§ Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment proposed to proposed New Standing Order (Business in Supply) [11th April], "That as soon as the Committee of Supply has been appointed and Estimates have been presented, the business of Supply shall, until disposed of, be the first Order of the Day on Thursday, unless the House otherwise order on the Motion of a Minister of the Crown, moved at the commencement of public business, to be decided without Amendment or debate.
§ "Not more than twenty days, being days before the 5th of August, shall be allotted for the consideration of the annual Estimates for the Army, Navy, and Civil Services, including Votes on Account. The days allotted shall not include any day on which the Question has to be put that the Speaker do leave the Chair, or any day on which the business of Supply does not stand as first Order.
§ "Provided that the days occupied by the consideration of Estimates supplementary to those of a previous session or of any Vote of Credit, or of Votes for Supplementary or Additional Estimates presented by the Government for war expenditure, shall not be included in the computation of the twenty days aforesaid.
§ "Provided also that on Motion made after notice by a Minister of the Crown, to be decided without Amendment or debate, additional time, not exceeding three days, may be allotted for the purposes aforesaid, either before or after the 5th of August
§ "On a day so allotted, no business other than the business of Supply, shall, except on the last two of the allotted days, be taken before midnight unless it is unopposed, and no business in Committee or proceedings on Report of Supply shall be taken after midnight, whether a general Order for the suspension of the Twelve o'clock Rule is in force or not, unless the House otherwise order on the Motion of a Minister of the Crown, moved at the commencement of public business, to be decided without Amendment or debate.1274
§ "Of the days so allotted, not more than one day in Committee shall be allotted to any Vote on Account, and not more than one sitting to the report of that Vote. At midnight on the close of the day on which the Committee on that Vote is taken, and at the close of the sitting on which the Report of that Vote is taken, the Chairman of Committees or the Speaker, as the case may be shall forthwith put every Question necessary to dispose of the Vote or the Report.
§ "At Ten of the clock on the last day but one of the days so allotted, the Chairman shall forthwith put every question necessary to dispose of the Vote then under consideration, and shall then forthwith put the question with respect to each class of the Civil Service Estimates that the total amount of the Votes outstanding in that class be granted for the services defined in the class, and shall in like manner put severally the questions that the total amounts of the Votes outstanding in the Estimates for the Navy, the Army, and the Revenue Departments be granted for the services defined in those Estimates.
§ "At Ten of the clock on the last allotted day, the Speaker shall forthwith put every question necessary to dispose of the report of the Resolution then under consideration, and shall then forthwith put, with respect to each class of the Civil Service Estimates, the question, That the House doth agree with the Committee in all the outstanding Resolutions reported in respect of that class, and shall then put a like question with respect to all the Resolutions outstanding in the Estimates for the Navy, the Army, the Revenue Departments, and other outstanding Resolutions severally.
§ "On the day sappointed for concluding the business of Supply, the consideration of that business shall not be anticipated by a Motion of Adjournment, and no dilatory Motion shall be moved on proceedings for that business.
§ "Any additional Estimate for any new service or matter not included in the original Estimates for the year, shall be submitted for consideration in the Com- 1275 mittee of Supply on some day not later than Two days before the Committee is closed.
§ "For the purposes of this Order two Fridays shall be deemed equivalent to a single day of two Sittings."—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)
Which Amendment was—
In line 6, to leave out the words Not more than twenty days, being days before the 5th of August, shall he allotted for the consideration of the annual Estimates for the Army, Navy, and Civil Services, including Votes on Account. The days allotted shall not include any day on which the Question has to he put that the Speaker do leave the Chair, or any day on which the business of Supply does not stand as first Order."—(Mr. Lough.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words 'Not more than twenty days, being days before the 5th of August, shall be allotted for the consideration of the annual Estimates for the Army, Navy, and Civil Services, including Votes on Account,' stand part of the Question."
(9.0.) MR. JOHN REDMOND (Water-ford
It seems to me that this is probably one of the most far-reaching of the new Standing Orders proposed, because admittedly there is no part of the business of the House of Commons more important, from a constitutional point of view, than the right the House has always exercised up to the present of scrutinising Supply, and on Votes in Supply of discussing the whole policy and administration of the Government of the day. I protest against this new little in toto, and I take the ground of opposition that this Rule has proved in practice to be a failure. The new Standing Order now under consideration is not identical with the sessional order dealing with Supply, which has been in operation for some years. There are some differences, but in the main it is practically the same. I say, therefore, we are not in the position of considering a new Rule about which Members might have different views as to the likelihood of its success in the future. We are considering really an old Rule which has been tested by some years of experience, and, taking that ground, I assert that the Rule now before us has been proved to be a failure. This Rule involves the most important right of this House, namely, the right of discussion in Supply, and I say that it turns into an absolute mockery what was always 1276 regarded in this House as an accepted axiom of the Constitution, namely, that the discussion of grievances should precede the voting of Supply. I say in addition it has led to an increase of expenditure, and that under its operation enormous sums of money, increasing year by year, have been voted without any discussion whatever, owing to the application of the closure. Further than that, I assert that, badly as this Rule has worked generally, so far as Ireland is concerned it has rendered all effective discussion of Irish Supply and criticism of Irish administration absolutely-impossible.
I remember very well when this Rule-was first proposed in the House as a sessional Order by the First Lord of the Treasury. He told the House that he had devised a plan with the object of giving to private Members a better opportunity of discussing Supply, and of criticising the Government. I ask any Member of this House whether he can honestly say that the result of the working of the sessional Order during the past few years has been in that direction. I assert that the result has been the direct opposite. That is a matter of fact; it is not a matter of opinion with which I am dealing, and it can be brought to the test of figures. Under the operation of this sessional Order the number of Votes which have passed without any discussion at all has steadily and rapidly increased. In the year 1896 there were twenty-one Votes out of all the Votes applying to England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales that were passed without any discussion at all, but from that time the number has increased. The new Rule came into operation, and what happened? In 1897 there were thirty Votes passed without any discussion whatever; in 1898 there were thirty-two; in 1899 there were forty-six; in 1900 there were forty-six; and in 1901 there were ninety-six. Not only has there been an increase in the number of Votes that have not been discussed, but the amount of the Votes has also increased. In 1897 the amount of money voted without any discussion at all was £52,000,000; in 1898, £43,000,000; in 1899, £56,000,000; in 1900, £95,000,000; and last year it was £88,000,000. Is it not a somewhat appalling statement to be able to make to the House of Commons that during the 1277 last five years of the operation of this sessional Order a sum in round numbers of £400,000,000 has been voted without one single moment of discussion?
If I stopped here and said nothing further, it seems to me that I have said enough to prove the absolute failure of this Rule which we are now to have permanently incorporated on the Standing Orders of the House. But there is very much more to be said. Under the operation of this Rule expenditure, has increased in the most alarming way. No one who has listened this year and last year to the speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer could fail to have been impressed with the fact which the right hon. Gentleman has pointed out, that the enormous increase of the Budgets has not been wholly due to war expenses. He has repeatedly pointed out in the most forcible manner that there has been an increase of expenditure in all departments, irrespective altogether of the war. I remember last year the emphatic and impressive way in which he warned the House of Commons, that if expenditure was not curtailed—irrespective of the war altogether—it would be necessary to increase taxation. There has been practically, as the Chancellor himself complained, no party of economy in this House. There has been no party which took upon itself the duty of endeavouring to keep expenditure within reasonable bounds. The First Lord of the Treasury has more than once it passing this sessional Rule stated that discussion in Supply has never led to the reduction of Votes. Of course, that is a statement which is technically true, but I believe that it contains a very false suggestion. It is true that when reductions are moved the Government has always, or nearly always, a majority. If it failed to obtain a majority on any particular Vote the Government would fall, and the result is that the Motions for the reduction of Votes scarcely ever lead to an actual reduction of the then Estimate before the House. But does the First Lord of the Treasury suggest that the close examination of the Estimates and the searching discussion of Supply must not tend in the direction of economy rather than extravagance? It is perfectly clear to me that the more you 1278 curtail the opportunities of discussion, and the more you limit the right of the House of Commons to examine the Estimates, the more certain you make it that the Estimates will go on increasing year by year, and I say this has been the experience of this Rule. But if these remarks apply generally how have we to look at the Rule from the point of view in which, of course, I am mainly, if not altogether, interested—the point of view of Ireland? I remember when the right hon. Gentleman introduced the Rule first-he promised us for the discussion of the Irish Estimates four days, and as a matter of fact, we obtained four days under the early operation of the Rule. That was changed very soon to three days, and there is nothing in the Rule as now proposed to bind the Government to give us three days, two days, or one day. We in this matter of Irish Supply are absolutely at the mercy of the right hon. Gentleman. We have to beg from him some opportunity for the discussion of the Irish Estimates, which, of course, raise in the only effective form in which it can be raised, the whole question of Irish government and administration.
