HC Deb 28 March 1898 vol 55 cc1095-105

I indicated to the House on Friday last both the unfortunate necessity in which I felt myself placed in asking for further facilities for Government business, also the reasons which obliged me to make the request. It will be in the memory of the House that about a week ago I was asked when the Easter holidays would take place, and how long they would last. At that moment, with a vagueness which is, perhaps, characteristic of the place which I occupy, I gave a sketch of the business of the House, which I thought and hoped could easily be finished by Tuesday week, so that the House might have very nearly a fortnight's holiday. Since then the course of public business has been somewhat disappointing, and, as the House knows, several Bills which we had every ground for hoping and expecting would be advanced a stage, still remain on the Order Paper, and are no further advanced than when I last spoke. In these circumstances, I must ask the House to allow us so far to trench upon the privileges of private Members as to permit us to take morning sittings on the three Parliamentary Tuesdays which will probably elapse before we commence the discussion of the Irish Local Government Bill. Of course, as hon. Gentlemen are aware who have Motions in their charge for these Tuesdays, there will be time given for the discussion of the first Motion on the Paper, though in the case of one I am afraid the time will not be so long as I had at one time anticipated. But I am sure the course I am proposing is less inconvenient to the House than shortening the holiday, and I trust hon. Members, without prolonged discussion, and without a Division, will consent to be guided by me in this matter. It may be said, perhaps, that the Gentlemen who have second place on Tuesday will not have an opportunity of having their Resolutions discussed, but the fate of Gentlemen standing second on the Paper on Tuesday has not always been a happy one this Session, and I am not sure that they will be worse off if my Resolution is passed than they would be if things were left to take their natural course. I beg to move— That on Tuesdays, 29th March, 5th and 19th April, the House do meet at Two o'clock.


I do not rise for the purpose of offering any opposition to this Motion, but as the right hon. Gentleman is disposing of the time of the House for the present week, and practically of the time that will elapse before the Vacation, I desire to ask him if he will make arrangements such as will enable the Government, before the Recess, to make a statement to the House with reference to their policy in the Far East. I do not ask the right hon. Gentleman at this moment to state exactly what arrangements he will probably be able to make—he will probably be able to do so to-morrow—but opportunity may be given on Friday, for instance, if the Foreign Office Vote were put down, or an arrangement made with reference to the adjournment of the House. I would willingly consult the convenience of the Government as to the time which should be allotted to that purpose, but I think it will be felt on both sides of the House that, before the Easter Recess, we should have a statement from the Government as to the position in which this country stands upon the matter. I do not propose to press upon the Government anything which will be inconvenient to the public service, or injurious to the public interests, but I think everybody must feel that, since the declaration made by the Government upon the first night of the Session—a declaration which seemed to be entirely satisfactory—when both here and in another place we were told that nothing had been done, or was in contemplation, that should in any way infringe the treaty rights of this country, certain circumstances have, whether in rumour or otherwise, created an impression that such a statement as that is not at present in force. At all events, we should know whether the circumstances have in any respect changed since Lord Salisbury stated that no foreign Power had contemplated at all interfering in any way with the treaty interests of this country. We ought to know whither that is still the situation, or whether there is any change of circumstances which should modify these declarations. For that purpose I hope the Government will make arrangements and let the House know to-morrow what these arrangements will be, in order that an exposition of the situation of this country, and its relation to other States, may be made clear to the House and to the country.

*MR. VICARY GIBBS (Herts, St. Albans)

I beg to ask the Government to reconsider their decision to take a morning sitting to-morrow. The subject for discussion—the unsatisfactory condition of monetary affairs in India—has roused the greatest interest both in the City of London and in India. I think I am entitled to speak on this subject, but it is quite impossible for me and others who desire to be heard, and have a right to be heard on it, to find time to give expression to our views in the short space of an evening sitting.


I feel it my duty to protest against the deprivation private Members are suffering in the time of the House being taken in this way. It is quite impossible in the short time given us to discuss the subject referred to by the hon. Member for St. Albans, and I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury that this is not ordinary private Member's business, but is really Government business. I speak in this matter, not from the bi-metallic point of view, from which perhaps some Members of the House may think I am too apt to speak, but from the point of view of my constituents who have sent me here. Many of them are not connected with that movement, but they are deeply interested in the trade with India, and they urge me to do all I possibly can to obtain a full Debate on this subject and the desirability of a full inquiry before anything is done.

