HC Deb 19 August 1895 vol 36 cc280-98

referring to the motion down in the name of the First Lord of the Treasury relating to the Business of the House, asked whether there was any precedent for or advantage in proceeding with it before the Debate on the Queen's Speech was disposed of.


said, there were precedents in large numbers. He intended moving a motion to-day giving precedence to the Queen's Speech to-morrow, and in the event of the Queen's Speech going over perhaps it would be better to deal with motion as to the business of the House that night.


asked if the right hon. Gentleman based his Motion entirely on the view that a Private Members' day could not be taken for the Queen's Speech unless it was appropriated by special Resolution?


No, Sir. It is a fact that a Private Members' day cannot be taken for that purpose, but I gave a distinct pledge on Friday, in answer to the hon. Baronet opposite, that I would move this Resolution to-day, and as some Motion of the kind is required, I think that is a reason why that pledge should be strictly observed. I beg to move— That for the remainder of the Session no Notice of Motion for leave to bring in a Bill be given except by a Minister of the Crown; that Government Business do have precedence every day, be not interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the Sittings of the House, and may be entered upon at any hour, though opposed; that whenever the Committee of Supply stands as an Order of the Day Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair without question put; and that, so soon as Government Business has been disposed of, Mr. Speaker do adjourn the House without question put. I trust that the House generally will accept this proposal without much discussion, because it will be felt universally that the Motion is devised in the interests not of the Government merely, but of all sections of the House, and as much in the interests of the Private Members as of the Government. When a person holding my Office is obliged to take special privileges of this kind for the Government it is very common for Private Members to declare that their rights are being infringed. But I very much doubt whether any large section of Private Members at the present time have any overmastering desire beyond that of finishing the business of the year, and of then proceeding to enjoy a well-earned holiday. Of course this proposal involves a certain amount of sacrifice of two kinds, a sacrifice, in the first place, of the right of proposing Bills—I will not say of carrying Bills, because of that there would be a very slight prospect—and, in the second place, the sacrifice involved by the House consenting to sit, on some nights, later than 12 o'clock. I do not believe that the first of those privileges is one which in August, in fine weather, and after the labours of a General Election, anybody will be very anxious to retain. As regards the enforced sitting up after 12 o'clock, I do not desire that the House should understand that we mean to press the Estimates to any undue hour in the morning. I think we shall be able to get through our necessary work without putting that great strain either upon the officers or upon the Members of the House. But in order that the Estimates should be readily got through everybody is aware that it is convenient to suspend the 12 o'clock rule. Under those circumstances I beg to recommend the House to adopt, in its own interests, the Resolution I now submit. ["Hear, hear!"]


On the point of Order, will the right hon. Gentleman put the Motion in separate propositions?


I propose to put it as one question.

MR. J. W. LOGAN (Leicestershire, Harborough),

said he wished to make an appeal to the Government. As they had already made a concession to those who were in distress in Ireland he thought that a similar concession might be made in regard to England. In view of the probable distress which would occur in this country during the coming winter, the Government might spare time to pass a short Act carrying out the recommendation of the Committee appointed to inquire into the distress arising from want of employment, that those men who were compelled under exceptional circumstances to apply for Poor Law relief should not be disfranchised. The recommendation of the Committee was in the following words:— Your Committee believe that this provision may have a salutary effect as a check upon ordinary Poor Law claims, and may thus foster independence of character and prevent unnecessary burden falling on the rates. But in cases of exceptional distress they do not see why it should be difficult to discriminate between the deserving man, forced to become dependent upon public aid, and the ordinary claimant for parish relief. Your Committee, therefore, are of opinion that it would be both humane and wise to exempt the former class from the disability as regards the Franchise, whether Local or Parliamentary. He was fortified, in making tins request, by the remembrance of the words used by the Prime Minister in the House of Lords on the 6th of July, four days after the Report of the Committee was issued, on which occasion he said that there was very much to be clone in alleviating the condition of those who, by no fault of their own, were cast into misery in these great vicissitudes of trade, and there was much to be done in revising the operation of the Poor Law.


said, the question of disfranchisement was scarcely touched upon by the Committee, which, owing to a change of Ministry, was dissolved, and he had understood that it was to have been reappointed this Session. He hoped the appeal made by the hon. Member would be attended to by the Government as speedily as possible. The Committee omitted to make a discrimination between those of the unemployed who could have obtained work, but did not work, and those who could not obtain work and were willing to work. That was where the Committee would like to take up the thread of the subject when they were reappointed.

