§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
I wish to ask the Leader of the House whether he can say anything as to the business for the early part of next week, and whether on Monday the promised statement will be made relating to the military forces. What other business is to be taken?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
The right hon. Gentleman assumes that the debate on the Address will he finished to-morrow, and I also assume it. I feel sure that the House will regard a fortnight all but a single day as allowing sufficient latitude for the debate on the Queen's Speech, and it is of the first importance that the House should at once proceed to that financial business which will no doubt occupy a very large portion of our time before the Easter holidays. If, as I hope, the debate on the Address is finished either to-night or to-morrow, my hon. friend the Under Secretary for War will, as soon as we have obtained certain facilities with regard to Tuesdays, proceed to introduce Supplementary Military Estimates, and make a full statement upon various questions of public military policy in which the country and the House are deeply interested. I shall also 939 propose to submit the Supply Rule in its old form on Monday in the hope that it may be passed without serious debate; but if hon. Members indicate a desire to discuss it, then I would defer it for a day.
§ MR. LOUGH
May I ask whether, in accordance with the promise given by the right hon. Gentleman last October, an opportunity will be afforded for the discussion of general questions raised by the Amendments to the Queen's Speech. Does not the right hon. Gentleman think more time should be given to these?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think that the hon. Member has misinterpreted what I said in October. I thought then that it would have been possible to dispense with the Queen's Speech at the beginning of the present sittings; but we had to arrange otherwise. Still, I think hon. Members will agree that the House has had a very full opportunity of dealing with the subjects in which it is interested. The war has no doubt absorbed a very large portion of time, and the reason is that the war is the topic—I had almost said the only topic—in which either the House or the country is interested. I hope, therefore, no objection will be raised to the conclusion of the debate on the Address at the time which both the Leader of the Opposition and myself are agreed should be the extreme limit.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
Will an opportunity be afforded for a discussion of the financial relations between England and Ireland? I fear that if the course indicated by the right hon. Gentleman is persisted in we Irish Members will have no opportunity of discussing questions of vital importance to us.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER
May I suggest that an opportunity might be given for the discussion of other topics mentioned in the Queen's Speech after the House has heard the statement of the Under Secretary for War and disposed of essential Government business.
§ MR. WOODS (Essex, Walthamstow)
May I point out that I have an Amendment down on the Paper which has never been discussed. It is one in which all Government workers are deeply interested, and I would suggest it would be 940 only fair if the right hon. Gentleman allowed the debate on the Address to continue until Wednesday next.
§ SIR T. G. ESMONDE (Kerry, W.)
Cannot a day be set apart for the discussion of the Catholic University question, if we agree to the right hon. Gentleman's proposal to end the debate on the Address to-morrow?
§ MR. D. A. THOMAS
Will the right hon. Gentleman give the House some indication of the intentions of the Government in regard to the question of the redistribution of seats?
MR. T. M. HEALY
If the First Lord of the Treasury meets the reasonable request of the Irish Members time will, in the long run, be saved.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I will answer as many of the numerous questions put to me as possible. It is a mistake to suppose that on the Queen's Speech it is expedient that everything which interests everybody should be discussed at length. If it were, it is manifest that the whole session would be occupied in the process. Of course, the Irish land question has always been with us, but the questions of financial relations and Irish University education has been recently very fully debated, and I should have thought that a comparatively brief discussion would have sufficed, or even that there need not be any discussion at all. There are two full nights before us, and I do not see why we should not get through some of the more important Amendments on the Paper before the end of the sitting to-morrow night is reached, and I suppose it will be expedient to suspend the twelve o'clock rule to-morrow in order that the debate may be concluded. As to the Government taking Tuesdays, we feel obliged to ask for privileges before Easter for financial business, and respecting the question asked by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, I may at once say that redistribution of seats before the general election is entirely outside the scope of the matters which are now interesting the House. The Government have not put it in the Queen's Speech, and they do not intend to introduce in the course of the present session any Redistribution Bill.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not suspend 941 the Twelve o'clock Rule to-morrow. There are one or two topics which are considered of great importance by the overwhelming majority of the Members for Ireland, and although we do not desire to have long first class debates on them we do think they should not be excluded from discussion, as it is quite conceivable they will be if the debate is closed to-morrow night. We have no desire to put off unnecessarily the statement on military affairs, but surely under the circumstances our request is a reasonable one.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have given the House my honest opinion with regard to the real inwardness of the situation, and I cannot alter my view that I think the debate should end to-morrow night. Surely the hon. Gentleman can find by then an opportunity of discussing the topics in which he is interested.