HC Deb 30 March 1897 vol 48 cc124-8

THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY moved— That the order for resuming the adjourned Debate on Financial relations (England and Ireland) have precedence this day and to-morrow of the notices of Motions and of the other Orders of the day.


protested against this further encroachment on the time of private Members. No word of notice or explanation of this Motion had been given to the House. He did not wish to make any personal grievance of this matter in regard to the taking of the following day, which was a Wednesday, but as regarded the principle, there had been increasing inroads on the Wednesdays, which properly belonged to private Members. In regard to Tuesdays, it might be said that, private Members were themselves to blame for the encroachment of the Government, because of the large number of counts out which had taken place on Tuesday evenings. But private Members were not to blame, because there was so much uncertainty as to whether they were to have this time or not, and as to the subject which was to be considered. He instanced the Miners' Eight Hours Bill as one in which a number of hon. Members were interested, and for which facilities should he given. Although he did not propose to divide the House, he must protest against this encroachment on the time of private Members.


said he had expected that the First Lord would have offered some palliation for the onslaught the proposed to make on the time of the House. He entered his protest against the course adopted. He remembered no Session in which so many demands had been made for the time which belonged to private Members. That was done not in favour of a Government Bill, but in favour of another private Member's Motion. The Irish Members were entitled to the concession of proper time for the discussion of the Financial Relations Motion, but the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House ought not to have been generous at the expense of private Members, but ought to have made the concession out of Government time. In the second place, it seemed to him that the Motion was altogether unnecessary. The chief Government Bill of the Session had been disposed of, and, so far as he could see, there was nothing to make Government business pressing, and he therefore protested against the course now being taken as most unfair to private Members. There was one Motion down for to-night, which had aroused great interest among the working classes, calling for a codification of the laws relating to labour, and which he would have had the opportunity of moving only for the Motion now before the House. During the present Session and the last Session many classes in this country had their interests fully attended to by the Government. One class alone had had no opportunity of formulating its demands, and that was the largest class of all. It was but little consistent with the projects of social reform on which the Government, with its great majority, had come into power, that on the one occasion a representative of a working class constituency had the opportunity of putting forward a demand in favour of that class, he should have been set aside and deprived of his opportunity.


, who had a Motion on the Paper that night to call attention to the grievance of the officers of the General List (Indian Army) in the matter of their pensions, complained that it was only that morning he was able to obtain from the public Press a knowledge of the intentions of the Government in regard to the business for that night. But before the House decided upon this question, he thought they were entitled to have a pledge from the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury that he would not again take away from them the opportunity of discussing the Motion which was first in his name on that day's Paper, which opportunity had been already five times taken away from them by the action of the Government in appropriating the days of private Members.

MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)

also thought the House should have an assurance from the Government that, as this Tuesday was taken on account of the general desire which had been expressed to discuss the Financial Relations question, on every Tuesday in the near future private Members would be allowed to exercise the rights which the Standing Orders conferred upon them. He would point out that there was a Motion of great importance in regard to the food supplies of the country down for discussion on Tuesday next, and he hoped that day would not be taken by the Government.


said that two criticisms had been made upon the policy of the Government —one personal and the other general. It had been said that he had shown scant courtesy to private Members in having put down the Financial Relations Motion for that night and to-morrow, and in having given but too short a notice of the intentions of the Government in that respect. He thought the accusation of the scant courtesy should have been the very last to have been brought against him. [Cheers.] But then, one never knew what was in store for him. [Laughter.] He would point out to his hon. Friend the Member for Horsham that on Thursday last he stated distinctly that, while he hoped the Debate on the Irish Financial Relations might be confined to one night, he felt himself bound by a pledge he had given early in the Session not to put an undue restriction on the limits of that Debate. He regretted his hon. Friend was deprived of his opportunity of discussing that night the Motion which stood in his name, but he was rather consoled by the thought that his hon. Friend had been fortunate in securing the first place on this day four weeks, and he trusted that when this day four weeks came—[An HON. MEMBER: "That will be Easter," and laughter]—unless they were better employed elsewhere—[laughter]— his hon. Friend would have the opportunity he desired. With regard to the more general aspect of the question, he would point out that, though the Government had been attacked as if they were sacrificing the time of private Members for the convenience of Government business, he was sure the course they had taken in allotting that night and to-morrow to the discussion of the important question of Irish and Scotch Financial Relations rather than to the private Members' Resolutions and Bills on the Paper for those days, was with the approval of the overwhelming majority of private Members. ["Hear, hear!"] It would have been in the power of the Government, at the expense of the dislocation of important public business, and the detriment of the interests of poor Board Schools—the Bill for which they proposed to introduce on Monday—to have taken the Debate of the Irish Financial Relations yesterday, to allow two days to intervene, and to go on with it again on Thursday, to allow two days more to intervene, and resume the Debate on Monday. But, apart from the undue strain which it would place upon Government time, the inconvenience of such a course would be admitted by every one who desired the conciseness and continuity of Debate. Absolutely no course was open to them other than the course they had pursued, and if, in pursuing it, he had been, most, unfortunately, guilty of discourtesy to any Member, he could only express his regret, saying at the same time that full notice had been given of the intentions of the Government, both in regard to that night, and as far as possible, in regard to to-morrow.


said the right hon. Gentleman had referred to that day four weeks. Would the right hon. Gentleman undertake that that day four weeks would not be a holiday, and, if not a holiday, that the House would sit. It was said that the course taken by the Government was only robbing one private Member to pay another —robbing Peter to pay Paul—but some of them would prefer Paul to Peter. He held that there was no excuse for the action of the Government at that time of the Session. The Government got the Bills without discussion; they got the Estimates hand over first; and he was daily expecting a letter from the Whips earnestly requesting his absence that day. [Laughter.] The effect of taking private Members' time persistently, and of depriving them of fair opportunities of debate, would be that they would fall back on opportunities and methods which all Ministers, and particularly the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, regarded as illegitimate—reductions in Ministers' salaries and questions. Private Members had a great grievance, and if anything were to be done to remedy it, they must join together and have a Private-Member leader of their own. [Loud cheers and laughter.] He saw many hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite who would be well qualified for such a position, and whom he would be glad to follow. [Laughter.] This constant filching of private Members' time was bringing to nothingness the settled orders regulating the procedure of the House; and if it were to go on, he hoped the House would alter the Standing Orders, so as to bring them into accordance with the wishes of both Front Benches. ["Hear, hear!"]

Motion agreed to.

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