MR. J. PARKER SMITH (Lanark, Partick)

I think there would be a great deal in the appeal of the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken if it were not for the announcement made two or three days ago by the Secretary of State for India. This question, which my hon. Friend proposes to discuss to-morrow, is one of the greatest importance, but we know that there is a dispatch on the subject from the Government of India on its way home, which, as I understand, the right hon. Gentleman has promised shall be published, so that any schemes whatever that the Government may propose should be fully considered before action is actually taken. Therefore I would submit to the hon. Member that the present is not so suitable a time for the discussion of this question as a later day, and I hope that if the right hon. Gentleman does not propose to give way with regard to to-morrow he will promise some day for the discussion when we can know the views of the Government and when there can be a full discussion of this question.

*MR. R. MCKENNA (Monmouth, N.)

Sir, serious complaint has been made that Tuesday, the 19th of April, is proposed to be taken, so far as a morning sitting is concerned, by Her Majesty's Government. It is quite obvious that at this stage of the Session the Government cannot have any very clear views as to what the business is to be on the 19th of April. Only quite recently we had an illustration of how the well-considered views of the Government may be upset by the distinguished kindness of the Opposition. I refer to the Debate on the Irish Local Government Bill. On that occasion the First Lord of the Treasury informed the House that he anticipated that at least three days, or possibly three days, would be required, but as a matter of fact only one day was required for the Second Reading. At this period of the Session, to have a morning sitting on Tuesday, the 19th of April, is a very severe encroachment upon our rights. I have got a second place in the ballot for that day. I have put down a Motion dealing with the very important question of Local Taxation in this country, which would give an opportunity to hon. Members opposite to express their views, as they have not yet done so, as to how they propose to transfer the cost of education and the relief of the poor from the rates to the National Exchequer. This is the single opportunity which is given to hon. Members opposite, and which they are at all likely to have, of expounding their electoral programme, which was the programme, even of the First Lord of the Treasury himself, on these matters. It is a most unfortunate fact that once before, when I was fortunate enough to succeed in the ballot in getting a place, and put down a Motion to discuss the question of Local Taxation, on that occasion also, as on the present occasion, the First Lord of the Treasury came down and assured the House that it was essential for the purposes of the business of this House that that particular Tuesday should be taken by the Government. Surely, Mr. Speaker, in regard to three weeks in advance they must be in a position of absolute uncertainty. Even tonight they do not know how much Government business will be got through, and it is a little too premature to take away from us the 19th of April by means of a morning sitting.

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

I desire to support those hon. Members who have asked for an opportunity of discussing the Motion on bi-metallism, but do so for a very different reason from that which they have advanced. I desire that the Government should really have an opportunity of expressing their opinion as a Government with regard to this great economic fallacy which has misled so many eminent Members of the Government. I think, Sir, the time has arrived to satisfy the common sense of the House, and I am sorry that Members of the Government should be deprived of an opportunity of giving an explanation of their views.

MR. J. M. MACLEAN (Cardiff)

I should like to point out that the Resolution to be brought forward to-morrow by my hon. Friend has nothing whatever to do with bi-metallism, and that it is essentially dissociated from the "economic fallacy" to which the hon. Gentleman opposite has alluded, for otherwise I should not have proposed to second it to-morrow. But I must join in the expression of regret, not only of Members on this side of the House, that the Government have found it necessary or convenient to take to-morrow away from us for a full discussion of this very important question. I suppose the Government will promise to make and keep a House in the evening for the hon. Member and his proposed Motion. I propose to second it if I can get a hearing, and perhaps we shall be followed by a Minister, and that will probably exhaust the whole time at the disposal of the House. I should be sorry that other hon. Members should be deprived of an opportunity of speaking on the subject, and I cannot understand why the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury should cut short the discussion in a manner which I should have thought would be very unsatisfactory to himself and other Members of the Government.


Mr. Speaker, my hon. Friend who has just sat down has intimated that the whole time of three hours to be allotted on Tuesday next for the discussion of this question will be divided into three equal portions.


No, no! I will promise not to take up more than 20 minutes.


