HC Deb 10 July 1905 vol 149 cc102-9

I wish to put to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House a Question which I deferred at his request two or three days ago—namely, whether, in view of the very explicit statement he made last week, in moving his Motion regarding the Aliens Bill, as to the future pro pects of the session, he will now state the measures which the Government propose to proceed with and those which they propose to abandon. There are two other Questions I would ask of the right hon. Gentleman. The first is whether it is understood, as I think it has been amicably settled, that the Volunteer Vote will be taken on Thursday; and the second is what day he will give for the fiscal Motion of my right hon. friend the Member for Berwick.


I desire to thank the right hon. Gentleman for deferring his Question till to-day, and to express my regret that I was not able to be present in the House last Thursday. With regard to the matter of the Question, I have to point out to the House that it is extremely early in the session to make a general declaration with regard to immediate business, and I do not think anything would be gained by it. I have already told the House that it is clear that we must pass the Aliens Bill and the Resolutions on redistribution, if the House consents so to do, and that we must deal with the ecclesiastical difficulties in Scotland; but I think it would be very inadvisable at the present time to go further into details. With regard to the Volunteer Vote, I was informed at the rising of the House last Thursday that the Irish Members were prepared to give up a day which had been allocated to them in favour of this Vote—




Yes, to defer their day in favour of the Volunteer Vote; and I was strongly pressed by one or two hon. Gentlemen below the gangway to give Thursday for that purpose, I replied that, in my judgment, the Secretary of State's Vote, on which larger and more general questions could be raised, would be very fitting subject for the only remaining day which we can afford to Army matters, but that, of course, if it was the view of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, with the full consciousness that this was the last day, that the Volunteer Vote should be taken first, I should, in accordance with the principles which were laid down some years ago, and which I have endeavoured scrupulously to follow, take the Volunteer Vote first. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman, having considered all the circumstances of the case, is of opinion that the critics of the Government would prefer the Volunteer Vote before the Secretary of State's Vote; and that being the position, I have no alternative but to arrange that the Volunteer Vote shall come first on Thursday and the Secretary of State's Vote second. I hope it will be so arranged that some time may be left for the more general discussion on the Secretary of State's Vote.

As to the final Question of the right hon. Gentleman, it came upon me really with the shock of a surprise. He asks that I should now fix a day for the discussion of the Motion put down in the name of the right hon. Member for Berwick. I think it was six weeks ago when we originally thought of discussing that Motion, and I am afraid it was owing not to my fault, but to my misfortune, that the discussion was not then taken. I was ill, and the vote was deferred. Then we had a debate on this very subject on the question of the adjournment for the Whitsun holidays; and in the course of that debate the right hon. Gentleman made a long and able speech and the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean also made an important contribution to the debate, stating at the same time, I think, that the Motion standing in the name of the right hon. Member for Berwick was quite out of date. If it was quite out of date five weeks ago it is still more out of date now. Then I offered a day. I pointed out to the House that it would be highly inconvenient to give a day in the first, week after the reassembling of the House, and I suggested a day in the second week for the vote of censure. Well, Sir, that offer was gladly accepted by right hon. Gentlemen opposite, but for quite a different vote of censure—a Motion on a wholly alien subject—and the right hon. Baronet's Resolution has slept from that day to this. I venture to point out to the House the extreme inconvenience of the course now taken by the right hon. Gentleman. We cannot have this vote of censure in any case for a fortnight, because by the Sessional Orders of the House the time is occupied either with Supply or with the Aliens Bill. [OPPOSITION cries of "Friday" and "Wednesday evening."] Do right hon. Gentlemen seriously mean that a vote of censure is to cover no more ground than can be covered in a morning sitting or half a day? There is another point. The right hon. Gentleman was present just now when I was bombarded by hon. Gentlemen opposite representing various interests and views with Questions pressing me to take this or that Bill—the Unemployed Bill, the Workmen's Compensation Bill, the Butter Bill, and others. There is also a Bill in which the right hon. Gentleman and his Scottish friends, as well as Scottish Members on this side of the House, are deeply interested—a Bill which is really of the greatest importance, and the fate of which is now trembling in the balance from the matter of time. Surely it would be a great mistake for us to devote to this well-worn theme, on which we have had such endless debates, the time that might be spent on legislation which is so ardently desired, especially when, as I would recall to the right hon. Gentleman, there is an occasion when the subject of the vote of censure may be debated with all the appropriate pomp and circumstance, namely, the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill. The rejection of that Bill amounts to a vote of censure, and the whole day can be devoted to the discussion. Therefore, I earnestly press upon the right hon. Gentleman that, having regard to the wholly peculiar and unexampled history of this Motion, he may consent to defer till then the discussion of it.


I suppose I am to understand as the result of all this that the day is refused.


At any rate the Motion cannot be taken for a fortnight.


I presume that in the course of that fortnight no new matter will be introduced which the House has not yet dealt with, and which the House has not yet sanctioned. Here is a day which had been promised. The Motion has been prevented from being brought on first of all by the illness of the right hon. Gentleman, and then by the immediate urgency of the Butler Report question, which obviously took precedence of any such question; and now, the matter referred to in the Motion having received tome significant and vital developments, when we ask that the promise may be redeemed the right hon. Gentleman says he cannot give a day in the next fortnight. But the right hon. Gentleman is, I understand, going to deal with the question of redistribution, with which he has no authority to deal, no explicit and no inferred authority, because the country, whenever it gets a chance, shows that it does not wish to have any more of his Government. Therefore the Tight hon. Gentleman actually expects the House and the country to remain content when he puts off a promise that he himself has given on the ground that all the time is occupied, and then proceeds to occupy the time that might be given to this Motion by doing something that he has not been asked or authorised to do. That is how the matter stands.