Will the House consider what the meaning of this is? Here you are governing Ireland against the will of the overwhelming majority of the Irish people. We are brought to this Imperial Parliament against our will. Von by sheer force insist upon governing our country, and you actually refuse to us the opportunity of adequate discussion of our own government. For many years past there has not been one word of discussion of the Estimates for some of the most important Irish Departments of the Government. Let me take some examples. The Royal Irish Constabulary is a peculiar force. I do not intend to make any attack on the members of that force, but I wish to point out that it is in reality an army of occupation, equipped in military fashion. Now, Sir, the policing of Ireland at this moment costs per head just double what the policing of England, Scotland, or Wales costs. Obviously that is a very important Department of government in Ireland. Will it be believed that for at least five years there has not been an opportunity in this House of saying one single word on the Irish police system? We have been anxious to discuss the Police Estimates and to 1279 protest against the maintenance in Ireland of this army of occupation, but under the operation of this Rule the Irish Members have not had any opportunity for criticism or discussion. Let me take another great Department—that of the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. In the old days the Lord Lieutenant was not a Member of the Cabinet and the Chief Secretary was, but now the order is reversed; and will it be believed, that for years we have been given no opportunity of discussing the enormous cost of the establishment of the Lord Lieutenant, who is now primarily responsible for Irish administration?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
As the hon. Member is aware, it is impossible to discuss the question of Irish policy on the Lord Lieutenant's Vote.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
I do not agree. The Lord Lieutenant is the representative of the Irish Government in the Cabinet, and on the question of the Vote for the Lord Lieutenant I maintain it would be in order to discuss the question of Irish administration
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
The cost of the government of Ireland is the most extravagant in the world. The Lord Lieutenant is paid a salary exactly double what the President of the United States is paid, and the whole cost of the maintenance of the Lord Lieutenant's department is excluded from discussion by the operation of this Rule. In 1897 I find the Vote for the salaries of the Resident Magistrates was closured. I do not know whether the Vote is to be closured this year or not. In 1897 Resident Magistrates in Ireland were not engaged in as difficult and responsible duties as they are now. Now, the administration of the whole of the criminal law of the country is placed in their hands. They are responsible to no one—they are removable at a moment's notice. They are made up entirely almost of half-pay officers, promoted policemen, and a small percentage of the whole are gentlemen who were called to the Bar and were failures at their profession. Trial by jury is suppressed by a recent proclamation among a population of one and a half 1280 millions of the people, and is it tolerable when this is done that there is to be no opportunity given on the Estimates for the discussion of the money paid to these gentlemen, and that we are to be put off simply by the statment that there is no time, that the two or three or four days allotted to Irish Estimates have been exhausted, and that the closure is to be applied to the remaining Irish Votes? Similarly, with regard to the question of grants to Queen's Colleges, raising in an important way the whole question of University education. Nine of these were discussed in 1897. In 1898 the Local Government Vote was not discussed. The County Courts Vote was not discussed, and the Chief Secretary's Vote—and if the Leader of the House is right, as I am not sure be is, that the administration of Ireland could not be raised on the Lord Lieutenant's Vote—what is to be said for the system of Supply under which both the Lord Lieutenant's Vote and the Chief Secretary's Vote were both closured without discussion? Yet we find that in 1898 and last year there was not one single hour devoted to the discussion of one of those Votes or the other. The Chief Secretary's Vote this year was discussed in an indirect way. We succeeded in getting it put down first in the Vote on Account, and in that way we have succeeded in having a discussion, but, so far as the ordinary estimates are concerned, L take it for granted that this year—just as last year and the year before—the money to be devoted to the cost of the Chief Secretary's Department will be closured, and we will have no opportunity for a discussion whatever. Last year the Land Commission was not discussed. Does it not reduce the whole Government of Ireland to an absolute farce when you find in the same session of Parliament the Lord Lieutenant's Vote, the Constabulary Vote, the Land Commission Vote all closured without one word of discussion?
§ Mr. JOHN REDMOND
Yes, last year. I do not know whether hon. Members quite realise what this Land Commission is. The Land Commission is engaged in the fixing of what is called fair rent in Ireland. It is intimately concerned in a hundred ways 1281 with the very life of the great majority of the people. There is not a day that passes over my head that I do not receive representations from one part of Ireland or another asking me when the Estimate for the Land Commission come on to call attention to this or that grievance. Yet the Land Commission Vote was passed last year without one single moment of discussion. I put it to the House of Commons, does it not reduce the whole Government of Ireland to a farce; and I am anxious not to repeat myself, but must emphasise the fact that you have deprived us of our own Parliament, which was co-eval and co-ordinate with your own, and that lasted as long in Ireland as your Parliament lasted in England. Von took away our Parliament by force, and you insist on governing Ireland from England; yet you refuse an opportunity to the Irish representatives in this House to discuss the Estimates of one of those great Departments of Government that you insist on keeping in your own hands.
It may be asked, have you any remedy to propose The right hon. Gentleman is proposing these Rules as a remedy for some of the evils which are connected with the present system of doing business in this House. He has been perfectly candid in this, for in his speech in Manchester he admitted that the new Rules could not do much; yet he expects them to do something. What does he propose to remedy this evil with reference to Supply? Absolutely nothing. He proposes to re-enact, in the shape of a Standing Order, the sessional Order which has been in use for the last five years, and under the operation of which all these evils have taken place. I do not think sufficient attention was paid to the speech of the Leader of the House the last time this Rule was under discussion. He took it for granted that the session would only be six months, or 960 hours. He stated that out of that, thirty-five days would be allotted to Supply, and he went on to say that out of the number of hours in the whole session thirty-five days was a reasonable time to give to Supply. I admit that thirty-five days does seem a large proportion to give to Supply out of the time mentioned. But when he gives thirty-five days to Supply he is not able to produce a 1282 better state of things than was produced under this Rule for the last five years. What justification is there for turning this Rule into a Standing Order at all? Under the existing Rule I have pointed out the number of Votes that have passed without discussion at all has gone on increasing from twenty one to ninety-six, and the amount of money has increased from something like £30,000,000 to £95,000,000 or £100,000,000. If thirty-five days is a large proportion out of 960 hours in a session for Supply, what does it point to? Surely it points to the impossibility—the absolute impossibility—under existing conditions, and within the limits of a session of six months, to adequately discuss the business that comes before this House. When it is seen that between four and five hundred millions of money is passed without discussion in five years, no one can pretend that the discussion of Supply is proper or adequate. The right hon. Gentleman accused me in the commencement of the session of making the same speech again and again, and I answered him by saying that I had come to the House of Commons to make one argument, and one only, and that is to point out to the House of Commons that they are engaged in an impossible task. Increase the session from five to twelve months, and you will not get rid of the difficulty. You would not be able even then to give adequate time for the discussion of Supply, and provide reasonable time for the discussion of other matters.
