§ The PRIME MINISTER
I beg to move, "That, during the remainder of the Session, Government business shall not be interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the Sittings of the House, and may be entered on at any hour though opposed; at the conclusion of Government business each day Mr. SPEAKER shall propose the Question that this House do now adjourn, and if that Question shall not have been agreed to, Mr. SPEAKER shall adjourn the House without Question put not later than half-an-hour after the conclusion of Government business; and on Fridays the House, unless it otherwise resolves, shall at its rising stand adjourned until the following Monday."
This Motion is one which is always made at this stage of the Session, generally, I think, a little earlier than I am proposing it this year. It is in the customary form, but it is convenient, however, to take the opportunity of indicating to the House, as specifically as possible, the intentions of the Government so far as their proposals of legislation are concerned. First of all, I had better begin with what is the most painful part of my task. If hon. Members will take the Orders of the Day, they will be able to follow the names of the Bills which it is not proposed shall be proceeded with. They are the Employment of Children Bill, the Inebriates Bill, the Milk and Dairies Bill, the Milk and Dairies (Scotland) Bill, the Hops Bill, the Bee Disease Bill, the Horse Breeding (Ireland) Bill, and the Irish Creameries and Dairy Produce Bill. Then I come to the Duchy of Lancaster (Mining Leases) Bill, and 1 am afraid there will have to be added the 1878 Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Bill. But upon this latter I will not pronounce definitely at this moment. I can only say that I am afraid its fate trembles in the balance. These are the Bills which the Government have definitely decided at this stage of the Session to abandon. On the other hand, there are certain Bills which belong to the opposite category, which we shall ask the House to assent to, and if assent has not already been obtained in another place, we shall send them to the House of Lords. They are the Mental Deficiency Bill, the Appellate Jurisdiction Bill, the Finance Bill, and two Bills which my right hon. Friend has just introduced, and which are always necessary Bills at the end of the Session—the Isle of Man Customs Bill and the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. These, in any events, we shall hope to pass into law.
With regard to Supply, as I have already said in answer to a question put earlier in evening by an hon. Member below the Gang-way, we propose, in addition to the twenty days required by Standing Orders, to allot one additional day for Supply. I have to mention the case of a Bill which has just appeared on the Paper—the Insurance Bill. The Committee has already begun on that, and we hope to get the Report stage through in such time as will enable the measure to be included in the category of Bills we hope to pass. There are two other Bills to which I have to make special reference, namely, the Revenue Bill and the Sir Stuart Montagu Samuel Indemnity Bill. With regard to the Revenue Bill, as hon. Members will perceive, it is a Bill proposing to make certain concessions which have been demanded largely from the other side of the House, and also by some hon. Members on this side, in regard to what are called the Land Taxes. The Government believe that these concessions are of such a nature and that they have been so carefully worked out in consultation with persons interested, that they might well be treated as non-controversial. If they are so treated we hope the Bill may go through by consent as an agreed measure. But I am bound to add that, if there is any opposition to the provisions of the Bill, or if its introduction is made the occasion for an attempt to enlarge its scope so that it will not be possible to give it consideraion at this stage of the Session, the Government will, with great reluctance, be obliged to withdraw it.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
May I remind the right hon. Gentleman that that is the only Bill on which we can have, this year, the ordinary liberty of reviewing the general finances of the country. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean by the limitation which he has just imposed to deprive us of that opportunity to discuss and review financial matters?
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
It is by that Bill and that Bill alone that the Resolution we have already passed and with which the right hon. Gentleman is familiar—the Resolution for the general amendment of the law in relation to finance—can be given practical effect.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Yes, Sir, I quite agree. We are most anxious that that opportunity should be afforded, but if we are to have on the Paper a dozen, or twenty, or fifty new Clauses—I think there were a hundred last year—that would obviously make the discussion of the Bill as a practical measure impossible. That is what happened before. I hope it will not happen again. The Government are certainly most anxious to pass it, and to give an opportunity for the discussion the right hon. Gentleman desires. The other Bill to which I specially refer was the Sir Stuart Montagu Samuel Indemnity Bill. With regard to that, I hope there will be something in the nature of a general agreement on both sides. The Government are certainly quite prepared to consider—I see there is an Amendment of which notice has been given by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil)—any suggestions that are made with regard to a modification of the detailed provisions. We cannot, at this period of the Session, afford time for anything in the nature of a lengthy or controversial discussion, and I shall look forward to hearing, through the ordinary channels of information, what is the general state of opinion with regard to that matter. With regard to the rest of the Bills on the Paper to which I have not made any specific allusion, I think the House will find that they are all either Bills which have already received the assent of the House of Lords or Bills which are of an entirely non-controversial and, in most cases, of a Departmental character. Perhaps I ought to exclude, for the moment at any rate, Order No. 34—the Industrial and Provident Societies 1880 (Amendment.) Bill—which I am most anxious to see passed, and with regard to which I hope we may now arrive at something in the nature of a general concordat. I do not think there are any of the others, with a single exception to which I will now refer, which require special treatment. The exception is Order 37, which is not "starred" and appears below the Government Orders—the Extension of Polling Hours Bill. That is a Bill which has now passed through both Houses. Certain Amendments have been made in it by the House of Lords, but so far as I know they are Amendments which will not give rise to any difference of opinion or any serious difference of opinion, between the two Houses; therefore, I hope we may treat that as a measure which will pass into law. I shall be glad to answer any questions hon. Members may wish to put to me.