That is how the matter does not stand. The right hon. Gentleman has, I regret to say, used words which convey the meaning that I have refused to fulfil a pledge. That is not the fact. I originally offered a Monday. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would not take that. Then the matter was deferred until the Tuesday when, I regret to say, I was unable to be present. Then I offered the next convenient day, and that was refused by hon. Gentlemen, and another vote of censure was interpolated. Is not that redeeming a pledge? It is not as if there is the smallest attempt to burke the discussion, for I suggest that there is a fitting opportunity when the whole question can be discussed and a vote taken on it.

MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)

No, no! Mr. Speaker has ruled frequently that it would not be competent on the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill to raise the fiscal question, as it has nothing to do with the Estimates.


If the hon. Gentleman is right in that I have nothing more to say. But surely that can only be because the fiscal question has nothing to do with the work of the session and has no immediate or pressing interest for this Parliament. But, however that may be, the fact remains that there is not a whole day available for a fortnight. It does not exist. It is not a question of ousting the vote of censure for other subjects. There are, no doubt, morning sittings which I hope to allocate to other business; but there are no whole days; and that is a fact that cannot be got over.

SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton,E.)

The right hon. Gentleman has not yet given a plain and intelligible Answer. Does he mean to give a day and does he mean to abstain during that fortnight from introducing a new Reform Bill into the House?


As to introducing a new Reform Bill, I do not propose to take the Redistribution Resolutions on a whole day, because there is not a whole day available. But I do propose distinctly to introduce those Resolutions. [Cries of "When?"] It will not be in the course of the present week. Then the right hon. Gentlemen asks whether I will give a day for the vote of censure after that. My view, when I came down to the House, not having had long notice of the Question, was that the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill would be an appropriate occasion. But I understand that there is some doubt about it. I must inquire. If it cannot be taken on the Appropriation Bill I shall not take on myself the responsibility of preventing a discussion of the subject matter. But I must express my very great regret that one of the remaining days of the session, which might be much more usefully employed, should be taken up with these rather vague and empty debates.


The right hon. Gentleman said that he should take the Redistribution Resolutions on a half day. Does he expect to get them—


Oh, no.


Only introduce them?




When does the right hon. Gentleman intend to introduce these Resolutions? I think we ought to have the longest possible notice.


I hope to begin the discussion—which I do not for a moment imagine will terminate in one or even in two morning sittings—on Tuesday week.


Is it a matter of necessity that the session should end on a certain day?


I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman wants to get away on that day.


What business will be taken on Wednesday and Friday of this week?


On Wednesday morning the adjourned debate on the Second Reading of the Scotch Church Bill will be taken; the Report of Navy Supply on Wednesday evening; and I hope to take the Scottish Education Bill on Friday.

MR. BLACK (Banffshire)

suggested that the Committee stage of the Church Bill rather than the Education Bill should be taken on Friday.


said that the Lord-Advocate had to put on the Paper Amendments of great importance carrying oat the proposals which he stated in his speech on the Second Reading of the Bill. That could not be done until Thursday morning. He felt sure that the House would object to such rapidity of procedure, but if the House were content with the short notice of these Amendments he would put the Church Bill down on Friday.


said he had had no opportunity of consulting the Scotch Members on the subject, but he knew of their desire to get on with the Church Bill. However, perhaps it would be better not to determine the question that day.


suggested that, as the Scotch Members did not appear to agree as to which of the Scotch Bills should be proceeded with, both Bills should be withdrawn in favour of the Unemployed Bill.

[No Answer was returned.]

MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanarkshire, Partick)

pointed out that if the discussion were taken on Friday, they would not have any knowledge of the opinion in Scotland on the Lord-Advocate's Amendments.


I will do my best to meet the wishes of hon. Members generally. I cannot now determine the point.

GENERAL LAURIE (Pembroke and. Haverfordwest)

asked whether on Thursday next, when the Volunteer Vote was to be taken, the Secretary for War would have sufficient time to make a general statement on the efficiency of the Army under the new scheme.


My right hon. friend is very anxious to make that statement, but I do not know whether there will be time left for it on Thursday.

*COLONEL LEGGE (St. George's, Hanover Square)

suggested that the War Office-Vote should be taken first on Wednesday evening to allow time for the statement.


said that the order of Supply was arranged in accordance with the wishes of the Leader of the Opposition. It was, therefore, to that right hon. Gentleman, who had made a specific request with all the facts before him, that the Question should be addressed.

SIR J. FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)

asked if it was intended to proceed with the Marriage with a Deceased Wife's Sister Bill. The Standing Committee on Law was to be summoned for Thursday to deal with it.


said he tried the other night to get the order discharged but was unsuccessful. He would move again that day.



moved that the order for the committal of the Marriage with a Deceased Wife's Sister Bill to the Standing Committee on Law [April 7th] be discharged and the Bill withdrawn. [OPPOSITION cries of "No."]


As there is objection to the Motion it cannot be taken now.