§ Mr. R. T. REID (Dumfries)
remarked that he was very reluctant to occupy a short space of time; but he wished to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he could render discussion unnecessary by holding out to them the hope that when they returned after the short Recess something would be done for the purpose of abridging the abnormal length of the Committee stage of the Local Government Bill. The Bill had now occupied in Committee stage 23 or 24 days, and the Committee had gone a comparatively short way through the 19th clause. There still remained 52 more clauses to be dealt with. Nobody could suppose that at such a rate of progress they would finish the Committee stage within 20 days. If they could do so it would still be the end of the first or the beginning of the second week of February before that House could expect to part with the Bill; and it would probably occupy three weeks in the 242 other House. The Leader of the Opposition stated the other evening that he anticipated the Committee stage of the Bill would last until the end of February.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No, no; I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. The only statement which I have made which I think could even, through error, convey the impression the hon. Gentleman has expressed is that I recollect saying—"What can the Government expect from a plan which would bring up the discussion of the Lords Amendments to the end of February?"
§ MR. R. T. REID
wits sure he was inaccurate in not understanding the right hon. Gentleman as he no doubt expressed himself, but even that, which was a much less serious state of things than he anticipated, would lead to the destruction of the great hopes many of them had entertained of the coming Session of Parliament. [Opposition laughter.] He could quite understand hon. Members opposite. For himself for two or three weeks he hail been of opinion that there had been a purpose to destroy the Session of 1894 by running the Local Government Bill so long into it as to make it impossible for other work to be done. He had not taken part in the Bill itself by one single sentence, and he was one of those who might serve as an illustration of a class. He was a Scotch Member; they had been there for a year; and, with the exception of one small, uncontested Bill, not a single thing had been done for Scotland. They might as well have forgotten that the country existed. Now they were looking forward to what they were all convinced were the genuine and sincere intentions of the Government to pass laws much needed affecting Scotland in the course of next year. A Government wishing an end ought to will the necessary means. In the absence of some accommodation, he would put it to the plain sense of any gentleman who cared for any of the reforms that were likely to come in the next Session—probably the last Session of this Parliament—was it not obvious that unless some summary and early steps were taken these hopes were doomed to be disappointed? His remarks were dictated by a sincere desire to further the honour and the business of the House, 243 and to enable them to get forward with other business. They had carried patience to the point at which it seemed likely to be mistaken for pusillanimity, and he asked other independent Members of the House who were interested in these matters to use friendly pressure with the Government, whom he heartily supported.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I do not rise for the purpose of continuing this discussion. I do not think this is a moment at which the Government can say, or it would be desirable for the House to discuss, what is to be done in the future. Our holiday is to be a very short one, and I should for the present, at all events, at half-past o o'clock, within so brief a period of the arrival of Christmas, recommend that for this afternoon, at least, we should wish one another a merry Christmas; and when we have passed that merry Christmas and are reaching the happiness of the New Year, I hope we shall make better progress than we have done in the year that has passed.
§ MR. DARLING (Deptford)
was afraid the Chancellor of the Exchequer had somewhat misunderstood his supporter who commenced this discussion. He was perfectly certain, from his knowledge of the hon. Gentleman and the country from which he came, that this was intended merely as a Scotch joke for the enlivenment of the Christmas season on which they were about to enter. The hon. Member for Dumfries had observed that his interest in this measure was that of a Scotch Member. But it was more than that; it was the interest of a Scotch borough Member who had not time to attend even now, and who had not attended during the Committee stage of this Bill more than 24 out of the 65 Divisions which had taken place. The Bill, the hon. Member told them, had been in Committee 24 days, so that was one Division a day.
§ MR. R. T. REID
I have not put my appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which I think has been very flippantly dealt with, although very good humouredly, on the ground of my personal convenience at all; I have put it on the ground of interference with Public Business.
§ MR. DARLING
said, it certainly was unfortunate that the two Members who 244 had rebuked the Government on this matter should be two Scotch Members, one of whom was in the position in regard to Divisions of the hon. Member opposite, and the other of whom, the Member for Haddingtonshire, had naturally paired till the 10th of January, before he incited the Government to take sterner measures with the Opposition. He, therefore, thought the Chancellor of the Exchequer was entirely justified in treating with flippancy the demand of the hon. Member for Dumfries. He only hoped this would be a lesson to them as to what was the real feeling of the Government and the House upon this matter, which was that such attempts as they had made to coerce Members who were interested in the Local Government Councils Bill deserved no better treatment than the flippancy with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had treated the present attempt.
§ MR. JESSE COLLINGS
said, he had only one remark to make on the subject which had been brought forward by the Member for Dumfries. His hon. Friend had reproached the House with having done no business, but his reproaches came too late. His reproaches and his remonstrances might have been useful if they had been made during the first eight months of the Session, when the Government knew they were wasting the time of the House. But during that time the hon. Member was discreetly silent. Now, when they were called upon to do a little business his hon. Friend thought it was the occasion to speak of it. He would recommend his hon. Friend in future to have the courage to speak at a time when his remonstrances would be useful. In the time of Queen Elizabeth there was a Parliament, which sat six months, and when the Queen asked the Speaker what they had passed, he replied, "Six months." So when the country asked this Parliament at Christmas what they had passed, the reply would be "Ten months."
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, That this House, at its rising, do adjourn till Wednesday next.
§ House adjourned accordingly at a quarter before Six of the clock, till Wednesday next.