HC Deb 26 November 1908 vol 197 cc703-4
MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)

said he wished to ask the Prime Minister a question. It was certainly contrary to public practice, and almost indecent, that they should be asked on Monday to begin the discussion of the Committee stage of the Education Bill, which raised every sort of difficulty, and affected the interests of every part of the country, and could not be regarded as an agreed Bill; and whether under these circumstances, the right hon. Gentleman could not see his way to put off to a later date than Monday the discussion in Committee.


May I ask whether, before the Prime Minister replies to that, he will send a message up to Lansdowne-house and hear what is said there?


said he must take strong exception to the use of the word "indecent." His sole desire in a matter of this kind, and on a Bill which was not controversial, was to meet the convenience of the House. The only chance of this Bill securing the Royal Assent was that it should be regarded as, in substance, a non-contentious Bill. There was no desire on the part of the Government to press it with undue haste, but they must all consider the time of year. They must also bear in mind the fact that, if the Bill was to receive the Royal Assent, it must not only pass through this House, but through another place. With the view of carrying out the legislation the Government had in view, it would be better to commence the Committee stage on Monday. The choice was between doing that or postponing it until Tuesday, and curtailing the interval between the Committee stage and the Report stage. If the right hon. Gentleman and his friends opposite thought they would prefer the later alternative, he should be willing to meet their wishes, but he believed the general convenience of the House would be better served by commencing the Committee stage on Monday.


That does not reply to my point. My point was that it is absolutely unprecedented haste in carrying through a measure of this importance. I do not know that anything will be gained if we are not allowed the ordinary space of time habitually given when very big measures are discussed in this House, and if the right hon. Gentle-man persists in putting down the Committee stage for Monday, I will say no more at the present time.

LORD R. CECIL (Marylebone, E.)

Is it the purpose of the Government to have a Saturday sitting next week for the purpose of considering this Bill?


I am afraid that may be necessary.