I have never disguised that from one point of view I have welcomed these new-Rules. I regard them as the last dying effort to make the present system successful. The Leader of the House himself has to admit that these new rules will not remedy the evils, and every man of common sense who knows the House, knows that you cannot remedy the evils under which the House is labouring. The truth of the matter is that as the guardian of Supply, this House is a lamentable failure. But has it not also broken down as a legislative machine? According to the Leader of the House there remain only out of the whole session 276 hours for the discussion of all the legislative business, and all the affairs of the Empire.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
But legislative business includes many things that might be held to be included in it—for instance, it includes the Budget.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
No. The general argument of the hon. Member is quite correct, but I carefully excluded the Budget from that. What I meant was there were only 276 hours for new legislation which the country requires and for carrying on its work with regard to home affairs or colonial matters in which legislation is required.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
That is to say that 270 hours is all the time that this House can afford to the whole legislative programme of the Government, whether dealing with England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the Colonies, or any other part of the Empire. Is not the mere statement of that an absolute condemnation of the present system, and an absolute proof of the impossibility of the present system? It is absurd to think that the whole legislative programme of the Empire can be conducted with efficiency in 276 hours; and I think it is the most conclusive proof ever given of the absolute breakdown of this House as the guardian of Supply, or as the legislative machine. Does the Leader of the House propose to go on as we are going at the present time, knowing that year by year the block of business will go on increasing, knowing that the multiplicity of duties in which the House is engaged will go on being infinitely greater? This particular Rule will have the effect of cutting us out from any adequate opportunity of discussing the Government of our own country that has been forcibly taken away by this House; and I hope no effort will now be made by the right hon. Gentleman to curtail discussion upon this Rule. It is by far the most important, and it would be monstrous, certainly, if any attempt were made to scamp discussion of tin's resolution, or if adequate consideration were denied of putting into the form of a Standing Order a sessional Order which has been in operation for five years, and the result of which has been the increase of the general expenditure of the country, an increase of the number of Totes passed without discussion, 1284 and which also had the effect of passing in five years without a word of discussion £500,000,000 of public money.
§ *(9.43.) SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said that on both sides of the House there were differences of opinion with regard to the nature of the devolution which ought to be adopted by the House, but every Member on the Opposition side would concur in what was said by the Leader of the Irish Party. Knowing the difficulties that had to be met and coped with, some would go further, some not so far; but all would go as far as the hon. and learned Member had done with regard to the right way of dealing with them. This Rule was undoubtedly popular, not only with the administration, but also to a large extent, with the majority of the House of Commons. It was the Members who did not attend during discussion in Supply who were the main supporters of the Resolution. It gave them a day upon which they could go away and leave the conduct of the business to a hundred Government Members and the critics, who were at liberty to vote for or against the Government. From the first he had very much doubted the wisdom of this Rule, although it no doubt had many beneficial results. It enabled the House to discuss great questions of policy arising out of the Colonial, Foreign, and Post Office Votes. M ore such questions had been adequately discussed under this Rule than before, but on the other hand, it had completely extinguished the opportunities for discussion on minor but important Votes, in which, perhaps, more than in the larger matters, administration needed to be watched and criticised. The Colonial Vote, for instance, was one of those which at the present time embraced one large question which took up a good deal more time than was usually the case, and as a consequence all minor questions formally raised upon the Vote were extinguished. Before this Rule came into operation, all those matters were discussed, but since it had been in existence, barely one had been subjected to a discussion. The success of the Rule depended upon the way it was worked, and it had worked better in the first year of its existence than it had ever worked since. The old arrangements with 1285 regard to the disposition of the days of Supply had been gradually broken down, and more and more apparent became the tendency to confine the days allotted to Supply to the discussion of a number of very important Votes, which completely cut out from all discussion Votes of minor interest. The evils of the old system were great, and the evils of the new system, which were also obvious from the first, were becoming more apparent year by year, and he was perfectly convinced that unless some such remedy as was proposed was adopted they would increase until the matter became a public scandal.
§ *(9.50.) MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said that what had impressed him more than anything else was that this House was becoming imbued with the great fact that it was unable to carry on its business because it was attempting to carry a load which it was incapable of carrying. As it affected Ireland, he agreed with the hon. Member for Waterford that the operation of the Rule in the past had been very serious indeed, and that it was likely to become more serious in the future. There were thirteen contentious Votes on the Irish Estimates, and out of those thirteen contentious Votes they were only able to discuss four last year. Where were they likely to be this year? Let the House just consider where this Rule would probably land them. For weal or woe, nine Irish counties and two Irish cities had been proclaimed under the Crimes Act. Questions connected with the action of the authorities under that proclamation, the action of the police, the right of public meeting, the action of the prison authorities, and so on, were certain to arise. If the constitution were suspended, and the form of government provided under the Crimes Act established, surely Irish Members bad a right to demand that there should be opportunities for reviewing the methods of the Irish Executive if they thought fit to do so. They had always had that right in the past; no one in bygone days had conceded it more freely than the present Leader of the House; and what they had done in past days they had a right to do now and in the future.
Then there was the Land Commission 1286 Vote. That had not been discussed for two years. The whole property of the country was practically at the disposal of that Department, and not a day passed but Irish Members received letters from constituents asking them to bring certain cases under the notice of the House in reference to the Land Commission. The State paid £140,000 a year for the upkeep of the Commission: the Commissioners proceeded very leisurely in their work, maintaining that the methods which had been brought into operation by Parliament took far more time than the old methods; the rents fixed per annum now were less in number than in the olden times; but no opportunity was afforded of discussing these things. There was also the question of appeals, which really was a public scandal. For two years this Vote had not been discussed, and he saw little prospect of the opportunity arising in the future.
Another important Department was the Local Government Board. Three years ago a great measure of local self-government was passed for Ireland. Happily, it had worked exceedingly well, but there were certain questions which not only would bear, but demanded discussion. When that measure was being considered, the Government gave way to the landlords and abolished the single Member constituencies, putting in their place double constituencies. The result was that room could not be found in the Board-room for the Members; the meetings were simply crowded Babels, and it was almost impossible to do business. The Board was perhaps the weakest in the whole of Ireland; it was constantly in collision with the local authorities; friction existed all over the country. It would do good to the Board itself if its public action could be discussed in the House, but no opportunity for such discussion arose.
Then there was public education—the greatest scandal of all. Practically a new system of primary education had been set up, but Members had not had a chance of discussing it. Twelve months ago Dr. Walsh resigned his seat on the Board; no successor had been appointed, but there had been no opportunity of finding out why. The position of teachers and the position of the training colleges also required consideration. If the House of Commons was to legislate for Ireland, it was bound to give Irish 1287 Members of every party an opportunity of fairly discussing the business of Ireland. That opportunity was practically denied under this Rule. He would probably be told that Ireland was treated no worse than England or Scotland in the matter, but that was not the case. Not a single year passed in which the chief Departments of Government in England were not discussed, but out of the thirteen great Departments in Ireland only four were discussed last year, and then in a most perfunctory and inadequate manner. But there was a strong reason why Ireland should not be placed even in the same position as England or Scotland. The House might shut its eyes to the fact, but the fact could not be got rid of. England and Scotland were governed by consent; Ireland, in the main, was not. That made an enormous difference, and ought to constitute a reason for giving a great deal more attention to Irish affairs than they at present received.