MR. H. E. KEARLEY (Devonport)

protested against the suspension of the 12 o'clock rule, and asked to what hour of the night the discussion on the Estimates would continue?

MR. T. R. BUCHANAN (Aberdeenshire, E.)

asked what Bills the Government proposed to introduce during the present Session. He wished to know further whether Supply would be taken continuously, and in what order, and whether the Civil Service Estimates would be taken first, and in what order, because shortly before the Dissolution a suggestion was made that the more important of these Estimates should be taken first, the ordinary course being so far departed from. Then as to the Motion made by the right hon. Gentleman, he ventured to suggest that the first paragraph was somewhat of a novelty and an anomaly, and was unnecessary, because the object in view was really secured by the second and third paragraphs so far as Private Members advancing business was concerned. The first part of the Motion was therefore unnecessary, and would prevent Private Members from exercising the privilege of introducing Bills with the view of having them printed and circulated in the country during the Recess.

MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

wished to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, in support of the point raised by the Member for the Harborough Division of Leicester, whether he did not base his refusal to do anything to carry out the recommendations of the Report of the Committee on the Unemployed on the ground that the principle involved was contentious; whether it was not a fact that an Act of the kind recommended in the Report was passed by the Conservative Government in 1880 so far as Ireland was concerned; and whether, as regarded Ireland, that principle had not been sanctioned more than once since by the Liberal Party. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman further whether he did not think that, under the circumstances, this would not be a good opportunity to apply a principle which had been found useful and uncontentious in Ireland to Great Britain as well? Further, whether as regarded medical relief, in 1885 the very exception with respect to the Franchise was not made in Great Britain by a Government of the same complexion as the one now in power?


