§ (4.25.) MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
I wish to put a question to the Leader of the House, the answer to which may in a certain sense, I think, possibly tend to shorten the conversation upon the Motion which the right hon. Gentleman is about to make. First of all, is it his intention to ask for the particular preference he desires to have on behalf of the Irish Land Bill exclu- 1776 sively; and, secondly, is it his intention to apply the power which he seeks to obtain without making any exception in favour of any particular measure, so that it shall be perfectly equal in its application?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I appreciate the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman has put the question. The preference which we ask for has reference to the Irish Land Bill at the present time. We conceive that that Bill should be pressed forward with all reasonable speed. It has unfortunately lagged greatly in Committee during the last few days. I suppose the question of the right hon. Gentleman is directed specially to the Wednesdays. So far as other days of the week are concerned, we do not propose to make any exception whatever. The Government do not think it would be possible to make an exception in favour of one Motion or proposal without making an exception in favour of others, so far as Wednesdays are concerned. One difficulty in which we are placed is that an hon. Gentleman opposite had a Motion on the Paper for last Friday, and removed it under the impression that I had given a pledge that the 13th of May should be reserved for its consideration. I did not give that pledge. I did not give that pledge unreservedly; I merely stated that, so far as the Government were concerned, they would not propose that there should be an adjournment for Whitsuntide before that Wednesday, and if no unforeseen event occurred, they would not propose to take that day. However, it has been translated into a pledge; and, therefore, I am afraid I should not be able to take that day for Government Business. After Whitsuntide there are Bills of Private Members which would be in Progress; and under Standing Order No. 12, those Bills would be entitled to precedence before any other Orders. But it would be a strong measure on my part to deprive those Bills of the position they have obtained until absolute necessity compels me to do so. It would be held to be exercising the rights of the majority rather severely upon hon. Gentlemen who had charge of other Bills; and, therefore, it is not the intention of the Government to take the first three or four Wednesdays after Whitsuntide so far as Bills in 1777 Progress are concerned. Therefore, it comes to this: The proposition of the Government is that the time of the House shall be given on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, without reservation, for the Land Purchase Bill. Next Wednesday shall be given for that purpose, but the first three or four Wednesdays after Whitsuntide will not be given until fair progress has been made with the Bills which are in Committee.
§ MR. J. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
Is it open to the right hon. Gentleman to re-consider the decision to take next Wednesday, when a most important Bill is down?
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
May I ask whether, seeing that the right hon. Gentleman took a night in February last, on which I had a Motion down with reference to the Access to Mountains in Scotland, he does not intend to make an exception now in favour of that Motion, which is down for May 8?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
It would, I think, be more convenient that I should enter into these questions, in regard to which I have had more notices than one, when I make the Motion for precedence. I express my regret if by any Motion of mine I have deprived the right hon. Gentleman of any opportunity of bringing forward his Motion.
§ MR. SPEAKER
then, upon formal notice from the First Lord of the Treasury, proceeded to read the Motion on the Paper, but, in response to Opposition cries of "Move,"
§ (4.35.) MR. W. H. SMITH
again rose and moved—That, whenever the Purchase of Land and Congested Districts (Ireland) Bill is appointed for Tuesday or Friday, the House do meet at Three o'clock, and that the proceedings on that Bill have precedence over all Orders of the Day and Notices of Motion; and that the said Bill have precedence on Wednesday if it be appointed for that day.The right hon. Gentleman said: The House has now had 82 Sittings, and we have arrived at a period of the Session when we are justified in appealing to the House to give further assistance for the progress of Public Business. With reference to the Land Purchase Bill, the House will agree that] the case is even stronger than it would ordinarily be in the case of other Bills. On Thursday, the 9th of April, there were 16 1778 pages of Amendments on the Paper, but to-day, the 30th of April, owing to the industry displayed by the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere), there are 24 pages, after we have been sitting for some weeks in