HC Deb 31 July 1891 vol 356 cc938-42

The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer suggested that I should ask him to-day what fixtures the Government have been able to make with regard to Public Business in the future. I have also to ask the right hon. Gentleman a question of great importance as regards the privileges of this House. I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman what course he proposes to take with reference to the constitutional objection that was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. Fowler) last night in reference to one of the Lords Amendments to the Education Bill. That was an objection which affected not only the Lords Amendment to the Bill, but the rights of this House. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will feel that the House is entitled to know at once the course which the Government propose to take upon a question of such grave importance, which not only affects the Bill itself, but the rights of this House. He will feel that the question is one which should be maturely considered at a time when it can be properly discussed by the House.


With reference to the last question of the right hon. Gentle men, I need hardly say that the Government frankly accept, as they are bound to do, the decision of Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker being the highest authority on these questions and the guardian of the privileges of this House, and he having expressed an opinion that a breach of privilege was involved in the Amendment of the Lords. The course we propose to take is to negative the Amendment of the Lords, and to substitute for it an Amendment which will in substance contain all that part of the Amendment to which no exception can be taken from the point of view of privilege. The Amendment we shall propose will guard the clause by enactments to the effect that the aggregate amount which the grouped schools will be able to earn under the clause shall not exceed that which they would have received under Section 19 of the Act of 1871. Of course, the House will not expect me at this moment to commit myself to any particular words, but we shall in that way guard the privileges of the House and, I trust, remove the objection which has been taken to the Amendment of the Lords. I think that in that way we shall best meet the ruling of Mr. Speaker and the views of even the most jealous guardians of the privileges of the House. With regard to the business of the House, the right hon. Gentleman asks me what fixtures are to be made. The fixtures must depend upon an hypothesis, and I will assume as a starting point that we shall finish Supply to-night. I assume that as the hypothesis, and, basing myself upon that, we should then take Bills to-morrow and the Report of Supply, and on Monday we shall take the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill and proceed with the consideration of the matters that may have to be discussed in reference to it. On Tuesday we shall take the Indian Budget, and on Wednesday various remanets which we have not had time to dispose of previously. In that case we should be able to adjourn the House from Thursday until Saturday, when the Prorogation will take place.


In reference to the Lords' Amendment to the Free Education Bill, I do not quite under stand the course the right hon. Gentle men proposes to take. The first, the fundamental, thing we have to do is to reject the Lords' Amendment. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will take care that there appears upon the Journal a record that this particular Amendment is au invasion of the privileges of this House. After having rejected that Amendment I do not know what course the right hon. Gentleman proposes to take. I can understand amending an Amendment; I do not know what will be done with respect to an Amendment that is absolutely rejected. There is no such thing as amending an Amendment of the Lords which is in breach of the privileges of this House. This is a grave matter affecting the rights of the House of Commons, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will not make any proposal except that of rejecting the Amendment without giving due notice to this House so that we may consider it. Therefore it will be very important to know when a question of that importance will be discussed, and the words should be printed so that we may see the effect of any alteration the Government have to make, and how it will bear upon the education question and upon the rights of this House. The right hon. Gentleman has not said when, supposing matters to go on as he contemplates, he will take the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill.


I thought I said that on Monday we shall take the Second Reading, on the hypothesis that we finish the Report of Supply on Saturday. That would be the first business, and then we should take the Lords' Amendments to several Bills. I hope we may be able on Monday to deal with the Lords' Amendment to the Education Bill; and I will endeavour to secure that due notice is given of the precise manner in which we shall propose to deal with it.


Perhaps I may be allowed to submit that there is a precedent with regard to the method of dealing with the Lords' Amendment. It arose upon the Coroners (Ireland) Bill. The Clerk was then Sir Erskine May, and Mr. Brand, the Speaker, ruled that it was for this House to reject a Lords' Amendment absolutely, and to leave it to the Lords to make any subsequent Amendment; it was not for this House to amend an Amendment which was in its essence bad.


I quite understand that we cannot amend the Lords' Amendment but must negative the whole clause. The question is whether, having negatived it, we can send up to the Lords an alternative clause. ["No, no," from the Opposition.] I have been advised that that was the course open to us. There is another course, which is simply to negative the clause. It is a question of convenience which of the two courses is to be preferred at this juncture. I simply say I have been advised on good authority that we might send back another clause. If we do not do so, if the House thinks it the better course to negative it simply, we should do so.


I venture to think that the last named course most comports with the dignity and privileges of this House. A clause which is an invasion of the privileges of this House has been sent down by the Lords; what we have to do is to reject it; it is for the Lords to amend it, or to substitute another proposal which shall not be open to that objection. Therefore I hope we may take it for granted that that will be the course suggested by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that we need waste no further time over it, but that will be the end of the question so far as we are concerned.


I had hoped to speak upon the Amendment, but if it is for the convenience of the House I will not take advantage of the opportunity.

*MR. TALBOT (Oxford University)

May I ask what business will be proceeded with to-morrow?


I presume that the Report of Supply will be taken first, and if an announcement to that effect is made, I think it may facilitate the discussion of Supply to-night. I am afraid that the Post Office Vote cannot come on until very late.


What do the Government propose to do in reference to the Training Colleges (Ireland) Bill?

MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)

Is it intended that the Amendments to the Factories and Workshops Bill shall be taken as the first Order on Monday?


I am afraid that I cannot answer the last question; I must reserve the point. Of course, we are all agreed that the financial business, on which the termination of the Session depends, must have precedence. On Saturday the first business will be Report of Supply, and then the Training Colleges (Ireland) Bill, the Clergy Discipline Bill, and other small Bills.

MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)

Will the right hon. Gentleman say at what hour the House will meet tomorrow, and if any hour will be named for the Adjournment?


The House will meet at 12 o'clock, but I am afraid that I cannot fix an hour for the termination of the business. Sometimes it does not facilitate early business if an hour is fixed for rising.