* MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said, he wished to make an appeal to the Secretary of State for War with regard to the Army Annual Bill. The right hon. Gentleman proposed to ask that this Bill be read a second time to-morrow, and on being' reminded that the Bill was not printed they were told by the Secretary to the Treasury that a copy could be obtained at the Vote Office. He went to the Vote Office, and was informed there that there were no copies of this Bill. That alone, he thought, was sufficient for the appeal he now made to the light hon. Gentleman not to persevere in his intention to read the Bill a second time to-morrow. They had a distinct understanding that no contentions business should be taken before Easter, and so wide was that undertaking that even the First Reading of contentious Bills had been postponed. If the Bill were urgent he should not be disposed to make any opposition even to a quasi breach of the undertaking: but it was not urgent, because last year it only went up to the other House on the 18th of April, and consequently there would he ample time after Easter to pass it through all its stages and send it up to the other House for it to have its effect. On the grounds that they had not got the Bill, that they could not get it, that it was unreasonable to ask them to read it a second time to-morrow, and that a considerable number of Members would be away to-morrow, he would appeal to the right hon. Gentleman not to insist on the Second Reading to-morrow.
§ * MR. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The ordinary course has been followed in this matter, and the Second Reading can hardly be opposed, even by the hon. Member. If there is anything contentious it is discussed in Committee, and that stage will not be taken until after Easter, so that there will be ample opportunity to Members to raise any question.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
asked if, in order to afford a fair opportunity for discussion, the Committee stage would not be taken after midnight?
§ MR. A. C. MORTON
said, as he understood it, the right hon. Gentleman would not proceed with the Hill to-morrow, if it was desired that he should not, do so. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would by to-morrow put himself in a proper holiday frame of mind, and would treat Members of this House in the same generous manner in which Members had treated the Government with regard to Supply. He was sure that in the interests of the Army they were not doing their duty without thoroughly considering and discussing this Bill, and certainly they ought to be afforded a proper opportunity for discussion. He would not press the matter further now, but he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would he in an Easter holiday frame of mind to-morrow. Before sitting down, he would like to ask the Leader of the House whether he had any further information to give them with regard to the remaining annuity to the Duke of Edinburgh, he meant whether anything had been done in the matter by the Duke and Her Majesty. They would have to take a further opportunity of discussing the subject, but he should be glad if the Leader of the House could give them some further information regarding it.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir W. HARCOURT,) Derby
said, with regard to the Mutiny Bill, he never heard of any opposition to the Second Reading of the Bill; any changes that were made in the Bill were always discussed in Committee, and he hoped the same course would be pursued now. An ample opportunity 856 would be given for discussion, and he hoped the House of Commons would not set the example of declining to read the Mutiny Bill a second time. With regard to the annuity to the Duke of Edinburgh, he had to say that he had nothing to add to what his right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) said on a former occasion.
§ * SIR A. ROLLIT (Islington, S.)
asked whether it was proposed to legislate upon the Report of the Sea Fishery Committee. The Report of the Committee was practically unanimous, and as the condition of the fishing industry as a source of food supply and a field for producing sailors was most important, he hoped there was an early prospect of legislation. Then with regard to the Conciliation Bill, he trusted the Government would consent to report Progress with the Estimates on Thursday week at an early hour in order to give an opportunity to Members to make their observations upon it.
§ SIR R. TEMPLE (Surrey, Kingston)
asked if the Government would put down the Committee stage of the Mutiny Bill for some early hour?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
said, he would consider that They would certainly put down the Conciliation Bill in time for hon. Members to consider it, but he considered it was a new and hostile practice to have discussions on the First Reading of Bills. Both sides of the House agreed in the importance of the Bill, and the First Reading ought to be a matter of course; it was a most hostile practice to discuss a Bill on its First Reading. He thought the Government ought to have the same privilege as private Members, whose Bills were read a, first time without comment.
§ SIR A. ROLLIT
said, he heartily supported the Bill, but he understood it was the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion that the Estimates should be postponed in order to take the First Reading of the Bill, and his inquiry was simply as to the time and with a view only to one or two brief and friendly suggestions, based on the experience of the London Conciliation Board, and for the improvement of the Bill.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned at half after Five o'clock.