§ SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
I rise to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, whom I am glad to see amongst us to-day, what arrangements he intends to make with respect to Public Business. First of all, I want to know what are the intentions of the Government with reference to the Free Education Bill. We have always understood on this side of the House that the Government proposed to introduce that Bill after the Committee on the Land Bill. Is it their intention now to proceed with the Report stage of the Land Bill before taking the First Reading of the Education Bill? I could understand their proceeding with the Land Bill before moving the Second Reading of the other measure; but I do not understand why they should postpone the First Reading. That would bean unopposed stage, and it would give the House and the country the opportunity of considering the character of the measure. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider this, and agree to take the First Reading of the Education Bill before the Report stage of the Land Bill. The second question I wish to ask is, what day the right hon. Gentleman can appoint for the discussion of the affairs of Manipur? There are reasons why that discussion should not be postponed. We are anxious to hear the views of the Government upon this subject, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to fix an early date. Then with reference to the Bill which stands second on the Paper to-day—the Factories and Workshops Bill—I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will agree not to press it forward to-night. Very strong appeals have been made by the Government not to do so by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. H. Fowler) and the right hon. Member for Bury (Sir H. James).
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
In answer to the first question of the right hon. Gentleman, I have to remind him that the language I have uniformly used in this House is that the Free Education Bill would be introduced when the Land Purchase Bill was through its stages in this House, and I think it would be con- 1205 venient that we should adhere to that course.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to interpose for a moment. I presume that in the case of a Bill of this importance the right hon. Gentleman contemplates that there will be a considerable interval between the First and Second Reading of the Bill.
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I fully recognise the importance of that. In fact, I think I have already stated that the Government recognise the necessity of allowing a sufficient interval to elapse order that the Bill may be considered in the country as well as by the House. With regard to the second question of the right hon. Gentleman relating to the discussion which he desires to raise upon the occurrences at Manipur, I will ask him to be good enough to postpone the question until Monday, when I hope to be able to tell more accurately what will be the course of Public Business during the next week or 10 days. I recognise the necessity for a discussion upon the subject of Manipur, and I will take care that it is not unduly delayed. As to the postponement of the Factories and Workshops Bill, which stands in the second place for consideration this evening, I think it must be admitted that when a measure has been put down for a particular day, it ought to be considered on that day, unless very strong reasons are given against that course. The right hon. Gentleman has not referred to one reason for postponement, which has been mentioned to me privately, and that is the absence, which we all regret, of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), who took a prominent part in the consideration of this measure in the Standing Committee. I should be the last person to wish to urge a measure forward in the absence of a prominent Member of this House who has taken a strong interest in it. At the same time, it is undoubtedly for the convenience of the House that arrangements made for the progress of Bills should generally be adhered to. But on this occasion there is another reason why I should hesitate to force this measure on. It is always better to secure the co-operation of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite rather than their opposition in matters of this 1206 kind; and seeing that a change has supervened in relation to the discussion of the Newfoundland Bill, which stands first on the Paper this evening, and which we shall ask the House to read a second time—we hope without discussion —I think that perhaps I may be justified in the circumstances in yielding— [Ministerial cries of "No!" and "Hear, hear!"]—to the request made with regard to the Factories and Workshops Bill, on the understanding that we make serious progress in Committee of Supply this evening. I know that in making this concession I am disappointing a large number of hon. Members who sit behind me; but I feel that the interests which they have at heart will be forwarded rather than delayed by the course which I am now taking. I believe that we could not dispose of the Bill to-night in the face of the opposition with which it would probably be met were we to persevere with it, and I think I may count upon the readiness of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to dispose of the measure in a single Sitting on a future occasion. I very much regret the absence of the right hon. Member for Sheffield, and I hope it will be possible for him to be in his place when the Bill appears on the Order Paper at a future date. I hope it will be understood that when that date is fixed there will positively be no departure from the arrangement made.