said, the Motion made by the right hon. Gentleman represented a number of important aspects on the point of procedure. He admitted that for an omnibus resolution of this kind there were precedents, but he thought the Government would be well advised if in motions of the kind they put each proposition separately. There was no precedent, however, for interposing a Motion of this character in the Debate on the Queen's Speech. At the same time, he held that the rule the Speaker had laid down was one which greatly enlarged the privileges of Members, because, as he understood, the Speaker had ruled that the time of private Members could not be taken away in future by the Queen's Speech without a special Motion in that behalf. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] This was the first occasion when a Minister of the Crown, supported by the high authority of the Chair, had declared it to be necessary that during the Debate on the Queen's Speech it was necessary to make a Motion to take time. In 1882 the Debate on the Queen's Speech lasted a fortnight, and it went on day after day uninterruptedly the whole time. There had been times when other Governments were in distress for time, but this course had not been followed. In 1881–2 the then Government were most anxious to get to the passing of the Coercion Act, but in that day, notwithstanding their hurry and alleged urgency, did not set aside the Queen's Speech for a Motion to take time. The course taken by the Government, therefore, was anomalous. So far as he knew, it had always been the constitutional practice that the humble Address in response to Her Majesty's gracious message should have precedence of all business in the House of Commons. But now, for the first time, Her Majesty would have the satisfaction of contemplating the fact that, while in all previous Parliaments of her reign the Address in response to her gracious Speech had had precedence of all business, a Conservative Administration, supported by the largest majority ever returned to that House, had made an innovation upon this time-honoured practice. What was the advantage of this extraordinary innovation? The advantage of it, except so far as it might be considered a slight on the Sovereign, was absolutely nil, because the Government might have made the motion immediately after the Debate on the Queen's Speech. The advantage the Government sought, from their own point of view, was hardly worth upsetting the practice of 700 years for, and at the same time implying a slight on the Sovereign, for that was what it amounted to. They might be told that the Royal Address and the dutiful reply to it were only a matter of form; but he ventured to say that, at least as far as a Tory Ministry was concerned, this was a remark that could hardly be respectfully made, and the course taken was one, moreover, which would start a precedent that might have important results in the future. He had always understood that the Conservative Party, before they were contaminated by contact with their Liberal Unionist allies—[Laughter]—attached the greatest weight and importance to the maintenance of those ancient rights and forms; and he was amazed to think that it should be a Conservative Government—even though in alliance with the right hon. Member for West Birmingham—who for the first time made a departure from the ancient usages and practice of the House. [Laughter.] The Government, by this motion, not only proposed to take full time, but to place the House under a rule in debating the Queen's Speech which it had never been put under before; for the Address had never before been discussed under the rules of urgency—under the suspension of the 12 o'clock rule. It was the first time, he believed, that any Government had ever placed the House in manacles in discussing the reply to her Majesty's Speech, and if the Government had any precedent for their action they ought to have cited it before adopting such a course. Again, the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire had pointed out a most remarkable confusion so far as the practice of the House was concerned, namely, that Her Majesty's Faithful Commons were to be deprived of any opportunity of even introducing Bills. It was true that one Bill had escaped the operation of the rule, but what did the Government propose to do? And here was the fifth innovation, that so soon as Government business was disposed of the Speaker was to leave the Chair without question put. Of course there were precedents for that, but who had ever known a Minister make such a Motion on the third day of the Session? After the Government had had a free run up to 12 o'clock, private Members, who had borne the burden and heat of the day, were to be deprived of the few minutes after midnight. This was the most manacling Resolution ever introduced by a Minister, and its importance was this, that when they passed Resolutions in times of supposed urgency, they were afterwards cited as precedents in times and on occasions when there was no urgency at all. The Government had, he understood, given notice of a Bill in connection with the Expiring Laws Continuance Act, and they proposed that it should be discussed after midnight under this Resolution. That would be a very strange departure. The right hon. Gentleman had said that no Bills except purely Departmental Bills of a non-contentious character should be taken. The word "Departmental" covered a multitude of sins. They had heard from the Chief Secretary that communications from Judges were departmental, and now they heard that the, introduction of a Bill which must lead to great contention was also to be defended on the ground that it was purely departmental. He had explained, defended and justified the course he and his friends took on this Bill in former Sessions, and he had given notice to the late Government that if they introduced the Bill this year he should oppose it; and he would now ask the Government whether, if they were so anxious to wind up the business of the Session, it would not be possible to arrive at some modus in this matter. The suggestion was thrown out that every one was anxious to get away. Some people were not anxious to do so. They had spent a great deal of time and money in getting into the House and they were anxious to use the House to the advantage of their constituents. He certainly was not anxious to get away. On the contrary, he was not anxious to turn the House to account in the interest of his constituency and the country generally, though they all meant different things when they used that latter expression. They were now met, so far as Ireland was concerned, after three years, in which they did not succeed in winning for their country one rag of a Parliamentary Measure. [Ministerial Cheers.] He was glad to hear those cheers, and relying upon the cordial concurrence that seemed to exist on the subject between himself and hon. Gentlemen opposite, he founded on that statement this argument. Here they were now after three years. The Irish Members have come back like giants refreshed to address a fresh demand to the Government of England. So far as his experience went it did not matter much to their country which Government was in. The result to Ireland seemed pretty much the same, and in conclusion he would invite the Government, if they desired that they should go back to their constituents in a pleasant frame of mind, to make some arrangement whereby some satisfaction might be given to the minor and moderate claims of Ireland. When they gave time to the Government, it was always the plan of the Irish Members to insist on some kind of quid pro quo. The mere re-enactment of the 13th Clause of the Land Act of 1891 was entirely insufficient, and, therefore, he would press strongly on the Government that if they hoped for a safe passage and an easy deliverance, even upon the. Estimates, they should be prepared to give some assurance to the Irishmen who had come there and spent their time in the House, getting so little for their country, that they should not go back empty-handed to their country.

SIR; W. HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)

With reference to which my hon. and learned Friend has said, I should like to state what I know of the practice of the House on the Motion for the Address. I find in the Journals that on Tuesday, March 13, last year, when the Address was under discussion, I made this Motion— That the Order of the Day for resuming the adjourned Debate on the Address in answer to her Majesty's Speech have precedence this day over Notices of Motion.


Notices of motion?


