HC Deb 08 May 1890 vol 344 cc474-7

I desire to put a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of which I have given him private notice. The right hon. Gentleman was down in Lancashire last evening with a noble Lord who sits upon the Opposition side of the House, and he is reported to have said in the course of his speech— Then we have been endeavouring to pass the Allotments Bill, a small Bill which ought to have been passed in three or four hours. "They," meaning the Liberal Party, Have endeavoured to smother the Bill with Amendments. And further on— Keep your eyes on these murderous intentions. We know this—that our opponents do not care to prove that which is dear to our hearts—namely, the competence of the Imperial Parliament for the work which it has to do. They do not care about losing the reputation, about imperilling the reputation of that House. —the House of Commons. The question I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman is whether, when he made that speech, he was aware that there were only 32 Amendments on the Allotments Bill, and that only 12 of those were moved by hon. Members belonging to the right hon. Gentleman's opponents, while no less than 20 wore moved by his own political friends? Is the right hon. Gentleman also aware that after the Bill had been discussed upon parts of two days only, there now remain upon the Notice Paper only 12 Amendments, six of which proceed from the Liberal Party, and six from the right hon. Gentleman's own supporters? If the right hon. Gentleman is referring not to Amendments but to Instructions, does he not think that it would have been fair to have told his hearers, when denouncing the opponents of the measure for endeavouring to smother the Bill, that a working arrangement had been made by which only one Instruction was loft upon the Paper, and, finally, I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman what reparation and what compensation he intends to make to the Liberal Party for what I cannot help characterising as a political libel upon them?

* MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)

I should like to ask another question, which the right hon. Gentleman will be able to answer without notice, and it is whether he is aware that practically the whole time devoted to this Bill at the Morning Sitting on Tuesday was taken up by two Amendments, of which one was accepted by the Government, and the other was moved by an hon. Member on the Ministerial side of the House?


No passage of the kind which the hon. Member has read can be fairly interpreted without the context. What I stated was this, that there was practically a new form of obstruction, and that was that, instead of attacking Bills in front, it was now endeavoured to delay and defeat them by smothering them, and that I called a murderous process, because it was equivalent to the killing of a Bill. The hon. Member himself has seen what was in my mind. This simple Allotments Bill was to be met by nine Instructions, and if ever there was evidence of an intolerable attempt to smother a Bill, I think it was supplied by the case of a Bill of that kind to which nine Instructions were put on the Paper. Presumably they were not bogus Instructions, and it was intended to move them. If they had been moved they would have smothered the Bill; without any doubt whatever, it would have been impossible to carry the Bill if these Instructions had been moved, because they would have absorbed infinitely more time than possibly could have been given to the Bill. That was obvious to the right hon. Member for Derby, and it was obvious to Mr. Speaker. The hon. Gentleman asks me whether I am aware they were removed. I am aware they were removed, under, I will not say the reprimand of the Speaker, but under words which fell from the Speaker, and which were to the effect that if this new system were pursued, it would be utterly impossible to proceed with legislation. I repeat, I think it is a simple Bill, which might have been passed in a very much shorter time. It is not a question of the number of Amendments, and of the time devoted to the discussion of each; but I am sorry to say—and if hon. Members think I misrepresented them with regard to this Bill In any way, I express my regret—I do consider the placing of these Instructions on the Paper fully justified the spirit of what I said, if not the actual words I used.


I am much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, and I should be glad if he would supplement his reply on one point only, and tell us plainly whether ho believes that the Liberal Party—"our opponents" as he calls us—do not care about imperilling the reputation of this House?


This is not a usual form of cross examination, but I will answer straightly and frankly, I say there is a Party in this House opposed to us, who are not anxious for the quick discharge of the business of the House, and who wish to prove the inefficiency of this House for the discharge of the general duties that devolve upon it. It has been avowed more than once in this House, and I say, again, that whenever any allusion is made to the fact that we cannot get through the business, it is met with loud cheers in various parts of the House opposite, as if to prove that the House is incompetent to discharge its duties.

MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

I should like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is not aware that the Chairman of Ways and Means, at Easter, informed his constituents and the public that the House of Commons had done its business very well?


There is no Question before the House.