I understood from my hon. Friend that he would take up one of the three hours, and if that were the case I am afraid the task he has thrown upon the Government and the House is perhaps a more difficult one than he supposes. I can assure him and my two hon. Friends who have spoken in the same sense that I share their regret that the discussion on Tuesday is necessarily to be a relatively brief one. I quite agree with them that the question is one of the greatest importance, and that the House might with great advantage spend more than three hours in its discussion; but when my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester implies that the result of our taking Tuesday morning will be that some decision will be taken without that matter being thoroughly investigated, I think he cannot have had in his mind the answer which my noble Friend the Secretary of State for India gave to a question which was put to him a few days ago. Sir, I do not wish to anticipate the three speeches which are to be made to-morrow, but I may remind my hon. Friend that the Government are pledged to an inquiry into the whole matter, and we shall be the last people to suggest that any great change in so vital a question as that of the Indian currency should be undertaken without due and full explanation. Sir, passing from that point to the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Opposition, who has stated and expressed a very natural and proper desire, if I may venture to say so, on his own behalf and on behalf of his friends, that there should be some statement by the Government as to their recent policy in the Far East, and some opportunity given for discussing it. Sir, it is impossible that the whole subject can be adequately surveyed before we separate for the Easter Recess, because it will not be possible before that time to put into the hands of Members the Papers necessary for the discussion. But I recognise not only that it is desirable, but that it is absolutely necessary, that something should be said before we separate, and the only question is when would be the most convenient time for making that statement, and, if it is thought necessary that a preliminary discussion should be taken, what time should be fixed for that purpose. Sir, negotiations are at this moment proceeding, and I cannot tell the House when we shall be in a position to make such a statement. Of course, the later that statement can be made the more chance we shall have of speaking freely, and of giving the House full information on the subject; and it may be desirable to defer the matter to so late as Tuesday, to-morrow week. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will permit me to defer giving any final reply to his question to a later date. We have every reason on our own part to say what we have done, and to defend what we have done, if it is attacked, but our hands for the moment are tied, and it would not be possible within the next few days to give to the right hon. Gentleman and the House the opportunity which they naturally and very properly desire.


May I be allowed to say that I entirely accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement? We have no desire in any way to press the matter inopportunely, and I will leave it on the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman. We desire much more to have a statement from the Government of the position of the country than to raise any particular controversy on the subject. Of course we should reserve to ourselves the right of making such observations as we may think expedient on the matter, but it is not for the purpose of raising controversy so much as obtaining from the Government a clear statement of the situation of the country that I have put my question to the right hon. Gentleman.

MR. D. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)

The First Lord of the Treasury said something about undertaking to keep a House. Does he refer to all the Evening Sittings?


No, I am afraid I cannot give an undertaking of that kind.


Does he refer to to-morrow?


I think the hon. Member may take it that a House will be kept.

Motion made, and Question put— That on Tuesdays, March 29th, April 5th and 19th, the House do meet at Two of the clock."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)

The House divided:—Ayes 248; Noes 78.

