HC Deb 28 April 1902 vol 107 cc101-44

Standing Order No. 20 read as followeth:—

That notices of Questions be given by Members in writing to the Clerk at the Table, without reading them vivâ voce in the House, unless the consent of the Speaker to any particular Question has been previously obtained.

(7.10.) MR. A. J. BALFOUR

In moving the Amendment standing in my name, may I say, as I think I stated on a previous occasion, that I proposed this plan for dealing with Questions as a substitute for that which I originally introduced in order to meet what I conceived to be the general wish. I suggested it rather in the form of a compromise, and I hope the House will consider it in that spirit.

Amendment proposed— At the end of the Standing Order to add the words— 'On days when there are two sittings of the House, Questions shall be taken at a quarter-past Two of the clock. No Questions shall be taken after five minutes before Three of the clock, except Questions which have not been answered in consequence of the absence of the Minister to whom they are addressed, and Questions which have not appeared on the Paper, but which are of an urgent character, and relate either to matters of public importance, or to the arrangement of business. 'Any Member who desires an oral answer to his Question may distinguish it by an asterisk, but notice of any such Question must appear at latest on the Notice Paper circulated on the day before that on which an answer is desired. 'If any Member does not distinguish his Question by an asterisk, or if he is not present to ask it, or if it is not reached by five minutes before Three of the clock, the Minister to whom it is addressed shall cause an answer to be printed and circulated with the Votes, unless the Minister has consented to the postponement of the Question. 'Questions distinguished by an asterisk shall be so arranged on the Paper that those which seem of the greatest general interest shall be reached before five minutes before Three of the clock.'"—(Mr. A. J. Balfour.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there added."


thought that the Leader of the House, in his zeal to meet the wishes of Members on both sides, had gone rather too far. Personally, he would have been satisfied by the Rule being so altered as to admit of urgent Questions being asked at the commencement of public business, whereas the proposal now was to give three-quarters of an hour in which Questions marked with an asterisk could be answered. That point, however, could be dealt with later on, and he would pass to a more important criticism. According to the Rule, Questions distinguished by an asterisk were to be so arranged on the Paper that those which seemed to be of the greatest general interest should be reached before five minutes to three o'clock. By whom were they to be arranged? That was not stated in the Rule, nor had it been stated in the course of the debates. He would be greatly averse to the responsibility being thrown upon the authorities at the Table. It would be a very invidious task, and it was not one that came within the scope of their duties. In so dealing with Questions, the clerks would undoubtedly, by the order in which they placed them, commit themselves to opinions which, in some cases, would be distinctly of a political character, and that would be undesirable in every way. If the proposal was that the duty should devolve upon Mr. Speaker, many of the same objections would apply. The House ought really to be informed as to the intentions of the Government on the point.


recognised the importance of the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman, but thought it would more properly be discussed when the portion of the Rule which dealt specifically with the subject was reached.


thought the provision with regard to Questions "of an urgent character" was very ambiguous in its wording. Who was to determine as to the urgency of a Question? The very fact of a Member putting the Question on the Paper was an argument that it was of some urgency, and certainly of some importance, although the Minister to whom it was addressed might consider it to be of little urgency and less importance. Questions apparently dealing with mere matters of detail might involve principles of great importance. For instance, the Labourers Acts in Ireland were very important to a large section of the community, and concerned the well-being, happiness, and health of tens of thousands of people. The Acts, which in themselves were very intricate, were bound round with many rules and restrictions. He had seen Questions put concerning cases of individual labourers, with regard to applications for cottages or plots of land under those Acts, or in reference to the position of the Local Government Board, or the action of the Local Government Board Inspector. Those Questions would appear to be very unimportant and trivial, but they raised great and vital issues concerning the whole administration of the Acts. Similarly, Questions with regard to alleged acts of police violence, or alleged irregularities on the part of those who administered the law in Ireland, would seem to the Imperial mind to be insignificant; but, looked at from the point of view of public liberty and constitutional rights, they were of enormous importance and great urgency. Who was to be the judge of that urgency? Would it be reasonable to throw the responsibility on the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees? Without at all doubting the impartiality of the occupant of the Chair, he would hesitate to place that duty upon him. He would also question the practicability of allowing the question to be decided by the Clerks at the Table; in fact, he could not see how the Rule would work out. This proposed Standing Order was ambiguous, and would be liable to lead to the greatest possible confusion. He strongly objected to the portion of the Rule which would differentiate between the classes of Questions. There were to be two classes of Questions. In one class the hon. Member who wished to have an oral answer to his Question might distinguish it by an asterisk, but notice of any such Question must appear at latest on the Notice Paper circulated on the day before that on which an answer was desired. Did anybody suggest that under those circumstances any Questions would appear without an asterisk? This was simply turning the business of the House into a farce. He looked upon the privilege of putting Questions in the House as one of the most important functions of the House. When important Questions were frankly answered, they removed misconceptions and errors, and in that way hours of debate were subsequently avoided. When, in answer to a. Question, a Minister got up and said that there was absolutely no foundation for the statement in the Question, the hon. Member sat down and said no more about it; but when evasive answers were given——


The hon. Member will not be in order in discussing the mode in which Ministers answer Questions.


said the point he wished to make was simply that Questions which were answered frankly by Ministers really saved the time of the House in the long run. The number of Irish Questions had recently decreased considerably, and Questions all round had decreased, compared with last year. The large number of Questions in recent years was no doubt due to the fact that there were in the House a large number of new Members who wished to show their activity in regard to the affairs of their own constituencies, but they had now become somewhat subdued. After all, there was really no necessity for this Rule, and he challenged the First Lord of the Treasury to prove that there had been any abuse of the Rule. On the contrary, there had been a large falling off in the number of Questions. The thing would have regulated itself, and there was no necessity for this Rule. As to Questions commencing at 2.15, he did not object to that at all, for he should be very glad to see the House meet at twelve o'clock. Questions were to close at 2.55, and that was a hard and fast Rule which made no allowance whatever for the circumstances of the moment. It might be that forty minutes was more than a liberal allowance, but sometimes there were matters of great urgency and public importance before the nation. There were such questions as war, economic troubles, and the new Budget. Were they to be told that upon the out break of a great war, and the bringing in of a new Budget, important Questions were to be squeezed into forty minutes, and the balance of Questions remaining unanswered were to appear on a Journal of the House which would be very seldom consulted by hon. Members? If the Government had made a serious mistake in regard to their Rules, it was in regard to this one. He wished to look at the question from an Irish point of view, and he would ask why, when the constitution in Ireland was suspended, Irish Members should be prevented from rising in their places and putting Questions across the floor of the House. This proposal was illogical, and would load neither to economy in the time of the House nor to efficiency in the conduct of public business.

(8.20.) MR. GALLOWAY (Manchester, S. W.)

pointed out that, while arrangements were made under the Rule to have the answers printed, no arrangements had been made for keeping a record of them. If they were circulated, he presumed that they would not be printed in Hansard. He thought this was an important point which had been overlooked. He had risen to more the Amendment which stood in his name.


appealed to the hon. Member for South-West Manchester not to move his Amendment at the present stage, in order to allow other Members to take part in the general discussion. He assured his hon. friend that he would lose nothing by postponing his Amendment.


said he understood that there would be a general discussion at the end of the consideration of the Amendments, as there was in the case of the last Rule when the Question was put from the Chair. [Cries of "No, no!"]


The proposed Standing Order may be discussed at length, either before the Amendments are moved or when they have all been disposed of; but as soon as any Member gets up and moves an Amendment, the discussion will be confined to that Amendment.


On a point of order, may I ask whether the general discussion at the end of the Amendments is not a discussion practically on a Question which has already been decided by the House, and whether that form of general discussion is not of an entirely different character from that which takes place before the Amendments to the proposed Standing Order have been considered?


That is not a point of order.


said his reason for moving the Amendment was with the view of getting out of the Rule, if possible, those limits of time which prescribed that at a certain hour they should do one thing, and at a certain hour another thing. He quite recognised that the Leader of the House had tried to meet the objections which had been stated to the proposed Rule, by offering a compromise; but the Rule still imposed inconvenient limits.

Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment— In line 2, to leave out the words, at a quarter past 'Two of the clock,' and insert the words 'when the Speaker do take the Chair.'"—(Mr. Galloway.)