By the proposal before the House they were asked to turn a sessional Rule into a Standing Order. The only reason given for the change was that the Rule had worked better than the old system. It was not that it worked well; nobody could say that. The Rule had absolutely broken down; last year it was necessary to closure Votes comprising £80,000,000 without a word of discussion. The House would be taking a very serious step in adopting the proposal of the First Lord. He doubted whether the right hon. Gentleman was exactly right in saying that things were worse in former days. That depended upon from where they started. He could remember a time when the great block in Supply did not occur, and when the Estimates were properly discussed. It was only since the late seventies and the early eighties that this block had arisen. Why should not the meaning of that he recognised? Why should it not be recognised that old things had passed away and all things had become new? What was the use of putting new wine into old bottles I Why should it not be recognised that the House of Commons had changed, that the democratic spirit had entered into it, and that it could not be worked today on the principles of twenty or thirty years ago He was concerned only for Ireland, and he looked 1288 forward with absolute apprehension to what would happen this session or next in regard to Irish Supply it Irish Members were not allowed to discuss Irish government. If at the end of the session the Votes for all these Irish Departments were put in a lump sum without discussion, there would be placed in the hands of those who advocated Home Rule an irresistible argument. It was impossible to go on with the work of the House in its present condition; they were attempting an impossibility, and the sooner they awoke to the fact the better it would be for England and for Ireland.
§ (10.6.) MR. DILLON (Mayo, E.)
said the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean had only proved that no one could accurately forecast the effect of a change in the procedure of the House until the change had been in working for five or six years. For the first session, or two after the introduction of a change, the Government responsible for it, and especially while it was a sessional Rule, exercised an amount of forbearance, toleration, and moderation in its use, in order to recommend its adoption to the House. But, as he had before said, in considering new Rules of Procedure, the House should endeavour to measure their merits not by considering how they would work in the hands of an indulgent and tolerant Government, but how they must be worked for the purposes of silencing opposition. The Government, harassed as they were and as they would be in an increasing degree by the complicated affairs of this enormous Empire, would inevitably strain to the uttermost the power given them to expedite business and silence opposition, and it was from that point of view that the critics of the Government were bound to consider any departure from the ordinary procedure of the House. He had been a bitter opponent of this Rule from the outset. For twenty years he had taken a close interest in the work of Supply, and the prophecies he made in 1896 that the optimistic views then put forward in; regard to this Rule would be unfulfilled, and that the Rule would work worse and worse in each succeeding year, had been 1289 amply justified, and many men who then supported the Rule had come to the conclusion that it was calculated to impair, if not to destroy, the efficiency of the House of Commons as a check upon expenditure and an instrument for criticising the action of the Executive Government.
In 1896 the First Lord of the Treasury said that the sole object of the Rule was to afford more ample opportunities for discussing the business of "Supply, and the attempt was made to induce the more innocent Members of the House to imagine that the Government were making some concession in return for the taking of Fridays from private Members. That was an absolute mistake. Private Members obtained really nothing as a quid pro quo. From time immemorial Fridays, in addition to Tuesdays, had been private Members' nights. Down to about thirty or forty years ago, on every Friday a Motion was made at the commencement of public business that at its rising the House should adjourn until the Monday following. On that Motion any subject under the sun could be discussed, and it was a privilege which could not be taken away even when the Government took the time of the House. That was one of the reasons so few Questions were asked in those days. Members would wait until Friday to press a Minister for information, and then, if information was refused, a Motion could be moved and the question adequately discussed. That privilege was so largely availed of, that frequently business did not commence until eight, nine, ten, oreven eleven o'clock. That privilege was taken away from private Members on the express condition, understanding, and bargain that Supply should be put down as first Order on Friday in order to give Members an opportunity of moving Motions against the Question "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair." A suggestion was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire about the year 1894 that there should be one day every week devoted to the business of Supply. An attempt was now being made to father this rule upon the right hon. Gentleman because of that suggestion. He did not believe the right hon. Gentleman would ever have supported a proposal that the devotion of one day every week to Supply 1290 should be supplemented by this automatic closure at the end of the session. The really vicious element in this Rule was its want of elasticity and the application for the first time in the history of Parliament of the automatic closure to the business of Supply. He prophesied in 1896 that if this Rule were passed it would be followed by a great and rapid increase in the expenditure of the country, and at that time he was laughed at for making such a prediction.
The figures were so remarkable that he would ask hon. Members to listen to them. In 1880 the net expenditure for Great Britain, excluding the grants to the Local Taxation Fund, amounted to £71,648,000. In the year 1895–6 the amount was £85,700,000. In other words, in fifteen years the total increase in the net expenditure amounted to £1–1,000,000, or a little under an increase of £1,000,000 per annum. In the year 1896 this closure Rule was first introduced. In the year 1895–6, as he had already stated, the net expenditure was £85,700,000, and in 1899–1900, the year preceding the war, the total net expenditure was £114,000,000, an increase in four years of £29,000,000. or an average increase of £7,000,000 per year since the Rule came into operation. This increase came on the top of an average increase for the previous fifteen years of nearly £1,000,000 per annum. Was it not a remarkable fact that hon. Members who opposed the Rule in 1896 prophesied that this Rule would come to pass? It might be said that there was no connection between this increase and the closure Rule, but if all the causes of this enormous increase were investigated they could not shut out altogether the operation of this Rule.
What sudden change had occurred in the condition of the world to justify this phenomenal and revolutionary jump in the expenses of this country? They heard a wood deal about the condition of Europe, but he defied any hon. Member to point to any striking event which occurred about the year 1895 or 1896 which would explain why the expenditure of this country had increased by £6,000,000 per annum. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed new taxes, and appealed to all sides of the House to support him in the economy which he preached and did not practice, it was absurd for the right hon. 1291 Gentleman to groan and lament and fill the country with his wails over new expenditure when the Government deliberately set themselves the task of cutting away those safeguards against extravagance which had been adopted by the experience and wisdom of generations. Everybody who had followed with attention the recent discussions in Supply, which took place so constantly not only inside but outside this House in regard to the expenditure on the Army and Navy, would agree with him that one of the great complaints of experts and advocates of such expenditure was that Ministers in the past had felt compelled to put down their Estimates for fear of the criticism in Committee of Supply. He regretted that that fear had grown less and less, and it had now almost entirely vanished. The experts and advocates of expenditure were no longer afraid of the Committee of Supply, because they knew that the closure would prevent those criticisms which Ministers were afraid of. That was the reason why he claimed that the operation of this Rule was a large element in causing the enormous and outrageous increase in the expenditure of this country which was annually wept over by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The Committee of Supply used to be the right arm of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it used to be the means by which he was enabled to resist the experts of the great fighting Departments of this country which were always pressing for increased expenditure. The more money they allowed to those great Departments, the more they developed the pressure for greater Totes. In this way the automatic closure Rule had operated as an immense incentive to extravagance. What was the use of hon. Members coming down to the House to worship at the shrine of economy when Rules like this were in force for promoting extravagance? If they adopted this Rule, they must be prepared for increased taxation. The great fault of the Rule which they were now being asked to make a Standing Order was the application of automatic closure to Supply. Hon. Members would remember the protest made by the Leader of the Tory Party against the closure when it was first introduced, and there was a still more violent protest made against the automatic closure which was 1292 discussed in this House for weeks and months. In the case of great Bills, the judgment of the House was asked for in a particular case, and on the merits of that particular case, and the closure was not applied until discussion had gone on perhaps for several weeks.
