§ MR. H. GARDNER (Essex, Saffron Walden)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether he will move to discharge Order No. 24, Public Elementary Schools Bill, to-day in 1292 view of the opposition to that measure; and without expressing any personal opinion as to the exemption of schools from rating I would ask him whether the restrictions on the use of schools for meetings contained in the Bill are not greater than those which now exist, so that the Bill must be strongly opposed on this side of the House?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
Of course I cannot discuss the merits of the Bill in answer to a question; but I may express my dissent from the view of the hon. Gentleman that the second part of the Bill will not confer a great advantage upon those who desire to hold meetings in schools. With regard to the Bill generally, I am afraid that it is now impossible to find time to pass it, as opposition has been promised from many quarters, and not alone from the other side of the House. In these circumstances, although with very great reluctance indeed, I am forced to come to the conclusion that it would be impossible to press it through during the remainder of the present Session.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Derby)
My right hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) intended to be here, and I know that it would have been his object to suggest to the right hon. Gentleman, and to ask his consideration of the propriety of doing at this stage of public business that which has often been done in former Parliaments and former Sessions—namely, to take on the Saturday the last stage of the Appropriation Bill. The Appropriation Bill could then be finished on Saturday next. I have looked carefully through this long list of Bills upon the Paper, and, with one or two exceptions which I will immediately name, I believe every one of these Bills could be disposed of either to-day, Friday, or Saturday. We all know that when a Bill is not opposed, and when there has been no Amendment requiring the Report stage, the consent of the House is very readily given to the Third Reading. I believe, with the exception of No. 23, which is a Money Bill (the Mauritius Loan Guarantee), about which there will be no difficulty, and 1293 which requires all the stages to be taken, that all the Bills upon this Paper could be disposed of by Saturday next; and this would, of course, relieve hon. Members, and allow them practically to go where they are much more wanted than they will be here. That applies equally to both sides. The right hon. Gentleman has very fairly said that he will take off the Paper No. 24 (the Public Elementary Schools Bill), and I imagine that for the same reason he will be willing to take off No. 9 (Archdeaconry of Cornwall Bill). I have never read the Bill, but the mere title of it shows that it is an Ecclesiastical Bill, and is, therefore, not an easy Bill to pass at any time, but especially now. There is also the East India Officers Bill; and the expression of opinion made on the other side of the House yesterday ought, I think, to convince the right hon. Gentleman that that Bill ought not to be proceeded with at present. If these three Bills disappear from the Government list, I can see nothing upon that list that might not be entirely disposed of in the present week. I am aware that a Saturday Sitting involves a certain amount of inconvenience; but according to my calculations of the list, there would, in addition to the Appropriation Bill, be only one Bill that would have to be taken on Saturday, and it is unopposed. As to the Indian Budget, an arrangement might be made whereby it could be taken next week if that were considered desirable. I venture to suggest these things to the right hon. Gentleman's consideration. Of course, it is not necessary for him to give notice until to-morrow of the Saturday Sitting, but he might consider the propriety of it between now and to-morrow.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
Is the First Lord of the Treasury aware, with regard to Order No. 9 (Archdeaconry of Cornwall Bill), that the opposition is not entirely confined to this side of the House?
§ SIR ROPER LETHBRIDGE (Kensington, N.)
I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it would be right to postpone the discussion of the Indian Budget to a period when, according to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, all the Members of the 1294 House, or very nearly all of them, would have gone to their constituencies?
§ MR. BALFOUR
In reply to my hon. Friend, no doubt, if the Indian Budget were taken next week, my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for India would have to address a very empty House, but I do not think that that is peculiar to this Session; for my recollection of previous Debates on Indian Budgets is that, however eloquent the speaker addressing the House may be, the audience, though select in point of quality, is very small in point of quantity. With regard to the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite that we should have a Saturday Sitting, I should certainly have no objection to that course if anything could be gained by it, but I should be unwilling to take it if nothing is to be gained by it, because it compels Mr. Speaker and the officers of the House and a sufficient number of Members to be here to make a quorum. Now the House must sit next week, as there must be Business from the Lords; and it is impossible that we can adjourn until the early part of next week. I therefore do not think that anything will be gained by having a Saturday Sitting. I do not mean that this must necessarily be a final answer, and if the right hon. Gentleman thinks it unsatisfactory I shall be prepared to give him a final answer to-morrow.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Midlothian)
I wish to say a single word in reference to what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) and from my right hon. Friend (Sir William Harcourt). To-morrow, I hope, we shall have some further information on the subject of the Bills that are to be proceeded with. On the question of the Saturday Sitting, undoubtedly we thought that for the sake of the greater security of expediting Public Business it might be wise; but if the right hon. Gentleman sees his way quite clearly without it, it is not our duty to endeavour to force it upon him or upon the House. I do hope that when we have further information about the Bills we shall likewise have further information on the subject of the day of the Dissolu- 1295 tion. The arrangements of everyone, or of those who intend, or who have youth and vigour sufficient, to submit themselves anew to the constituencies, are to a considerable extent dependent upon a knowledge of the day; and it undoubtedly would be a matter of very great and real convenience, with a view to fixing a number of necessary arrangements, if the right hon. Gentleman could give us some further light upon that subject to-morrow. I am quite in the hope that he will do so. I believe that he has had some information conveyed to him to-day on the part of the London trades with respect to a question which was raised here a few days ago as to the day of polling, and if he has had that information I have no doubt it will receive from the right hon. Gentleman his best attention. I am certainly in the hope that to-morrow we shall be put in a tolerably clear position as to the expectations of the Government for the final winding up of the Business and the discharge of the necessary preliminaries before the Dissolution takes place.
§ MR. CAUSTON (Southwark, W.)
I wish to ask the Postmaster General whether official notice has been issued by the Post Office Authorities with regard to the acceptance of polling cards with the name of the voter only written on them at the halfpenny rate?