Question proposed, "That the word 'at' sand part of the proposed Amendment." (8.30.)


said that, as he understood the point of this Amendment, it was to give some elasticity in the mode in which Questions were to be taken. He was rather sorry that when this new Rule, which was an entirely new departure from the established practice of the House, was put forward, no reason was given why Questions should not be taken, as now, half an hour after Mr. Speaker took the Chair. Some reason ought to have been given for the somewhat extraordinary change. Although the Amendment of the hon. Member for South-West Manchester went some way towards re-establishing the old practice, it was not quite clear. The time for taking Questions would vary, according to the time when private business was taken or to the quantity of Minute business to be done at the Table of the House. It was quite clear that there ought to be some fixed period when Questions could be taken, and therefore to that extent he thought the Amendment was an improvement on the proposal as it stood. So far as he could see, no justification whatever had been put forward for this extraordinary change, and he hoped before the discussion terminated some explanation or justification would be forthcoming. He admitted that the present arrangement was most unsatisfactory to all concerned. Certain latitude was now given to the Minister answering Questions, and it was necessary that he should have it, but there was a great difference between the position of a Minister under the present arrangement and his position under the new Rule. Under this Rule, if a Minister was not in his place for the forty minutes allotted for Questions, the Question would go over unanswered, not through any fault of the questioner or the questioned, but simply owing to the hard and fast limitation of the time, to the detriment of the hon. Gentleman who was asking far information of importance.


thought that the Amendment was one which the House ought not to accept. The object of these Rules was that there should be the most important element of certainty as to when certain business would come on and how long it would last. The only way to arrive at that certainty was to have a fixed hour. With regard to the suggestion that if a Minister was not present a Question Would not be answered, that was not so, because if a Minister was absent when the Question was first put it would come on again on the second round the House would see that an exception had been made with regard to Questions not being answered owing to the absence of a Minister. He agreed it would be unwise to take away the well-known privilege of the House to ask a friend to put a Question in the absence of the hon. Gentleman who had placed it on the Paper, so that the grievance of a Member's Question not being answered owing to the absence of the Member would not arise. With regard to Questions being taken a quarter of an hour after Mr. Speaker took the Chair, instead of half an hour, hon. Members who had been in the House at that time as often as he, would have found that considerable time was often wasted between three and half-past owing to there being nothing to do, and the House having to wait until the half-hour. Now that opposed private Bill business was not to be taken, a quarter of an hour was thought sufficient time to deal with the delivery of petitions and other Minute business of the House.


said the hon. Gentleman had based his objection to the Amendment on the ground that certainty was desired; that was one of the great objections to the Rule. It was not like a rule of the chess board: at the stroke of the clock they moved to another square. He had two Amendments on the Paper dealing with this matter, one of which was to leave out "a quarter past," and the other to insert after "clock" "or at the conclusion of private business, if any be set down for that day." Those Amendments should be taken together. He had always been struck by the unnecessary waste of time which took place between three and half-past (the best time of the day), when there was no private business. He proposed that at two o'clock, when there was no private business, Questions should begin. But then the question arose whether the proper definition of the moment would be "when Mr. Speaker took the Chair." The presumption was that Mr. Speaker could come in to prayers at two o'clock, so that probably the words of the Amendment before the House would meet the case rather better than the Amendments he (Mr. Bowles) had proposed to move. There ought to be as great economy of the time of the House as possible. If the first Amendment he proposed to move were accepted, he should move his second Amendment to come in at the end of that now before the House, so that the Rule would then read— On days when there are two sittings of the House Questions shall be taken when Mr. Speaker do take the Chair or at the conclusion of unopposed private business set down for that day. He submitted that in that way time would be saved, and the time at which Questions would be taken would be rendered absolutely certain. Such an arrangement would greatly add to the comfort of Members of the House, because Quesitons were un doubteedly some of the most interesting proceedings of the day, both to Members of the House and the public.

SIR CHARLES DILKE, Forest of Dean) (Gloucestershire

pointed out that the Amendment followed the practice of the House on those occasions when it met for morning sittings, and also the practice when Questions were asked on Wednesdays. There was one matter which, however, had not been dealt with. He would like to know when it was proposed to take unopposed Returns.


Said it was impossible to consider this question without considering the new Standing Order relating to private business. The two matters were bound up together. He asked whether the Government had Considered the reason for splitting up the private business. They could not divide private business into opposed and unopposed, and when it was suggested that unopposed private business would only take five minutes, that was quite a mistake. He had known unopposed Bills take half an hour, because, although they were unopposed, sometimes statements were made on them and points explained. And the operation of this Rule cutting off' private business at the end of six or seven minutes would have most inconvenient results. He suggested that the right hon. Gentleman should accept the Amendment.


I quite appreciate and sympathise with the motives of my hon. friend who moves this Amendment, but it must be evident to the House that when we have to deal with two sets of business, public business and private business, there must be an element of uncertainty either with one or the other. There must be some uncertainty either when public business begins or when private business ends. It is perfectly true there may be cases when Unopposed private business, if left to itself, would run into a quarter-past two.




I think not constantly, but that is a point; and no doubt there would be a saving of time in certain other cases, if my hon. friend's Amendment were accepted, to commence Questions immediately after prayers, when Mr. Speaker takes the Chair. But I venture to say the principle on which the Rules are constructed is the true principle, namely, that if there is to be uncertainty, it should be as far as possible transferred from the public business to the private business. Public business, at any rate, should begin at a fixed hour; and, if there must be uncertainty, I regret to say that private business must suffer. The House cannot expect a Minister engaged in the difficult business of his Department to come to the House at five or six minutes past two o'clock on the oft' chance that there will be no private business being discussed. It is neither fair to the Minister nor to the House that he should be asked to attend in those circumstances. It is, therefore, better to have a fixed hour when Questions should begin, so that every Minister may know when he may be called upon to answer Questions, and when hon. Members may know at what time they ought to ask their Questions. In the interest of the certainty of public business, I ask my hon. friend not to press his Amendment.

MR. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)

said some of these private Bills were of the most vital importance to great public interests, and he thought nothing could be more disastrous than to have any element of uncertainty with regard to private Bills. Uncertainty with regard to business affecting merely the Members who were in attendance at the House was not much, but in the case of private business there were the promoters of Bills from all over the country in attendance watching the progress of their Bills, and in some cases the delay cost the promoters £100 a day, and sometimes more.


said he was in the difficulty which the hon. Gentleman opposite had foreshadowed. This was just one of those cases in which two of the Rules on the Paper hung so entirely together that it was almost impossible to give one's decision in one case without knowing something about what was going to be done with the others. The right hon. Gentleman had stated that there were two sets of business before the House which conflicted with each other, one of which must be in a condition of some uncertainty, and that, as that condition of uncertainty must prevail, the uncertainty ought to affect private business rather than public business. This was something more than a question of uncertainty, for the House were in complete ignorance as to what was going to happen to private business. All they knew now was that, if it was not disposed of by a quarter-past two, it would be postponed until such time as the Chairman of Committees should determine. He thought before this Amendment was passed which banished private business altogether from consideration after 2.15, the House ought to know what kind of arrangement the Government contemplated. They knew nothing whatever as to that part of the case. The right hon. Gentleman had said that after the Rule was passed he would appoint a Committee to consider this question, but it ought to be considered before. Whatever the Government did, and before the House was asked to revolutionise its procedure, it ought to be enlightened on some of these questions. The House ought to have some guidance with regard to the future of private business before they were asked to commit themselves in this matter. He hoped that before they went to a division some member of the Government would throw a little light upon the difficulties in which they were placed, and which were inevitable in the present position of affairs.