Under this Rule they were asked to vote the automatic closure upon what he considered to be the greatest business of Parliament. They were asked now to pass the Rule for the granting of large sums of money without reference at all to the question whether it had been properly discussed or not. An attempt was made by the First Lord of the Treasury to show that there was a great difference in principle between applying the closure to Bills and applying it to Supply. He could not see any difference in principle between a Standing Order applying the automatic closure to all legislation just before the end of the session and its application to Supply. He could give three or four reasons why the closure was more objectionable to Supply than to legislation. When it was applied to Supply it was more opposed to the old traditions of Parliament. Automatic closure was introduced in the year 1896, whereas the closure applied to Bills had been in existence for over ten years. The business of Supply was at least as important as legislation. Supply was the only means by which the action of the Executive Government could be made responsible to the House of Commons. That was the great function which distinguished the House of Commons from other Assemblies—the power of controlling the Executive Government from day to day. The Committee of Supply was the only place where those who were in favour of economy could endeavour to safeguard the taxpayers. The work of Supply was the only work of the House of Commons which could not be reviewed and altered in another place. What would be said to a Minister-perhaps the occasion would arise—who came forward with a Standing Order to the effect that on a certain day in August all the legislation pending in the House should be passed without discussion. He defied any Member making a good case for the closure of Supply to make a good case against the automatic closure of Bills clause for clause. The First Lord said in 1896, when introducing this Rule for the first time, that when a Bill was passed a permanent alteration was 1293 made in the laws of the country; but Supply being annual expenditure, what Parliament had done in 1895 it could undo in 1896. He (Mr. Dillon) disagreed with that. Were they to be told that the action of the Executive Government was so light and trifling in its consequence when a slight difference might have prevented the South African war? He should like to know when we could undo the effects of the South African war, and a very little might have altered the course of those tremendous events. For a long time it was very doubtful whether we should have any war in South Africa or not. Generations would pass before the effects which had flowed from the action of the Executive Government in the Spring of 1899 could be undone. There was no reality in the distinction which the right hon." Gentleman had made. The fact was that the actions of the Executive, having regard to the results which frequently flowed from them, were frequently much more far-reaching in their consequences than any legislation placed upon the Statute-book. He thought it was more true to say that they could undo legislation more easily than the results which sometimes flowed from the action of the Executive.
This Rule had worked very badly Everyone admitted that. Suggestions had been made from time to time as to some plan by which the evils which had grown up might be dealt with. There was the suggestion of the First Lord that a Committee should be appointed, having power to allocate the time to the Votes and the order in which they should be taken. He opposed that proposal, because he believed it would be absolutely unworkable. It was an attempt by the Government to shuffle the responsibility off their own shoulders, but it would break down. The real essence of a good system of discussion in this House was that it should be to some extent elastic. It was absolutely-preposterous to suggest that the whole time should be measured out, a certain proportion of the time being given to particular Votes. He remembered when an hour was long enough for the Colonial Office Vote, but since the widespread activity of the present occupant of that office, the general feeling was that two or three days would be little 1294 enough; and the same thing was true of the Home Office and the Foreign Office. It was idle to say that at the beginning of a session they could measure out so many hours to one Office, and so many to another Office, without any real regard to the work of the Departments. What they wanted was a fairly elastic system, which would give interest and reality to the debates, and not destroy the interest of a Minister in giving satisfaction to his critics. In the old days a Minister really exerted himself to meet objections and criticisms and to carry his Vote through, but at present Ministers had no motive whatever for taking any trouble with their Estimates. Mr. Courtney was as good an authority on procedure in Supply as ever sat in the House. He was rather inclined to support the Rule at first, but he said that experience showed that it tended to produce more negligent discussion. Ministers need not trouble at all, and Members would probably admit that they had lost zeal and pleasure in worrying them. The offer, he continued, of the First Lord of the Treasury of a Committee in which the Opposition would be in a majority, was a self-sacrificing offer, but was an illustration that the business of Supply no longer worried Ministers. That was Mr. Courtney's opinion, and he was absolutely right. It was an explanation of what had taken place since the Rule came into force. The fact was that under the Rule discussion of Supply-had become a farce, and they were only at the beginning of that. If the Rule was to be enforced, he looked forward to the time when Ministers would treat all criticism in Supply with absolute contempt. Supply in future would not be got through by argument, explanation, or defence, but by force and automatic closure. Why should Ministers work for hours to get up information, when all they need do would be to make a brief speech, and wait until the clock struck twelve? That was the reason why Ministers were so fond of the Rule, and that was the reason why in its operation it had unquestionably acted as a powerful stimulus to increased expenditure. He would not allude to the effect of the Rule on Ireland, because that had been eloquently 1295 dealt with by his hon. friend the Member for South Tyrone. But he believed that no more revolutionary change had yet been made as regarded the rights of Members, and no greater blow had ever been struck at economy than the proposal of the Government. He cared very little for the orations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Members in favour of economy, when the great safeguards of economy were swept aside recklessly in order to clear the path for the great spending Departments. For that reason he was more bitterly opposed to the Rule after five years experience of it than he was when it was first introduced, and he ventured to prophesy that some day or other—he did not know whether he would not be in the House to see it—the Rule would be used by a Radical Government to apply automatic closure to Bills, and the Tories would then not be quite as happy over it as they were at present.
§ (10.52.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not know whether the House will permit me to say a few words on this Amendment, on which I think I have already said something at an earlier stage. I recognise that this may be regarded as a central position as to the number of days to be given to Supply, and I trust when we have dealt with this Amendment that we will proceed rather more rapidly with the main portion of the Rule, which, in all its principal parts, has been introduced session after session since 1896. I differ from almost every pro position which has been laid down by the hon. Gentleman who has just resumed his seat. The hon. Gentleman says that since this Rule was introduced, expenditure has greatly increased, and he infers from that that, because this Ride was introduced, the consequences which he deplores, and which, in a measure, we all deplore, have come upon us. Is there a single hon. Member so young in his experience of the House, so blind in his perception, as to believe that discussions in Supply, either under this Rule or before it came into operation, have any serious effect on the total amount of the Estimates? The hon. Gentleman associated himself with the hon. Member for South Tyrone in lamenting the small amount of time given to Irish 1296 Supply. Is there a single Irish Member, including the hon. Gentleman, who has ever suggested that a less amount should be spent on the Irish Estimates.? [Mr. LOUGH, Yes, on the Constabulary Vote] Yes, reductions have been moved to the Constabulary Vote, but were they for the purposes of economy? I do not think that any Irish Member has any desire that the sum paid by the Saxon taxpayer for the Irish Estimates should be reduced. The smallest consideration of the matter quite conclusively proves that it has not been due to any change in our system of taking Supply that the Estimates have increased. Some of these increases have been due to alterations in the law, such as the aid of voluntary schools, relief to the ratepayers, and so forth. That is one great branch. The other great branch includes Navy and Army expenditure; and, as the right hon. Baronet told us earlier in the debate, the Navy and Army Estimates have not only had as much time given to them as in former days, but I think it can be shown by statistics that even more time has been devoted to their discussion. I do not say it is not an ingenious point to make in debate, but no one acquainted with the method by which the House of Commons does its business would really suggest that discussion in Supply or the limitation of that discussion, has the smallest connection with the growth of expenditure. If it is any consolation to the hon. Gentleman, I may state that I am informed—I have not personally verified the facts—that in 1894, which was the last complete year before the Rule came into operation, in the three days following the 5th of August, 118 Votes, involving twenty-five millions of money, were disposed of by the House of Commons. [Sir CHARLES DILKE: There was an opportunity given for discussion.] Yes, if the right hon. Baronet calls five o'clock in the morning an opportunity for discussion, no doubt there was. It is perfectly well understood that there are two forms of closure by which Supply is got. Before the Rule came into operation there was a form of closure, not less effective not less destructive of discussion, but which had also the effect of destroying the comfort and even the health of Members; 1297 and in no sense, I venture to say, did it lead to a proper debate on the Estimates or to the dignity of the House. A special complaint has been made—I mention it now because it may perhaps save us from debate on a later Amendment—of the amount of time given to Irish Supply. The average has been three or four days, more often four days, and it is asserted by the hon. Member for South Tyrone that last year the Local Government Board required to be discussed, and yet no opportunity for discussing it arose. [Mr. T. W. RUSSELL: I said it was discussed on the last day.] I would remind my hon. friend that it was discussed on an earlier day—not indeed, in Committee of Supply, but on the Consolidation Bill, I think in March. If the hon. Gentleman will consider the amount of time available in this House, and the manifold calls upon it, I think he will admit that two days to discuss the Irish Local Government Board is as much as this House can afford.
