Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, for the remainder of the Session, Government Business do have priority every day, may be entered upon at any hour though opposed, and be not interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the Sittings of the House, except on Wednesday; that the provisions of Standing Order 56 be extended to the other days of the week; and that, unless the House otherwise order, the House do meet on Tuesday and Friday at Three of the clock."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
(3.49.) MR. JOHN MORLEY
I do not at all wish to object to the Motion or to press the right hon. Gentleman at the moment, but I suppose we may take it for granted that not later than Monday the right hon. Gentleman will be prepared to make a statement as to the course of business—what Bills the Government intend to persevere with?
§ MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
I do not for a moment oppose the Motion; but I think the right hon. Gentleman will be the first to admit that, while it is necessary to take all the time of the House in the way indicated to secure that which we all desire—a speedy end to the proceedings of this Parliament—it will also be necessary to clear the Order Book from some of the Bills which now stand upon it. On the Orders of the Day there are no less than twenty-two Government Bills, three of which have passed through Committee, eight are in that stage, and eleven stand for Second Reading. I would call attention to the fact that a number of these eleven Bills which have to pass a Second Reading raise some very debatable points, which, undoubtedly, demand considerable discussion, and I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that it is very desirable he should without delay—if not to-night, then on Monday—inform the House distinctly which of these Bills the Government mean to proceed with, and which they intend to drop. There is also the Bill in reference to which we passed a Resolution just now—the Telegraphs Bill. When that Bill was brought forward I ventured to say it raised extremely important questions in regard to the telegraph system; and although the Government propose to refer that Bill to a Select Committee, that Committee is not yet nominated, and cannot sit for some days, and matters will come before it that will undoubtedly demand very careful consideration, especially as the Bill was read a second time without any debate. There are other Bills to which the same remarks apply. We are to have a statement on Monday, and I do not press the question now, but I would suggest to the Government that they should clear the Order Book of some of the Bills which have not attained the stage of Second Reading.
§ (3.52.) SIR ALBERT ROLLIT
There is one Bill in favour of which I hope an exception will be made because of its exceptional character—the Technical and industrial Institutions Bill. The Bill has come down from the other House, and now stands for Second Reading. It has for its object facilitating the acquisition of sites for 586 technical and industrial schools, and is of special interest to my constituency. The result of the Bill not passing will be that the establishment of the Clerkenwell Polytechnic will be delayed for a considerable time, and probably a valuable and eligible site will be lost. This has been offered by Lord Northampton, but owing to want of power under settlements the transfer cannot be carried out. The Bill comes to us from another place with the high authority of Lord Macnaghten, and I trust the House will allow it to pass through its stages this Session.
§ (3.53.) MR. PICTON (Leicester)
I think the Government may be fairly expected to give an indication of the Bills they intend to proceed with. It is quite obvious they cannot pass all these measures unless the House sits until Christmas. I will not take upon myself to say which measures should be taken, but I think we may ask the right hon. Gentleman to say that measures which are met with genuine and earnest opposition shall not be pushed. I suppose we shall all agree that we ought to carry through these stages those Bills which are esteemed as of national importance; but there are some Bills of which this cannot be said, as for instance the Archdeaconry of Cornwall Bill. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think it his duty to press this Bill after midnight; the exemption of the rule should not be applied to a Bill of this kind. Again, the Industrial Schools Bill and the Reformatory Schools Bill are not yet printed, and I presume it is not intended to move the Second Reading until we can see the Bills in print. I think it is generally understood that we accept this Motion only as applying to Bills of urgent importance, and as to which there is general agreement.
§ (3.55.) MR. SEXTON
With this Motion before us I think the time has come when we should have a definite understanding upon the important Irish Bills. The Irish Local Government Bill had a position of importance in the Queen's Speech, and I think, for the convenience of Members who have to travel a long distance to attend the House, there should now be a formal statement of that which is pretty well 587 understood—that this Bill will not be proceeded with. As to the proposal to take Government Business at any hour, all I have to say is that I have no desire to put any obstacle in the way of winding up the business of the Session, and I should be willing even that Irish Supply should be taken at any reasonable hour after midnight. As to the Irish Education Bill, as I have already conveyed, unless it is made matter of arrangement and general consent, it will have to be regarded as an exceptionally contentious measure and be subjected to debate; and I do not think that such a debate should be relegated to after midnight with the presence of only a very few Members on this side of the House, with the Chief Secretary and the Attorney General for Ireland on the other side. The Debate should not be continued beyond midnight, or such a time subsequent as may appear reasonable to Members taking an interest in the subject. As I understood just now, the right hon. Gentleman is disposed to accept this view. I do not press the matter further.
§ (3.57.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
I do not propose to offer opposition to this Motion, because I understand there is a desire to wind up our proceedings here and get to work elsewhere. But I would suggest that to meet the object we have in view it would be more convenient to meet at two o'clock every day, and then we might, by an hour, shorten our proceedings after twelve o'clock; certainly I should prefer such an arrangement. I now only desire to express regret that so much of the time of the Session should have been wasted by the Government upon Bills which apparently they had no intention of passing, and which were possibly—I may say probably — electioneering Bills. I think we have just cause to complain of this, seeing that it will necessitate our scampering through all the questions having relation to national expenditure, as now, I suppose, we shall have to do. However, I share the general desire to have matters brought to a conclusion in view of the General Election; but I think we should have a clear understanding that the Bills of private Members will not be allowed to 588 be pushed through in the early hours of the morning, and with only a few Members present. I hope we may be able at least to consider some matters in connection with Supply, because there are some few matters which even now want consideration. But, generally speaking, I shall be only too pleased to assist the Government in getting the business done, so that the people of this country may have an opportunity of expressing their opinion with regard to the Government.
The hon. Gentleman, I think, cannot have been in the House a few moments ago, when I made some remarks with regard to questions relating to private Members. With regard to what the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) has said, I regret that my right hon. Friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland cannot be in his place to-day; and in his absence I am unwilling to make any specific pledge with regard to the Irish Education Bill, to which special reference has been made. At the same time, I may repeat my own opinion that the object of the suspension of the Twelve o'Clock Rule is not to unduly prolong the Sittings of the House, but to avoid the arbitrary suspension of business at that particular moment. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to wait for a final reply on this matter till I make a general statement on Monday with regard to all the Bills which the Government hope to be able to proceed with.
§ MR. SEXTON
Can the right hon. Gentleman state now whether the Irish Local Government Bill will or will not be proceeded with this Session?
As the hon. Member is aware, there is great opposition to this Bill, and under the circumstances I do not see any probability of its being carried through during the present Session.
I know nothing about 13 and 14. With regard to 18, it shall not be taken to-night after twelve o'clock.
Question put, and agreed to.
Ordered, That for the remainder of the Session Government Business do have priority every day, may be entered upon at any hour though opposed, and be not interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the Sittings of the House except on Wednesday. That the provisions of Standing Order 56 be extended to the other days of the week; and that, unless the House otherwise order, the House do meet on Tuesday and Friday at Three of the clock.—(Mr. Balfour.)