HC Deb 23 March 1893 vol 10 cc907-11
SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether he is aware Votes on Account were brought forward in 1892 on 17th, 18th, and 21st March; in 1891 on 16th and 17th March, besides dates in May, 25th, 26th, and 28th; in 1890 on 28th February, and on 20th and 21st March; in 1889 on 21st, 22nd, and 25th March, besides two dates in May, 28th and 29th; and whether, in reference to the above, he will so arrange as to allow similar time for the Vote on Account this year?

MR. HANBURY (Preston)

May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is able to state now for what period the sum of money to be obtained by this Vote on Account will suffice, whether for two or three months?


That will appear when the Vote is presented to the House. I have not heard what arrangement has been made, nor does it, properly speaking, belong to my Department. As to the question of the hon. Member for Kingston, I am not quite agreed with him in his recital. Before the end of May it is certain that another Vote on Account must be asked for. The question of the hon. Member seems to assume that the Vote on Account is a process so large as to require several days for discussion. Independently of the Report, which is generally treated as a matter of form, it is quite true that three days were expended in 1889 and two in 1890 on the Vote on Account, but that was due mainly to a special arrangement for the discussion of questions of great importance—one relating to the Parnell Commission in 1889, and one relating to another matter in 1890. In 1891, when no such questions were raised, the Vote on Account took one day, and in 1892 a day and a half. My answer to the general question is that there is quite sufficient time in the coming week for the House to deal with this subject.


Is it not a fact that on the 21st of March, 1892, there were divisions and debates on the Report stage, and were there not, therefore, three days devoted to the Vote on Account in 1892?


The Report is of course taken on a separate day.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)

With reference to the answer just given, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he can give any case in which the Vote on Account was attempted to be taken at so late a date as the week before Easter Sunday, and whether he, at all events, will give us a Pledge that it shall be taken as the first Order on Monday?


In answer to the question of right hon. Gentleman, I may say that I have stated before that our taking the Vote on Monday must depend entirely upon the progress of business.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, as he has himself considered that the existence of important questions that may be raised on the Vote on Account is an adequate reason for taking three days for the discussion—and that at a time when the House was in full Session, and all the Members could easily be present—he does not consider it a very serious violation, I will not say of our privilege, but of our ordinary practice, that a discussion on a Vote on Account should be deferred to so late and inconvenient a, day as Tuesday, and that on that day even we are not promised an adequate time for discussion?


So far as I am acquainted with the circumstances, there is ample time at the disposal of the House for discussion. I consider the comparison with 1889 is a comparison, though I pass no censure on the right hon. Gentleman, totally out of place. In my deliberate judgment, and I think in the judgment of those who sit on this side of the House, the question of the Parnell Commission was one of the greatest questions recently raised in this House from a constitutional point of view, and the arrangement made in regard to that was an arrangement that was come to with the general consent of the House. So far as we know, there is this year no special subject connected with the Vote on Account, while in other ways the circumstances of the year are not exceptional. Under these circumstances we believe we are justified in the course we are taking, which arises out of the emergency of the Public Service.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is not aware that there are certain broad issues connected with the Government of Ire-laud which cannot be raised in any other way except on the Vote on Account, and that other Gentlemen sitting on this Bench in previous Parliaments have thought themselves justified, in cases certainly not more grave, in asking that a special day should be given for a Vote of Censure on the Government?


It seems to me that the House has had very considerable opportunities for the dis- cussion of questions dealing specially with the circumstances of Ireland. The House may recollect that we have had a discussion of very considerable length upon the condition of a County in Ireland, a condition which had been allowed to slumber until the present Government came into office. There are no broad issues before us. If there had been such broad issues we believe they would have been made known to us, and arrangements would have been made for dealing with them long ago.

DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College)

May I ask the Prime Minister, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite has referred to a Vote of Censure, whether, if he chooses to move one, the Government will not give him a day for it?


was understood to indicate assent.


Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to imply that the Government would prefer that the discussion on the question of the Irish Government should take place on Monday next on a Vote of Censure?


If it is the right hon. Gentleman's intention to make a Motion of that kind, when he conveys it we shall be prepared to deal with it.


Very well, Sir; as I am challenged by the right hon. Gentleman, I beg to request that he will give us Monday next for the discussion of a Vote of Censure.


The right hon. Gentleman seems to be ignorant that while it is the prerogative and fair right of the Opposition to request a special day when they intend to move a Vote of Want of Confidence in the Government, it is not at all usual for the Opposition to take into its own hands, as the right hon. Gentleman has done, the appointment of a particular day. The choice of the day must depend upon those who have the chief responsibility for the arrangement of public business, namely, the Government of the day.


I entirely accept the general statement of the right hon. Gentleman, but I may remind him in the way of personal explanation that I only made a suggestion in reference to what I considered as a challenge from the right hon. Gentleman. May I then modify my request, so as to meet the views of the right hon. Gentleman, by asking whether the right hon. Gentleman will give us a convenient day before the Easter holidays, and before hon. Gentlemen are taken away from their duties in the House?




Good Friday.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR (continuing)

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will give us a convenient day before Easter?


What I shall do is this—I shall adhere in this important matter to the usual fixed and well-known course of procedure. When the right hon. Gentleman declares his intention of putting down the Motion he proposes to move, we shall be prepared to deal with it and to consider what day we will give him.