HC Deb 10 May 1897 vol 49 cc115-8

, who congratulated the First Lord of the Treasury on his recovery from indisposition—[cheers]—asked whether, considering the number of times the House has recently been counted out, and the difficulty of finding work for it, he will consider the propriety of arranging business so that Parliament may be prorogued on Jubileee Day, the 22nd June?


I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether, having regard to the fact that supporters of the Government have brought in several Bills of an uncontentious character, and that last week the House was counted out twice on Government nights, there not being sufficient Government business to occupy the time, the Government will take into consideration the propriety of giving up part of their time to private Members, or at least arrange to keep a House when Bills or resolutions introduced by their supporters are under discussion?

MR. B. L. COHEN (Islington, E.)

I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury, in view of the fact that under the Resolution of 29th January, Fridays are allotted to the Business of Supply, whether the Government will for the future move the Adjournment of the House so soon as the business of Supply is disposed of?


I am afraid that my hon. Friend the Member for South Belfast and other hon. Members also take a much too sanguine view with regard to the business we have still to get through before the end of the Session. The House knows, roughly speaking, what that business is, and if hon. Members will take the trouble to forecast the amount of time which may be occupied over it, they will see that to prophesy the termination of the Session on June 22, or possibly even on July 22, would be to take too sanguine a view of the circumstances. My hon. Friend the Member for Walsall asks whether the Government will give up some of their time, having—not as they think—so much of it to spare, for the purpose of allowing more progress to be made with private Members' Bills. I gather that he and the hon. Member for East Islington are of opinion that on Friday nights the time not taken up by Supply might be appropriately filled up for this particular purpose. But I may remind the House that Friday night has never been given up to private Members' legislation. It has always been a Government night, subject, of course, to the claims of private Members to move resolutions on the Motion for getting the Speaker out of the Chair in order to go into Committee. When the new Friday rule was passed, the night remained a Government night, on which, after Supply was finished, Government business had precedence. An appeal was made to the Government that, in consideration of the fact that the first claim on the evening had been given to them for Supply, they would not use any portion of the night, after the disposal of Supply, for the purpose of passing their own legislation. That appeal was acceded to by the Government, and the result is that private Members have tried to fill up the vacuum after Supply has been finished, and have asked the House to consider their Bills. Now I am not sure that that is a convenient plan. ["Hear, hear !"] It forces private Members to watch for legislation on Friday, and to come down to the House in case any private Members' Bills should be reached. I think we should carry out the spirit of the sessional order much better by keeping Friday night for Supply only. ["Hear, hear!"] Then the question may be asked, why the Government do not put down enough Supply on Friday so as to prevent the possibility of a count-out; and of course they could, if they liked, put down as effective Supply all the Supply still left for consideration. I have deliberately abstained from that course for this reason: I feel that if we were to put down too much Supply, we should probably get not more, but fewer Votes, for Members would probably be under the impression that the Government intended to take advantage of them, and Members interested in remote Votes would feel bound to come to the House on the chance that those Votes might be reached. Therefore, I have aimed at putting down only a reasonable amount of Supply on Fridays, and I still think that that is the more convenient course. ["Hear, hear !"] Although, it may, perhaps, seem to the public outside that a count on Friday night at 10 or 11 o'clock is a waste of public time, I think it really is not so, and that we get through the business more quickly by the arrangement which I have endeavoured to carry out than we should by any other. ["Hear, hear!"] Therefore, I shall continue, subject to what I may hear, with the plan I have adopted with regard to the amount of Supply to be put down on Fridays. But I think it would be an improvement if, henceforth, when the Votes have been disposed of, we were to move the adjournment of the House. [Cheers.]


I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether an opportunity of concluding the Debate on Vote 10, Class 1, Civil Service Estimates (Ordnance Survey), which Debate was not concluded when the House rose on the morning of Saturday 10th April, will be given; and, if so, whether he can say when that date will be?


I cannot promise my hon. Friend that any further opportunity will be given for the discussion of this Vote. A certain amount of discussion upon it has already been taken, and until I can better foresee the course of business I cannot give any undertaking on the subject.