Of course, Tuesday is a day for Notices of Motion. Therefore, but, for that Order, anybody who chose to place a notice of motion on the paper would have been in a position to prevent the Motion for the Address being proceeded with. I find, also, that this Order was made on the same day— That the proceeding on the Address in answer to her Majesty's Speech, if under discussion at 12 o'clock this night, be not interrupted. I do not think there can be any doubt that the principle laid down is one that has governed the practice of the House. There was even a still more remarkable exception with reference to the Debates on the Address in 1884. When the Address was under discussion precedence was given to a motion of censure upon the Government, and the Debates on the Address were interrupted and suspended until that motion was disposed of. Therefore it is quite plain that the Debates on the Address do not have an absolute command of the time of the House, as seems to have been the impression that prevailed in some quarters of the House. ["Hear, hear!"] With reference to this motion generally, I think it is a motion which in all circumstances would have been, made at this time of the year whatever Government had been in office. ["Hear, hear!"] The month of August having arrived, it has always been usual for the Government to propose to take the whole time of the House to the exclusion of other business, in order to proceed with the conclusion of the Debates upon the Estimates. The Government have stated, and will no doubt act upon the statement, that any non-contentious measures that are necessary or expedient to be passed they will take measures to forward. Beyond that I do not see how the House can possibly go, because if private Members introduce Bills of their own it is quite plain they could not proceed with them to any advantage, and if they were Bills to which the Government objected, it is quite obvious that they could make no progress at all. ["Hear, hear!"] I cannot see the advantage of endeavouring to proceed with Bills which have not the support of the Government. I should like to mention one matter. There is a measure which I believe receives the general support of the House—the measure with reference to the King Street site. The Government have power to proceed with that measure, and if it is one which is agreed to by Members on all sides of the House, that might be included among the measures which can, without delay or interruption, be carried out. ["Hear, hear!"] It is quite plain that it is impossible for us now to succeed with any measures which are of a contentious character and which are opposed by the Government, but there ought to be fair and ample opportunity given to Members from Ireland and all parts of the United Kingdom, upon the Estimates to discuss matters which they consider of interest and importance; and I suppose the Government are perfectly prepared to give an assurance that a reasonable time shall be given for the discussion of the Estimates, and that the suspension of the 12 o'clock rule is not intended to prevent such discussion as may arise on the Estimates. ["Hear, hear!"]

SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)

presumed that the Motion applied to Wednesdays, and therefore he was anxious to know whether it was intended by the Government that the House should sit long after the usual hour on those days. There was another point on which information should be given hon. Members. The Leader of the House would admit it was an undesirable thing to discuss important Estimates late at night, when the Debate could not be properly reported. Apart from Irish votes, there were the votes for the Uganda Railway, for additional ammunition, and for the Foreign Office. Was the right hon. Gentleman prepared to arrange that such important votes should be taken at an early hour?

MR. VESEY KNOX (Londonderry)

thought the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Monmouthshire (Sir W. Harcourt) ought to carry conviction to a good many Members who sat on the opposite Benches., They must see that this was really not a Party question, but one between the two front Benches and the rest of the House. The right hon. Gentleman was responsible for the present Estimates, and it was quite natural he should like to pass a Motion which would interfere with a thorough discussion. He appealed to hon. Members opposite, who wished to take an independent line on these questions, to make them stand at the beginning of this new Parliament in favour of a full discussion of the Estimates, which was the original business of the House. The Motion was aimed much more at hon. Gentlemen opposite than at the Irish Members. The Irish Members did not wish to obstruct in this Session. To be perfectly frank he limited himself to this Session. There was nothing to obstruct. There was no object in obstructing when there was no legislative programme to keep back. Whatever little attention they might give to the Estimates this Session would be given purely with the view of bringing forward legitimate questions of public interest. It was right that in this Session of all Sessions the Estimates should not be pushed through late at night. In other Sessions the 12 o'clock rule might be suspended in order to put down obstruction, but this Session, when there was no probability of obstruction, he contended it was a very strong thing to interfere so much with the convenience of the vast majority of Members on the back benches as to suspend the 12 o'clock rule throughout the discussion of Supply. The Report of Supply could be taken at any hour, and therefore if under this Motion Supply was taken up to say, 1 o'clock, they might be kept here with Report of Supply until 3 o'clock. That was not the way to do the work of the nation; it was not calculated to smooth the way of business. He begged to move to leave out of the Motion from the words "every day" in line 4 to the end of the second paragraph. In other days no Member would have resisted a Motion such as the present more strongly than the present Secretary to the Treasury. He trusted that now that that right hon. Gentleman had gone the way of all good men, there would be some left behind the right hon. Gentleman—he thought he could see one—who would support the interests of the majority of the House on this occasion.

MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)

seconded the Amendment.


hoped the hon. Gentleman would not press his Amendment to a Division. It was not necessary for him to argue the point. Every hon. Member was well acquainted with the business of the House. As the hon. Gentleman was perfectly a ware, it was customary at this time of the Session to abolish the 12 o'clock rule, and that the abolition of the rule greatly facilitated the progress of business. He trusted that under those circumstances the hon. Gentleman would not ask them to start a new precedent.


Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the questions I put to him?


I thought we had better dispose of the Amendment first.


We are extremely glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman at any time.


said, he was entirely in disaccord with the Mover of the Amendment. The House was called together solely because of the necessity for passing the Estimates, and that necessity had arisen simply in consequence of the neglect of those Estimates by Her Majesty's late Government during the whole of the months from February to June. They had been reminded that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury had occasionally felt it his duty to resist attacks upon the time of the House. Whenever he did so he was in his (Mr. Bowles') opinion right. Motions to reduce the right hon. Gentleman's salary might be made, and might be supported by quotations from his own speeches. If such were the case he trusted he would be present to defend his right hon. Friend, and to show what was the true meaning to be attached to his speeches. It seemed to him reasonable, under all the circumstances, to give the Government as much time as possible in which to get the money they required. And it also seemed reasonable to give hon. Gentlemen in the back Benches all the time the forms of the House or a Motion of this sort afforded them to discuss the Estimates. Under this Motion hon. Members would, instead of being pulled up sharp at 12 o'clock, be permitted to go on calmly until 3, 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning. He was as strong an advocate for the rights and privileges of Private Members as anybody could be, and he quite agreed that in the matter of the Estimates the two Front Benches were pledged to the Estimates, and consequently no assistance in the way of criticism could be got from either of the Front Benches. But no assistance in the way of criticism was ever got from them; they always had been in accord. It was the occupants of the Back Benches who were found attacking the Estimates, and they were now in the same position as they always were.

MR. J. H. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

said, the point was whether they ought to sit after 12 o'clock or not. He rather regretted the Leader of the House had not replied to the question addressed to him, because many votes might depend upon the answer he gave.


By leave of the House I will reply to the questions which have been put to me in regard to business. The Leader of the Opposition has saved me the trouble of dealing in detail with the speech of the hon. and learned Member for North Louth. That learned Gentleman has not shown on this occasion that minute acquaintance with the procedure of the House which, to do him justice, he usually shows beyond all other Members; for, in truth, the course he declares to be an invasion of the procedure, of 700 years, and which, he says, conveys in some obscure manner a slight on the Crown, is a course invariably adopted when a private Member's Motion or a private Member's Bill is down for a day when the Queen's Speech ought to be taken. If a Motion is down on a Tuesday or a Bill on a Wednesday and the Queen's Speech overlaps, it is absolutely incumbent on the Government to make some Motion by which the rights of private Members would so far be disturbed and the progress of the Queen's Speech secured. Then as to the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, it is quite true that in my original statement I said we did not intend to take controversial business, but seldom or never in the history of this House has that Bill been regarded as controversial.


It was in 1874 and 1875 by Mr. Butt.


There may have been some instances to the contrary, but, practically speaking, the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill has always been regarded as uncontroversial. The hon. Member for the Harborough Division made an appeal to us to make an exception to our general procedure in favour of a Bill carrying out the proposal of the Select Committee on the unemployed to abolish the regulation by which persons who receive outdoor relief are disfranchised. I do not now commit myself to any judgment upon that proposal, which very likely indeed is a very sound and a proper one. But I would observe, in the first place, that it cannot be described as uncontroversial ["Hear, hear!"] and, in the second place, that even if carried it would confer no material relief on the unemployed. ["Hear, hear!"] Even the exercise of a vote is a poor substitute for employment and regular wages; and what we desire is to find, if possible, some method be which the number of the unemployed may be diminished. ["Hear, hear!"] And then, what Franchise is likely to be exercised during the period that distress may possibly prevail in the course of the coming winter? The Municipal Franchise is exercised before the 9th of November; there are no county council elections and no parish council elections in England in the winter; and, although for my part I never prophesy with confidence in those matters, I do not myself contemplate a General Election in the course of the present Session. [Laughter.] Under these circumstances the hon. Gentleman will see that while the Bill he desires must necessarily take up some time of the House, the amount of benefit it would confer on the unemployed would be infinitesimal. The hon. Member for Devonport asks me as to the spirit in which we mean to deal with the 12 o'clock rule. It is impossible for the Government to make any pledge as to the length of time the House will be asked to sit at night. I am reluctant to conceive it possible, but I can conceive circumstances which may require prolonged proceedings.