(9.36.) LORD EDMOND FITZMAU-RICE (Wiltshire, Cricklade)

said he was quite aware that it might be said, and said with some force, that the proper occasion for discussing this matter would be when they reached the later Resolution on the subject. This was, however, such a great matter that he did not think the Government ought to complain if they took tire earliest opportunity of pointing out that there was an alarming vagueness in the views of His Majesty's Government in reference to private business. The immediate point before the House was a very small one indeed, and it was whether Questions should begin at 2.12 or 2.15. So far as that narrow point was concerned, speaking as one who had had to answer as many Questions as any member of the Government, he wished to say that he thought the short interval between prayers and the commencement of business was not only valuable to Ministers who had to answer Questions, but it was also of great value to hon. Members who wished to put Questions, because it enabled them to consult Mr. Speaker upon questions which must necessarily arise. The more important question, however, was what was going to happen in regard to the private business which could not be got over in the five or seven minutes which intervened between prayers and questions. What was going to happen to all the private business in connection with great municipalities? He did not wish to appear discourteous to the right hon. Gentleman, but he did not think the First Lord of the Treasury, not having taken an active part in private business, was fully aware of the large questions which came up for consideration. The right hon. Gentleman the Member' for East Wolverhampton and himself had frequently raised questions at the time of private business inregard to the unlimited for Towing powers exercised by municipalities, and it was largely owing to their efforts that the inquiry now being condueted into this question arose. When upon several occasions they succeeded in stopping Bills because they thought the borrowing powers of those municipalities were being exercised in a dangerous manner, they raised great questions of principle. He wished to know what the Government had really got in their mind upon this question. There was a feeling of disquiet and alarm in the country in regard to the vagueness of these proposals. When this proposal was brought up, he should have thought it would have been accompanied by a large scheme of devolution in regard to private business. Under this proposal the Chairman of Committees was to be made an absolute autocrat in regard to private business.


The noble Lord will not be in order in discussing the whole Standing Order.


said the present Rule gave an immense power to the Chairman of Committees. What he wanted to urge upon the Government was that before they reached the Standing Order dealing with private business, the House was entitled to ask that there should be something more before it than the mere autocratic power given to an officer of the House. Upon the immediate question before them he could only say that he thought the Government had given a fair answer to the Amendment, and, as the Amendment had been raised owing to the apprehension to which several hon. Members had given voice, it would, perhaps, be better to pass this Rule as it stood, reserving thier liberty to deal later on with the very important question which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sleaford had raised.

(9.4.5.) SIR FRANCIS POWELL (Wigan)

said there ought to be certainty in regard to both private and public business. He hoped that the Government would not leave this question as it now stood. Ordinarily the work of the House was purely legislative, but when the came to private business, the House was not only a legislative body. It was also, practically, a legal tribunal. They had to deal with promoters of measures, with evidence, and with witnesses, and they had complicated Rules by which their proceedings were guided. He did not think that the House was always fully alive to the gigantic importance of many of the questions belonging to private business. Sometimes they had to deal with Water Bills relating to London introduced by the London County Council. As Chairman of the Committee, he had to deal with Bills affecting Liverpool, Gasgow, and Edinburgh, and

they had dealt with a water scheme for Birmingham which involved the expenditure of £7,000,000.


said they were not dealing with that question at the present time. He agreed that the question of private business was very important, but it was not raised in the aspect winch his hon. friend suggested on this Amendment. The question was merely whether the Speaker should call upon a questioner at a quarter-past two o'clock or a few minutes earlier. He hoped the House would leave the other part of the subject to be discussed at the proper time.


said that as both sides of the House seemed to be agreed upon this point, he would ask leave to withdraw his Amendment. [Cries of "No, no."]


regretted that the First Lord of the Treasury had left this important question of private business so vague in the Rule, because he had told them distinctly that private business was to be distributed over four or live days in the week. There was no difficulty in arranging that this little space of time which intervened between prayers and 2.15 should be used for Questions. What was convenient and satisfactory for opposed private business, ought to be equally satisfactory for unopposed private business. This arrangement would give them a little longer lime for Questions.

(9.53.) Question put.

The House divided :—Ayes, 199: Noes 111. (Division list No. 141.)

Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F. Banbury, Frederick George Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire
Agg-Gardner James Tyute Beach, Rt. Hn Sir Michael Hicks Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm.
Allhusen-Augustus H my Eden Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r
Anson, Sir Willliam Reynell Bignold, Arthur Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry
Archdale, Edward Mervyn Bigwood, James Charrington, Spencer
Arkwright, John Stanhope Bill, Charles Clare, Octavius Leigh
Arnold-Foster, Hugh, O. Blundell, C donel Henry Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H.A.E.
Arrol, Sir Wilham Brassey, Albert Coghill, Douglas Harry
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Brodrick, Rt Hon. St. John Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse
Austin, Sir John Hull, William James Cook, Sir Frederick Lucas
Bailey, James (Walworth) Bullard Sir Harry Corbert, T. L. (Down, North)
Balcarres, Lord Butcher, John George Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A.J.(Manch'r Carlile William Walter Cranbourne, Viscount.
Balfour, RtHnGerald W. (Leeds Cautley, Henry Strother Cripps, Charles Alfred
Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch. Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.) Cross, Alexander (Glasgow)
Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton) Johnston, William (Belfast) Rattigan, Sir William Henry
Davenport, William Bromley- Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir John H. Reid, James (Greenock)
Davies, M. Vaugham-(Cardigan King, Sir Henry Seymour Renwick, George
Denny, Colonel Laurie, Lieut.-(General Richards, Henry Charles
Dickson, Charles Scott Paw, Adrew Bonar (Glasgow Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge
Dimsdale, Sir Joseph Cookfield Lawson, John Grant Ritchie, R Hon Chas. Thomson
Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fr'd Dixon Pee, Arthur H. (Hants, Fareham Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)
Dorrington, Sir John Edward Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Doughty, George Llewellyn, Evan Henry Rolleston, Sir John F. L.
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R. Ropner, Colonel Robert
Doxford, Sir William Theodore Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Ruthsclild, Hon. Linel Walter
Duke, Henry Edward Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol. S) Round, James
Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Lonsdale, John Brownlee Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander
Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.) Lucas, Reginald (Portsmouth) Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward Macartney, Rt Hn W. G. Ellison Sharpe, William Edward T.
Ferguson Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r Macdona, John Cumming Skewes-Cox, Thomas
Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Maconochie, A. W. Smith, A bel H. (Hertford, East)
Finch, George H. M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool) Smith, HC (North'mb, Tyneside
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E.) Smith, Hon. W.F. D. (Strand)
Firbank, Joseph Thomas Majendie, James A. H. Spear, John Ward
Fisher, William Hayes Malcolm, lan Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose- Manners, Lord Cecil Stock, James Henry
Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond Maxwell, W J H (Dumfriesshire Stone, Sir Benjamin
Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon Melville, Beresford Valentine Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley
Flower, Ernest Mildmay, Francis Bingham Sturt, Hon. Humphrey Napier
Forster, Henry William Milvain, Thomas Thornton, Percy M.
Galloway, William Johnson Mitchell, William Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray
Gardner, Ernest Molesworth, Sir Lewis Tritton, Charles Ernest
Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans) Moon, Edward Robert Pacy Valentia, Viscount
Gordon, Hn J. E. (Elgin&Nairn) More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire) Wanklyn, James Leslie
Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon Morgan, David J (Walthamstow Warde, Colonel C. E.
Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Morrell, George Herbert Warr, Augustus Frederick
Green, Walford D (Wednesbury Morrison, James Archibald Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury) Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford) Welby, Sir Charles G. E. (Notts)
Gretton, John Mount, William Arthur Whiteley, H (Ashton und, Lyne
Hall, Edward Marshall Muntz, Philip A. Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Hamilton, Rt Hn Lord G (Midd'x Murray, Rt Hn A. Graham (Bute Williams, Rt Hn J Powell-(Brm.
Hanbury, Rt Hon. Robert Wm. Murray, Charles J. (Coventry) Willonghby de Eresby, Lord
Harris, Frederick Leverton Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath) Willox, Sir John Archibald
Haslam, Sir Alfred S. Myers, William Henry Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)
Hayter, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur D. Nicholson William Graham Wilson, John (Glasgow).
Heath, James (Staffords. N. W. Nicol, Donald Ninian Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N.)
Helder, Augustus Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay Wilson-Todd, Wm H. (Yorks.)
Henderson, Alexander Pease, Herb'rt Pike (Darlington Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Hermon-Hodge, Robert Trotter Pemberton, John S. G. Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Higginbottom, S. W. Platt-Higgins, Frederick Wylie, Alexander
Hogg, Lindsey Plummer, Walter R. Wyndham, Rt. Hon. (George
Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside Powell, Sir Francis Sharp Younger, William
Houston, Robert Paterson Pretyman, Ernest George
Howard, Jn. (Kent, Faversham Pryce, Jones, Lt. Col. Edward TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil Purvis, Robert Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.
Hutton, John (Yorks, N. R.) Rasch, Major Frederic Carne
Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse Ratcliff, R. F
Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.) Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen) Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristol, E.)
Allan, William Gateshead) Delany, William Holland, William Henry
Barry, E. (Cork, S.) Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Jones, Wm. (Coruarvoushire)
Bell, Richard Doogan, P. C. Joyce, Michael
Blake, Edward Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan) Kitson, Sir James
Boland, John Fenwick, Charles Lambeth, George
Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn Ffrench, Peter Law, Hngh Alex. (Donegal, W.)
Broadhurst, Henry Field, William Layland-Bariatt, Francis
Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson Flavin, Michael Joseph Leamy, Edmund
Burke, E. Haviland- Flynn, James Christopher Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington
Burns, John Fuller, J. M. F. Leigh, Sir Joseph
Caldwell, James Gilhooley, James Leng, Sir John
Cameron, Robert Goddard, Daniel Ford Levy, Maurice
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Grant, Corrie Lewis, John Herbert
Causton, Richard Knight Hammond, John Lloyd-George David
Cawley, Frederick Harmsworth, R. Leicester Lundon, W
Condon, Thomas Joseph Hayden, John Patrick MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A.
Crean, Eugene Helme, Nerval Watson Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.
Cremer, William Randal Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H. MacNeill, John Gordon Swift
MacVeagh, Jeremiah O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N. Spencer, Rt Hn C. R. (Northants.
M'Crae, George O'Malley, William Strachey, Sir Edward
M'Fadden, Edward O'Mara, James Sullivan, Donal
M'Hugh, Patrick A. O'Shanghnessy, P. J. Thomas, David Alf red (Merthyr
M'Kean, John Pirie, Duncan V. Thomas, J A (Glamorgan Gower
M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North) Power, Patrick Joseph Wallace, Robert
Mooney, John J. Reddy, M. Weir, James Galloway
Morgan, J. Loyd (Carmarthen) Redmond, John E. (Waterford) White, George (Norfolk)
Murphy, John Rickett, J. Compton White, Luke (York, E. R.)
Nannetti, Joseph P. Rigg, Richard White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South) Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion) Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork) Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.) Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary, Mid Robertson, Edmund (Dundee) Young, Samuel
O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Roche, John Yoxall, James Henry
O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary N.) Schwann, Charles E.
O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.) Show, Charles Edw. (Stafford)
O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES
O'Donell, T. (Kerry, W.) Shipman, Dr. John G. Sir Thomas Esmonue and
O'Dowd, John Sinclair, John (Forfarshire) Captain Donelan.
O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.) Soames, Arthur Wellesley