Committee. That is a case in itself for asking the House for further time for the consideration of this important measure. It is a Bill which must be considered and disposed of by the House prior to the consideration of any other question, unless it be of extreme urgency. During the 82 Sittings that we have had the Government had precedence on 48 days and private Members on 34. Thirty-four days is a larger amount of time in possession of private Members than has been known during the years from 1882 to 1885. During the Session of 1882 only 21 Sittings were reserved for private Members; in 1884 only 27, and in 1884-5 only 10. I propose now to provide that private Members should have the opportunity of disposing of some of the Bills that have passed a Second Reading and now stand in Committee. We must ask the House, first of all, to dispose of the Land Purchase Bill. That measure has been accepted in principle on both sides, and I believe there is a desire that it should be passed. [Cries of " No!" from the Opposition.] I gather from the right hon. Gentleman and from hon. Gentlemen opposite that they are not opposing the Bill, but only discussing it. But the discussion of the hon. Member for Northampton and his friends has successfully delayed the progress of Public Business for some time.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
The hon. Member cheers that, and accepts the statement, and it is because of that delay that I am compelled to make the present appeal to the House. As soon as the Land Purchase Bill is disposed of, it will be our duty to introduce a measure for assisted education [Opposition cries of " Hear, hear," and "Free "], as to which, if we may fairly interpret the expression of opinions by hon. Gentlemen opposite, we ought not to find much difficulty or experience much delay in passing it. The hon. Member for Northampton says he would like to see the Bill. I am afraid from my experience of the hon. Member for Northampton that we 1779 could hardly produce any Bill that would satisfy his mind, and would not require discussion at his hands. When the Assisted Education Bill has been considered by the House, there are Bills now before the Standing Committee that I believe ought to pass without much delay. There is also before the House of Lords a Bill called the Clergy Discipline Bill, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gladstone) will concur in the opinion that it is a Bill that should be passed. There is one Bill for which I hope it will not be necessary to ask for any time from the House—the Bill with reference to Newfoundland before the House of Lords, which I trust may not come down to this House. I hope, and believe, that the Legislature of Newfoundland will anticipate the action of the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and render it unnecessary for us to proceed with that Bill. But if it should unfortunately be necessary to proceed with that Bill it will be absolutely urgent that it should be taken, if it comes to us, about the end of May, and passed through all its stages. I only make that reservation with regard to the possibilty of this urgent and important matter. I hope that I have given sufficient grounds for the concession which I ask from the House. The right hon. Gentleman has referred in his question chiefly to Wednesdays. By the Motion I make I take practically only next Wednesday so far as May and the first part of June are concerned. If the right hon. Gentleman should be of opinion that it is undesirable that we should take next Wednesday, and if the concession of that day would remove objections on the part of the House, I am perfectly prepared to fall in with his view. There is another point to which I must refer. There is a general desire that the prorogation should take place in July. [Laughter.] Some hon. Gentlemen laugh; but I believe they would not laugh if we deliberately proposed to the House that they should continue to sit during the month of August. The arrangement I have referred to has reference to a Prorogation before the end of July. The House, I think, has fair reason to expect that that should take place. Well, Sir, in addition to the business which I have described, there is Supply, and we have 1780 practically—allowing three or four days' holiday at Whitsuntide—[cries of "Oh !"] —12 weeks of the Session before us. I think I have not asked the House to get through more business than can well be done in these weeks that remain; but I think, at the same time, that we ought to begin to set ourselves in order, and invite hon. Gentlemen to repress in the strongest manner the repetition of any speeches, especially when the questions raised have been already considered and practically disposed of by the House.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, whenever the Purchase of Land and Congested Districts (Ireland) Bill is appointed for Tuesday or Friday, the House do meet at Three o'clock, and that the proceedings on that Bill have precedence over all Orders of the Day and Notices of Motion; and that the said Bill have precedence on Wednesday if it be appointed for that day." — (Mr. William Henry Smith.)
