HC Deb 05 May 1893 vol 12 cc202-7
MR. JACKSON (Leeds, N.)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether, in view of the great importance of the subject, he will have the Resolutions to be moved in the Government of Ireland [Payments] Committee printed and circulated at once?


I agree that the House ought to have full notice of our intentions in the Parliamentary Committee with regard to the Financial Clauses of the Bill, the principles of which have been clearly announced, but the details of which are still a matter for consideration. I take this opportunity of giving notice that it is our intention, when we come to the Financial Clauses of the Bill, to move that they be postponed until the other clauses of the Bill have been dealt, with. I will give the reasons for the proposal when we come to it. We will take care that full information is in possession of the House before any proposals are submitted.


Will the Monetary Committee on the Government of Ireland Bill be taken before going into Committee on the Bill?


Oh, no; certainly not. I think that the Financial Clauses ought not to be dealt with before going into Committee.

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

I am aware that that proceeding is strictly in Order, but it is very unusual to defer the Monetary Committee until particular clauses are dealt with; and I would ask whether it is not the more usual course to take the Monetary Committee before the main Bill goes into Committee at all?


It very often happens that Monetary Clauses are found in a Bill, the great mass of which refer to matter which is not monetary, and the usual practice is to have the Parliamentary Committee before the Definitive Clauses are brought under consideration, and we shall take care that that is done. It is a question connected with the Forms of the House, and I am not yet aware, but I will inform myself, how far the Parliamentary Committee will carry us towards fixing all the details, and we will take care that the House is in no way misled or inconvenienced.

MR. J. CHAMBERLAIN (Birmingham, W.)

We did not quite catch in this part of the House the effect of the announcement which the right hon. Gentleman has just made. Do I understand him to say that the Government contemplate changes in the Financial Clauses of the Bill?


No; I have nothing new to announce on that at present. It will be borne in mind that when the Bill was discussed on Second Reading, I did state, with regard to that portion of the Financial Clauses which is prospective and pre-supposes augmentation in the direct taxation of this country, it would be necessary to enter into further details, and to give a more specific explanation of our intention.


May I understand, with regard to the clauses on the Paper, that the Government adhere to them, or is it only with regard to additional clauses which have been promised by my right hon. Friend that he reserves his discretion?


I doubt very much whether the knowledge of the House will be much advanced by that mode of treating the subject. It will be recollected that there is now a provision in the Bill which refers to a possible future increase in the Excise Duties, and I said that provision was to be regarded rather as the assertion of a principle—namely, the liability of Ireland for additional charges which may hereafter come into view—than as expressing the precise form in which we might find it expedient to bring it finally to the judgment of the House.


I do not wish unduly to press my right hon. Friend; but may I ask whether I am entitled to understand that, so far as regards the revision of the Customs Duties, the Government adhere to their original proposal?


Undoubtedly. We have not seen any reason, as at present, to depart from that intention; but my right hon. Friend will recollect that, in explaining that portion of the Bill, I dwelt strongly upon the principle of contribution, and pointed out that there wore various forms in which that principle might be applied, such as the quota and the fund plans; hut that, on the whole, we were inclined to the fund plan. At the same time, I never treated the question of the particular form as one which appertains to the essence of the subject.

MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)

I assume that every financial question raised in the Bill remains open for consideration in Committee.




May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the intention he has announced will apply to all the financial proposals in the Bill, including those affecting the Irish Church Fund and the collection of Treasury loans outstanding?


My impression is that they all hang together. It might be a question whether the Church Fund, which is a separate matter, is involved with the rest; but I think probably it will be found convenient if the whole of the financial proposals, including that dealing with the Church Fund, should be postponed.


May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the Government will postpone not only the Financial Clauses, but the whole Bill, until they have made up their minds what they will do with the Financial Clauses?

[No answer was given.]


Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether he proposes to take the Committee on the Bill on Monday, and to continue it de die in diem?


That is the intention. Of course, I cannot pledge myself very far into the future; but the whole of next week, and probably the beginning of the following week, will be devoted to the Bill.


Mr. Speaker, I think it would be a great convenience to the House if, as the Committee stage of the Bill is to be taken on Monday, you would inform the House of your views as to the various Instructions that have been placed upon the Paper. The subject, as everybody knows, is of very great difficulty, and one on which your ruling would, I think, be of great service to those Members of the House who are interested in the Instructions.


