§ *(4.51.) MR. GOSCHEN
I rise to move—That, for the remainder of the Session, Government Business be not interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the Sittings of the House, and may be entered upon at any hour though opposed.By this Motion I ask the House to allow the 12 o'clock Rule to be suspended for 435 all Government Business. I think I may assume that there will be a general consent on the part of the House that we should now wind up the Session as speedily as possible, and to that end I look for co-operation in almost every direction. When recently the House was asked to suspend the 12 o'clock Rule as regards Supply, I gave a pledge that the House should not sit very late, but now I think that pledge should be superseded by the Motion on the Paper. I hope that during the short remainder of the Session the House will be ready to sit till a reasonable hour with the object of concluding Supply. I have been asked what the Government intend to do with regard to the Clergy Discipline Bill. That measure creates a new tribunal, which may be a matter of controversy, but the first three or four clauses of the Bill are simply to the effect that clergymen found guilty of crimes are to forfeit their benefices. I think there will be no objection to that, and I shall propose to omit the whole of the remainder of the Bill, and to pass those three or four clauses. I have been asked by the hon. Member for Dundee whether we will stop all Private Business.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
My question was whether the right hon. Gentleman will stop all opposed Private Business?
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
I think the hon. Member must appoint his own sentinel. There may be a few Bills which are unanimously desired in every part of the House, and any promise of mine might frustrate the passing of such Bills. No new legislation of a controversial nature will be introduced.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
I have nothing to add to what the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant has already said on that subject.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the remainder of the Session, Government Business he not interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the Sittings of the House, and may be entered upon at any hour though opposed."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
§ MR. COBB
I hope the Hares Bill introduced by the hon. and gallant Member for Thirsk will not be allowed to pass.
§ (4.59.) SIR W. HARCOURT
I also must oppose that Bill. It seems to me that there is no disposition to refuse to accept the proposal of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for, according to Moore's verse, with a little alteration—The best of all ways to shorten our daysIs to steal a few hours from the night.I need not repeat what I have said on a former occasion, but I think it is greatly to be deplored that the business of Supply should have fallen into such a condition that we are obliged to assent to this proposal. We ought to have some clear understanding that no new Bills will be introduced. I see there is one on to-day's Orders in the name of a Member of the Government, and we know nothing of it. I think also there should be an understanding that only Government Bills will be proceeded with late at night. I would take notice that this House has been sitting 15 days longer than last Session. That is the result of the experiment of an Autumn Session. Fifteen days means three weeks. I hope this will be a lesson against the repetition of an experiment which has obviously failed. The idea was that a Sitting in November would shorten the labours of the House. I ventured at the time to protest against that idea and against the experiment. I think the prediction I ventured to make has been amply fulfilled. I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to fix a day for the discussion of the Lords' Amendments on the Education Bill. On previous occasions the right hon. Gentleman has said that he will postpone this matter until Committee of Supply has closed; but I would remind him that he has already interrupted Supply in order to take the Lords' Amendments to the Irish Land Bill. Now, the Education Bill is a measure which affects England a great deal more than the Irish Land Bill, and there is every reason why the Amendments should be brought on at a time when there is a sufficient number of hon. Members present to fully discuss them. I would, therefore, ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that the Lords' Amendments to the Education Bill shall be taken on some day not later than Thursday next. Bearing in mind the importance of the Bill, and that it is not desirable that hon. Members should be called on to discuss the Amendments 437 at a late hour of the night, I think we have a right to ask for this assurance.