The Leader of the Irish Party made a speech earlier in the evening in which he expressed agreement with the general position I have taken up with regard to the distribution of the time of the House, and drew from it a conclusion, which certainly will not be accepted on this side of the House, that Home Rule, and nothing but Home Rule, or devolution in some form indistinguishable from Home Rule, was the only remedy. I will not argue that point now and I will only say that if, and until, this devolution takes place, the present system of arranging the distribution of Supply is the only effective one. I would remind Irish Members that it rests with themselves as to how the three or four days, as the case may lie, given to Irish Supply should be distributed. I do not think that they will deny that if they had been anxious to compress their criticisms of the Irish Executive into three days it would be in their power to do so. A great deal of abuse can be crammed into three days. I really do think that if they devoted themselves to the task, no single Irish official, from the Lord Lieutenant down to the humblest constable in any county in Ireland need escape their all-searching criticism had they desired to make the most of their opportunities. Now let me come to a remark of the right hon. Gentleman 1298 opposite. I stated what I thought was universally admitted—that discussion in Supply, though it may occasionally tend to extravagance, has never yet during the last generation tended to economy. Then, says the right hon. Gentleman, what is the use of it? The use of it is to criticise, constantly to criticise, and to keep tinder the constant and incessant criticism of the House the action of the Executive Government. That this has been effectively done under the new Rules of Supply, as regards the larger votes, has, I think, been admitted by the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean. [Sir CHARLES DILKE: As regards the principal questions raised on larger Votes.] Quite so. The right hon. Gentleman admits, so far as large issues are concerned, that the result has been that the Executive of the day is taken to task at a more convenient period of the session. I agree with him that there are a certain number of the smaller Votes which escape discussion, and that the smaller questions on the bigger Votes also escape discussion; but I think the result will be mitigated by the new Rules in this respect, that there will be two sittings in each day instead of one. The difficulty of arranging Supply under the old Friday Rule was that if a Vote were begun at six or seven o'clock in the evening it might drag on though it ceased to be of interest or utility to the House, to the exclusion of other questions which might have been discussed in its place. There are many things for which the Government are supposed to be responsible. One is that the Minister in charge in the House has not been sufficiently seductive in manner and has not been able to act the part of Orpheus with his lute. I hope the present Front Bench are not more wanting in good manners than their predecessors, but even the most painstaking and sympathetic Secretary to the Treasury cannot induce certain hon. Members to agree with him.
Another charge brought against the Government is that they do not closure often enough, but when we do use the closure we are very often greatly abused. By moving the closure in Supply we should expend perhaps half an hour or twenty-five minutes upon two divisions, and we should very likely irritate some irritable 1299 susceptibilities of hon. Members, and probably the House would not get any quicker to the discussion of those small matters which hon. Gentlemen desire to discuss than if you had waited until mere fatigue brought oratory on that particular question to an end. I hope that there will be some remedy applied to this by the system of devolution which has been proposed. Probably then smaller questions will have a better chance than under the old system. I have never claimed for these Rules more than they can accomplish have never pretended that they will hasten business or will enable 670 Gentlemen to discuss in detail every Estimate. No scheme can possibly accomplish it, unless we mean to devote twelve months to the operation. It all comes back to the simple, fundamental arithmetical problem which I have already propounded to the House, and to which no reply has been given, as to the number of hours we can devote to legislation.
As I have pointed out before, at the present time you only give 276 hours in a session of 120 days terminating at 12 o'clock at night to legislation, out of a session of 9G0 hours. I do not think that is too big a proportion—in fact, in my view, I think it is too small. In the present session it is quite evident that nobody can say the legislative programme of the Government is an inflated or unduly ambitious one, but it is already perfectly evident that we shall have to have an Autumn session. [Opposition cries of "Hear, hear!" and "Oh, oh."] Everybody knows that. We shall have to have an Autumn session and also sit more than six months this year. I think it is perfectly preposterous for us to devote more than twenty-six days to the criticism of business in Committee of Supply. It is for these reasons that I beg the House most earnestly not to give up a Rule which I am convinced conduces not merely to the dignity of the House, but to the convenience of discussion and to the certainty of debate at times most convenient to Members. I beg the House not to recur to the old barbarous system under which Supply came on at the most inconvenient period of the year and most inconvenient hours of the clay, and was concluded, not because the subjects were exhausted, but because hon. Members who took 1300 part in those debates had reached the limit of endurance. That is neither a rational nor a humane principle, and I trust the House will never revert to it.
§ (11.12.) MR. BRYCE
said that, although he had been almost struck dumb by the announcement in April of an Autumn session after an arduous session begun in the month of January, he wished to add a few remarks on a question which he admitted to be one of great difficulty. He would try to inform the right hon. Gentleman why this system which was now proposed was not satisfactory. He agreed that the old system was bad, and it was perfectly true that at present the discussion of the Estimates did not conduce to economy. There was a time when those discussions did conduce to economy, and it was not so long ago as the First Lord of the Treasury appeared to suppose. They all desired that the discussion of the Estimates should tend to economy, and they would all be glad to see a system adopted under which the advocates of economy would have a better chance. The opportunities they desired were withdrawn when discussion was separated from the particular Vote. General discussions were neither satisfactory as discussions on economy or on policy. When this system was introduced six years ago it brought in the automatic closure as the ultima ratio, but the idea was that the Estimates should be voted after discussion. They all realised what the expenditure of the country was, and how much more valuable their discussions were, if, after discussing an Estimate, they afterwards proceeded to vote upon it.
His second point was that, although, discussions in Supply had ceased to conduce to economy, and had become discussions simply upon policy, they were, unsatisfactory even in that respect. It was quite true that the largest issues in connection with the Army and Navy, the Colonial Office and the Foreign Office, were discussed in Committee of Supply. If they had a very large question like British policy in China or South Africa or Venezuela without difficulty, they could, readily secure discussion upon those questions. There were, however, many questions of secondary importance, such as those which occurred in the Civil Service 1301 Estimates. It constantly happened that, in Committee on the Civil Service Estimates, a small grievance occupied the House for a whole night, to the exclusion of a far more important subject, the Minister not unwilling that a more troublesome question should be deferred, to be possibly disposed of in the final closure. Discussions were not always hostile towards a Minister, and there were many occasions on which they were extremely useful as affording the opportunity for explaining a policy and Strengthening the action of a Department. He supposed that there was hardly anybody who had been at the head of a Department in this country who had not felt that to enable him to carry out some reform or other he would very much have liked to have had a discussion in the House. Every now and then it happened that a Minister was obliged to put pressure upon some persons in regard to the administration of the law. He could instance from his own experience at the Board of Trade where it was very often necessary to put pressure upon railway companies and persons connected with shipping. Discussions in this House were very useful for that purpose, and a Minister was very much better able to accomplish his object if he had the pressure of the House of Commons behind him in regard to his position, for this enabled him to judge what the country thought of his policy. Therefore, Ministers would make a great mistake if they thought there was anything to be gained by not taking the House of Commons fully into their confidence.
His case was that under the new Rule that result was not attained, but under the old Rule a subject in which interest was taken would come on for discussion at some time, though perhaps very late in a session and sitting. This was a loss of the present system, and it was not a satisfactory thing for the future to make this a permanent Rule. The right hon. Gentleman last year said it was absurd to lay the same stress now upon the control of the House over finance, because political conditions had entirely changed since the seventeenth century. He said that the instrument whereby the House asserted its power over finance in the seventeenth century had become obsolete in modern times. It was true that things 1302 were somewhat different, but the financial centre of gravity had not shifted, and finance was still one of the most important duties for which the House was constituted. He thought the House was in great danger of forgetting that the country looked to it to guard finance, to see that money was applied to proper objects, and that expenditure was not suffered to grow extravagant. His complaint against this Rule was that it seemed to recognise as permanent and necessary the evil of extravagance and of insufficient scrutiny which had grown up of late years and which had deprived reformers of the opportunities which they ought to enjoy. In those discussions the noted with regret an undercurrent of pessimism in the mind and in the views of the First Lord of the Treasury which was often found in company with a devotion to philosophic doubt, and it was a pity that the right hon. Gentleman appeared to recognise the evils that at present existed as incurable. He was not yet so despondent, and he hoped that they might get back into a clearer air in which there would be a stronger plea for economy. In spite of the evils of the old system, he wished to say in conclusion that he was reluctant even now to make permanent the Rule which they were at present considering.