§ (4.45.) MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
The right hon. Gentleman has opened before our anxious eyes a prospect which is rather more gloomy than cheerful. I am afraid that there are considerable difficulties which lie ahead with regard to the fulfilment of the expectations which he still entertains. At the same time, there are some of his anticipations in which I cordially share. One of the last subjects he named was a possible Bill for making certain provisions affecting the internal regulations of the Colony of Newfoundland, and I must say that I most sincerely—I would even say fervently—join in the hope which the right hon. Gentleman has expressed, that it will not be found necessary to submit that Bill to the consideration of the House. With respect to the Education Bill, it is impossible—indeed, it would be out of order—to give an opinion on a measure which we have not seen. But I think the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly correct when he said that, as far as he could gather, there was a desire to give to that Bill every despatch that was compatible with a fair consideration of its provisions, such as they be—in fact that there will be a sincere desire to forward the measure. With respect to the Bill relating to clerical discipline, what I hope is that there may be a very strong wish on the part of those to whom the good moral conduct of the clergy is an 1781 object of general interest—and it ought to be an object of general interest—and an anxious desire to find the provisions of that Bill judiciously adapted to their purpose; and, if so, I cannot help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman will find a general disposition in the House to promote the passage of that Bill without any considerable expenditure of time. On the subject of the Land Purchase Bill, it is certainly the case that many who are not supporters of the right hon. Gentleman and the Government desire to try certain questions upon that " Bill with regard to which they are unable, from their convictions, to allow them to pass without notice, or even without a Division; but, at the same time, to allow fair and even rapid progress with the different stages of the Bill; and I do not believe that those who object to the Bill altogether have given fair grounds for the right hon. Gentleman's presumption of a wish to delay and impede the measure. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman was justified in his remarks on that subject, I say that, from recollection of former experience. In the case of the Irish Land Bill, it is quite true that that Bill contained a greater number of clauses than the Bill now before us; but I do not think it contained a greater amount of difficult, complex, and disputable matter. The practice has grown up of late years of throwing into sub-sections a multitude of provisions which in old times would always have been the subject of separate clauses. This is the 11th day on which the Committee on the Land Purchase Bill has sat, and we are only at the third clause. But the Land Bill of 1881 occupied 50 Sittings of the House, and the Committee on that Bill occupied 32 Sittings of the House. It happened in the case of that Bill, as in the case of this Bill, that some of the first clauses were difficult, and I think it will be found, if the matter is carefully examined, that less progress was made in the case of the Land Bill in the first ten days than Her Majesty's Government have made with the Bill now before us. But whereas the Irish Land Bill was an Irish Bill exclusively, and English Members interposed very little in the Debate, this is a measure involving financial provisions concerning England and Scotland and is an English almost as much as an 1782 Irish Bill. I say now, as I said when the measure was first introduced, that it is necessarily one of the most complicated and difficult measures ever submitted to the House, and therefore I do not think that there is any ground for the complaint; but I believe that there is a disposition to dissuade any one who is an extreme opponent of the measure from endeavouring to make gain or advantage from it in any shape or form unnecessarily protracting its progress. There is only one other point on which I wish to say a word, and that is with regard to the reference which the right hon. Gentleman made to me in connection with next Wednesday. He said that if I expressed a certain opinion with regard to next Wednesday he would not be disposed to take it. I am disposed to speak in the opposite sense. If the right hon. gentleman thinks it necessary to interfere with the course of business in the House and with the rights of Private Members, particularly in circumstances so remarkable as these, when he has taken the night of the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, in which so much interest is taken in Scotland—in my opinion, his only safety is to insist on that on which he has often insisted on previous occasions, and to be perfectly uniform in the application of his rule. I do not look to the contents of the Bills, or to anything that may be called a matter of immediate urgency which I might conceive would be a possible subject for exception, but, taking these measures as measures, they are all well entitled to discussion, and I think the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen is better entitled than any other Motion, on account of what has formerly happened. I may press on her Majesty's Government that they should not make two bites at a cherry, but should make a fair and uniform practice, and therefore avoid all occasion for giving ground for special complaint on the part of those who may be interested in any particular measure.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Am I to understand that the right hon. Gentleman is inviting me to take all Wednesdays after Whitsuntide?
§ (5.0.) MR. LABOUCHERE