(10.6.) Mr. GIBSON BOWLES moved an Amendment providing that Questions should be taken "on days when there is one sitting, at twelve o'clock." He moved the Amendment for the purpose of raising the question whether there should or should not he Questions permitted on Friday or possibly on Saturday, if there was a Saturday sitting. At present there was, he belived, no Rule prohibiting Questions being put at twelve o'clock on Wednesday, and there had occasionally been instances of Questions being put on that day. It was sometimes very important that there should be the power of putting Questions to Ministers on that day. It was practically to retain the power of doing so that he moved the Amendment. He apprehended that even if the Amendment were carried, the practice which at present obtained with respect to Wednesday sittings would continue on Friday. That was to say while it was recognised that a Minister found it extremely difficult if not impossible, except under special circumstances, to be in attendance to answer Questions at twelve o'clock, because he had to be in his Department to do his work, yet there might be occasions when a would desire to have Questions put to him at twelve o'clock, and by adopting the Amendment, the House would leave it open to a Member to ask a Minister at Question. Under the Rule as proposed, there would be no power whatever, when an emergency might arise, of putting a Question to a Minister at a Friday or Saturday sitting. He would not insist on the Amendment or carry it to a division if the Leader of the House thought it objectionable, but still he proposed it in order that he might get an answer to the arguments he had used.

Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment— In line 2, after the word 'clock,' to msert the words 'and on days when here is one sitting at Twelve of the clock.'"—(Mr. Gibson Bowles.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."


As I conceive it, my hon. friend's Amendment is unnecessary, because, as I understand the matter, there is nothing at all in the Rule in question to prevent any Question being put and answered at twelve o'clock on Fridays. Unless my memory deceives me, some hon. Members have during the last few sessions put down Questions on Wednesdays, which, of course, shows conclusively that there is nothing in the Standing Order to prevent it. My hon. friend thinks it would be an improper restriction of our liberties to make it impossible for a Question to be asked and answered on a single sitting day, but all the Rules and customs which now attach to Wednesdays will be transfered to Fridays, and under these Rules and customs it will be possible to put a Question if an hon. Member desires it; although Ministers will not as a rule, be here to answer such Questions.


said he was very glad that the right hon. Gentleman did not oppose the Amendment on the merits. As he understood the right hon. Gentleman, he had no objection to the object of the hon. Member for King's Lynn. He conceived however, that the new Rules might produce an element of doubt, and at all events, the introduction of the words proposed by the hon. Member would remove any possibility of doubt, and as the right hon. Gentleman did not object on the merits to the proposal, he respectfully hoped that the hon. Gentleman would persevere with his Amendment.


I do not wish to prolong the discussion, but if these words were put in they would imply that a practice was to prevail on Fridays what did not prevail on Wednesdays. There were no corresponding words in the old Standing Order, and, if they were inserted, it would he said that it was evidently intended that Questions should he asked on Fridays as on other days of the week. My hon. friend does not desire that, any more than I do; and I think it would be in accordance with good drafting to accept the Rule as interpreted by the practice of the House, and not interpose confusion.


said that between 1862 and 1895 many Questions were asked at a twelve o'clock sitting.


said the new Rule would involve an essential difference. Wednesday came in the middle of the week, and it was no great hardship that a Question should be put down on Thurday instead of on Wednesday but under the new Rule, if a Member desired to put down a Question for Friday it would have to stand over until Monday. There was nothing in the Present Rule against asking Questions on Wednesdays. The common sense of the House, however, recognised that Questions should not be put down on that day, and that Ministers should not be required to leave their other business in order to be present to answer them, and the general sense of the convenience of Members did not tempt them to put down Questions for twelve O'clock. There was, however, a great deal of difference as regarded Questions on Wednesdays and on Fridays. He had a very lively recollection of some important Questions being put on Wednesdays. He remembered one Question of great public policy with regard to education in Ireland. It was essential that the Department in Dublin should get an authoritative announcement in this House, and if he was not mistaken, the present Leader of the House intimated to Mr. Sexton to put down a certain Question with regard to the business to which he had referred. It was answered, and the Department in Dublin at once proceeded with developments of a most important character. If Questions were not to be asked on Friday, they would have to be put off until the Monday following. He trusted the hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Lynn would press the Government a little more. The Amendment could not alter a Rule which did not exist; neither would it alter the customs of the House. He trusted the Government would see their way to accept the Amendment, as it would suit the convenience of Ministers as well as the convenience of unofficial Members, and would not be abused.


said that by the addition of two or three words the Leader of the House might be able to meet the wishes of the hon. Gentleman. If there were added to the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the words "until 12.15," it would establish a new practice, but would limit the right to very important Questions.


With a view to bringing this discussion to a close, might I ask yon, Mr. Speaker, whether there is anything in the Rule to prevent Questions being asked on Friday or on Saturday; because if that is so, as I believe is the case, Questions on these days are not specifically prohibited.


The right hon. Gentleman's view is quite correct. Questions can be putdown on these days, although when they have been put down, think they have been very seldom answered.


I understand your ruling, Sir, to be that Questions can be put down under the new Rule on Fridays and Saturdays.