§ (5.3.) SIR H. DAVEY (Stockton)
I should like to ask whether the Government will take the Betting and Loans (Infants) Bills. There is, I think, a very general feeling in their favour.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)
I do not think it is in the power of a Minister, having obtained a concession from the House in regard to Supply on a distinct pledge that he would not persevere with it in the case of any important Vote after a given hour, to say when he obtains larger powers as to general business, that it is in his power to retract his pledge. I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman will say he will not persist against the general feeling of the House with any Vote. If so, no doubt no opposition will be offered to this alteration in his view. As to the proposal with regard to new legislation, I do not know what Bills have been passed by the House of Lords, but a most objectionable practice has grown up of sending down a batch of Lords' Bills after the general body of members interested in them has gone away. I would suggest the insertion of the words "and in the case of Bills already introduced" before "may be entered upon." This would prevent the application of the Motion to Bills not yet introduced into this House. I do not suppose anybody in the House would be so stupid as to oppose a Bill like that of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Agriculture (Mr. Chaplin) with regard to fertilisers, as it is intended to serve the interests of the agricultural community generally. There are Bills frequently introduced by the Treasury at the end of the Session which, like the Public Works Loans Bill of last year, contain a mass of contentious matter. I beg to move the Amendment I have suggested.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 3, after the word "and," to insert the words "in the case of Bills already introduced."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ *(5.7.) MR. GOSCHEN
I can assure the hon. and learned Member that his Amendment is not necessary, for I will 438 undertake that no new Bills shall be introduced during the prohibited hours.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
No Lords' Bills. Of course the hon. Member is alluding to Bills which come from the Lords, and not the Lords' Amendments. As to the suggestion of the right hon. Member for Derby, I do not quite understand whether it applies wholly to Government business or not.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I understand the difficulty to be in reference to Bills, not being Government Bills, that are not opposed. I know the difficulty there sometimes is of distinguishing between opposed and unopposed Bills, and I think the best course to take at this late period of the Session is to lay down that no business shall be taken except Government business.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
I thought that was the view of the right hon. Gentleman. What I undertake is this, that if the House is fairly unanimous in proceeding with these Bills, we will not deprive private Members of their chance. We adopt this attitude not in the interest of the Government, but in the interest of private Members. With regard to the question of the right hon. Member for Derby relating to the Lords' Amendments to the Education Bill, I had hoped that it would not be necessary to interrupt Supply. If we should be so fortunate as to finish Supply by Wednesday evening, we should be in a position to take the Education Bill on Thursday. However, seeing the interest hon. Members take in the Amendments, and in order to facilitate business, I will undertake that the Lords' Amendments to the Bill shall be taken, under any circumstances, on Thursday next as the first Order.
§ (5.10.) MR. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
I wish to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the Indian Budget will be the first Order on some early day?
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
Yes, Sir; I think the Indian Budget will come soon after the Lords' Amendments to the Education Bill have been disposed of. If we should be fortunate enough to finish Supply on Wednesday night we would take the Education Bill on Thursday, and possibly we might take the Indian Budget after that or on Friday. I do 439 not wish hon. Members, however, to regard this as a pledge, but merely as a contemplated possibility.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
I beg to ask whether it is intended to proceed with the Training Colleges (Ireland) Bill after 12 o'clock?
§ MR. PICTON
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has certainly lightened the load with regard to the Clergy Discipline Bill. Probably to the first four clauses most people will agree, but it is more than likely that they will be discussed and opposed, and I would suggest to the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it is worth while to run the risk of this after 12 o'clock in order simply to, pass the four clauses referred to.
§ MR. BUCHANAN (Edinburgh, W.)
Might I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that it would be more convenient, as the Indian Budget has been put off till so late, that it should not come immediately after the discussion of the Lords' Amendments to the Education Bill. In view of an impending famine in India there may be very important matters to be discussed upon the Indian Budget.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
In view of the statement made by the Chief Secretary, I beg to give notice that I shall oppose the discussion of the Training Colleges (Ireland) Bill after 12 o'clock, at a time when hon. Members cannot have an opportunity of fully expressing their views, and when no reports can reach Ireland.
§ MR. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)
I suppose the Order for the Contagious Diseases (Animals) Bill will be discharged?
§ MR. SEXTON
I have heard the statement of the hon. Member for South Tyrone with great surprise, because he allowed the Second Reading to pass without dissent. The hon. Member will have no difficulty in expressing his views 440 after 12 o'clock. I hope the House will not be kept sitting late on Wednesdays.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ *(5.15.) MR. GOSCHEN
With regard to Wednesday I think we may sit till 6 or half-past 6 o'clock. I am not favourable to the House sitting later than half-past six on Wednesday evenings if it can be avoided. As to the remarks of the hon. Member for Leicester concerning the Clergy Discipline Bill, I cannot believe there will be much opposition to the first four clauses, and it is very desirable that they should be passed. With regard to the Scotch Votes, I will endeavour to meet the views of hon. Gentlemen from Scotland as far as I can, but I cannot give a definite pledge as to the time when they will be taken.