§ Mr. WILLIAM O'BRIEN
Do the Government intend to proceed any further with the Irish Land Purchase Bill?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That is going to be introduced shortly, but will not be further proceeded with this Session.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
As the right hon. Gentleman has said, such a Motion as that he has just moved is common at this stage of the Session, but it is rather interesting, because this is the first time for many years that this Motion has been made at a normal time. This may be a normal time, but we have had by no means a normal Session. The Session, as everyone knows, has really consisted in carrying out the automatic process of which the hon. and learned Member for Waterford (Mr. John Redmond) has spoken, and the whole in- 1881 terest has been centred in Bills which have not been discussed in this House at all. The result of that, in my opinion, has been that there never has been a time when the House of Commons took less interest in its own proceedings than during the present Session, and, partly as a consequence of that, there never was a time when the country took less interest in the proceedings of the House of Commons. I think that everyone has regarded this Session as more or loss of a play—rather a dull play—and we shall all be glad when the curtain rings down and we are allowed to depart. Evidence of that was given even in the short speech of the right hon. Gentleman. There were expressions of dissent when he mentioned the Bills that were to be dropped, but I think they were not very sincere. I think they rather expressed gratification than otherwise. It will be in the country more than in the House that regret will be felt that particular Bills—such, for instance, as the Hops Bill, which I am sorry is to be dropped—that particular Bills have been dropped. The real sentiments of the House were expressed far more clearly in the faces of hon. Gentlemen when the right hon. Gentleman named the Bills he still intended to carry through. Even that list is a pretty formidable one, and seems to indicate that we shall be kept here much longer than hon. Members expect, or that we shall have to do without much sleep for what remains of the Session. I am only going to refer to two of the Bills the right hon. Gentleman has mentioned.
In the list of the Orders of the Day there is a Motion in the name of the Prime Minister to the effect that the Committee on the Insurance Bill is to be permitted to sit after four o'clock without any special Order from the House of Commons. All I am going to say about that is that it seems to me that what is proposed for that Committee is something which makes proper discussion either in Committee or in this House impossible. I am told that the suggestion is that the Committee should sit every day in the week, and that, in addition to sitting every day in the week from eleven o'clock, it is liable to sit until ten o'clock the following morning, which is implied in the Resolution. I think that is putting a strain upon Members of this House, which it is impossible for them to bear and which is absurd. I do not think there is any reason for it. I can see no reason in the world why this Bill should not have been introduced at an earlier period of the Session, and at 1882 such a time that, however great the congestion in this House might be, there would at least have been the certainty that the Bill could be considered under reasonable conditions in Committee upstairs. I do not think there is any explanation which can be given which will be satisfactory to the House on that point. Wih regard to the Motion, I have only this to say: I think it would be absurd to propose to pass the Resolution as regards the time of this Committee—which might have been done under the Resolution we are now debating—after eleven o'clock at night. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to see that at least a proposal so drastic and, as I believe, so inadvisable, is discussed under proper conditions and at a proper hour in this House.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The Motion referring to the Committee on the Insurance Bill. I think that is not an unreasonable request, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will accede to it. As regards two Bills to which he has referred, I must say a word or two. The first is the Revenue Bill. I think the way in which he has treated it shows that he is absolutely unacquainted with all that happened earlier in this Session in regard to that Bill. In my judgment that is not a Bill which by any possibility can be treated in the way in which the right hon. Gentleman treats it. Look what it means. We have altered our system—the whole system on which the finance of this country is discussed in this House—and we have altered it at the request of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, as everyone understood, with the intention that no privilege that we enjoyed should be taken away, but rather that further opportunities should be given us for reviewing the finance of the year. What is it that the right hon. Gentleman proposes? This Bill is treated as something which is not to be gone on with unless the House as a whole allows it to pass almost as uncontroversial; it amounts to this: that the House of Commons will have abandoned absolutely all power of criticising the administration of finance or suggesting any Amendment of any kind to any part of the finance which is not proposed as new taxes. I think that is an absolute outrage. It is something which would never have been dreamt of by any Minister who occupied the place of 1883 the right hon. Gentleman before. It is abandoning one of the chief functions of the House of Commons, and it is more than that. It is this aspect of it to which I referred when I said the right hon. Gentleman was not acquainted with what took place earlier in the Session. I have not the extracts with me, although two have been handed to me at this moment, but I have most clearly in my mind the distinct promise made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the change which he was making would give private Members in all parts of the House every opportunity to which they had been accustomed to deal with the whole of the financial