§ *(11.24.) MR. STUART WORTLEY (Sheffield, Hallam)
hoped the Government would hold fast to this Rule. The complaint seemed to be that the new system separated the voting from the discussion. So it did in form, but hon. Gentlemen should concentrate their attention more on the substance and less on the form. An Opposition which was prepared to negative entire Votes was prepared to refuse Supply, and an Opposition prepared to refuse Supply would never find any difficulty in challenging the conduct of the Executive Government. Upon one condition only, however, would they always find that opportunity, and that was that they should be prepared to act in some coherent and organised manner among themselves. This Rule was devised mainly for the comfort of the House as a whole, and in a large measure it had succeeded in attaining that end. It had also the object of. 1303 securing effective and organised discussion on the Estimates, and the one thing that made it unforgivable to the Opposition was that it threw upon them a new responsibility of a most terrifying nature, viz., that of acting otherwise than in the gelatinous, invertebrate, and totally unorganised manner which had brought them into their present impotent and humiliating condition. The hon. Member for Dundee had declared that the present system stood self-condemned, because a large number of Votes had to be closured at the end of the session. He was not sure that that was the quarter in which the condemnation ought to lie. He had had some experience of appealing to the country against proposals to limit discussions initiated by private Members, and that experience had shown him that such appeals generally fell on deaf ears. Let hon. Members go and tell the country that they, the responsible, organised Opposition, prepared to take the places of His Majesty's present advisers, could not get through the discussion of the Estimates in thirty-six days. They would be laughed at from one end of the country to the other, and be told to go back and manage their business better. The real matter of offence in the Rule was that, in season and out of season, whichever side of the House supplied His Majesty's advisers, it tended to secure that in due time the King's Government should be carried on; and to say that the King's Government should be carried on was the same thing as to say that the government of the great majority of the free and enlightened people of these islands should be carried on as the people wished it to be carried on.
§ (11.30.) MR. M'KENNA (Monmouthshire, N.),
referring to the previous speaker's remarkson the want of organised 1304 action and unity on the part of the Opposition said that if the hon. Member had been in the House earlier in the afternoon he would have seen all the young talent of the Unionist Party acting in anything but organised unity with the Treasury Bench. The debate had been carried on, and properly so, from the point of view of the inadequacy of the number of days given to the discussion of Irish Estimates. But there was another side of the question, and that was that twenty days were not sufficient for the discussion of English Estimates. The First Lord had argued that if the debates were legitimately conducted, twenty days would be fully sufficient. The right hon. Gentleman could not have been present at the discussion on the previous Friday. An object lesson was then provided as to why twenty days were not sufficient. If time was not wasted by Members on the Government side of the House, with the deliberate intention of preventing a division being taken, twenty days might be sufficient. On the occasion to which he referred, at a certain point in the debate, a message was brought to the Minister in charge of the Vote, which it was easy to interpret as an intimation that Members had not returned from dinner and that it was necessary to continue the discussion in order to secure a majority. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury then turned round and spoke to the hon. Member for Peckham—
§ * MR. SPEAKER
said the hon. Member was entitled to say that discussions were sometimes, in his view, unduly prolonged by Members on the Government side but he was not entitled to go into elaborate details of a particular scene.
§ MR. McKENNA
thought he had said enough to illustrate his point. The moment any limit to the number of days was fixed the Government, were enabled to advise their supporters to waste time in order to get Votes through without real criticism. The First Lord had argued that all Members were asked to do was to pass a Rule which for five years had had the sanction of the House But it was because they had had five years experience of the Rule that they were bound to discuss it and expose its weaknesses. He should certainly vote against it, because it enabled the Government, by putting down uncontroversial Votes or getting their supporters to waste time, to prevent the Opposition having legitimate opportunity of criticising their conduct.
(11.37.) MR. GIBSON BOWLES
trusted the announcement of the Leader of the House for boded peace in about a month, the prorogation of Parliament after the Coronation, and an Autumn session in which there would be time to consider matters which were somewhat in arrear. By this time, in his inner mind, the right hon. Gentleman must, he thought regret his refusal to submit these Rules to a Committee.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
thought he would be in order in following his hon. friend in regard to the number of hours in a session. The First Lord was mistaken in reckoning 960 hours to a session; of 120 days. Last session extended over only 118 days, but the number of hours was 1,072.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES
said that that was just the point. Even under the new Rules the House would sit many hours after midnight, because there were several matters it would be possible then to discuss. But that was merely a small correction in passing. The Amendment under discussion had been considered in a very business-like manner. Many Members had treated the matter as if it were a question of making permanent the Supply Rule at present existing. That, however, was not the case. The proposal was to make into a Standing Order the Supply Rule, but with most important alterations. At ten o'clock on the two fatal nights the Votes would be lumped together in classes, and the Government would get the whole of their Supply. When he first came into Parliament he studied Parliamentary procedure under the President of the Board of Agriculture, and they then used Supply as an instrument for bargaining with the Government. That was what constantly happened. They used to make bargains behind the Chair and across the floor of the House, and they obtained great concessions in that way, because they had it in their power to prolong business, and consequently they brought the Government to reasonable terms. He need not add that the terms they offered were always reasonable. This Rule of 1896 governing Supply was introduced by his right hon. friend, he was sure, with the best intentions, for he said there had been great scandals in Supply in previous years. He admitted the scandals, for they were in the habit of saying to the 1307 Government that if they did not come to terms they were bound to have those scandals in Supply, and the Government were generally so shocked that they came to terms.
There were some very serious defects in this new Rule. In the first place, it made the number of days allotted to Supply absolutely hard and fast. He thought that was a very dangerous thing to do. It was dangerous to do this in a sessional Order, but it was extremely dangerous to embody this Rule in the form of a Standing Order. How could the Government tell what number of days might be required for Supply one year or two years hence? The business of Supply might grow in greater proportion in the future than legislation, and might require more time. He thought Supply was far more important than legislation, because it gave hon. Members opportunities for criticising the conduct of the Government and endeavouring to secure some; little remnant of economy in the administration. If they laid down this Rule in is present form they would be interfering with the conduct of business in future times. He also wished to point out that at the very time this limitation of the number of days in Committee of Supply was being proposed, the demand had arisen not for fewer but for a larger number of days.
His hon. friend behind him had said that this House, in trying to deal with Supply, was endeavouring to carry a load which it could not bear. He was not quite so sure of that, for he was in-inclined to believe that if they made a proper arrangement with regard to allocation of days in Supply the House could adequately bear the burden. It was, of course, impossible for the House in any single year to discuss all the Votes in 1308 Supply, but he thought the time might be so allocated that in successive years certain Votes might be taken, and ultimately they would get the whole of them considered by the House. Under the present system they went on discussing the same Votes year after year, and the consequence was that some Votes never got discussed at all. He did not agree with the hon. Member for East Mayo that the Estimates could be dealt with by a Committee, for that was altogether out of the question. He thought, however, that some allocation of time to certain Votes might be made week by week by the Public Accounts Committee. If this could be managed, it would relieve the First Lord of the Treasury of a great deal of responsibility and trouble. [Ministerial cries of "Divide, divide!"] The new Rule, as he had said before, was brought in by the First Lord of the Treasury with the view of preventing certain scandals, but those scandals had been not fewer, but greater, since the Rule was adopted than they were before. [Ministerial interruptions.] Last session between £60,000,000 and £70,000,000 was voted in one sitting, without any discussion at all. [Ministerial cries of "Divide, divide!"] He did not propose to continue this discussion any further beyond stating that he did not think the adoption of this Rule as a Standing Order instead of a sessional Order would conduce to a more adequate discussion in Committee of Supply, and it would most certainly not tend to economy.