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON
I wish to move to add to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman,And that no other business to which notice of Amendment has been placed on the Paper be proceeded with after 12 o'clock.That is a more moderate demand than has been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he is already bound by his pledge to prevent any business being taken after 1 o'clock. He is now going to make the House sit till 2 or 3 in the morning. I am really attempting to protect private Members. On the Paper to-day there are 20 private Members' Bills down for consideration, and most of these would not now be on the Paper at all unless they were opposed Bills. Unless my Amendment is agreed to private Members who oppose these Bills will have to stay here till 2 or 3 o'clock every morning in order to say formally "I object." It is a pernicious practice to send Government Bills down from the Lords at this period of the Session; but it is a still more pernicious practice to send down Bills which are not Government Bills. Private Members in all parts of the House have been compelled to abandon their Bills, and now, forsooth, we are to be asked to sit here till 3 or 4 in the morning to consider the 441 Private Bills of Members of the House of Lords.
To add at the end of the Question, the words "and that no other business as to which notice of any Amendment has been placed on the Paper be proceeded with after midnight."—(Mr. Edmund Robertson.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ (5.21.) MR. SCHWANN
Could not the Chancellor of the Exchequer cause these Bills from the Lords to be withdrawn entirely? I specially object to Order No. 39 on the Paper (Chartered Accountants Bill) being forced through in the small hours of the morning. That Bill, which is opposed by accountants throughout the country, was only introduced into the House of Lords about a week ago, and is a sample of a kind of legislation that ought not to be encouraged at this period of the Session.
§ MR. PICTON
I hope the Government will accept the Amendment. If it be rejected it means that we must take the trouble of stopping here till 3 or 4 or perhaps 5 in the morning in order to say—"I object."
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
I will endeavour to arrive at a compromise in the matter. It is because I wish to protect private Members that I hesitated to meet the views of the hon. Member for Dundee. But I will undertake, if it meets the general view, that no Private Bills at all shall be proceeded with after 1 o'clock.
§ SIR H. DAVEY
As I find there is considerable opposition to the Chartered Accountants Bill I will not proceed with it this Session.
§ *MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)
I would suggest that an exception should be made in favour of four or five private Members' Bills, which have reached almost the last stage.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
After Supply is finished there may be an opportunity between 12 and 1 o'clock for these Bills to come on. Till Supply is finished, I must adhere to the view I have expressed.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not agree to the suggestion of my hon. Friend. If there is to be a massacre of innocents, let all suffer alike.
§ (5.25.) SIR W. HARCOURT
It really is not a kindness to private Members 442 bers to keep these Bills in a state of suspended animation. It would be kinder, both to those who are promoting and those who are opposing particular Bills, that the exceptional rule should extend only to Bills which have been brought forward by the Government, and not to private Members' Bills.
§ MR. KELLY (Camberwell, N.)
There are 19 Orders of the Day apart from the Government Orders, and as to 16 of them it is absolutely impossible that they can pass this Session. On the other hand, there are three which have reached the Report stage, and I do think the Government might make some exception in their favour.
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Stockport)
I would point out that even if the three Bills referred to by the hon. Member pass this House this Session there is no chance of their passing the other House, and it would be better to give them the "happy despatch."
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall, Bodmin)
I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby is under a misapprehension. Why should you at, this period of the Session deprive private Members of their chance of getting Bills through? I do not see why the private Members' Bills should not be left in the position they were in before. It is quite true that the chance of passing them is a small one, but why should private Members be deprived of that chance?
§ MR. ESSLEMONT (Aberdeen, E.)
I merely rise for the purpose of stating that I strongly sympathise with the views which the hon. Member has expressed, and perhaps the statement of them will suffice.
(5.30.) Question put, and negatived.
Ordered, That, for the remainder of the Session, Government Business be not interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the Sittings of the House, and may be entered upon at any hour though opposed.