The right hon. Gentleman was in a somewhat prophetic mood as to what is going to take place in the present year, but I am sorry that he did not say when there was going to be a Dissolution. With regard to the motion of the right hon. Gentleman, it seems to me that I am always expected to play lamb to the right hon. Gentleman's wolf. The right hon. Gentleman turns on me as if I were the fons et origo of all obstruction in the House. In one sense I am—in the right sense of the word obstruction. The Conservative Party and Ministers have extraordinary notions as to the duties of this House. The right hon. Gentleman has said that I delay Public Business by putting down Amendments. That is one of the valuable truisms in which the right hon. Gentleman occasionally indulges. There can be no ground for any complaint until we have, as in the Land Bill in 1881, occupied more than 32 days. In the discussion on the Land Bill in 1881 the present Chief Secretary made a vast number of speeches, and, for my own part, though I may not be able to equal the Chief Secretary in the eloquence of his speeches, I will endeavour to do so in their number. I would point out to the House that there is no deliberate intention on the part of any one on this side of the House to obstruct, for the sake of obstruction. We know that this Bill must pass. Every clause of the Bill bristles with false principles, and, therefore, I and my friends naturally seek to alter it and make the best of it. Regarding this Motion, however, upon general principles, I am entirely opposed to any invasion of the rights of Private Members, for whenever an attempt at such invasion is made it is owing to Ministers having made a muddle of their own proceedings. The right hon. Gentleman said that it is necessary to pass the Land Purchase Bill at once,' and that all other business should give way to it. Then why did he not bring in the Bill earlier than the 9th of April of the present Session? The Government spent many weeks in February and March over the Tithe Bill. Of course, it is known that they were forced to do so by certain hon. Members 1784 sitting behind the Treasury Bench; but surely that does not warrant the right hon. Gentleman pleading now that hon. Members have no right to discuss the Land Purchase Bill. The fact is that Ministers are behind with their business, for there is not only the Land Purchase Bill, but also the Estimates for discussion, and we are told that the Bill granting free education is to be introduced. Well, I shall be very sorry to do anything, consistently with my duty to other Bills, which will help to let Ministers escape from the pledge they have given in respect to this matter. I am one of those who want free education, and the right hon. Gentleman may depend upon it that the Radical Members are not going to play into the hands of the " cave "behind him. We are not going to play into the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who must have announced with grief and sorrow that he is in favour of assisted education, considering what he previously said: nor are we going to play into the hands of the Minister of Education, who in his electoral address protested against the system. We had great trouble in forcing the Government to give it, and we are going to keep the Government to their terms and to secure it. It is not improbable that the Radicals may object to much that is in the Bill, but in all probability we shall assent to its passing, and change and modify it when we have a majority. I further object to the proposal of the Government to take the time of Private Members, because it introduces a new element into the demands on the public time. By means of it Ministers are able to say in effect what Bills they approve or disapprove. They will take one Wednesday when Bills which they disapprove are to be brought on, but not the next, because then a Bill favoured by their supporters is to be brought on —a Bill about female franchise or some folly of that sort. In these matters let us at least be fair. What is sauce for the gander is sauce for the goose also. Let the Government take all the Wednesdays or none.
§ (5.10.) MR. BRYCE
I beg to move an Amendment to except Friday, the 8th of May, from the operation of the Resolution. I could have understood the action of the right hon. Gentleman 1785 if it had been uniform, but to select days in a particular way, and practically in favour of particular Bills, is scarcely fair to the House. I should not have moved my Amendment if the right hon. Gentleman had taken all the time of Private Members, and if he had not intimated that the Government would not take Wednesday, the 13th; but, under the circumstances, I feel bound in duty to my constituents and to the people of Scotland, to take the course I do. What we want is uniformity of treatment, and, in fairness and justice, I ask that my Amendment should be accepted. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman will express his " deep regret " and speak of his " sense of duty," but I would rather have an ounce of justice than a pound of his regrets.
§ Amendment proposed, after the word " Friday," to insert the words " except on Friday, 8th May."—(Mr. Bryce.)
§ Question proposed, " That those words be there inserted."
§ (5.12.) MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
The hon. Member for Aberdeen has candidly confessed that his principal motive of action in excepting Wednesday, the 13th of May, is not that he loves the Access to Mountains Bill so much as that he hates the Women's Franchise Bill.
§ MR. COURTNEY
The hon. Member distinctly stated that he should not have moved his Amendment if the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury had not intimated that he would not take Wednesday, the 13th. Therefore, I have not unfairly interpreted what the hon. Member said. Now, as to the question that is to come on on the 13th of May. Last Friday week the first notice of Amendment on going into Committee of Supply stood in the name of the hon. Member for Haddington relative to the political disabilities of women. That could not have been brought on if the Bill of the 13th of May still stood on the Paper; and it was a question with those Members interested in the subject whether that Motion should be proceeded with or whether the chance of the 13th of May should be retained. A deputation went to the right hon. Gentleman to ascertain 1786 the intention of the Government with respect to that day, and the right hon. Gentleman has frankly repeated what he said to the deputation—that it was not intended to adjourn the House before the 13th of May, and that, in the absence of unforeseen circumstances, the Government had no intention to take that day. Well, has anything unforeseen happened?
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
Yes, surely. The First Lord of the Treasury bases his claim to the days of Private Members on the fact that the unforeseen has happened—that the Land Purchase Bill is obstructed.
