HC Deb 26 March 1896 vol 39 cc240-4

On the Motion for the Adjournment of the House,


said: Upon this Motion I want to make one or two remarks, and then to ask the First Lord of the Treasury a question. As I said, Sir, when you informed me that I was out of order, there is a universal feeling in all quarters of the House of surprise, disappointment, and, I think I may even say vexation, at the fact that we leave the House to-night ignorant of the contents of what is, undoubtedly, the most important Measure that the Government propose to lay before Parliament. [Cheers.] That circumstance is a very unfortunate one — [loud Ministerial cheers]—but, of course, the Government —the First Lord of the Treasury—must have made some considerable miscalculation. I have not the least desire to make any Party imputation—far from it; on the other hand, let hon. Gentlemen be sure that no Party imputation is cast against this side. ["Hear, hear!"] I have been here through the whole of the Sitting—I should not make the remark but for the reception given to what I have just said—and I will undertake to say that as much time was consumed, and fairly consumed, by Gentlemen sitting on that side as on this side. ["Hear, hear!"] Two right hon. Gentlemen—the Member to the University of London and the Member for Bodmin opened the discussion in a very fair way. However that may be, the First Lord of the Treasury has not received correct information from those who supply the Leader of the House with information in these matters, and the result is a great disappointment to the House, and, I am sure, the country. [Cheers.] Well, the question is, what proceeding will the Government resort to enable the Vice President of the Council to make the statement which we expected to-night at the earliest possible period? A dreadful, a shocking rumour has come to my ears, that it is proposed that this important statement as to the most important Measure of the Session is to be postponed to a morning sitting on Tuesday next. I think it an unusual proceeding in connection with so extremely important a Bill to have the statement at a morning sitting, when Gentlemen on both sides are eager to get away into the country. I would suggest to the Government that they might well make the statement to-morrow. ["Hear, hear!"] The First Lord of the Treasury has told us that he proposed to take, between the commencement of the public business and seven o'clock, I think he said, a few small military Votes. I submit to the, First Lord of the Treasury that he would consult the convenience of the House, and meet the desires of Gentlemen in all parts of it, if he would put down the statement of the Vice President of the Council as the first business to-morrow. That statement will no doubt take some time, but there seems no reason why, at seven o'clock, he would not be able to go on with the other business, which was the Vote on account. Of course you would have to move the suspension of the Standing Order, and possibly the 12 o'clock Rule. I am unwilling to think that the First Lord of the Treasury will insist upon postponing the matter till Monday instead of taking it to-day. He said to-night that the Government regarded it as a matter of great importance that the Speaker should be got out of the Chair on Civil Service Estimates, but that process will not get one single shilling into the Exchequer, and I am certain that this process is of not one-tenth the importance to the House or to the country as is the desirability of our being placed in possession of the Government's views in regard to their educational proposals. I hope the First Lord of the Treasury will meet me, if he possibly can, as what I have said expresses, I believe, the feeling of hon. Gentlemen opposite as well as upon this side of the House.


hoped the right hon. Gentleman would devote Monday instead of Friday to this purpose.


said: The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Montrose Burghs has accused the Government of having made a miscalculation as to the amount of time to be taken to-night by the discussion upon the Naval Works Bill, and no doubt such a miscalculation has taken place. The question is, who is responsible for it? [Ministerial cheers.] I confess that nothing that has occurred to-night has led me to alter the opinion that I formed before our proceedings to-night commenced namely, that two or three hours would have been amply sufficient to say everything that was worth saying upon the Naval Works Bill. [Cheers.] The right hon. Gentleman has told us that a large number of speeches have come from Gentlemen upon this side of the House, and, no doubt, that is perfectly true; but does the right hon. Gentleman remember what fell from his colleague on that Bench, the late Financial Secretary to the Admiralty? He pointed out the regrettable circumstance that much of the discussion took place not on any Naval propositions in this Bill, but upon the propositions that had already been discussed and passed in the late Parliament, and by the late Government, and introduced into their Bill on this subject. It was the opinion of the late Secretary to the Admiralty that those discussions need not have been repeated; that is also the opinion of the Government, and it is because we thought so that the miscalculation of which the right hon. Gentleman has spoken unfortunately occurred. I do not wish to waste the time of the House at this hour of the morning, and therefore I will be very brief in my observations. The right hon. Gentleman opposite suggests that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Education should make his statement to-morrow. I think that the answer to that suggestion has already been given by the hon. Member opposite. There has been no reason shown, I think, why, thus early in the Session, we should break through the Rule with regard to taking Supply on Fridays. In the circumstances, therefore, I do not think it will be possible for us to accept the right hon. Gentleman's first suggestion. There remains, then, to be considered the possibilities of what can be done in the two or three days which remain to us before this portion of the Session comes to an end. I am quite ready to put down the Education Bill as the first Order of the day on Monday, and to move to suspend the 12 o'clock Rule on that day on the understanding that the Bill is to be read a first time, that the Naval Works Bill is read a third time, and that the Speaker be got out of the chair on the Civil Service Estimates on that day. For my part I do not see why that should not be done. If it is not possible to carry out the agreement that I suggest, I am afraid I cannot suggest anything better than that my right hon. Friend should make his statement at the Morning Sitting on Tuesday, however inconvenient it may be for him to do so on the last day of the Sitting of the House before the Easter Recess. Of course the Report of the Vote on account will also have to be disposed of on Monday


said, that he felt considerable difficulty in accepting the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury on this subject. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that there were four items that the House would have to dispose of on Monday. In the first place the very important statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Education; next the Third Reading of the Naval Works Bill, upon which perhaps there would not be much discussion; then the Report on the Vote on account, and then the getting the Speaker out of the Chair on the Civil Service Estimates. He was afraid that there must be a certain amount of discussion upon some of these items, and therefore he scarcely thought that the programme proposed by the right hon. Gentleman could be carried out in its entirety.

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

pointed out that the third Motion on the Paper on going into Committee stood in the name of his hon. Friend the Member for Banff shire, and that would be the only possible opportunity they would have of discussing the important subject dealt with in that Motion. He would suggest to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury that it would be possible to wait till after Easter to get the Speaker out of the Chair.


said, it would be extremely inconvenient to take that course, and, moreover, the Notices on the Paper did not seem to be of a kind that ought to occupy very long in discussion; but, whether he was right or wrong as to that, he thought the plan he had suggested was a practical one, but they need not decide that question that night. All they need decide was that to-morrow they would take Supply, and either on Monday or Tuesday his right hon. Friend would make his statement, and they would get the Speaker out of the Chair on the Civil Service Estimates.

House adjourned at Ten minutes before One o'clock.