Aird, John Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Harcourt, Rt. Hn. Sir Wm.
Allhusen, Augustus Hy. Eden Courtney, Rt. Hn. Leo. H. Hare, Thomas Leigh
Arnold, Alfred Cox, Robert Heath, James
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Crilly, Daniel Helder, Augustus
Ashmead-Bartlett, Sir Ellis Cripps, Charles Alfred Hermon-Hodge, Robt. Trotter
Baden-Powell, Sir Geo. Smyth Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton) Hill, Rt. Hn. Lord Arth. (Down)
Bagot, Capt. J. FitzRoy Cruddas, William Donaldson Hill, Rt. Hn. A. Staveley (Staffs.)
Bailey, James (Walworth) Curzon, Rt. Hn. G. N. (Lanc S. W.) Hoare, Ed. Brodie (Hampst'd)
Baillie, Jas. E. B. (Inverness) Curzon, Viscount (Bucks.) Hoare, Samuel (Norwich)
Baird, John Geo. Alexander Dalbiac, Colonel Philip Hugh Howard, Joseph
Balcarres, Lord Dalrymple, Sir Charles Howell, William Tudor
Baldwin, Alfred Daly, James Hozier, Hon. Jas. Hy. Cecil
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r) Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan) Hubbard, Hon. Evelyn
Balfour, Rt. Hn. Grld W. (Leeds) Dickson-Poynder, Sir Jno. P. Hutchinson, Capt. G. W. Grice
Balfour, Rt. Hn. J. B. (Clackm.) Dixon-Hartland, Sir F. Dixon Hutton, John (Yorks, N. R.)
Banbury, Frederick George Dorington, Sir John Edward Jebb, Richard Claverhouse
Barton, Dunbar Plunket Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick
Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benj. Doxford, William Theodore Johnson-Ferguson, Jabez Ed
Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir M. H. (Brist'l) Drage, Geoffrey Johnston, William (Belfast)
Beaumont, Wentworth C. B. Drucker, A. Johnstone, John H. (Sussex)
Bentinck, Lord Henry C. Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V. Kemp, George
Beresford, Lord Charles Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir Wm. Hart Kenrick, William
Bethell, Commander Edwards, Gen. Sir Jas. Bevan Kimber, Henry
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Ellis, John Edw. (Notts.) King, Sir Henry Seymour
Bill, Charles Evershed, Sydney Kitson, Sir James
Blundell, Colonel Henry Fardell, Sir T. George Knowles, Lees
Bonsor, Henry Cosmo Orme Farquharson, Dr. Robert Knox, Edmund Francis Vesey
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc.) Lafone, Alfred
Bousfield, William Robert Finch, George H. Laurie, Lieut.-General
Bowles, Capt. H. F. (Mdsx.) Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Lawrence, Sir Ed. (Cornwall)
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Firbank, Joseph Thomas Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverp'l)
Brookfield, A. Montagu Fisher, William Hayes Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.)
Brown, Alexander H. Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond Lecky, Rt. Hn. Wm. Ed. H.
Bryce, Rt. Hon. James Flannery, Fortescue Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead)
Bucknill, Thomas Townsend Fletcher, Sir Henry Legh, Hon. Thos. W. (Lanc.)
Bullard, Sir Harry Flower, Ernest Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie
Burdett-Coutts, W. Folkestone, Viscount Leighton, Stanley
Buxton, Sydney Charles Forwood, Rt. Hn. Sir Arth. B. Llewellyn, Evan H. (Somerset)
Carew, James Laurence Fry, Lewis Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine-
Carlile, William Walter Garfit, William Long, Col. C. W. (Evesham)
Carmichael, Sir T. D. Gibson- Gedge, Sydney Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Livp'l)
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.) Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbt. J. Lopes, Henry Yarde Buller
Cayzer, Sir Charles William Goldsworthy, Major-General Lorne, Marquess of
Chaloner, Capt. R. G. W. Gordon, Hon. John Edward Loyd, Archie Kirkman
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.) Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir Jno. Eldon Lucas-Shadwell, William
Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc.) Goschen, Rt. Hn G. J. (S. G'rg's) Macaleese, Daniel
Charrington, Spencer Goschen, George J. (Sussex) Macdona, John Cumming
Clancy, John Joseph Graham, Henry Robert M'Arthur, Charles (Liverp'l)
Clare, Octavius Leigh Gray, Ernest (West Ham) M'Arthur, Wm. (Cornwall)
Cochrane, Hn. Thos. H. A. E. Greville, Captain M'Ewan, William
Coghill, Douglas Harry Grey, Sir Edw. (Berwick) Maple, Sir John Blundell
Cohen, Benjamin Louis Gull, Sir Cameron Marks, Henry Hananel
Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Halsey, Thomas Frederick Maxwell, Rt. Hn. Sir Hbt. E.
Colomb, Sir Jno. Chas. Ready Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord Geo. Melville, Beresford Valentine
Colston, Chas. Ed. H. Athole Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robt. Wm Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M.