§ MR. COURTNEY
That has not happened since the time referred to, and was not unforeseen. On all grounds it is impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to depart now from the engagement he has made. The engagement of the right hon. Gentleman was known to every Member of the House; it was known to the hon. Member for Northampton. And with regard to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen, may I point out that even if he loses this opportunity of discussing it the Scotch Members, in consequence of the withdrawal of the Motion as to women's suffrage, had the opportunity given them the other night of debating the question of the deer forests—which is a somewhat kindred subject to that in which the hon. Gentleman is so deeply interested. Before sitting down I should like to say that my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian, was a little obscure with respect to the Wednesdays subsequent to Whitsuntide. With regard to Bills which have been considered before Whitsuntide, which have passed a Second Reading, and which are set down for progress after Whitsuntide, if the opportunity of further progress is taken away we shall put a stop to all legislation by private Members and make such legislation before Whitsuntide a farce. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman as to the necessity of reserving those Wednesdays for such Bills. I protest against the contention of the hon. Member for Northampton and the hon. Member for Aberdeen that Wednesday, the 13th, should be taken.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I may remind the House that the Amendment before it is 1787 a limited one. It merely excepts Friday the 8th May.
(5.19.) SIR H.JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
May I appeal to the Member for Aberdeen to withdraw his Amendment. I will then ask leave to amend the Motion so that it shall read, after the word " Bill," in the last line but one, " shall also have precedence on Wednesdays until said Bill has passed through Committee of the House.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ SIR H. JAMES
If there is any ambiguity in the views of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, there is no ambiguity in those of the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees. Whatever may be the inconvenience to Members of this House, and however desirable it may be that their time should be occupied by useful and practical legislation, yet according to the right hon. Gentleman all ought to give way to what will be after all an abstract discussion on the right of female suffrage. The effect of the Amendment which I beg leave to move is that until the Irish Land Bill has passed through Committee all the Wednesdays shall be taken up by that Bill. In that case we may hope that that Bill will be through Committee before the Whitsuntide Recess, and if it is, fewer Wednesdays will be taken by the Government after Whitsuntide. Anything which may interfere with the progress of the Land Bill through Committee will be detrimental to the public interest. What does the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees ask? He asks that the progress of the Land Bill shall be suspended, and that precedence shall be given to the Second Reading of the Bill for conferring the suffrage upon women. Does the right hon. Gentleman hope that there is any possibility of that Bill passing through the House? The House has still to deal with the Bill for Marriage of a Deceased Wife's Sister, with the Rating of Machinery Bill, with the Bill which would give a close time for hares. All those Bills, having been read a second time, have vested interests, and ought to be dealt with practically by the House. If we now say that we will not 1788 take away the Wednesday in question, but will give it for the pleasure of hearing the eloquence of my right hon. Friend, we must take more days after Whitsuntide, and all for an abstract proposition which we have already at different times discussed eight or ten times in this House. There is only one argument which has been used in favour of that course, namely, that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury has given a pledge. But this is a question for the House itself. We have to consider how we can best do what is useful for carrying on the public business. We shall not be able to leave this House in the month of July if these days are not taken, and the Session will have to be further prolonged. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House did not anticipate, when he gave what has been called a pledge, that eleven days would have been taken up with three clauses of the Irish Land Bill, or that he would have had to listen to so many arguments from the hon. Member for Elgin. I beg to move the Amendment.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 5, after the word "Wednesday," to insert the words " until it shall have passed through Committee." — (Sir Henry James.)
§ Question proposed, " That those words be there inserted."
§ (5.26.) VISCOUNT WOLMER (Hants, Petersfield)
As reference has been made to me by the right hon. Gentleman, I should like to inform him what was actually said by the Leader of the House on the point in question. The deputation waited on him last Monday week, and as a result, the Motion of the hon. Member for Haddington, which was on the Paper for the following Friday, was removed. The First Lord of the Treasury stated that he did not intend to move the Adjournment of the House before the 13th of May, and that he would not take that day for the Business of the Government unless some "wholly unforeseen emergency" arose. I should like to ask if any wholly unforeseen emergency has since arisen?
§ (5.28.) SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
I hope the First Lord of the Treasury will allow the House to express its own opinion on this subject; that he will 1789 listen to the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury, and not dictate his personal opinion. The right hon. Gentleman is asking the House to make a sacrifice of its time for the purpose of carrying the Irish Land Bill through Committee. With regard to the pledge which has been referred to, the right hon. Gentleman says that he has not given a pledge, although what he said has been construed into one, and it is a curious thing that a man should be bound, not by what he acknowledges to be a pledge, but by what other people understand to be a pledge. It seems to me it would be as well for the right hon. Gentleman not to bring any pressure to bear on the House, but to allow it to determine for itself whether all Wednesdays shall be taken for the Irish Land Bill. I think that the proposal of the right hon. Member for Bury is one which we ought to accept, as it would enable the rest of the Session to be devoted to the Free Education Bill and Supply, and would not damnify the smaller Bills which have so far been read a second time. The Government must take the time somehow or other, and had better do so before Whitsuntide. The arrangement that all Wednesdays should be taken need hardly be broken into for the grand field day of the right hon. Member for Liskeard and the noble Lord the Member for the Petersfield Division, whom, in other circumstances, we should be even more pleased to hear on the subject of Female Suffrage than we should be to hear the right hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
He is younger. I hope the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury will be accepted, as to my mind it practically meets all the necessities of the case.
