THE PATRONAGE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Sir WILLIAM WALROND, Devon, Tiverton) moved:—
That until the conclusion of the consideration of the Benefices Bill, the Standing Committee on Law have leave to sit every day until Four of the clock notwithstanding the sitting of the House.
§ *SIR G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
said, the Motion was absolutely without precedent, and if carried the result would be to make a very heavy charge on the time of hon. Members, and actually to deprive many of them of the opportunity of discharging their public duties in the House. During the seven or eight years for which he had been Chairman of one of the Standing Committees, it was never even suggested that the Committee should sit while the House was sitting, except to finish the proceedings on a Bill.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON (Manchester, N. E.)
said, that in previous Sessions a sessional Order had been made sanctioning the sitting of Standing Committees during the sitting of the House. This year this was not done and therefore the Motion was necessary. The Bill under the consideration of the Standing Committee on Law had occupied a great deal of time—he did not for a moment say an undue time—[ironical Opposition cheers]—and would occupy more time, and there were three other Bills which they had to consider, and which would probably be precluded from consideration if the Motion was not passed. He had obtained the consent of the Committee to ask the House to give them more time. If the discussion of one Bill was to occupy all the time of the Session, he thought the system of Grand Committees would break down. Now that the House held morning sittings on Tuesday, the Motion was all the more necessary. An hon. Member who was, perhaps, the most prominent opponent of the Benefices Bill in the Committee, had told him that although he would object to an unlimited extension of the time of the Committee, he would not object to an extension of one hour. It was not proposed that the Committee should sit till four every day, but only that it should have the power to sit after three if any matter was before them which could be 1539 finished in a short time—of course, with the consent of the Committee. Therefore he thought this Motion was not one of a very unusual character, and it was only intended by it to enable the Committee to do their work.
§ MR. D. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
said, the Motion was put down on the Paper in the name of a Member of the Government, but he hoped the House would observe that not a word had been advanced by him in support of what was an utter departure from the precedents of Standing Committees. He also objected to this Motion being made by a Member of the Government at all; it was a Motion made in the interests of a private Bill— an ecclesiastical Bill introduced by the noble Lord the Member for Rochester. Why were the Government taking this Bill under their shield? The only time, he believed, when a Motion approaching this had been made was in 1892 in the interest of another ecclesiastical Bill, the Clergy Discipline Bill. The Motion asked for an extension of time, not until three, but until four o'clock. The right hon. Member for the North-East Division of Manchester had himself said that no undue time had been taken over the Benefices Bill. As far as he had observed there had been nothing in the nature of obstruction, and most of the Debate had been conducted by hon. Members who sat on the opposite side of the House. If the argument of the right hon. Baronet held good at all, it would be an argument against ever sending Bills of this character to a Grand Committee. As a first Amendment to the Motion, he would move to omit the words "every day," and to insert the words ''on Tuesdays and Fridays."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE moved to leave out the word "four" and insert the words "half-past three."
*MR. J. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts, Mansfield)
pointed out the inconvenience to which hon. Members had been subjected at the last sitting of the Committee. They had then three times to rush 1540 down to the House to record their votes. ["Hear, hear!"] He thought that this Motion was not in the interests of the promoters of the Bill. The result would be that Members who were unable to discuss the Bill in Committee would feel themselves called upon to avail themselves of the better opportunity afforded in the House when the Bill came back to it. As to the remarks about the congestion of business in the Grand Committee, if necessary they could have two Committees, and not rush a particular Bill through the existing Committee to the great inconvenience of Members desiring to do their duty in Committee and attend the House.
MR. J. LOWTHER
did not desire to express any opinion about the Grand Committees. He had no great experience of them. [A laugh.] He should defer any remarks he had to make until the Bill came before the House, but he must own there was a great deal of force in the suggestion of the hon. Member as to half-past three. Acts of Parliament and Resolutions of that House were no doubt very powerful, but neither a Resolution nor an Act had power to make an individual appear in two places at once. It was inconsistent that business should be going on concurrently elsewhere.
§ *MR. JOHN ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
said, they had before them a Resolution moved by a Member of the Government in the interests of a Bill promoted by a non-official Member. He must say that so far as he was aware that was perfectly unprecedented.
§ SIR W. WALROND
explained that he put down the Motion at the request of the Chairman of the Committee, to whom he said that he ought to move it himself. [''Hear, hear!"] On inquiry at the Table, however, he was told that a Member of the Government ought to move the Motion. There was a precedent when, on the 20th of May 1892, a Member of the Government moved a similar Motion.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL - BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
Oh! Yes, it 1541 was—that is my recollection. The Bill was managed by the present Attorney General.
SIR H. CAMPBELL - BANNER-MAN
said, it appeared to him that the difficulty had arisen mainly from the fact that a private Bill of a very contentious character had been sent to this Committee raising a stronger feeling of opposition than the promoters of the Bill anticipated. If this were to be pursued, they would have the whole machinery of the Grand Committees thrown into disorder. It was like a goods train breaking down on the line and blocking more important traffic. It added to the poignancy of the case that Members in case of a Division had to come from the other side of Westminster Hall. He feared that half-past three would not accomplish his hon. Friend's purpose.
SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNER-MAN
saw no reason why the two Standing Committees should not meet on the same day.
§ MR. H. S. FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowe stoft)
said, that when the Bill was read a Second time it was pointed out that it would be better to refer it to a Select Committee, and that difficulties might arise if it were sent to the Standing Committee. It was pointed out that the effect would be to block other Bills which should properly go before it.
§ *SIR JOSEPH PEASE (Durham, Barnard Castle), having had considerable experience on Committees, believed the old rule of a Member of the Committee coming down to the House and having the Motion put from the Chair was the most convenient and orthodox method.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I hope the House will not spend more time in discussing this question. As to the question of dividing the House, which has exercised some hon. Gentlemen, next Tuesday and the Tuesday after will be occupied by Second Reading Debates, and there will be no necessity for Divisions. As to the action of the hon. Member near me in moving this Motion, he has pursued what he understood to be the precedents. It is a 1542 matter of courtesy only, and it does not matter who makes the Motion.
§ MR. HERBERT LEWIS (Flint Boroughs)
said, that in the last Parliament there was a far more aggravated state of things when the Places of Worship Enfranchisement Bill was before the Grand Committee. The Chairman at that time declared that there was obstruction, and yet the promoters of the Bill did not ask the Government of that day for assistance, although the Session was more advanced.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said, that this Bill last year was laid aside through want of agreement on the Committee.
§ MR. WARNER
said, that he wished to point out that if the Committee sat at inconvenient times the experience of last year would be repeated.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Several hon. Members rose at the same time, and I selected the hon. Member for Mid. Cork as seconder. [Laughter.]
§ Question put, "That the word 'Four stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 227; Noes,126.—(Division List, No. 126.)
§ Main Question, as amended, proposed. Debate arising.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 250; Noes, 128.—(Division List, No. 112.)
§ Main Question, as amended, put accordingly.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 263; Noes, 114—(Division List, No. 113.)
§ Ordered, that until the conclusion of the consideration of the Benefices Bill, the Standing Committee on Law have leave to sit on Tuesdays and Fridays until Four of the clock, notwithstanding the sitting of the House.