HC Deb 23 November 1908 vol 196 cc1804-6
MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)

There are two points I want to put to the Prime Minister in connection with the business of the House. The first is a special point relating to the Education Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has informed the House he intends to take the Second Reading on Wednesday. Has he considered the very special peculiar circumstances attending the introduction of that Bill? It was put in on Friday without any statement at all. Only two or three days are to elapse between this technical First Reading and the substantial debate on the Second Reading, and it is not possible for Members of this House to receive adequate information as to the way the proposals of the Government are received throughout the country in time to form an opinion upon the Second Reading. Very earnestly I press upon the consideration of the Prime Minister whether it would not be more consonant with the general convenience of the House that this Second Reading should be put off until Monday next. Then as to my second point. The Government have introduced a new and very important measure in the middle of an autumn session, and, whereas we were left in some doubt before as to what was likely to be the general course of public business until the House is prorogued, such doubt as we had before is now intensified, and I cannot now conjecture what the scheme of the Government is as to the business for the remainder of the session. It would be a great advantage to every individual Member if the right hon. Gentleman could give us some forecast as to the manner in which he proposes to divide the time of the session amongst the various projects of the Government and how long he thinks the autumn session is likely to last.


With regard to the first of the right hon. Gentleman's Questions, I must say that the Government regard it as essential, if the Education Bill is to go through, as they hope it may, with something approaching general consent, that we should get the Second Reading of the Bill this week. If that is so, I think it would be to the advantage of the House and in the interests of general discussion that we should be able to devote two full Parliamentary nights to it—Wednesday and Thursday. As at present advised, having regard to the very long discussion which has taken place in this House and in the country as to the main points involved, and the detailed Memorandum which was circulated with the Bill on Saturday morning, I do not think any substantial advantage would be gained by postponing the opening of the Second Reading debate for one day. As to the more general Question put to me by the right hon. Gentleman, I had no notice of it, and it is one which requires very careful consideration. I do not think I can be expected, therefore, to make any definite statement as to the allocation of time during the remainder of the session until we know, at any rate, what are to be the fortunes of the Licensing Bill elsewhere. At present we do not know that. Obviously that must have a great effect upon the allocation of time in this House, but I will make a statement at the earliest possible moment.

LORD EDMUND TALBOT (Sussex, Chichester)

, speaking on behalf of the Roman Catholic community, which he said would have to give the Bill the most resolute and determined opposition, urged the Prime Minister in common fairness to allow them a little more time before taking the Second Reading. It was of extreme importance for these education questions to be discussed, and it was impossible for the community he represented to get up their case by Wednesday.


I am most anxious to consult the special wishes of the community the noble Lord represents, but I imagine the points on which they are specially concerned are rather Committee points than Second Reading points.


Surely Monday will be much too early to take the Committee stage.


It would not be in order for me to discuss the decision arrived at by the right hon. Gentleman. But, in view of the special circumstances, will not the Prime Minister lay upon the Table of the House a Paper giving in a clear and detailed form the financial operations and results this Bill will have upon the fortunes of the various classes of schools concerned?


My right hon. friend the President of the Board of Education is not here at present, but I think we will be able to do that. I will do my best.


, as an English Catholic representative, pressed for more time to be allowed before the Second Reading of the Education Bill was taken.


I can only repeat that I think the points the community my hon. friend represents are interested in are points more for Committee than for Second Reading.