§ Considered in Committee.
§ *(5.34.) MR. CAUSTON (Southwark, W.)
I beg to move to report Progress. I protest against Progress being made with this Bill at the fag-end of the Sitting in the absence of hon. Members 1797 who take an interest in it. We know that the measure is a very incomplete one, and that the electoral disabilities of the ordinary working man are left untouched. It is merely a legislative tinkering with the Registration Laws, and it is proposed in the interests of the Government supporters, who for some reason think that the soldiers, sailors, police, and coachmen, to whom this Bill specially applies, will vote for them. I protest against this measure being taken this afternoon, and I hope the Government will not press it.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Mr. Causton.)
§ *(5.36.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster
The hon. Member appeals to me to support him in an obstructive course.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
I repeat the words, and I refuse to agree to the obstructive Motion of the hon. Member. The hon. Member is aware that there was a Parliamentary understanding last evening that we should get the Speaker out of the Chair on the Civil Service Estimates. That understanding has failed, and under the circumstances I am justified in asking the House to proceed with a Bill against the principle of which there has been no Division. I hope right hon. Gentlemen opposite will assist me in endeavouring to carry forward the business of the House.
§ *(5.38.) MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I think there has been some little misunderstanding. I was not aware the Government were going to put off Supply. I hope that even now it is not too late to get the Speaker out of the Chair. There was a distinct understanding that the Speaker was to leave the Chair on the Civil Service Estimates before moving the Adjournment. If that had been done I had intended to ask the Government not to proceed with this and the Savings Bank Bill. Let us deal with this question as sensible businesslike men. No one wishes to prolong this Sitting; we all want to get away. The right Gentleman met us in a spirit of the greatest fairness last night 1798 in regard to the Scotch Private Bill Committee, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Lothian agreed that facilities should be given for carrying on other business of the Government, but at half-past 11 the House had to deal with a question of great public interest with reference to the management of the Post Office, and no one can say half an hour was too long to devote to that. Still, I believe there was a distinct understanding that to-day no opposition would be raised to the Speaker leaving the Chair. I would render every facility to carry such a Motion upon the understanding that the adjournment of the House was then moved.
§ *(5.41.) MR. W. H. SMITH
I am afraid that it is impossible to go back upon the Order of the House postponing Supply until next Monday week. I may say that I received communications which satisfied me that we could not have got the Speaker out of the Chair this evening without the Closure. [Cries of "Oh!"] The House is in the habit of accepting statements which I make. I decline to waste the time between now and 10 minutes to 7, and I have to ask the House to consider what are practically two uncontested Bills.
(5.42.) SIR G. TREVE LYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I do not want to use strong language, but I think it is rather unfortunate that not a single word was said in the course of the last hour or two as to the intentions of the Government, and for this reason, that we on this Bench were prepared, directly the Motion was made that the Speaker should leave the Chair, to have risen and assured the Government that we would do all in our power to allow the Motion to be carried in time for the Motion for the Adjournment to be moved afterwards. I took a good deal of trouble to ascertain who intended to speak on the Motion "That the Speaker do leave the Chair," and I believe I absolutely ascertained that they were willing to enter into that course to the fullest measure. If the Order of the Day for the Speaker leaving the Chair had been disposed of I would have been disposed to ask the Government whether they would consent, under the circumstances, not to proceed with the two Bills next on the Paper, which are Bills upon which there is considerable difference of opinion.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir R. WEBSTER,) Isle of Wight
May I point out that there is only one set of Amendments to this Bill, standing in the name of the hon. Member for Camborne, and that there cannot be any lengthened discussion upon it? The hon. Member himself appealed to the House last night to allow the Bill to be taken after 12 o'clock. It is important that the Bill should be passed at an early period of the Session.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
The hon. Member for Caithness had intended to raise an important question on the Motion "That the Speaker do leave the Chair." I represented to him that perhaps it would be desirable if he deferred the matter, as it was to the interest of all Members that they should get away as soon as possible. The hon. Gentleman consented to defer the question. Other hon. Members gave up their right to speak on the Motion, under the impression that there was some sort of understanding that if they did Mr. Speaker would leave the Chair, and the Motion for Adjournment would be moved. As to this Order, the Amendment of the hon. Member for Camborne goes to the root of the Bill, and the hon. Member will not be left to discuss it himself, as there are many Members who share his views. Under these circumstances, I do not think it is probable that the Bill will pass before 10 minutes to 7 o'clock. There is no desire, when the House meets after the Recess, to discuss the Motion "That the Speaker leave the Chair," and I and my hon. Friends will be prepared to consider the Estimates at once on Monday week. I would suggest that, on the understanding that there is no discussion on Monday week on the Motion "That the Speaker leave the Chair," the First Lord of the Treasury should now move the adjournment. I certainly think he would gain by accepting such a proposal.
§ (5.48.) MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne)
There is considerable opposition to this Bill on its merits, and although I was personally willing and anxious to take the Bill last night there can be no question of obstruction if discussion is raised. The First Lord of the Treasury has said there are two uncontested Bills. I presume that one to which he refers 1800 is the Savings Banks Bill. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that that is not an uncontested Bill. I have received instructions from my constituents to oppose that measure unless a concession is made on a point which the savings banks consider of vital importance.
§ MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
If there is one person to blame for the difficulty in which we are in at the present time it is the First Lord of the Treasury. The difficulty arises through the second Order of the Day being passed over. In giving up their right to speak on that Order hon. Members were not desirous that the Electoral Disabilities Bill and the Savings Banks Bill should be pushed forward this afternoon. The Bill now under consideration is one which none of us like—indeed we regard it as a paltry measure dealing with a great subject. Even if we dispose of it, it will be impossible to get the Savings Banks Bill through this afternoon, as there are several important points which must necessarily be discussed.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
If the right hon. Gentleman expects to get through these two Bills this afternoon he is very much mistaken. There will be much discussion upon the proposal to omit an important clause of the Savings Banks Bill.
§ *MR. TOMLINSON (Preston)
I rise to order. Is it in Order for the hon. Gentleman, on a Motion to report Progress on this Bill, to discuss the provisions of the Savings Banks Bill?
§ *MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
It is quite evident we cannot get through the two Bills and dispose of the Motion for Adjournment this afternoon. I would therefore support the suggestion of the hon. Member for Northampton, namely, that we should come to an understanding that the Speaker should leave the Chair without discussion on Monday the 6th of April, and that the Government should now move the adjournment for the holidays.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
If there is a distinct Parliamentary understanding which will be observed by hon. Gentlemen above and below the Gangway opposite, that the Speaker do leave the Chair on the Order being called on Monday week, I will accept the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ SIR G. TREVELYAN
I think the right hon. Gentleman has met us in a fair manner, and I shall consider it my duty to be here first thing on Monday the 6th, and bear testimony, if it is needed, to the understanding.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
Am I to understand there is an hon. Gentleman who dissents from the agreement? If so it is impossible to carry on business.