HC Deb 04 February 1904 vol 129 cc358-60
SIR M. HICKS BEACH (Bristol, W.)

I beg to ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether His Majesty's Government will afford facilities for an adequate discussion of the fiscal question on a substantive Motion, if, in the absence of the First Lord of the Treasury, Amendments to the Address on that subject are withdrawn. I may say in explanation that from what I hear I fear it is not at all probable that my right hon. friend the Prime Minister will be in his place on Monday, for which day notice has been given of an Amendment to the Address by the right. hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose. I think that, under the circumstances, the House will generally feel that a discussion on that subject would be quite unsatisfactory. [Opposition cries of "No."]


The request of my right hon. friend is somewhat of an unusual character, but I frankly recognise that the absence of the Prime Minister creates a situation of temporary embarrassment in connection with the particular debate in which the House is anxious to take part. On the whole I am disposed to think that the suggestion of my right hon. friend is a reasonable one—[Opposition cries of "No,"]—and therefore if it meets with the general agreement of the House to transfer the debate on the fiscal question from the Address to some subsequent date, I will endeavour to find time for such discussion when, as we all hope, the Prime Minister will be able to be in his place. At the same time, if right hon. Gentlemen opposite insist, as they have an undoubted right to insist, upon their title to discuss this matter upon the Address, then I must be released from my offer to give special facilities for a debate upon the same subject.


I do not know whether I will be in order, but I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose whether, in the circumstances, he will accept the offer and withdraw his Amendment?


May I ask the Home Secretary whether, if the course suggested were taken, it would be understood that no Amendment would be made to the Resolution expressing disagreement with the policy of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, but that a fair issue should be allowed without any interference from the Government one way or another so that the House might pronounce its opinion freely, without pressure?


Of course I cannot bind the House in any question of this sort. It is entirely in the discretion of any Member to move any substantive Motion or Amendment thereto.

MR. JOHNMORLEY (Montrose Burghs)

In answer to the appeal of the right hon. Baronet, I am, of course, aware of the considerations which were probably present to his mind, but looking at all the circumstances, of last year for example, and the difficulties that seemed then to be interposed—I do not now examine how they arose—considering the great eagerness and expectancy in every quarter of this House, and certainly in the mind of the country, and considering further that, though the Prime Minister may be absent, on Monday or Tuesday next, still there are present on the Front Bench opposite six or eight members of the Cabinet, who must be taken to possess a thorough grasp of all the arguments at the back of what is called the policy of the present Government, I regret very much to disappoint the right hon. Baronet, but I think I should be disappointing a much larger number of Gentlemen in the House, and certainly a larger body outside, if I were to comply with his request. Therefore, on whatever may be the most convenient day, I shall be bound to move my Motion.