As the right hon. Gentleman has asked me to give my opinion as to the Instructions on the Government of Ireland Bill, I hope the House will bear with me for a few moments while I explain the decision which I have come to on the 13 Instructions on the Paper. I have felt great responsibility in this case, especially as I have come to the conclusion, for reasons I will explain shortly, that the great majority of them are not in Order. I should like to say that the principles which guide and limit the system of Instructions on going into Committee may be thus stated:—First, an Instruction must empower the Committee to do something which the Committee is not otherwise empowered to do; secondly, the purpose of the Instruction must be supplementary and ancillary to the purpose of the Bill, and must fall within the general scope and framework of the Bill; thirdly, it is irregular to introduce into the Bill by an Instruction to the Committee a subject which should properly form the substance of a distinct measure, having regard to usage and the general practice of enacting distinct Statutes for distinct branches of law. Having these general principles and limitations in view, I come to consider the 13 Instructions on the Paper, and, if the House will follow me, I will go through them seriatim. The first Instruction (that of the hon. Member for Wandsworth), I think, would properly form the subject of a separate measure so far as relates to the representation of Great Britain, and as regards that of Ireland no Instruction is necessary. The second (that of the hon. Member for the Partick Division of Lanark) deals with the ad referendum principle, and this I need not say is the Instruction which has given me the most anxiety; but I have come to the conclusion that an ad referendum is a matter of such transcendent importance that it could not be brought within the scope of the Bill by an Instruction to the Committee. I know that the ad referendum has been included in the provisions of some Private Bills, enabling the ratepayers to decide by a vote whether or not they should adopt a particular Act which imposed a charge upon them. But this Instruction is a proposal to enable the electors to override the decision of this House, to go over the heads of the elected Representatives of the people, and to submit to the electors generally whether a Bill of this great magnitude should come into force or not. That, I think, is quite beyond the scope of the Bill, and could not be brought within the scope of the Bill by au Instruction. The object sought to be obtained in No. 3 (the Instruction of the hon. Member for North Hackney) may, I think, be done in Committee without the necessity of an Instruction. Nos. 4 and 5 (standing in the name of the hon. Member for Oxford), which deal with the Army and Militia, are, I think, beyond the scope of the Bill. The Militia is a part of the Military Force, and, like the Army, is under the control of the Military Authorities; and it seems to me that it would be an improper dictation to the Executive and to the authorities of the Army to interfere with the movement of troops from one portion of the Kingdom to another. That cannot be properly considered as ancillary to the Bill. It is beyond the scope of the Bill, and cannot be brought within its scope by means of an Instruction. No. 6 (that in the name of the hon. Member for the Whit by Division of Yorkshire) is a modified ad referendum. I have alluded generally to the ad referendum, and I may say that in speaking of it, while I do hold that a Bill such as this cannot be overridden by an appeal to the electors, I am far from saying that in particular localities the ad referendum principle cannot be adopted; and in the case of No. 6 the House will observe that what is there proposed is that Ulster may be empowered to exclude itself from the Bill. Ulster, of course, might be excepted from the Bill, as any other portion of the United Kingdom may be excepted from a Bill of general application; but this may always be done without an Instruction. This local referendum, it will be seen, is a very different thing from saying that the whole Bill can be overridden by an appeal to the electors over the heads of the Representatives of the electors in this House. The alteration suggested in No. 7 (the In- struction of the hon. Member for Bolton) can be proposed in Committee without an Instruction. No. 8 (that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Kingston Division of Surrey) is so indefinite that I cannot hold that it is in Order; but, so far as I can understand it, its object can be effected in Committee without an Instruction. No. 9 (that of the hon. Member for South Tyrone) is a Land Bill of the widest scope. It forms a distinct subject of legislation. Following the principles which I have ventured to lay down to the House, it cannot, I think, be brought within the scope of the framework of the Bill before the House. No. 10 (that of the right hon. Member for Great Grimsby) also falls within the same category. It is a Reform Bill for the United Kingdom. No. 11 (that of the hon. Member for Lynn Regis), which proposes to divide the Bill into two parts, is, according to all precedents, distinctly in Order. Referring to No. 12 (that of the right hon. Member for the Bordesley Division of Birmingham), I have already said that Ulster or any definite portion of Ireland can be excluded, or be empowered to exclude itself, from the operation of the Bill by Amendments proposed in Committee without an Instruction. No. 13 (that of the noble Lord the Member for West Edinburgh) can also be carried into effect under the Bill without an Instruction. To summarise what I have said, therefore, to the House, part of No. 1, No. 2, Nos. 9 and 10 would require separate Bills, Nos. 3, 7, 12, and 13 can be dealt with in Committee, Nos. 4 and 5 are beyond the scope of the Bill, No. 8 is not sufficiently definite, and No. 11 is in Order. The House, I hope, will see that I have tried to deal with each case on its separate merits, and without having had any preconceived opinion on the subject.