§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE,) Edinburgh, Midlothian
With respect to the course of business, I wish to give the House all the information in my power. This is what we intend to do, so far as depends upon us: With regard to the Employers' Liability Bill, in case the discussion to be raised by the right hon. Gentleman opposite is dealt with in sufficient time we shall propose to go forward with that Bill, which is on the List for to-night. To-morrow we intend to take the Vote on Account. On Wednesday the first Business will be the Report of the Vote on Account, and if there is any time we shall avail ourselves of it. On Thursday I propose to make a statement with respect to the disposal of the time of the House after Easter and with regard to Public Business in its present state. With regard to the Vacation, what we think to be necessary, according to our view, is that the Second Reading of the Irish Government Bill should be moved on Thursday, 6th April. The common practice undoubtedly has been to take, upon the first day after the Recess, the subject of Estimates, or to take some subject not of such general interest and so controverted as the Irish Government Bill. But the only mode in which we could conform to the ordinary usage would be, I am afraid, by asking the House to meet on Easter Tuesday for the purpose of discussing the Estimates. As far as I know, that is not likely to be the view of the House, and it is not the view which we propose to it. It is proposed to do now what was done in 1881, when 1202 the Irish Land Bill was taken on the first day after the Easter Recess, and I propose to the House to meet again on the Thursday for the purpose of considering the Irish Government Bill. With regard to the time of the House after Easter, of course I do not enter now upon any discussion, but I simply give notice of what I shall move on Thursday, if it cannot be done before, and I certainly do not see any prospect of its being done before. I shall on that day propose that Government Business shall have precedence on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but without the intention of uniformly asking the House to abide by that rule as far as Wednesdays are concerned. There may be occasions— certainly one or two—when we may ask the House without any prejudice to depart from that Resolution. That will be my first proposal. The second is, that precedence should be had on all days for the Government of Ireland Bill when it is set down; and the third is that Morning Sittings shall be held on Fridays, except when the main stages of the Government of Ireland Bill are under consideration. What we understand by the main stages are those when you, Sir, are in the Chair. This, of course, is not the exact form in which my notice will be given, but I have stated the views of the Government in a popular manner.
§ MR. WOODS (Lancashire, Ince)
In the event of the Employers' Liability Bill not coming on for discussion to-night, is it proposed to take the Second Reading on Wednesday or Thursday?
§ MR. C. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
With reference to this Bill, seeing that the time occupied by the Second Reading has already been more than was devoted to the Second Reading of a similar Bill in 1888, I desire to ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will take some stop, either to-morrow or on Wednesday, to bring this Bill before the House? I desire to add that a very short time ought to suffice for the remaining Debate.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
We wilt put down the Bill every day until it comes to an issue—I mean, before the Recess. Certainly my hope and expectation are 1203 that it will require but a very short further discussion.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)
I understand the right hon. Gentleman proposes on next Thursday to make a very important Motion with regard to the Business of the House, and on the Thursday following to take the Second Reading of the Home Rule Bill. I would ask him whether he has fully present to his mind the great inconvenience, from the point of view not only of the present but of future Parliamentary usage, in discussing two questions of such very great magnitude when, from the nature of the case, the House can only be half manned. I would ask him, in the second place, whether he can inform us more clearly as to what his precise intention is with regard to Wednesdays. I understand he proposes to take to himself the power of absorbing for Government business any Wednesday he likes, but that he does not propose to exercise that power upon every occasion. I should like to know whether he has some general and automatic rule of selection for Wednesdays, or whether he simply means to take Government business on any Wednesday when the discussion of other topics would be inconvenient to himself, and to leave Wednesdays to private Members when he thinks that will suit the Government policy.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the amiable construction he has put upon my statement with respect to Wednesdays. It so happens, so far as I am able to interpret it, that it goes directly in the teeth of the right hon. Gentleman, inasmuch as that it supports the construction less conformable, perhaps, for the purposes for which he occupies his present position, and more conformable with Christian charity. In asking for Wednesdays for Government business, I do not think we should be justified in making that demand without exception. There is an exception, to our mind, which it is clear we ought to make—I do not say absolutely that after careful examination there may not be other exception—and that is, the exception in favour of the Bill for an Eight Hours Day for Miners. The right hon. Gentleman will see that that is not a measure that I should have selected if the object 1204 of this proposal was simply the convenience of the Government.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
I desire to ask whether, having regard to the great inconvenience to hon. Members from Ireland—[Ministerial laughter]— well, I will say the minority of Irish Members—the right hon. Gentleman will re-consider the decision he has laid down with regard to the Government of Ireland Bill. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman of the fact that during the last Parliament the present Leader of the Opposition never took any Irish business, in deference to the wishes of the Nationalist Members, except on a date which would suit their convenience, generally on the Monday after the Easter holidays, and I, therefore, ask whether the right hon. Gentleman will take the Government of Ireland Bill on the Monday instead of the Thursday?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I cannot see why the arrangements should be more inconvenient for gentlemen composing the minority than for those of the majority. The steamboat accommodation between Great Britain and Ireland is accorded to all Members, irrespective of political views. I am extremely sorry for the great inconvenience which I know must be inflicted upon hon. Members by the contraction of the Easter holidays, but a great deal of inconvenience has already been suffered, and, to my mind, there has been a great waste of time. Our duty has to be done, and I shall propose arrangements which occur to us to be necessary in the present state of Public Business.