§ (5.33.) MR. W. H. SMITH
I trust that the House will not consider it necessary to prolong the Debate. The question before us is a very narrow one. It is whether the understanding that has been come to with reference to May 13th shall, or shall not, be observed. For myself I feel bound not to depart from that understanding, but it is for the House to decide what course shall be taken. I fully appreciate the desire of the House to make progress with the Irish Land Bill, and under the circum- 1790 stances I shall leave this question of taking Wednesday, May 13th, to be decided by the majority.
§ (5.34.) MR. KEAY (Elgin and Nairn)
, who rose amid cries of " Divide " said: I am glad hon. Gentlemen opposite are so demonstratively objecting to my speaking, because it helps me to push home the argument I was about to address to the House with regard to the attack made upon me by the First Lord of the Treasury. My reply is that if any of my speeches have been prolonged unduly, the reason is to be found in the obstruction which I have met with from the opposite side of the House. Whenever I have risen to speak to Amendments in Committee on the Land Bill I have been received with obstructive cries and howls from hon. Members, chiefly of the landlord persuasion. The attack of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord has been endorsed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury, and by the noble Lord the Member for Petersfield, and I therefore think it right to briefly designate the character of the Amendments which I have placed upon the Paper.
§ MR. KEAY
I trust, Sir, you or the House did not think I was going to speak on the Amendments. I only ask to be allowed to point to the Paper in order to show that my Amendments were such as should be put down by anyone professing Radical principles. I do not know whether this is the proper time for me to say a word in explanation of the prominent position which, in connection with the Land Bill, I have thought it right to take up.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order ! The hon. Member has sufficiently made a personal defence, and he must now confine his remarks to the Amendment before the House.
§ (5.39.) MR. A. O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
The observation of the First Lord appeared to mo to be deficient in one or two points. He proposes to take a great deal of the time of the House for 1791 Government business, but the Government have not yet stated what they intend to do with the Land Department Bill or the Employers' Liability Bill.: Supply, too, has been mentioned, but nothing has been said as to the Vote on Account.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order ! The hon. Member's observations are not relevant to the Amendment. They would be more properly made on the Main Question.
§ (5.40.) MR. WOODALL (Hanley)
I feel that it is only right to thank the First Lord of the Treasury for the loyalty with which he has adhered to the understanding with reference to May 13th. But there are now only two Wednesdays before Whitsuntide, and it is clear that the Wednesdays after will be required to enable further progress to be made with those Bills for which Private Members have been fortunate enough to obtain a Second Reading. I would suggest to the First Lord that the equity of all interests would be met, and Public Business best promoted, by his omitting the concluding passage from his Resolution, and leaving, for the present at any rate, all the Wednesdays free for the Private Members, to which they properly belong.
§ (5.41.) MR. W. H. SMITH
In answer to a question addressed to me by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, I expressed willingness to forego Wednesdays altogether, but since doing so the Wednesdays have been pressed upon the Government, and those who are responsible for the conduct of Public Business can hardly refrain from accepting facilities of that kind when they are offered. The House must now decide the question.
§ (5.42.) MR. HALDANE (Haddington)
I do think that if May 13th is taken by the Government it would be unfair treatment, for my Resolution on Female Suffrage did not come on last Friday simply because of the understanding that the Bill dealing with the subject would come up for discussion on Wednesday, the 13th. I am aware that the right hon. Gentleman gave no pledge in terms, but he is always courteous and explicit in what he says, and he certainly conveyed to our minds a promise to leave the 13th May free for us. I hope the House 1792 appreciates the joining of hands by the right hon. Gentlemen the Members for Bury and Derby and the hon. Member for Northampton in an appeal to devote more time to the discussion of the Irish Land Purchase Bill. I ask the House to pause before depriving us of the opportunity we seek of discussing the principle of Women's Suffrage.
