HC Deb 10 December 1900 vol 88 cc355-7
MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)

I beg to ask the Leader of the House whether he is in a position to give the House any information as to the course of business.


In answer to my right hon. friend, I cannot, of course, state with certainty what the course of business will be. The Government, I need hardly say, have no desire to shorten the consideration of subjects with which the House may desire to deal fully, but I cannot help thinking that the House, without giving up any time it may desire to spend in discussing the questions before it, could, if it desired, conclude all the business by Saturday next. I assume—I hope I am not sanguine in assuming—that we shall conclude the debate on the Address to-night. If that is concluded to-night we shall then really have only two questions before us—namely, the Estimates to be proposed by my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for War, and the Bill dealing with the borrowing powers of the Government to be introduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


There is the Appropriation Bill.


Let me point out that the Appropriation Bill is confined to what is contained in the Estimates, and practically it is the same question, which can be debated again fully upon each stage of the Appropriation Bill. Practically, therefore, there are only two questions before the House, and if we proceed as quickly as our rules will permit, we have Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in which o discuss them. I should hope that we might not only finish the Estimates tomorrow, but might also take the first stage of the Bill of my right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer dealing with the borrowing powers of the Government. Then we could take the Report of the resolution on Wednesday, the Second Readings of both Bills on Thursday, Committees on Friday, and Third Readings on Saturday. It will be seen that the questions of Estimates and borrowing powers can be discussed on all these stages, and I should therefore hope that the time between now and Saturday would be sufficient to dispose of the two topics without undue curtailment of debate. These are counsels of perfection, perhaps, but I think that to conclude on Saturday would be for the general convenience, and I put out this general scheme in order that Members may make up their minds, and that we may come to an arrangement that will conduce to general convenience on both sides.

MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

When does the right hon. Gentleman propose to ask the House to go into Committee of Ways and Means?


I hope to ask the House to go into Committee of Ways and Means to-morrow, and should it be very late at night the matter could be discussed again on Wednesday.


I presume there is no intention to break through the twelve o'clock rule to-morrow night, but it is intended to trust to the general desire to close the debate if possible?


I would not like to give a decision now, or until I have collected the general view in the House.


May I suggest that the same attitude might apply now. I know that a considerable number of Members do not view with favour a motion for suspending the twelve o'clock rule. They have, as I have already said, no desire for the continuance of discussion upon matters not immediately affecting the business before the House in the present session, and I am anxious that the sittings should close this week, though I think it would be better if this could be effected without the suspension of the rule.


If there is an understanding on both sides that the debate shall close to-night without sus- pension of the rule, of course I will say nothing more, but I do not gather that there is such an understanding.