§ SIR H. JAMES (Bury, Lancashire)
I am aware that there is no question before the House; but with your permission, Sir. and that of the House generally, I may perhaps be allowed to add a word to what has fallen from the right hon. Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt) in support of his appeal for the postponement of the Factories Bill. I yield to no one in my desire to see the Bill pass, but I fear that if the measure is pressed this evening, progress will be delayed by artificial Amendments. I believe that time will really be gained by postponing the consideration of the Bill. It may be said that the absence of one Member of this House, who takes great interest in the measure, is not sufficient ground for postponement; but there is a certain courtesy due to Members on whichever side of the House they sit. Such courtesy has lately been extended to the Government when 1207 several Members in charge of Departments have been away through illness. I may add that there is no Member of this House to whom the children employed in the manufacture of textile fabrics owe more than they do to the right hon. Member for Sheffield, who has taken the greatest interest in the question of the age at which children shall be employed. When the question was raised in the Standing Committee the right hon. Gentleman bore the burden of the Debate, and I am sure it will facilitate matters if he can be present when the Bill is discussed.
§ MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Oldham)
I wish to express the great regret felt amongst Members on this side of the House at the cause of the absence of the right hon. Member for Sheffield, but we also regret that the First Lord of the Treasury has not intimated before this evening that the Bill is not to be taken. The convenience of all other Members of the House ought not to be disregarded for the convenience of the right hon. Member for Sheffield alone. A large number of Members have come to the House this evening with the special purpose of discussing the Factories Bill, and now at the last moment the consideration of the measure is to be postponed. The right hon. Gentleman was not present when the question of half-timers was exhaustively discussed in the Standing Committee, and there are many Members on the other side of the House competent to express their views on the question. I therefore regret that the First Lord of the Treasury should have given way.
§ MR. ELLIOTT LEES
It is a source of very great inconvenience to us that this alteration has been made. All our arrangements have been made on the supposition that the Debate would take place to-day, and I think we are at least entitled to ask that we should have full and sufficient notice given to us as to when the Bill is to be taken.
§ MR. SEXTON
It is necessary that the Irish Members should be informed precisely of the intentions of the Government with reference to the Irish Land Purchase Bill. I wish to ask whether the Report will be taken on Monday?
§ MR. G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
What course do the Government intend to take with regard to the Newfoundland Fisheries Bill?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
Communications have passed between Her Majesty's Government and the Newfoundland delegates which have resulted in an understanding, which I will state to the House. It has been agreed between the delegates and Her Majesty's Government that the Newfoundland Fisheries Bill should be read a second time on the understanding that the Bill passed by the Newfoundland Legislature shall secure the observance of the modus vivendi, and of the decision of the arbiters under the modus vivendi and of the Treaties in force between this country and France until the end of 1893. Under these circumstances, Her Majesty's Government have thought it right to recommend the House, in accordance with the suggestion of the delegates themselves, to read the Newfoundland Fisheries Bill a second time, I hope with out discussion, which under the circum-stances of the agreement could hardly be profitable. Her Majesty's Government will then postpone the further consideration of the Bill for three weeks, with a view to its ultimate withdrawal if a measure is passed by the Newfoundland Legislature in the form in which the delegates themselves undertook that it should be passed. Her Majesty's Government rejoice, and I believe every Member of this House will rejoice, that such an arrangement has been come to, an arrangement which will be to the advantage not only of Newfoundland, but of the Empire at large.
MR. A. STAVELEY HILL (Staffordshire, Kingswinford)
The House will, perhaps, allow me to postpone what I have to say on behalf of the delegates till we come to the Second Reading.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
I wish to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether, in the event of the Report of the Irish Land Purchase Bill being concluded on Tuesday, the Government propose to take Wednesday for its consideration?
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
My hon. Friend has probably forgotten that the Govern- 1209 ment have the time of the House with the exception of Wednesday for the Land Bill. If the Report stage be not concluded on Monday it will be taken on Tuesday, and on Thursday and Friday, and so on.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I had hoped that the Debate on the Bill would have been concluded on Tuesday, and it is rather a surprise to all parties that it has been prolonged. I propose to take the adjourned Debate at half-past 11 to-night.