§ (5.44.) MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
No one has at present said anything about Wednesday, 6th May, on which day the First Order is the Town Holdings Bill, in which my hon. Friend the Member for West St. Pancras is much interested. Unfortunately, he is not here now, or he would put in a claim for consideration on that ground. I think we have shown by the Divisions which have taken place on two recent Wednesdays how much interest is taken in the town lands question. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury is making exceptions with regard to other Bills, but we, because we stand first with the town lands question on the 6th of May, have to lose our place. If this Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the member for Bury (Sir H. James) is not carried, we do not know that we shall have an opportunity of passing through Committee the Places of Worship Enfranchisement Bill, the Second Reading of which was passed by the largest majority of this Session. If there is to be no protection for the rights of Private Members, the Ballot becomes a farce, and those who are deeply interested in questions of this kind merely waste time when they ballot for a place, and take the necessary precautions to secure the attendance of their friends. We who have precedence on the 6th of May have a perfect right to ask the right hon. Gentleman to exempt that day from the operation of his proposals, and also to ask that the Bills that passed their Second Reading earlier in the Session shall be kept alive. If we do not continue to protest against this continually increasing absorption of Private Members' business, the time will come when Private Members will come down here simply to say " ditto " to what the First Lord of the Treasury says. I think we ought to protest in the strongest language possible against the conduct of the Government.
§ (5.50.)The House divided:—Ayes 218; Noes 159.—(Div. List, No. 162.)
§ Another Amendment made, by leaving out the words "If it be appointed for that day."—(Sir Henry James.)
§ Main Question, as amended, proposed.
§ (6.4.) DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I much regret that in consequence of this proposal a very important Motion affecting the North of Scotland will be prevented coming on. In the month of February my hon. Friend the Member for Sutherland (Mr. A. Sutherland) had a Motion exactly similar before the House. The right hon. Gentleman took his day and since then, unfortunately, there have been some lawlessness and disturbance in the North. The people who are suffering from the grievances to which the Motion relates have not been able to bring those grievances before the House. I do not think the course the right hon. Gentleman is taking will facilitate business. Instead of raising the question we are anxious to raise in a single discussion, we shall be compelled to have three discussions—one on the Supplementary Estimates, a second on the salary of the Secretary for Scotland, and a third on the Vote for the Crofters' Commission. If the right hon. Gentleman were wise he would come to terms with us and give us a couple of hours to-morrow night, in place of the three he is robbing us of.
§ (6.7.) MR. A. O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
I should like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman what are the intentions of the Government with regard to the Vote on Account, with regard to the Land Department Bill, and with regard to the Employers' Liability Bill. The question of employers' liability would have been raised on this side of the House over and over again if the present Government had not repeatedly held out to the working classes the prospect of the passing of a measure which would satisfactorily deal with the question of injury to life and limb in employment. The Government have been dallying the subject before our eyes now for three years.
§ (6.8.) MR. KEAY
I now desire, Sir, with your permission, to conclude the few brief remarks I had commenced when the Amendment was before the House. I have already pointed to the 1794 character of my Amendments as proving that they were such as any honest Radical Member of this House would feel himself bound to put down. I have now to address a remark or two to the House on the methods by which those Amendments have been—
§ (6.10.) MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
I wish to protest against the taking away of any opportunity of bringing forward Private Members' business. If I can in any way squeeze in on any of the Votes a Debate on the question in which I am specially interested, I shall certainly do so.
§ (6.11.) MR. ANGUS SUTHERLAND (Sutherland)
I wish to add my protest to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness. I have for a long time had a Notice down for the amendment of the Crofters' Act; but I have never been able to secure a place for the discussion. When I had a Motion down earlier in the Session the right hon. Gentleman appeared in his favourite character of confiscator of Private Members' time, and took it away from me. I think the right hon. Gentleman might, at least, have excepted to-morrow evening from the operation of his rule.