There is no case of Questions having been refused at the Table because they were to be asked on a particular day.


said he would ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


said his next Amendment was a very important one, because it raised the whole question of private business. The capital defect of the new Rules was that there was no provision for some of the most important business of the House. Private business occasionally took several hours of the time of the House, but not during the whole of the session. The average over the whole of the session would be re-presented by a very small amount of time each day. With one or two exceptions, he did not remember any discussion of private business in this House which had been anything but fair, proper and legitimate discussion. He remembered no such thing as obstruction in connection with private business. He remembered protests and divisions, but they were always fair. Private business was business in which the House was occupied when it sat most truly as the High Court of Parliament, and when it sat in its judicial capacity to decide large and very important questions involving millions of money, and involving the future of enterprises of the utmost importance, such as networks of railways, steamships, and other matters of the greatest importance to a commercial country like ours. That business must necessarily be considered by Parliament itself, and could not be deputed to any other body. It had not been found possible from its nature to depute it to any other body, and it was essential that Parliament should give its full attention to it. The importance of private business was shown by the difference in the Rules which governed Committees on Private Bills and other Committees. A Member might absent himself from any other Committee, but a Member on a Private Bill Committee was recognised as being a member of a jury and as acting in a judical capacity, and he was bound to attend that Committee, and if he absented himself he was reported to this House, and could be proceeded against with all the severity of which the House was capable. That showed the difference of aspect with which the House regarded Private Bill Committees and other Committees, and was an indication of the overweening importance of private business. He submitted that at some period of the Rules—it ought to have been at a previous period—it would be absolutely necessary to make some provision—an adequate and a proper provision for dealing with private business. The House had had no hint from his right hon. friend the First Lord of the Treasury as to what he considered the proper time for dealing with private business. His right hon. friend had not even disclosed the fact that he had any opinion on the subject, except that he proposed to leave it absolutely and entirely to the Chairman of Ways and Means. That was not really adequate. It had not been disputed and would not be disputed, that private business occupied a position that entitled it to claim recognition from the House, and that the time required for its treatment, which was not large, should be allocated to it, so that it should be sure of having it at the proper time. He did not think there was any grievance at all in leaving private business exactly as it was at present, namely, that it should be begun as soon as the Speaker had taken the Chair and continued until it was disposed of. That was what his Amendment proposed, but if there were a better way, he should be glad to hear it. If the First Lord of the Treasury had any scheme which dealt, not only with unopposed but also opposed private business, he should be very glad to learn of it. Where perhaps the Rules most failed was, that there was an absolute absence of all consideration for such an important and unavoidable matter as private business. It was not competent or proper for the House to dismiss private business as if it did not exist, and it was in order to raise that very important question, and to ascertain the plan of the Government, not only with regard to unopposed, but also to opposed private business, that he begged to move his Amendment.

Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment— In line 2, after the word 'clock,' to insert the words 'or at the conclusion of private business, if any be set down for that day.'"—(Mr. Gibson Bowles.)

Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted in the proposed Amendment."


My hon. friend desires that at this stage in out proceedings we should have a discussion on the whole question of the position of private business—or something approaching that—in the arrangement of our day's proceedings. I do not think that would be a convenient course; there will be ail opportunity later on for such a discussion. I myself think that the important point raised by this Amendment has not quite the same scope as the suggestion made in the speech of the hon. Member. The Amendment amounts to this, that we should not begin the public business of the day—Questions, Bills, and so forth—until all the private business, contested and uncontested, is disposed of. Frankly I did think that, if there was one point one which every Member of the House was agreed, it was that, whatever other point of our procedure remained unreformed, there ought to be a reform which would remove the uncertainty as to when public business would commence, owing to the uncertain length to which disputed private business might extend. I thought there was a universal consensus of opinion that that was an in to lerable state of things. It is clear that, whatever other arrangement may be made for private business, there is only one way of curing that particular weakness in our arrangement of public business, and that method is to make public business begin at a fixed hour, no matter what the private business may be. If there be that general consensus of opinion—and I think there is—as to the nature of the malady and as to the only possible remedy, I think there are sufficient grounds for saying that the Amendment is one which we cannot accept. There might be more to say for the Amendment if it were confined to unopposed business, but, as far as opposed business is concerned, its acceptance would destroy the whole essence and ground of the policy which we have proposed.

(10.36.) MR. BLAKE

said the decision of the House to divide the day's work into two sittings would intensify the inconvenience of the interposition of opposed private business at the commencement of the proceedings, because the period of the sitting during which pubic business could he taken without pause would extend only to half-past seven instead of to midnight. Obviously, from the fact that they had proposed in the first place to throw Questions over to a later period, the original intention of the Government was to have as long a time as possible for Government business. But precedence had now been given to Questions, and if, in addition, there was to be at the commencement of each day's proceedings an uncertain amount of opposed private business, it was clear the House would be in a worse position than hitherto. But that did not exhaust the question. Private business had to be dealt with; it was an important class of business: it was bound to have its reasonable place in the proceedings of the day; but the present proposals did not grapple with the difficulty with any reasonable definiteness. The idea, as foreshadowed by the right hon. Gentleman, seemed to be that opposed private business should be distributed evenly over the four days of the week, so as not to interfere with the early hours of the days in which there were two sittings. He thought that would be a mistake. In his opinion, the most satisfactory way of dealing with opposed private business was to make it an early Order on one day of the week. The promoters could then attend on that one day, and the other days would be entirely free for public business. That was the course pursued with great satisfaction and expedition in another legislature with which he was acquainted. It was not the plan of the Government, but he would like the House to consider it. One sitting might be fixed on which opposed private business should be the first Order. Unless that were done, the only other thing was not to leave that business in its present vague condition, but to provide in some way that it should come on at a certain time on each evening of the week, and that it should be distributed evenly. If that plan were adopted, the discretion might perhaps be left with the Chairman of Ways and Means, but the discretion should be exercised on a principle to be stated in the Rule of the House.

MR. COGHILL (Stoke-upon-Trent)

thought too much importance was being attached to the words "public" and "private" as applied to Bills. For several sessions a measure dealing with the London Water Supply had been introduced as a private Bill; this session it had been brought in as a public Bill, although it was a measure of exactly the same character, dealing with the same subject. Members would also remember a very small Bill dealing with the Berriew School Board, which, having the dignity of an asterisk attached to it, wan discussed as a public Bill at about three o'clock in the morning. The question should be looked at more from the point of view of the merits of the Bills themselves. Bills of great importance, such as the London Water Bill, or measures dealing with important questions affecting large cities such as Manchester or Liverpool ought to be treated by the Government and given full opportunity for discussion. Something was done by the present proposals to deal with the admitted evil of the time at the House being at the disposal of Parliamentary agents, but the evil to which he had referred was not quite met by the scheme before the House. He hoped there would be some modification of the present proposal to meet the general wishes of Members.


intimated that the debate was drifting into a general discussion on private business. The Rule before the House deposed private business from the position it at present held. That was the proper subject of discussion. But the discussion of details of methods by which private business ought to be dealt with would not be in order.


understood from his remarks that the Leader of the House would not be unwilling to accept the Amendment if the word "unopposed" were inserted before the words "private business." He therefore moved to insert the word 'unopposed.'

Amendment proposed to the Amendment to the proposed Amendment— After the word 'of,' to insert the word 'unopposed.'"—(Mr. Charles Hobhouse.)

Question proposed, "That the word" unopposed "be there inserted."


said the insertion of the word "unopposed" would upset the whole scheme, and all the arguments us to certainty with regard to public business would vanish into thin air. Members appeared to be under the delusion that if a Bill was unopposed it must necessarily pass in a minute or two. Nothing was farther from the fact. It was necessary sometimes to discuss an unopposed Bill in order to get assurances from the promoters, and such discussions sometimes occupied nearly an hour. The Amendment might just as well be left as it stood. He could not understand, however, why the House should be asked to depose private business from its present position without being definitely informed of the intentions of the Government. The suggestion of the First Lord put forward in the general discussion as to the future conduct of private business was perfectly preposterous, and it was because no definite statement had now been made, the House were in such difficulty as to the course they ought to adopt.

MR. WHITMORE (Chelsea)

said that, while he should be glad to know what definite proposals the Government we re going to make with regard to the disposal of private business in the future, the House at present had to concern itself only with the Amendment which had been moved. He could not help remembering an occasion on which the London Water Bill was put down for discussion on the same day as certain important Irish business. It was entirely through inadvertence, but it led to a very unpleasant quarter of an hour. That was a good illustration of the practical inconvenience which not infrequently arose from the present system. He agreed that private business was most important, and was not likely to diminish in importance. But it could not be denied that it was a great inconvenience that, really without the officials of the House or the Government having any control over the matter, an important private Bill could be put down for any day and thus take precedence of most important Government or public business. He hoped that when they came to deal with the question of how private business was to be disposed of, the Government would give the House some more definite information than it at present possessed.

