HC Deb 29 April 1903 vol 121 cc797-8
MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

I understand it has been arranged that a Vote which will enable the House to discuss the question of Somaliland will be put down to-morrow. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will confirm that and say also what other Votes he proposes to take. Will he also tell us with regard to next week whether the Government still intend to take the Irish Land Bill on Monday, and proceed with it for the rest of the week, or if not, what other business will be taken?


As regards the business to-morrow the right hon. Gentleman is quite right in supposing that it is the intention of the Government, at the very reasonable request made by the Leader of the Opposition, to put down a Vote tomorrow which will enable the operations in Somaliland to be discussed. I have caused inquiries to be made, and I am given to understand that the best Vote on which to take it would be the Army Estimates, Vote 7, Provisions and Forage. Of course, I have no authority to speak on the point, but I believe there will be no difficulty in taking the general discussion on that Vote. If it should not last the whole evening, and I think it will not, I propose to put down the Post Office Vote and Post Office Packet Service. With regard to next week, as I hope to finish the Education Bill in the course of this afternoon's sitting, on Monday I shall take the Irish Land Bill. Of course, that is subject to the possibility of my right hon. friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland being fit for the labour of watching the Bill. I have no reason to believe he will be away, and I therefore think I may, with some confidence, indicate that that will be the course of business. †See page 220.

MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)

Can the right hon. Gentleman give an estimate of the time to be occupied by the Second Reading debate?


I understand that, although the Bill is one of great importance, there is not much probability of any Second Reading opposition to it, and I hope, therefore, that the House will consider two days sufficient.


I think that would fall in with the views of the Irish Members.


Can the House discuss the policy of the Government in Somaliland on an Army Vote?


That is entirely in the discretion of the Chairman, but if the hon. Member can suggest any method by which the area of debate can be widened, I shall be glad to adopt it.


As the Foreign Office was in charge at the time the operations were commenced could not the subject be discussed on that Vote?


I speak with great diffidence, because I think that no member of the House has the right even faintly to indicate what would be the judgment of the Chairman of Committees, or the Speaker as the case might be. But the real difficulty is that, if I put down the Vote for the salary of the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs as the first Vote, we cannot then discuss the military operations, while, on the other hand, if I put down the Vote for Forage, etc., which I had indicated as the best, it is conceivable that some difficulty may be raised is to the discussion of the policy which led to the war. I think that nothing would be gained by laying down too rigid a limitation.