The Irish Estimates.


If they do arise, discretion must be left to the Government; but, generally speaking, we do not desire to inconvenience the House by asking it to sit up to an abnormally early hour in the morning. The same observation applies to Wednesdays. It is not our intention or desire, except under stress of circumstances very unlikely to arise, to ask the. House to sit much beyond the usual hour for rising on those days. As to the uncontroversial Bills we are going to carry through, I do not pledge myself at this moment to a complete list, but, so far as I am aware, the only Bills we are likely to bring forward besides formal Bills, like the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, are a small departmental Bill in the charge of the Colonial Office which is intended to remove some doubt as to the legal interpretation of an existing Act, and which is strongly pressed for by the Government of the Dominion of Canada (the point will be fully explained when the Bill is introduced), also a Bill to facilitate the acquisition of the site between the great group of the Foreign Office buildings and Westminster Abbey, and, in addition to these, the Bill promised in regard to the evicted tenants of Ireland.


Will all those Bills, like the Evicted Tenants Bill, come after the Appropriation Bill?


Yes. That is to say that after we have, passed Supply we will bring in the Appropriation Bill, which will stand during its successive stages as first Order each day it is brought forward, and when the stage of that Bill is passed we will deal with the non-controversial measures to which I have alluded. As to the order of the Estimates, we shall take the Civil Service Estimates first, the Admiralty second, and the Army third, and we shall endeavour to consult the convenience of the House as to the order in which particular Votes are to be taken. I hope now that the hon. and learned Gentleman who has moved the Amendment will consent to withdraw it, and allow us to proceed with the next business.


asked whether the Public Works Loans Bill was included in the Bills proposed to be taken.


I have no doubt it is included in the Bills to be taken.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:—Ayes, 271; Noes,87.—(Division List No. 4.)


said, that he proposed to move an Amendment so as to put himself in Order, but he hoped that the Government would relieve him of the necessity of pressing the Amendment. The Resolution standing in the name of the Leader of the House would deprive the House of all opportunity of general discussion when the Speaker left the Chair for the first time, in order that the House might go into Committee of Supply. Standing Order 56 said:— Whenever the Committee of Supply stands as an Order of the Day on Monday or Thursday, Mr. Speaker leaves the Chair without question put; unless on first going into Supply on the Army, Navy, or Civil Service Estimates respectively, or on any Vote of Credit, an Amendment be moved or question raised, relating to the Estimates proposed to be taken in Supply. He submitted that inasmuch as these Estimates were to be begun over again, and especially as part of them had already been voted, the House was entitled to a general discussion on the Speaker first leaving the Chair. He did not think it was the intention of the Government to deprive the House of this opportunity, therefore he proposed to move as an addition to the main Resolution the words of the Standing Order he had quoted from, "Unless on first going into Supply" to "proposed to be taken in Supply." The discussion which had already taken place on these Estimates did not at all meet the case, because many new conditions had arisen since that discussion took place. Since the general discussion had taken place in the last Parliament there had been made the announcement, for example, that the Army was to have a new Commander-in-Chief, while large changes were to be made in his powers and in those of the Defence Committee. Such changes as these appeared to him to render it eminently necessary that an opportunity should be afforded to the House to discuss their effect with the Speaker in the Chair. In the Navy also changes of the highest importance had taken place. A new Order in Council affecting the status of naval lieutenants in a most material way had been issued, and this Order had already excited a great deal of discontent in the Navy. It was an Order which he should feel it to be his duty to resist, but unless he had an opportunity to raise a general discussion with the Speaker in the Chair the opportunities which would be otherwise provided on the Estimates would be altogether inadequate, if not entirely destroyed. He trusted that the Leader of the House would be able to give the House some explanation as to the reason why the ancient practice of Parliament should be discontinued on this occasion.