MR. JOSEPH A. PEASE (Essex, Saffron Walden)

thought that if private business, either opposed or unoppposed, were set down for only one day in the week it would be to the general convenience of the House. If such a plan were adopted there would be no reason for refusing to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for King's Lynn.


reminded the House that, great as was the inconvenience which often arose from taking private business at the commencement of the sitting, that business was frequently quite as important as it was inconvenient. He really could not understand why the Government did not state what they proposed to do with regard to private business when displaced from its present position, as Members naturally felt a difficulty in sanctioning that displacement until they had some idea of the Government's intention. The Rule, if carried, would finally settle that private business should not be taken at the commencement of the sitting; the Amendment simply proposed to retain it in its present position until the House could be informed of the Position it would subsequently occupy. The question was of such enormous importance that, with every desire to support the Government on the point, he did not like giving his vote while completely in the dark as to the future.


The right hon. Gentleman has, I think, forgotten that the Question before the House is that the word "unopposed" be inserted.


said the insertion of the word would to some extent mitigate the difficulty, but not very largely.


thought the Leader of the House had confounded the two causes which made the present arrangement with regard to private business troublesome. The difficulty arose partly from the fact that a private Bill might severely trench on the time the House desired to devote to public business, and also from the fact that there was no certainty as to when it would come on.


The right hon. Gentleman is dealing with opposed private business. The question is as to the insertion of the word "un-opposed."


said that if by "unopposed" business was meant Bills to which notice of opposition had not been given, unopposed Bills might frequently take some time. He had known opponents or promoters of Bills to take twenty minutes or more to express their views to the House; therefore some definition as to the meaning of the phrase would be necessary. If the duty of deciding the point rested with the Chairman of Committees, he thought the Amendment might very well be accepted.


We are now on an Amendment to an Amendment. I venture to suggest that it would be more profitable if that Amendment was disposed of quickly, so as to leave us free to discuss the more important question. I fully understand the spirit in which the hon. Member opposite suggested the Amendment. The objection to it is that mentioned by the hon. Member for East Mayo, viz., that unopposed business may run on for some time. It is true that unopposed, business may be stopped at once by anyone saying "I object," and the whole discussion comes to an end. Who is to have the responsibility of saying that, and when is it to be so? If you leave it to the House at large, as at present, the discussion might run on even to a quarter to three and then the number of Questions that could be asked would be so small as to cause great inconvenience to Members. It is true the responsibility might be left to the Government of saying at a quarter past two "I object," and it would certainly have to be done. But in that case why not put it in the Standing Order? Though there is something to be said for the Amendment to the Amendment, I think, on the whole, it ought not to be pressed, and I hope the hon. Member will withdraw it.

Amendment to the Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Question proposed, "That the words 'or at the conclusion of Private Business if any be set down for that day' be there inserted in the proposed Amendment."

SIR JOHN BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)

asked whether, seeing that many Members hesitated as to the way they should vote until they knew definitely what the Government intended to propose, it would be possible, after dealing with this Amendment, to hark back to the question of the position of Private Business, or would it be finally settled.


ruled that if the Amendment were rejected private business would be deposed altogether from the position it now occupied.

(11.0.) MR. T. P. O'CONNOR

(Liverpool, Scotland) said the Leader of the House seemed to share the error of other Members—that by postponing private business to the evening sitting all derangement of public business would be avoided. That was an absolutely absurd proposition.


It is not my proposition.


said he should have been surprised if one with the acute intellect of the right hon. Gentleman had been taken in by so apparent a fallacy. The evening sitting on a Government day was just as much the time of the Government as the morning sitting, and ought to be equally precious to the Government. He therefore failed to see what advantage they would obtain in the discharge of public business by robbing their time in the evening instead of in the morning. For himself he was in favour of private business remaining in its present position or of some plan other than that proposed by the Government. After all the daily life of the country was often as much affected—in some cases more affected—by private as by public Bills. He instanced the case of a railway Bill. The particular direction of the line, the fares and freights the company were allowed to charge, the safeguards adopted for the lives of passengers and employees—all these matters came more nearly home to every Member of the community than three fourths of the so-called public Bills. A good railway system would revolutionise a great deal of the social and economical condition of the country. He was therefore utterly unable to understand the gulf which some Members had placed between private and public business. He did not deny that private Bills sometimes occupied an undue share of the time of the House, and came on at inconvenient periods—as in the case mentioned by the hon. Member for Chelsea—but there was a very obvious method of dealing with cases such as that. He maintained that some of the private Bills were as important to some hon. Members as the public Bills. At the present time private Bills were taken at a time when a large number of business men found it impossible to be present, and therefore to a large extent the change suggested would be a convenience.

MR. RICHARDS (Finsbury, E.)

said he hoped the House would accept the proposal of the Government. From time to time his experience had been that unopposed Bills were made use of by hon. Members who wished to-obtain some concession before allowing them to pass.


Why not?


said they were perfectly right in so doing but that was not the occasion, and if they wanted concession the evening sitting was the time to ask for them.

MR. VLCARY GIBBS (Hertfordshire, St. Albans)



said that unlike his hon. friend the Member for the St. Albans Division he was not endowed with patriarchal fortunes, and he could not attend the House himself at that time of day. Those who were engaged in commerce or professions ought to support the Government. He was prepared to support this proposal in the interests of those who had other occupations during the day.

(11.10.) MR. COUTRTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

said that often private business was in the position of a case being tried, and the House was practically a Law Court to decide. [Cries of "Divide, divide."] For that reason private business had to be got through in some way and under the system proposed there was a great danger that a good deal of the private business would have to be done at the end of the session. He thought some undertaking ought to be given thorn that private business would be got through early in the session.


(Peckham) said he did not wish to vote against the Government on this occasion, but he agreed with the hon. Member for the Scotland Division that

private business was most important, and if it was put off until nine o'clock in the evening he did not think that course would be conducive to an adequate discussion of private Bills. He should like to have some little information as to whether adequate time would be given for the discussion of private business.


said he honestly wished to vote with the Government on this point, but he could not do so unless he received some information as to what was going to be put in its place.


said he was astonished at his right hon. friend, because he had repeated over and over again the Government plan in regard to private business at the evening sitting.


Could it be put down for Friday?


Surely it is sufficient for the present discussion to say thas it is not to be taken at the afternoon sittings upon four days in the week.

(11.13) Question put.

The House divided :—Ayes, 1331; Noes, 229. (Division List No. 142.)

Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.) Crean, Eugene Goddard, Daniel Ford
Allan, William (Gateshead) Cremer, William Randal Grey, Sir Edward (Berwick)
Asher, Alexander Davies, Alfred (Car-marthen) (Griffith, Ellis J.
Barry, E. (Cork, S.) Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardigan) Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton
Beaumont, Wentworth C. B. Delany, William Hammond, John
Bell, Richard Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Harmsworth, R. Leicester
Boland, John Dillon, John Hayden, John Patrick
Broadhurst, Henry Donelan, Capt. A. Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-
Brunner Sir John Tomlinson Doogan, P. C. Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.
Bryce, Rt. Hon. James Duncan, J. Hastings Helme, Norval Watson
Burke, E. Haviland- Dunn, Sir William Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.
Burns, John Esmoade, Sir Thomas Holland, William Henry
Caldwell, James Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan) Hosier, Hn. James Henry Cecil
Cameron, Robert Ffrench, Peter Joicey, Sir James
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Field, William Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)
Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond Joyce, Michael
Causton, Richard Knight Flavin, Michael Joseph Kearley, Hudson E.
Cawley, Frederick Flynn, James Christopher Kitson, Sir James
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Fuller, J. M. F. Lambert, George
Condon, Thomas Joseph Gilhooly, James Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal, W.)
Craig, Robert Hunter Gladstone, Rt. Hon. Herbert J. Layland-Barratt, Francis
Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.) Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)
Leigh, Sir Joseph O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Shipman, Dr. John C.
Leng, Sir John O'Dounell, T. (Kerry, W.) Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)
Levy, Mlaurice O'Dowd, John Soames, Arthur Wollesley
Lewis, John Herbert O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.) Soares, Ernest. J.
Lough, Thomas O'Malley, William Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R. (North'ts
Lundon, W. O'Mara, James Strachey, Sir Edward
MacDonell, Dr. Mark A. O'Shaughnessy, P. J. Sullivan, Donal
MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden) Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr
MacVeagh, Jeremiah Pirie, Duncan V. Thomas, J. A. (Glm'rg'n, Gower
M'Arthur, William (Cornwall) Power, Patrick Joseph Thomson, E. W. (York, W. R.)
M'Crae, (George Priestley, Arthur Ure, Alexander
M'Fadden, Edward Reddy, M. Wallace, Robert
M'Hugh, Patrick A. Redmond, John E. (Waterford) Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
M'Kean, John Rickett, J. Compton Warr, Augustus Frederick
M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North) Rigg, Richard Weir, James Galloway
Mooney, John J. Roberts, John Bryn (Eilion) White, Luke (York, E R.)
Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen) Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.) White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Morley, Charles (Breconshire) Robertson, Edmund (Dundee) Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Murphy, John Robson, William Snowdon Young, Samuel
Nannetti, Joseph P. Roche, John
Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South) Roe, Sir Thomas
O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary, Mid Schwann, Charles E. TELLEHS FOR THE AYES
O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Scott, Chas. Prestwich (Leigh) Mr. Gibson Bowles and
O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.) Shaw, Chas. Edw. (Stafford) Mr. Charles Hobhouse.
Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir Alex. F. Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Greene, W. Raymond-(Cambs.
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Compton, Lord Alwyne Gretton, John
Allhusen, Augustus Henry E. Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Greville, Hon. Ronald
Anson, Sir William Reynell Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill
Archdale, Edward Mervyn Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge Hall, Edward Marshall
Arkwright, John Stanhope Cranborne, Viscount Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F.
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Gripps, Charles Alfred Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord G (Mid'x
Arrol, Sir William Cross, Alexander (Glasgow) Hamilton, Marq. of (Londond'y
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton) Hanbury, Rt. Hn. Robert Wm.
Bagot, Capt. Josceline Fitzroy Dalkeith, Earl of Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashf'd
Bailey, James (Walworth) Davenport, William Bromley- Harris, Frederick Leverton
Bain, Colonel James Robert Denny, Colonel Heath, James (Staffords. N. W.
Balcarres, Lord Dickson, Charles Scott Helder, Augustus
Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. Manch'r Dorington, Sir John Edward Henderson, Alexander
Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey) Doughty, George Hermon-Hodge, Robt. Trotter
Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W. (Leeds Douglas, Rt. Hn. A. Akers- Higginbottom, S. W.
Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch. Doxford, Sir William Theodore Hoare, Sir Samuel
Banbury, Frederick George Duke, Henry Edward Hobhouse, Henry Somerset E)
Beach, Rt. Hn Sir Michael Hicks Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Hogg, Lindsay
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.) Hope, J. F. (Sheffie, Brightside
Bignold, Arthur Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edw. Howard, Jn. (Kent, Faversham)
Bigwood, James Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J (Manc'r Hutton, John (Yorks, N. R.)
Bill, Charles Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Jackson, Rt. Hn. Wm. Lawies
Blundell, Colonel Henry Finch, George H. Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse
Brassey, Albert Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Johnston, William (Belfast)
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Firbank, Joseph Thomas Johnstone, Heywood (Sussex)
Brymer, William Ernest Fisher, William Hayes Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop
Bull, William James Fison, Frederick William Keswick, William
Butcher, John George FitzGerald, Sir Robt. Penrose- Iving, Sir Henry Seymour
Carlile, William Walter Fitzroy, Tin. Edward Algernon Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liver pool)
Carson, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward H. Flower, Ernest Lawson, John Grant
Cautley, Henry Strother Forster, Henry William Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.) Galloway, William Johnson Leigh-Bennett, Henry Currie
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.) Gardner, Ernest Llewellyn, Evan Henry
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Gibbs, Hn. Vicary (St. Albans) Lockwood, I t.-Col. A. R.
Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk. Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm. Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin&Nairn Long, Rt Hn. Walter (Bristol, S.
Chamberlain, J. Austen (Worc'r Gore, Hn G. R. C. Ormsby-(Salop Lowe, Francis William
Chapman, Edward Gore, Hn. S. F Ormsby (Line.) Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale)
Charrington, Spencer Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)
Clive, Capt. Percy A. Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth
Cochrane, Hon. Tlios. H. A. E. Green, Walford L. (Wednesby) Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred
Coghill, Douglas Harry Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury Macartney, Rt. Hn. W G Ellison
Macdona, John Cumming Powell, Sir Francis Sharp Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Maconochie, A. W. Pretyman, Ernest George Stock, James Henry
M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool) Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward Stone, Sir Benjamin
M'Calmont, Col. J. (Antrim, E. Purvis, Robert Stroyan, John
Majendie, James A. H. Rasch, Major Frederic Carne Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley
Malcolm, Ian Ratcliff, R. F. Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier
Manners, Lord Cecil Rattigan, Sir William Henry Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Maxwell, W J H (Dumfriesshire Reid, Tames (Greenock) Thornton, Percy M.
Melville, Beresford Valentine Remnant, James Farquharson Tomlinson, Wm. Edw. Murray
Mildmay, Francis Bingham Renwick, George Tufnell, Lieut. Col. Edward
Milner, Rt. Hn. Sir Frederick G. Richards, Henry Charles Valentia, Viscount
Milvain, Thomas Ridley, Hn. M. W.(Stalybridge Wanklyn, James Leshe
Mitchell, William Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson Warde, Colonel C. E.
Molesworth, Sir Lewis Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield) Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Montagu, G. (Huntingdon) Robertson, Herbert (Hackney) Welby, Sir Charles G. E. (Notts.
Montagu, Hon J. Scott (Hants.) Robinson, Brooke Whiteley, H. (Ashton und. Lyne
More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire) Rolleston, Sir. John F. L. Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Morgan, David J (Walthamst'w Ropner, Colonel Robert Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)
Morgan, Hn. Fred. (Monm'thsh) Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter Williams, Rt Hn. Powell-(Birm
Morrell, George Herbert Round, James Willough by de Eresby, Lord
Morrison, James Archibald Royds, Clement Molyneux Willox, Sir John Archibald
Morton, Arthur H. A. (Deptford) Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford- Wilson, A. Stanley (York, F. R.)
Mount, William Arthur Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander Wilson, John (Glasgow)
Muntz, Philip A. Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh. N.
Murray, Rt Hn A. Graham (Bute Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.) Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)
Murray, Charles J. (Coventry Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln) Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)
Myers, William Henry Sharpe, William Edward T. Wortley, Ht. H on. C. B. Stuart-
Nicholson, William Graham Simeon, Sir Barrington Wylie, Alexander
Nicol, Dinald Ninian Sinclair, Louis (Romford) Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Orr-Ewing, Charles Lindsay Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East) Younger, William
Palmer, Walter (Salisbury) Smith, H C (North'mb Tyneside
Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlingt'n Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Peel, Hn. Wm Robert Wellesley Smith, Hon. W. F. T). (Strand)
Percy, Earl Spear, John Ward Sir William Walrond and Mr. Anstruther.
Plummer, Walter R. Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk
(11.32.) MR. FULLEE (Wiltshire, Westbury)

moved to omit the words in the Rule which limited the time during which (Questions may be asked. He said the Amendment would have the effect of placing Questions on exactly the same footing as they were in under the present Rule. He ventured to think the Amendment was one which would receive considerable support from all quarters of the House. He hoped the Leader of the House would give it some measure of favourable consideration. It was noticeable that in the short general discussion on the Rule not a single word of commendation was forthcoming for this proposal. He could not help think- ing that the right hon. Gentleman and the Goverment were exaggerating the evil of the present state of things. He found that in January and February last the House sat twenty-five days not counting Wednesdays, when of course there were no Questions, and there were no less than 1,398 Questions addressed to Ministers—an average of about fifty-six Questions per day. He considered that the time given to the asking and answering of Questions was well spent and that it was time which might well be spared by the House of Commons. He believed that the answers extracted from Ministers were of vital public importance to the country. If hon. Members would only look at the public Press they would see the immense importance which the public at large attached to the answers given by Ministers to the Questions addressed to them in the House.

Amendment proposed to the proposed Amendment— In line 2, after the word 'clock,' to leave out the word 'Business,' in line 7, inclusive.—(Mr. Fuller.)

Question proposed, "That the words" 'no Questions shall be taken after' stand part of the proposed Amendment."