§ (6.12.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I trust the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House will be able to give us a prompt reply to the question put to him by my hon. Friend the Member for East Donegal (Mr. A. O'Connor) respecting the Land Department Bill. That Bill has been in Committee for the last five months, but it has never moved on, and I think we are entitled to know what are the intentions of the Government in regard to it. Perhaps if the Government can see their way to take out of the Purchase Bill the clauses relating to the organisation of the Land Department, and deal with it in the Land Department Bill when that Bill 1795 comes on, the prospects of the Land Purchase Bill will be improved, and I think that measure would pass through Committee at least by Whitsuntide. I think the present Motion ought not to have been made, because the Government ought to have sufficient intelligence and businesslike capacity to arrange their business so as to suit the settled order of business in the House. I object on principle to such Motions. If it is found, as a matter of experience, that the time of the House is not properly apportioned between the Government and private Members, the question ought to be dealt with not by these random Motions, but by a deliberate amendment of the Rules of the House. When, however, I consider the question from the point of view of the existing situation, I see no objection to the Motion. I think the subject of the Land Purchase Bill is as worthy of the time of the House as any other subject which has come before it, and I wish to say that we are not only willing to allow progress with the Bill, but desirous to promote it. If any hon. Member says we have unnecessarily interfered with, or offered factious opposition to, the progress of the Bill, let me remind him that the rate of progress of the Bill has improved as its discussion has proceeded, and even the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary cannot say that the rate? of progress has been unsatisfactory as a whole. As to what has been effected by the discussions that have taken place, I would refer the House to the three clauses already considered in Committee as they originally stood, and as they now appear, and I therefore think I am entitled to claim credit from the Government, not only that we have in no way obstructed the Bill, but that, on the contrary, we have throughout shown a sincere desire to pass a measure which, although of a very complex character, is one of vast importance to Ireland.
§ (6.17.) MR. W. H. SMITH
I desire to say that I have not attributed obstruction to the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton), and I am sure he will find if he remembers what I have said that [no observation which has fallen from me is capable of bearing any such interpretation. In regard to the remarks of the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Donegal(Mr. A. 1796 O'Connor), I have to say that there is no immediate necessity for a Vote on Account, and that no such Vote will be asked for before Whitsuntide. As to the Newfoundland Bill, I hope it will be unnecessary to proceed with it. In that case, after the Land Bill, we shall take the Education Bill. As to the Employers' Liability Bill, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made a statement recently, but there is a strong objection to bring in Bills which are not likely to pass. It all rests with the House, and I can only repeat that we do not contemplate asking the House to sit beyond July. Therefore, unless there is a strong probability of our being able to pass that measure through its various stages in the earlier part of July, I do not see how it is to be dealt with this Session. I may also say that I am not at present in a position to give a reply to the question put to me with regard to the provisions relating to the organisation of the Land Department.
§ MR. PICTON
When the right hon. Gentleman states that it is not proposed to ask for any Vote on Account before Whitsuntide, is that statement to be presumed to imply that a Vote on Account will be taken after Whitsuntide?
§ (6.20.) MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
I understand that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury holds out no hope of the Employers' Liability Bill being passed this Session. That statement will be received with much surprise and regret by a very large number of those who belong to the working classes of this country.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
In answer to what has just fallen from the hon. Member for the Wansbeck Division, I have only to say that it is entirely at the option of hon. Members opposite whether the measure he refers to shall be disposed of this Session. If there is any strong desire to facilitate that and other business there may yet be time for dealing with the measure; but up to the present time quite two-thirds of the time of the House has been occupied by the Opposition.
§ MR. STOREY (Sunderland)
Does the right hon. Gentleman remember any Parliament in which two-thirds of the 1797 time of the House has not been occupied by the Opposition?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I am certainly not able to remember any Session during the present Parliament in which two-thirds of the time of the House has not been occupied by the Opposition.
§ MR. FENWICK
I must express my regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary has not yet seen his way to the introduction of the Employers' Liability Bill, seeing that Her Majesty's Government have announced their intention in each of the Queen's Speeches at the opening of the last two Sessions to deal with the question. It now appears that the subject will not be considered even during the present Session. Of course, it is impossible to say how the Government Bill will be received on these Benches until we have had the opportunity of seeing it in print; but, speaking for myself, and, I think I may also say, for those of my colleagues with whom I have been associated in relation to this question, if the Bill is at all a satisfactory one there will be no disposition on our part to obstruct or delay the measure in its passage through the House. I am only sorry that we have not been able to obtain from the Government an assurance affording anything like a reasonable hope that the 9 Bill will be considered this Session.
§ (6.25.)The House divided:—Ayes 270; Noes 84.—(Div. List, No. 163.)
Resolved, That, whenever the Purchase of Land and Congested Districts (Ireland) Kill is appointed for Tuesday or Friday, the House do meet at Three o'clock, and that the proceedings on that Bill have precedence over all Orders of the Day and Notices of Motion: and that the said Bill have precedence on Wednesday until it shall have passed through Committee.