MR. J. C. FLYNN (Cork, N.)

seconded the Amendment, and congratulated the hon. Member upon his independence in having moved it. He submitted that this was a dangerous innovation on the part of the Leader of the House, the effect being to take away the rights and privileges of discussion enjoyed by hon. Members generally.


said, that when he submitted the Motion to the consideration of the House he thought it was one which would meet with approval on the ground that it was designed in the interests of the general convenience of Members. The questions referred to by his hon. Friend in connection with the Army and the Navy could be dealt with on the Vote for the. War Office and the Vote for the Admiralty. His hon. Friend made light of the fact that the House of Commons had already had its usual opportunities of engaging in a general discussion with the Speaker in the Chair. It was true that since that general discussion there might be new Estimates or a slight modification of the Estimates originally presented. That was always the case in the circumstances of a new Parliament like this; but if they admitted this to be a valid argument in the direction pleaded by hon. Gentlemen, it was evident that the House would always have suspended over its head the prospect of a fresh discussion. The fact that this was a new Parliament was not an argument relative to the issue which had been raised as to the subjects dealt with in the Estimates, and he did not think that anything would be gained by repeating discussions under the conditions in which the House had now assembled. He hoped that his hon. Friend would be satisfied with the assurances he gave him, that an opportunity would be forthcoming on the Estimates, with the Chairman of Committees in the Chair, to lay before the House all the details and arguments he was anxious to review applying either to the Army or to the Navy.


pointed out that since the Dissolution many new questions had cropped up in connection with the Estimates. In addition to the questions referred to by his hon. Friend, there was the question, of the health of the Mediterranean Fleet. A very large amount of sickness existed in that fleet; indeed, he was informed that 60 officers wore invalided at the present time. The proper way to open a new Parliament was to give an extended opportunity to new Members to discuss fresh questions.


said the Leader of the House had declared that as one Parliament had enjoyed the opportunity of discussing the Estimates this was a reason for hindering the new Parliament from discussing them. The Government went to the country upon the cry of "Cordite and Kynoch" [laughter,] and was this the way it was proposed to treat so vital a question—that the discussion in the old Parliament was sufficient for the new Parliament? It was alleged that the late Government was unpatriotic in not laying in sufficient ammunition, and now they need an estimate for £70,000 for more cordite. Were they not to have an opportunity of discussing what was the net result of the General Election? They were to be asked to vote £70,000 to Kynoch and Company. Was that a sufficient response to the demands made for the defence of the British Army? Surely the Members of the present Government who discussed this question in the last, Parliament would not refuse to the Opposition the opportunity of discussing it in their turn. It seemed to him that this was the gravest question, which had yet arisen, and the Member for King's Lynn was to be congratulated for the way in which he had put his finger on the spot. They wished to discuss this question with the Speaker in the Chair. They wished to find out whether £70,000 was sufficient to remove the appalling scandals on which the Member for Guildford turned out the Government. Then he wished on the Civil Service, Estimates to challenge the, whole, policy of the Government in regard to their dealings with Irish Civil Servants. How could they, with the Chairman in the Chair, ade- quately discuss a question of that kind? They ought to have the opportunity of ransacking the policy of the Government in this matter. They had just heard of the promotion of Lord Wolseley, who boasted that there was not a drop of Irish blood in his veins, but he could not escape from the misfortune of having been born in Dublin. [Laughter.] They did not forget the declaration he made some time ago on the Irish question. Were they to be shut out from an opportutity of moving a resolution in connection with that? He was sure the Member for Preston must sympathise with his old comrade in arms and vote for the Amendment.


said an opportunity would arise.

Question put, "That those words be there inserted."

The House divided:—Ayes, 106; Noes, 259.—(Division List No. 5.)


I wish to move a further Amendment.


I beg to move that the question be now put.

Question put, "That the Question be now put."

The House divided:—Ayes, 238; Noes, 110.—(Division List No. 6.)

Main Question put accordingly.

The House divided:—Ayes, 248; Noes, 100.—(Division List No. 7.)

Ordered, That for the remainder of the Session no Notice of Motion for leave to bring in a Bill be given except by a Minister of the Crown: that Government Business do have precedence every day, be not interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the Sittings of the House, and may be entered upon at any hour though opposed: that whenever the Committee of Supply stands as an Order of the Day Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair without Question put; and that so soon, as Government Business has been disposed of Mr. Speaker do adjourn the House without Question put.