I confess I think the Government have some right to complain of the criticism which the hon. Gentleman has passed on the proposal. It has always been recognised that Questions are capable of abuse, and have been abused now and then, and it has also been admitted that there was a great deal to be said for the original plan of the Government, which set the time for Questions between 7.15 and 8. But that hour was objected to, and a further objection was offered to the limitation of supplementary Questions. We have met the House on both of these points, and we have altered the time for Questions so as to be indeed much less convenient to Ministers but more convenient to Members of the House, and we have done away with the limitation of supplementary Questions—a limitation which I am bound to say had great justification. I had hoped that a concession so large as that might have reconciled hon. Members to cutting down the time for Questions to a period which will allow sixty-five to be answered in addition to the Questions with reference to the business of the House. I do think, and I hope the House will agree with me, that that really is sufficient time to give to the catechism of the Government. It would be an unfortunate thing if we were to allow the solid four and a half hours, which is all we get in the afternoon sittings, to be intrenched upon by any overflow of irrelevant or unnecessary Questions. I shall not expend more time in defending a thesis I have often spoken on before, but I claim that we have not shown ourselves indisposed to meet the views of both sides of the House.


said he must express his surprise at the way the right hon. Gentleman had treated this question. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken as if the question had already been exhaustively discussed, when, as a matter of fact, save from the allusion to it in his opening speech on the subject, and on a subsequent occasion when he announced a modification of the original proposal, and also the few words which they had now heard, and which nobody could dignify with the name of a statement, this great and temendous revolution in the proceedings and practice of the House, had not found anything like adequate discussion from the right hon. Gentleman. He would withdraw the word discussion, for they were now discussing the proposal for the first time. The right hon. Gentleman thought he had risen to the situation by making remarks which occupied about throe minutes. He believed the right hon. Gentleman was proposing to alter one of those practices which most honourably and beneficently distinguished this House from every other Assembly in the world. The great distinction, merit, and superiority of the British Parliament over that of the United States was that, while here Ministers were responsible to the representatives of the people, in the United States there was an almost complete separation between the Executive and the representative Assembly. The power of addressing Questions to Ministers was the symbol and the sign that the Executive power of the country was subject to the supervision and constantly under the control of the representatives of the people. That power went to the very roots of the Constitution, and to the very roots of their liberties, and yet the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Constitutional Party thought that the House was entitled to make a change of that kind in the Constitution after a three minutes speech.


May I respect-fully interrupt the hon. Member. The Rule would allow about 300 Questions being answered every week without any difficulty.


said with all due respect to the right hon. Gentleman, that did not touch the point of principle at all. Even the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich, who seemed to find his observations very amusing, would see the difference between an unlimited and a strictly limited right of asking Questions. He repeated that it was an essential part of the Constitution, and of their democratic institutions that they should have the right of putting Questions to Ministers unlimited by time or number or by anything else, except the common sense of the Assembly and the Rules of Order. What was the case made out for the change? Surely a case ought to be made out before a great revolutionary change like that was carried out. He challenged the right hon. Gentleman either to state himself, or to get anyone of the vast collection of colleagues he had gathered around him for his assistants in connection with these most important Rules, to tell the House what was his case. That Questions had been, in the words of the right hon. Gentleman himself, now and then abused he did not deny. There was not any right of the House which was not now and then abused by every section of the House, he would not say by every Member, according to the strength of their convictions or when they imagined that they were not being treated properly, or when their duty called upon them to offer obstinate resistance to the proposals of the Government of the day. The right hon. Gentleman himself admitted that there had been a considerable change in the second session of the present Parliament from the first session. They all knew what took place in a new Parliament. He had never known a new House of Commons which did not begin by asking that seating accommodation should be given to every Member, and that every hon. Member should have a seat set apart for him. The House was full, everyone wanted to hear what was going on, and the new Members were like a young lady at her first ball—interested in everything around her. A few months passed, and not a word was heard about the smallness of the House, and ample accommodation was afforded for the average attendance of Members. It was found that other departments in the House offered, perhaps, greater amuse- ment than was to be had by listening to somewhat wearisome debates in the Chamber. It was the same thing with regard to Questions. In a new Parliament there were a largo number of new Members very naturally thirsting and burning for distinction, but who were not, as yet, masters of all their resources and who would not venture upon speech. They found an instrument and a path to glory by the easier method of Questions. Time passed, and those new Members had attained some amount of celebrity or notoriety, more or less desirable, and the result was that Questions were no longer the only instrument by which they could carve their way to political fortune and fame. Consequently, Questions regularly dimished. In the third session there was a further diminution, and the fact was that the evil would remedy itself if only given time, opportunity, and fair play.

The right hon. Gentleman, in the somewhat perfunctory speech in which he met the Amendment, spoke of the abuse of supplementary Questions. He would be perfectly frank with the House. He detested the supplementary Question. He really found, with all respect to the Gentlemen who asked them, that very often supplementary Questions were merely a repetition of the original Question, and as such a waste of time. The evil of supplementary Questions had been largely diminished under the wise guidance of Mr. Speaker, and under his rulings, supplementary Questions, instead of wandering wide, were kept within the limits of relevancy. Any hon. Member who had been in the House for several sessions knew that Question time had been transformed under successive rulings of the Chair, and, therefore, the evil of supplementary Questions had been largely cured. He wished to say a word with reference to a section of hon. Members in the House to which a sense of duty did not permit him to belong namely, the very useful class of silent Members. [Mr. SWIFT MACNEILL: Hear, hear!] His hon. friend the Member for South Donegal, by his cheer, evidently desired to be considered a Member of that class, but he would not decide the question. There were in the House a number of Members who took a silent, unobstrusive, but effective part in its work. They did very good work in Committees upstairs, and he might say, in passing, that he was always lost in wonder at the public spirit and patriotism of. Members who came down at eleven o'clock in the morning and sat all day on Committees, unreported by newspapers, and undescribed by Parliamentary correspondents. There might be a grievance in the constituency of one of those Members. The Nonconformists there might be complaining of how the schools were being treated by the Churchmen, or there might be some act of maladministration, or something of that kind. That Member does not care to bring the matter forward in the form of a speech, but prefers the terser form of a Question. That was a case that ought to be considered by the House.

The root objection, however, which he had to the proposal, was that it was transforming the whole character of the House of Commons with regard to the country. The phrase had been used so often that its repetition appeared like cant, but he must repeat that the House was the grand inquest of the Nation, in order to convey what he meant. They came to the House, not mainly for the purpose of legislation, not mainly even for the purpose of examining the supplies of the country; they came to be the echo and mirror of the people of the country. What, therefore, was their duty? It was to keep a careful eye on every act of administration in the country, on the part of the highest as well as the lowest officials. It meant that there should be no official in the country who did not feel that the eye of the House of Comons was either upon him, or might be put upon him, and, in that way, the House of Commons became the safeguard of the liberties of the people, against the wrongdoing of "Jacks-in-Office," who were only too glad to exercise their power, and grind the faces of the weak and the poor. The result was that a Question which might appear trifling and personal, was, perhaps, a Question which meant a great deal to the very lowest of the people who were without any power to defend themselves, and without any court of appeal except the High Court of Parliament through Questions asked by their representatives. Take the case of the Irish constituencies. What protection had they against officials in Ireland, who were in no sense responsible to public opinion in Ireland? The only way in which there could be an appeal against acts of outrage, violence, and tyranny, in a country where the Constitution was suspended, was to the House of Commons, and the only method by which that appeal could be made, except in occasional discussion, was by Questions addressed daily to the Ministers responsible. He declared it his honest conviction that the limitation of the right to question Ministers was a new Coercion Act for Ireland. That might appear an extravagant statement to hon. Gentlemen opposite, most of whom had never been in Ireland, and to whom the internal affairs of Ireland were more foreign than the internal affairs of France? but it was his honest conviction, and the conviction of his hon. friends, that the curtailment of the power of putting Questions to Ministers was an intolerable limitation of their liberties and rights. It might be said by the First Lord of the Treasury that the right was not taken away, and that fift-five Questions could be asked every day. But that altogether depended on the character of the Questions. There might be Questions of such vast interest that, with the approval of the House one, two, or three supplementary Questions might be asked. He himself remembered—he was not then in the House a time when peace or war between Russia and Great Britain was trembling in the balance. Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Bright, and Mr. Forster got up one after the other and asked Questions of Sir Stafford Northcote, then Leader of the House, each of which was calculated to decide the trembling balance of peace or war by giving a little tilt on the side of peace, and against a wicked and disastrous war. If forty-five minutes had been taken up by trivial Questions, Mr. Gladstone, Mr. Bright, and Mr. Forster would have been unable to intervene.

It being Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed tomorrow.


In moving the adjournment of the House, I may take the opportunity to announce, as I think I suggested would be probable some days ago, that I shall ask the House to suspend the 12 o'clock rule tomorrow.

Adjourned at five minutes after Twelve o'clock.