HC Deb 13 April 1891 vol 352 cc382-5

I wish to ask the First Lord of the Treasury a question, of which I have given him private notice, namely, whether, in view of the result of the vote of last Friday night on the opium traffic in India, and the strong feeling which that vote manifested against the traffic, both in this House and the country, he is prepared to give effect to my proposal for the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the whole subject and thereby furnish to this House authentic data, which will guide its legislative action.


I may say that, from my point of view, that proceeding is incomplete at the present moment. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Barnard Castle Division, who moved the Motion on which the vote was taken, expressed his willingness to accept the proposed addition to his Resolution, but on that proposed addendum the Debate stood adjourned. That addendum was moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Sir R. Fowler). But, unfortunately, no decision of the House was come to upon it. I hardly know whether it is practicable now to take a decision upon the whole question in the form in which it now stands, and in reference to the addendum moved by the hon. Baronet; but certainly the Government are of opinion that the sense of the House has not been expressed upon the whole question, and until that sense has been expressed, I do not think the Government could take any proceeding in the way of making any communication to the Indian Government upon the subject. No doubt the Government of India will take their own course upon the matter; but, as far as we are concerned, we feel that the question is not in that complete state in which we are called upon to take any proceedings.

THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON (Lancashire, Rossendale)

Perhaps, Sir, with your permission, I might be allowed to put a question to you, namely, whether it is in your power to state to the House what is the exact position of the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for the Barnard Castle Division of Durham, and the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London. I see that the Motion still remains on the Paper as attached to the 16th Order of the day on the Motion for the Order for Supply in Committee. I presume, however, that even if that Order can be reached to-night the Adjourned Debate, which was not concluded on Friday night, could not be continued; and I presume that you would leave the Chair without any Question put. I desire now to ask whether the Motion to which I have referred would remain for an indefinite time attached to the Order for going into Supply; and, if not, in what form it will remain on the Order Book, and in what manner it is possible, if the House desires to do so, to resume the discussion on the Motion and the Amendment of the right hon. Gentlemen opposite?


In reply to the noble Lord I will state the exact position in which the matter stands. Upon the question that I now leave the Chair, which was submitted to the House last Friday, the hon. Baronet the Member for the Barnard Castle Division moved an Amendment. On a Division all the words of the Motion that I now leave the Chair were negatived, except the first word, " that;" the words of the Motion of the hon. Baronet were added, and his Motion then became the Substantive Question. To that Motion an Amendment was moved by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the City, and by the lapse of time the Debate on the addition to the Motion became an Adjourned Debate. It will therefore be observed that the House passed no definite decision either on the first Amendment as a Substantive Question, or upon the Amendment which was moved as an addition to the Substantive Question, in consequence of the lapse of time. On coming to the Order I shall have again to propose the Question—the Substantive Resolution and the Amendment that has been moved to it—and, if the Amendment be carried, I shall have to put the whole Resolution with the addendum attached to it; and then the House will express its opinion upon the Substantive Motion amended by the addendum, or, if the addition of the words be negatived, on the Motion alone. If Supply is taken on Monday or on Thursday I am obliged to leave the Chair without Question put, and therefore I should not be able to propose the Question on the Resolution of the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnard Castle. If I am asked what 1 should do on Friday next I must reply that I should then have to put, not the Question of the hon. Member for Barnard Castle, but the Question that I do now leave the Chair, upon which the Amendments on the Paper specially put down for Friday would take precedence of any other Amendment. Therefore, I know not what would become of the Amendment to the Motion of the hon. Member for Barnard Castle on Friday next. But it would, of course, be open to the Go- vernment to offer facilities for treating the subject as a Motion and by giving that Motion a place among the Orders of the Day on a Government night. That lies altogether in the discretion of the Government. I do not think any other question arises which I am called upon to answer.

SIR J. PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle)

I would ask my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury whether he proposes to make that Motion that this Resolution be an Order of the Day? With the leave of the House I should like just to say that my right hon. Friend opposite has hardly correctly represented my view with regard to the Motion in the Amendment moved by my hon. Relative and Friend the Member for the City of London. I said I was quite prepared to accept the principle employed in his Amendment, but I was not prepared to accept his exact words, and I also read to the House the words I was prepared to accept as an addition to my now substantive Resolution.

MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Oldham)

Before the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury replies I should like to ask him whether the Government intend to take the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City seriously? I should like to ask them if they propose to place this unjust and intolerable burden on the English taxpayer?


The question now assumes an entirely new character, and I am not prepared to state to the House whether or not the Government are prepared to adopt the Motion of the hon. Baronet as an Order of the Day, or put it on the Paper with that object. I may state generally our view, that this Resolution is a matter which requires further consideration before it is accepted by the House. We shall on a later day state whether or not we can offer facilities to the hon. Baronet by making progress with his Resolution.