Compton, Lord Alwyne Hanson, Sir Reginald Monk, Charles James
Moon, Edward Robert Pacy Reid, Sir Robert T. Talbot, Rt. Hn J. G. (Oxf'd Univ.)
More, Robert Jasper Renshaw, Charles Bine Thorburn, Walter
Morrell, George Herbert Rentoul, James Alexander Tomlinson, Wm. Ed. Murray
Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptf'rd) Richardson, J. (Durham) Tritton, Charles Ernest
Mowbray, Rt. Hon. Sir John Rickett, J. Compton Usborne, Thomas
Muntz, Philip A. Ridley, Rt. Hn. Sir Matthew W. Wanklyn, James Leslie
Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Grhm (Bute) Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson Warr, Augustus Frederick
Murray, Charles J. (Coventry) Robertson, Herbert (Hackney) Wayman, Thomas
Myers, William Henry Royds, Clement Molyneux Webster, R. G. (St. Pancras)
Newdigate, Francis Alexander Russell, Gen. F. S. (Cheltenham) Webster, Sir R. E. (I. of W.)
Nicholson, William Graham Russell, T. W. (Tyrone) Welby, Lieut.-Col. A. C. E.
Nicol, Donald Ninian Rutherford, John Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-
Northcote, Hon. Sir H. Stafford Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse) Wharton, Rt. Hn. Jno. Lloyd
O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Sandys, Lieut.-Col. T. Myles Whiteley, Geo. (Stockport)
Paulton, James Mellor Saunderson, Col. Edw. Jas. Williams, Col. R. (Dorset)
Pease, Arthur (Darlington) Seely, Charles Hilton Williams, Jos. Powell- (Birm.)
Pender, James Sharpe, William Edward T. Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Penn, John Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew) Wilson-Todd, W. H. (Yorks.)
Platt-Higgins, Frederick Simeon, Sir Barrington Wodehouse, Edm. R. (Bath)
Plunkett, Rt. Hn. Horace Curz'n Sinclair, Louis (Romford) Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Powell, Sir Francis Sharp Smith, Abel H. (Christchurch) Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart-
Priestley, Sir W. Overend (Edin) Smith, Jas. Parker (Lanarks.) Wylie, Alexander
Pryce-Jones, Edward Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand) Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.
Purvis, Robert Stanley, Lord (Lancs.) Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong
Rankin, James Stanley, Henry M. (Lambeth)
Rasch, Major Frederic Carne Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Redmond, Jno. E. (Waterf'rd) Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M. Sir William Walrond and
Redmond, William (Clare) Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester) Mr. Anstruther.
Allan, Wm. (Gateshead) Hayne, Rt. Hn. Chas. Seale- Perks, Robert William
Allen, Wm. (Newc.-under-L.) Holburn, J. G. Pickersgill, Edward Hare
Ascroft, Robert Holden, Sir Angus Pirie, Captain Duncan
Baker, Sir John Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry Roberts, Jno. H. (Denbighs.)
Beckett, Ernest William Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C. Scott, C. Prestwich (Leigh)
Billson, Alfred Jacoby, James Alfred Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)
Birrell, Augustine Jones, David Brynmor (Sw'nsea) Sinclair, Capt. J. (Forfarsh.)
Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn) Jones, Wm. (Carnarvonshire) Smith, Samuel (Flint)
Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson Kay-Shuttleworth, Rt. Hn Sir U. Spicer, Albert
Burt, Thomas Lambert, George Stanhope, Hon. Philip J.
Caldwell, James Leng, Sir John Stevenson, Francis S.
Cameron, Sir Chas. (Glasgow) Lewis, John Herbert Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton Lloyd-George, David Thomas, Alf. (Glamorgan, E.)
Cawley, Frederick Logan, John William Thomas, David Alf. (Merthyr)
Clark, Dr. G. B. (Caithness-sh.) Lowther, Rt. Hn. Jas. (Kent) Wallace, Robert (Edinburgh)
Clough, Walter Owen Luttrell, Hugh Fownes Wallace, Robert (Perth)
Crombie, John William Maclean, James Mackenzie Wedderburn, Sir William
Curran, Thos. (Sligo, S.) M'Ghee, Richard Williams, J. Carvell (Notts.)
Dalziel, James Henry Maddison, Fred. Wills, Sir William Henry
Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Maden, John Henry Wilson, Hy. J. (York, W. R.)
Farrell, James P. (Cayan, W.) Mappin, Sir Fredk. Thorpe Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)
Fenwick, Charles Mellor, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Yorks.) Wilson, John (Govan)
Wilson, Jos. H. (Middlsbr'gh)
Flavin, Michael Joseph Montagu, Sir S. (Whitechapel) Yoxall, James Henry
Galloway, William Johnson Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)
Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans) Morton, Ed. J. C. (Devonp'rt) TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Goddard, Daniel Ford Nussey, Thomas Willans Mr. M'Kenna and Mr.
Gold, Charles Pease, Jos. A. (Northumb.) Warner.