he is aware that the explanatory Memorandum, which last year was issued on the 15th of May, has not yet been laid upon the Table?
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
The Savings Banks Bill obviously cannot be proceeded with if it is an opposed Bill. In regard to the allocation of the surplus, I am not able to add anything to what I have already stated as to the Local Taxation Bill, but the Government will come to a consideration of that question the course of a very few days. I have listened, with the greatest attention and with every desire to meet the views of hon. Members and right hon. Gentlemen, to their remarks with regard to the period of the Session; but I think they must be content with the assurance that their suggestions will be received with the consideration which they deserve, and that we do feel ourselves responsible for calling Parliament together for the business to be transacted. And when we have called Parliament together we shall endeavour, as far as possible, to consult the convenience of hon. Gentlemen. I do strongly deprecate the idea that this arrangement will add to the length if the Session. I think there is a strong wish on the part of hon. Members on both sides of the House that we should get away into the country earlier this summer than we have done. As far as the Government are concerned, we shall make every endeavour to bring the Session to an end at a period which with correspond with the earlier meeting tit Parliament. With regard to the Scotch Police Bill, it is oar wish to proceed with that measure. I hope that it will be referred to a Select Committee this evening, and that it will come back to the House in a form in which it will be possible to deal with it. In regard to the Indian Budget, I will endeavour that it shall be taken at an earlier period if possible. I was not aware that the Memorandum referred to by the hon. Member for Northampton had not yet been issued; but I will communicate with my right hon. Friend the Under 1327 Secretary of State for India on the subject. With regard to the Scotch Procedure Bill, the question is whether it is opposed. [Mr. H. H. FOWLER It is opposed.] I hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton say that he does oppose it, and we cannot in these circumstances proceed with it.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
As the right hon. Gentleman has spoken of suggestions from this side of the House, and as it appears to be very doubtful whether there will be any opportunity of giving an opinion in detail in Debate, I cannot help expressing my strong conviction, with regard to this very well intended plan of shortening the Session, that if we begin our meeting in November, and if no other method is adopted, the inevitable effect of that will be, not to shorten, but to lengthen the Session.