HC Deb 17 July 1905 vol 149 cc993-6

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Sir A. Acland-Hood.)

MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy Burghs)

asked the Patronage Secretary of the Treasury whether he could give any denial of the alarming rumours which had been afloat to-night about dissension in the Cabinet. He asked whether it was true that the Lord Chancellor had threatened resignation on account of the Redistribution proposals; whether a special meeting of the Party opposite had been called for to-morrow, and whether the calling of that Party had anything to do with the difficulties of the Government. He thought they had got into a state of things with regard to public business which made it desirable that the House, as well as the Party opposite, should be taken into the confidence of the Government. It was obvious they could not go on wasting their time simply because the supporters of the Government would not come to the House between nine and ten and forego their cigar and coffee after dinner. Therefore, he asked whether the right hon. Gentleman could give them any information that the Government would make a strong appeal to their Party to enable them to go on with public business, and he would press him particularly with regard to the announcement to be made on the morrow, and also as to the threatened resignation of the Lord Chancellor.


said he would like the Patronage-Secretary at the Executive meeting on the morrow to call the attention of the Party to the great ignorance displayed by the Prime Minister on several occasions with reference to matters which came under his own special authority and responsibility. Everybody knew of the case when the Prime Minister informed an astonished and amazed country that we were much more likely to be at war with Switzerland than with the Orange Free State. Then there were the cases, earlier in that session, when debates were held in the House, and when the Leader of the House stated the next day that he was not aware the debates were held or that the fiscal Resolutions were passed by the House over which he presided. They thought that ignorance the more remarkable, because the Patronage Secretary had given the Prime Minister a full account of all the transactions. Then there was the extraordinary ignorance of the Prime Minister with reference to the Colonial Conference. The right hon. Gentleman, choosing that inspiring theme for the subject of a hurried address at Edinburgh, never seemed to have taken the trouble to have made himself acquainted with the fact that an automatic conference would in the ordinary course meet. It struck him with an air of a new revelation that under the Government of which he was Leader Resolutions had been passed which made it desirable and necessary that such a conference should meet in automatic course. He ventured to say that no Prime Minister, certainly not in recorded time, had ever before, in regard to matters of which he should be better informed than anybody, shown such lamentable and extraordinary ignorance, and he thought that was a matter which the right hon. Gentleman the Patronage Secretary should lose no time in bringing before the notice of his supporter and friends at the Foreign Office on the morrow.

But he should not venture to stand between the House and adjournment on this particular point of the ignorance of the Prime Minister on matters of which he ought to be well informed, were it not for the most extraordinary instance which had occurred in regard to the Redistribution Resolutions. It was eminently characteristic of what he might call the "Balfourian" method of discharging public business. He did not use the phrase in any offensive sense, but it seem to cover the two right hon. Gentlemen Par nobile fratrum. This was the latest family dodge of prolonging their period of office, and as it was a subject about which they felt so intensely he wondered that they did not take the trouble to acquaint themselves with the ordinary and inevitable procedure of the House in respect to the Resolution they had placed upon the Paper. If it had been an ordinary matter of mere public importance affecting the welfare of the country, or some legislation affecting the working classes, one could easily see how it might have been forgotten; but when it was a Bill involving the continuance of the Government's profligate and incapable reign, it was indeed remarkable that the right hon. Gentleman and his right honourable brother did not take the trouble to look up the precedents.

He had submitted to the House full specific cases of the gross, unpardonable, and flagrant ignorance exhibited by the Prime Minister on matters for which he was responsible. These were things which came before them, but they could not tell in how many innumerable instances the public might suffer obscurely through the same kind of slip-shod, slap-dash, haphazard manner of doing business. He hoped the Patronage Secretary would draw the Prime Minister's attention to the remarks he had made. It would have given him the greatest satisfaction to have said them to his face, and, fortunately, he hoped to have the opportunity of saying them, if not to his face, at any rate in close proximity to him, at Manchester, during the general election.


said he could only express very great regret on the part of his leader, his Party, and himself that owing to the action taken by the junior Member for Oldham he would not be able to attend the Party meeting on the morrow and make his speech. He could only assure the hon. Member for the Kirkcaldy Burghs that there was no dissension in the Government. He would not be in order in discussing the Party meeting, but it did seem rather strange that in a House largely composed of Liberal Members it should be thought an unusual thing for a leader to consult his Party.

Question put, and and agreed put.

Adjourned at twenty minutes after Twelve o'clock.