§ (4.0.) SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
I desire to ask the First Lord of the Treasury about the conduct of Public Business. I would call his attention to the fact that all the Bills he mentioned yesterday as being such as the Government are desirous to pass are not on the Paper to-day, and I would ask him whether it would not be a convenient course that all these Bills should appear each day upon the Paper, so that the House may know exactly what stages they are at? Now there are one or two minor Bills which I see were last night postponed till Thursday. There were the Civil Bill Courts (Ireland) Bill, Fisheries (Scotland) Bill, and some other small Bills; and I would suggest that if they had been on the Paper to-day they might have been forwarded a stage to-day and tomorrow. There are some other Bills mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman which are not at all before the House yet. They are mainly Money Bills, including the Local Loans Bill, the Mauritius Bill, the British Columbia 1056 Bill, and the Pleuro-Pneumonia (Ireland) Bill; and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will take measures to have these Bills brought before the House at once and put upon the Paper? He will, I am sure, recognise the fact that the House is anxious to pass the Bills to which there is no opposition as rapidly as possible; and if the Bills are upon the Paper then he would always have a chance of a stage being procured for them each day. There is one other Bill—the Criminal Evidence Bill—which he mentioned yesterday as being before a Grand Committee. Now, the state of that Bill I understand is this—that the last time that Grand Committee was summoned there was not a quorum, that there has been no meeting since, and that the Chairman, I am sorry to say, is ill, and is not likely to be present. I would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that in these circumstances it is not probable that the Bill will be able to pass, and that it should not be left on the Paper. But the point that I rose to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman is that he should place upon the Paper every day all the Bills which he thinks the House should pass, so that the House may see from day to day the actual state of business.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
I think that the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman is in substance a reasonable one, and I will endeavour as far as possible to carry it out. It cannot, however, be absolutely carried out at once in the case of every Bill. The Fishery Bill, for instance, to which reference is made, has not yet come down from another place; but when it, does it will be put and kept upon the Paper. The Pleuro-Pneumonia Bill is in the hands of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Agriculture and will as soon as possible be put upon the Paper; but there may naturally be in the case of these Bills, which are brought in to meet an emergency some delay, although, I hope, not a delay of an important character. The British Columbia Bill, I am afraid, must wait the advent of a gentleman charged by British Columbia to deal with the question, and who will be 1057 here in a day or two. I think the other Bills could be put upon the Order Book each day. Of course, some of the Bills cannot be put upon the Order Paper at once, because we have promised to delay the next stage. For example, we have finished the Committee stage of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Bill, and at the request of an hon. Gentleman who takes a great interest in the Bill we have deferred the consideration of the Report stage until the Bill can be re-printed, which cannot be before to-morrow, and probably not before Thursday. The Superannuation Bill has, I understand, gone through Committee to-day, but I suppose it cannot be discussed to-night.
§ MR. BALFOUR
With regard to that Bill I believe the facts stand thus. On the last Friday before Whitsuntide the Grand Committee was summoned, and there was not a quorum. Last Monday there was a quorum, but the Grand Committee was not summoned. A large number of gentlemen came to attend the Committee, but it had not been summoned. I do not know whether it was owing to the illness of the Chairman or to any other cause that the requisite notice was not given. But I still entertain a hope that the Committee may yet be able to meet, so that the Bill will be allowed to pass this Session.
§ MR. CAMPBELL - BANNERMAN (, &c.) Stirling
With regard to that point, I may, perhaps, be allowed, as having the most recent experience of a Standing Committee, of which I was Chairman, to express a very strong opinion that it is simply impossible to expect to have a quorum of Members on a Standing Committee at this time of the Session. Even with a Bill which excited a good deal of attention, as the right hon. Gentleman knows—the Clergy Discipline Bill—it was with the greatest difficulty that we were able to get a quorum day after day. That was a fortnight ago, and I leave the right hon. Gentleman to imagine what chance of having a quorum there is now.
§ MR. BALFOUR
I admit that there are great difficulties, and I will consult 1058 with my hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General on the matter.
§ MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
With regard to Order 14, Public Elementary Schools Bill, having regard to the fact that this is not one of the measures mentioned in the Schedule of Bills that the Government hope to pass, and that there is great opposition from both sides of the House, and seeing the inconvenience of keeping us here late at night to oppose it, I would ask whether he does not see his way to withdraw the Bill?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have not received any notice of a desire that the course suggested by the hon. Member should be taken.
§ MR. ANGUS SUTHERLAND (Sutherland)
I desire to know whether it would be necessary, in the event of the Government granting a sum of money for the Lochinver Railway, to introduce legislation?
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
That would depend upon the form which the grant takes. If it is in the form of a guarantee, it would be necessary to have legislation; if it were in the form of a lump sum, it would have to be passed by Estimate; but of course a lump sum could only be granted after the railway had been constructed, so that there would be no occasion for immediate Parliamentary action.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
: With reference to what my hon. Friend (Mr. John Ellis) has said, I may say, from information which reaches me, I think there will be very strong resistance to the Public Elementary Schools Bill. Therefore I think it would be very imprudent to expend time on the discussion of that Bill which might be given to other matters.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
There are two Supplementary Estimates, 254 and 255. Which is to be taken first?
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury if he will say whether the Industrial Schools Bill, the Reformatory Schools Bill, and the Archdeaconry of Cornwall Bill are to be included amongst the Bills that the Government think it necessary to pass before the conclusion of the Session?