HC Deb 18 April 1910 vol 16 cc1837-41

moved, "Notwithstanding the Standing Orders relating to precedence of Business at different Sittings, the Report stage of the Vote on Account to be taken in Committee on Thursday, the 21st day of April, shall have precedence on Friday, the 22nd day of April next."


I wish to place it on record that the Government propose to take the only private Members' Friday, which hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House succeeded in obtaining in the ballot for the purpose of bringing in a Bill. Why should they have selected this particular day? I wish to protest most strongly against what I may call an abuse of the powers of the Government. Why did not the Patronage Secretary take one of the many days which have been secured by Liberal private Members?


I wish to support this protest. The Bill set down for this day is a very important private Bill, requiring serious consideration, affecting, as it does, a proposed alteration of the Poor Law of Ireland. Cannot the Government offer us an assurance that a day will be given for the discussion of the Bill? I do think it unreasonable to use the powers of Ministers to deprive Members of the Opposition, and particularly Members from Ireland, of the opportunity of bringing forward this measure. I do hope the right hon. Gentlemen will offer us another day. That will meet my point.


I am extremely sorry—and I say so unaffectedly—that it should be necessary to take this day at all. It is a pure coincidence it should happen to be the day on which hon. Gentlemen opposite have the first place. I hope the Report stage may be concluded at such an hour as to afford some opportunity for discussing this Bill. But I can give no assurance for the future, although I will consider the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.


Cannot you give us a day?


I cannot promise.


May I point out that the proceedings on this Resolution can be taken on a Wednesday evening? Why, then, take a Friday? I think it is most unfortunate that the Government should have taken the only Friday hon. Members on this side have secured. I certainly think the right hon. Gentleman might have taken a little more heed of the fact that this is the only Friday on which hon. Gentleman on this side of the House had an opportunity of dealing with this Bill.

Captain COOPER

I desire very briefly to associate myself with the protest of my hon. and learned Friend in this matter, because this is a question on which there is very great feeling in Ireland. The hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) has admitted that the matter is gravely in default, and it is most unfortunate that, when Members in this part of the House secure an early place in the ballot in order to bring in a Bill which is non-contentious, the time should be taken away from them. We on this side of the House have no Fridays, and now there is a prospect of legislation in which we are interested coming before us we feel deeply the fact that the Prime Minister has been obliged to take it away.


I think we all recognise that the Prime Minister is sorry for the necessity under which he labours of having to take this one day, but I only rise to say that I think that we ought to dismiss absolutely from our minds any idea that there is any chance of getting this Bill through on Friday next if the Report stage is put down as the first Order of the Day. I think the Prime Minister has promised the Nationalist Members from Ireland that they shall have an opportunity of discussing Sir Robert Anderson's letters, and that is on the first Order on Thursday or Friday; but there are other things which hon. Members on this side of the House are very anxious to discuss. We have never had the Motion that Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair on the Civil Service Estimates, and we have not therefore had the normal opportunities given in an ordinary Session on which questions affecting the administration of the country can be properly raised and discussed. Under these circumstances it is extremely improbable that we shall be able to get through on Thursday alone, or on Thursday with an hour on Friday, the topic which hon. Gentlemen desire to discuss. I hope, under these circumstances, the Prime Minister will do his very best to find a day for my hon. Friend's Bill at a later date in the Session.


I will do my best, but I cannot give an assurance.


When hon. Members opposite have had a Friday it has always been exempted, and it is only when we have a Bill on that day that hon. Members opposite think we ought to suffer. Minorities, I know, ought to suffer, but I think this is a good opportunity of showing how hon. Members intend to introduce the single-Chamber system, under which they will see that the whole of the time is taken up by the majority. Unless I am very much mistaken, the Wednesday in this week is free, and why could not the right hon. Gentleman put down the business which he proposes to take on Friday on this Wednesday, and allow this matter to come on.


You cannot take the Report Stage of the Vote on Account before the Committee Stage.


The Committee on Wednesday and the Report on Thursday.


Half a day?


At any rate, that would be better than taking away a whole day. I am not in favour of private Members having days on Friday or at any other time, but I am in favour of having fair play for all. When I remember hon. Members below the Gangway only a few days ago voting for a guillotine Resolution on the ground that their Wednesdays and Fridays were left, I am surprised that they should now vote for this Resolution because our Fridays are taken.


At the commencement of the Session the Unionist Members for Ireland met together and discussed what ought to be the Bill balloted for, and we unanimously came to the conclusion that the most important question which could be raised by a private Member in relation to Ireland was this question of the Poor Law, and we agreed amongst ourselves that all the Unionist Members were to ballot for the same Bill. So it is really a Bill which represents the unanimous opinion of the whole of the Irish Unionist Members. It is not merely a chance Bill by one private Member, but it is a Bill got by all the Members agreeing together.


I will give that consideration due weight.

Resolved, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Master of Elibank.]

Adjourned at. Twenty-five minutes before Twelve o'clock.