HC Deb 04 March 1892 vol 2 cc129-31


Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [26th February], "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to amend the Procedure with respect to Private Bills in Scotland and Ireland."

Debate resumed.

(11.43.) MR. MUNRO FERGUSON (, &c.) Leith

I really hope this Debate may be carried on at a time when some expression can be given to the feeling of hon. Members on this Bill. It is now very late in the evening—between 15 and 20 minutes to midnight, when the Debate must close. The Bill is one of great importance and involves a principle of great magnitude, and I trust the First Lord of the Treasury will bring it on at some time when we can have an opportunity of giving some expression to our view on the subject. I beg to move the Adjournment of the Debate.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Munro Ferguson.)

(11.44.) MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)

I beg to support the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. The Irish Members regard the measure as one of great importance; and, after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman) on the occasion of the previous Debate, they had no opportunity of speaking upon it. I trust, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman will accede to the Motion.


I cannot help thinking that this habit of desiring a prolonged Debate on the First Reading of a Bill is very detrimental to the rapid progress of Public Business. It is not obligatory on the Government to bring in a Bill with a statement at all. The Rules of the House enable any Member, being a Member of the Government, or private Member, in charge of a Bill, to bring it in before the ordinary Public Business commences, with a short statement, to which one short reply is made, and then the House has to decide whether the Bill be read a first time or not. I personally desired to take that course, but at the request of the right hon. Member for the Stirling Burghs (Mr. Campbell-Bannerman), who assured me that he did not believe that any lengthened Debate would be required on this subject, but that the House would like to hear an explanation of the Bill, in order that when it was printed its provisions might be better understood, I certainly did waive the right I possessed and did bring in a Bill with a statement; but I confess that I think that hon. Gentlemen are a little abusing the privileges which I do not deny are granted them by the Rules of the House when they insist on discussing at length a Bill which they have not seen in print, which they cannot rightly understand, however clear I may have been in introducing the Bill, and which they are necessarily bound to debate, more or less, in the dark. I would, therefore, respectfully press both the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Munro Ferguson), who made this Motion, and the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Sexton) who seconded it, that they should permit the Motion they have made to be withdrawn, and the Bill read a first time, and on the Second Reading and in Committee they will have ample opportunity of discussing the principles involved, and of considering and amending the Bill in Committee.

(11.48.) MR. CAMPBELL BANNERMAN (, &c.) Stirling

The right hon. Gentleman has accurately enough stated what occurred on the previous occasion. He expressed to me the desire on his part to bring in this Bill without a statement at the commencement of Public Business, or at any rate without the opportunity for discussion, and I told him that I thought that course would not be satisfactory, and that I did not believe there would be any protracted debate if it were introduced in the ordinary way. But the right hon. Gentleman has jumped to the conclusion that there is going to be a detailed discussion of the measure at this stage. I do not know that he has any ground for that supposition.


If all the Irish and Scottish Members discuss it.


If all the Irish and Scottish Members were to discuss it, of course it would be a detailed discussion; but I think there is no ground for that expectation. What does he offer supposing we act on his proposal to-night? He offered us the merest fragment of the evening on the former occasion, when the Motion came on very much by chance. I then made a few remarks, which I do not think he will regard as too long, and then there were five or 10 minutes before 12 o'clock, which were occupied by the hon. Member for North Longford (Mr. T. M. Healy). I think to add to that fragment of time this other small fragment to-night would not be an adequate discussion. Speaking for myself, and as regards my own influence with my Scottish colleagues with whom I usually act, I think I may safely say that I think there would be no desire to have a Second Reading Debate on the introduction of the Bill; but that is another thing from the stinted Debate which the right hon. Gentleman desires.


I agree to the Motion.

Motion agreed to.

Debate further adjourned till Tuesday next, at Two of the clock.