§ (11.48.) Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 237; Noes, 140. (Division List No. 132.)1311
|Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F.||Darning-Lawrence. Sir Edwin||Majendie, James A. H.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Faber, Edmund Lt Hants., W.)||Malcolm, Ian|
|Allhusen, Augustus H'nry Eden||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Manners, Lord. Cecil|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Martin, Richard Biddulph|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Finch, George H.||Massey-Mainwarnig, Hn. W. F.|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne||Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfriessh.|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Firbank, Joseph Thomas||Middlemore, Jno. Throgmorton|
|Bagot, Capt. Joseeline FitzRoy||Fisher, William Hayes||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||FitzGerald Sir Robert Penrose||Milner, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick G.|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon||Mitchell, William|
|Balcarres, Lord||Forster, Henry William||Molesworth, Sir Lewis|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r||Foster, Philip S Warwick S. W.||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Galloway, William Johnson||More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire)|
|Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W. (Leeds||Gardner, Ernest||Morgan, David J. (W'ith mstow|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch.||Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans)||Morrell, George Herbert|
|Banbury, Frederick George||Gordon, Hn. J. E (Elgin& Nairn)||Morrison, James Archibald|
|Barry, Sir Francis T. (Windsor||Gore Hn G. R. C. Ormsby-(Salop||Morton, Arthur II. A. (Deptford|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir Michael Hicks||Gore, Hon. S. E. Ormsby (Line.)||Mount, William Arthur|
|Beckett, Ernest William||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.|
|Bignold, Arthur||Goschen, Hon. George Joachim||Muntz, Philip A.|
|Bigwood, James||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Murrray, Rt. Hn. A. Gr'h'm (Bute|
|Bill, Charles||Graham, Henry Robert||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Green, Walford D (Wednesbury||Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)|
|Bend, Edward||Greene, Sir E. W (B'ry S Edm'nds||Nicol, Donal Ninian|
|Bowles, Cape. H. F. (Middlesex)||Gretton, John||Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)|
|Brcokfield, Colonel Montagu||Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Hall, Edward Marshall||Peel, Hn Wm. Robert Wellesley|
|Bull, William James||Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F.||Pemberton, John S. G.|
|Bullard, Sir Harry||Hamilton, Rt Hn L'rd G (Midd'x||Penn, John|
|Butcher, John George||Hamilton, Marq. of (L'nd'nd'rry||Percy, Earl|
|Carlile, William Walter||Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm.||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashf'rd||Pilkington, Lieut.-Col. Richard|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Harris, Frederick Leverton||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Heath, James (Staffords, N. W.)||Plummer, Walter R.|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire||Helder, Augustus||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Henderson, Alexander||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Hermon-Hodge, Robert Trotter||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Chamberelain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm.||Hogg, Lindsay||Purvis, Robert|
|Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r||Hope, J. F. (Sheflield, Brightside||Randles, John S.|
|Chamberlayne, T. (S'thampton||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Rankin, Sir James|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse||Rasch, Major Frederic Carne|
|Chapman, Edward||Johnston, William (Belfast)||Ratcliff, R. F.|
|Charrington, Spencer||Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)||Reid, James (Greenock)|
|Churchill, Winston Spencer||Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir. John H.||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Clare, Octavius Leigh||Kenyon, Hon. Geo. T. (Denbigh)||Renwick, George|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop.||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Keswick, William||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||Robinson, Brooke|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Law, Andrew Bonar||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready||Lawrence, Joseph (Monmouth)||Ropner, Colonel Robert|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Round, James|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Lawson, John Grant||Rutherford, John|
|Corbett T. L. (Down, North)||Lee, Arthur H. (Hants, Fareham||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-|
|Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge||Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S.||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Lock wood, Lt.-Col. A. R.||Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)|
|Cripps, Charles Alfred||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter) Bristol, S)||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)|
|Crossley, Sir Savile||Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)||Seton-Karr, Henry|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Loyd, Archie Kirkman||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Davenport, William Bromley||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)||Simeon, Sir Barrington|
|Davies, Sir Horatio D (Chatham||Lucas, Reginald J (Portsmouth)||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred||Smith, H. C (N'rth'm K Tyneside|
|Digby, John K. D. Wingfield||Macartney, Rt Hn. W. G. Ellison||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Dimsdale, Sir Joseph Cockfield||Macdona, John Cumming||Spear, John Ward|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fr'd Dixon||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk)|
|Dorington, Sir John Edward||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Stanley, Edward Jas. (Somerset|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||M'Calmont, Col. H. L. B. (Cambs.||Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)|
|Doxtord, Sir William Theodore||M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E.)||Stewart, Sir Mark J. M'Taggart|
|Duke, Henry Edward||M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire)||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Stone, Sir Benjamin||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley||Welby, Sir Charles G. E. (Notts.)||Wylie, Alexander|
|Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)||Whiteley, H (Ashton-und-Lyne||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Thornton, Percy M.||Willough by de Eresby, Lord||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray||Willox, Sir John Archibald||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Tritton, Charles Ernest||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|Tuke, Sir John Batty||Wilson, John (Falkirk)|
|Valentia, Viscount||Wilson, John (Glasgow)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Wanklyn, James Leslie||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N.)|
|Warr, Augustus Frederick||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R.(Bath)|
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.)||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Malley, William|
|Allan, William (Gateshead)||Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale.||O'Mara, James|
|Allen, Charles P. (Glouc., Stroud||Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Ambrose, Robert||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||Palmer, George Wm. (Reading)|
|Asher, Alexander||Holland, William Henry||Partington, Oswald|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.||Pirie, Duncan Y.|
|Bell, Richard||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Blake, Edward||Joicey, Sir James||Price, Robert John|
|Boland, John||Jones, William (C'rnarvonshire||Rea, Russell|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Joyce, Michael||Reddy, M.|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Kennedy, Patrick James||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Labouchere, Henry||Rigg, Richard|
|Caldwell, James||Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington||Roberts, John Bryn (Eiffon)|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Leigh, Sir Joseph||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton||Leng, Sir John||Roche, John|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Lundon, W.||Rnnciman, Walter|
|Cawley, Frederick||MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.||Russell, T. W.|
|Channing, Francis Allston||NacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||M'Cann, James||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||M'Crae, George||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Craig, Robert Hunter||M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Crean, Eugene||M'Kean, John||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Cremer, William Randal||M'Kenna, Reginald||Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R (Northants|
|Dalziel, James Henry||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Stevenson, Francis S.|
|Delany, William||M'Laren, Charles Benjamin||Sullivan, Donal|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Mansfield, Horace Rendall||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, F.)|
|Dillon, John||Markham, Arthur Basil||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Mooney, John J.||Thomas, F. Freeman (Hastings|
|Doogan, P. C.||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Thomas, J A (Glamorgan, Gower|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Moss, Samuel||Thompson, Dr EC (Monagh'n, N|
|Elibank, Master of||Murphy, John||Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.)|
|Emmott, Alfred||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Tomkinson, James|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N.)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|F'enwick, Charles||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|Ffrench, Peter||Norman, Henry||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Field, William||Nussey, Thomas Willans||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Flynn, James Christopher||O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Fuller, J. M. F.||O'Brien, K'ndal (Tipperary Mid||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Gilhooly, James||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Williams Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Gladstone, Rt Hn. Herbert John||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.||Woodhouse, Sir J. T (Huddersf 'd|
|Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Young, Samuel|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||O'Donnell T. (Kerry, W.)|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||O'Dowd, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Lough and Mr. George Whiteley.|
|Hammond, John||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)|
|Harmsworth, R. Leicester||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N|
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Debate arising.
§ It being after midnight, the debate stood adjourned.1312
§ Debate to be resumed tomorrow.
§ Adjourned at ten minutes after Twelve o'clock.