questions in a way in which they have been dealt with previously.I am quite sure that promise was given, and I am quite sure that when the right hon. Gentleman looks into the facts he will see that the course he now proposes is one which he cannot take without departing from what was the clear belief of every Member of the House at the time the proposed change was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Two extracts have been handed to me, and I think they bear out what I say. The first is the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself:—There are certain Amendments we ourselves propose to the licensing provisions of the Act and to the land valuation provisions. I have no doubt there are several other Members of the House who would also like to try their hands at amending these provisions.And for that purpose the Revenue Bill was introduced. Then in addition to that, the Financial Secretary said this:—It is because we think it fair to give hon. Members the opportunity for criticism that they desire that we have brought this Resolution,It is in order to give them the opportunity of criticism that they brought it, and now they propose to drop it and not to give them the opportunity of criticism which they themselves said they should have. Even from the point of the Government, I do not see how they are justified in the course they take. If they believe, as the speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer show, that some Amendment is necessary in order to prevent the subjects of the Crown suffering injustice, they are bound to have these Amendments carried out now. He told us that one of these Amendments which was necessary was in regard to licensing, but, strange to say, when you look up the Revenue Bill there is no reference to this Amendment which he promised, and which he considered necessary, but there are references to 1884 Amendments of the Land Act; and not only did they introduce these subjects, but they consider that they are necessary in the interests of justice, and I think, however anxious the Government may be, or the House may be, for their holiday, they are not justified in leaving their own work undone in that way. Whatever view they may take of their proposals, it is clearly in the highest degree unfair that the House of Commons should be denied the opportunity which they were definitely promised of criticising the whole finance of the year upon the Revenue Bill. That is all I desire to say upon that, and I think, whether I have said it fairly or not, the facts are forcible enough to make it necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider his position.
The other Bill to which he referred was the Indemnity Bill of the hon. Member for Whitechapel. The position in regard to that matter, as everyone who followed the Debate in this House on the purchase of silver last Session knows, is that the firm approached the India Office and urged them to give them an order to buy silver. The India Office complied with the request, and thereby placed the firm in this peculiar position, that if they chose to deal in silver themselves the knowledge that they received of what the India Office meant to do made it perfectly certain that they could deal with the absolute certainty of making any amount of profit they chose. I said at the time this subject was under discussion that I did not believe this firm would take that course, and up to this point I am sure every Member of the House will agree with me that it would be in the highest degree improper for anyone who requested and obtained a confidential position of that kind to use it in order to make profits for himself. I think—and this is where there is room for dispute—that when this House is asked to pass a Bill which will free a member of that firm from a penalty which has been incurred, the House has the right to be satisfied that use was not made of that confidential information in order to make profits for themselves while they were confidential brokers and advisers of the India Office. I know—and I admit there is some force in it—that it may be said that this is suggesting an unworthy suspicion. I have said that I do not think they would make that use of their opportunity, but no one doubts that the temptation would be great and that there are many people, both in this House and out of it, who suspect that additional profits have been made. Surely it is in 1885 the interests of everyone—of the Government and of the firm itself—that some steps should be taken to make perfectly certain that use would not be made of it for their own private advantage before the House of Commons is asked to take the step of freeing a member of that firm from the penalty which has been incurred I think that is a reasonable view. It is the view which the Opposition take, and all I say further is that if the Government suggest any method—and I rather think, though I am speaking now from recollection, that a member of the firm himself invited it—of satisfying themselves and the House of Commons that the use which I have suggested has not been made of the privilege, they will find that we are not difficult to come to terms with as to the way in which this inquiry should be made.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I do not think that is my place, but I am quite ready to consider it either with the right hon. Gentleman or with any one else. I only wish the course taken which I think is right and which I believe the House of Commons ought to take, and I shall put no difficulty whatever in the way of having that course taken in what seems the best and most effective manner. I do not think I need go over any of the other points which were raised by the right hon. Gentleman. The most important are the two to which I have last alluded, and especially the Revenue Bill. I ask hon. Members opposite to remember that parties change. Sometimes one party sits on these benches and sometimes another, and, in my belief, the precedent which is now being set of practically preventing the House of Commons from discussing the finance of the country is a precedent which should not be permitted by Members of the House in whatever quarter they sit.
Will an opportunity be given to the House of going into the public accounts of the nation?
§ Mr. T. M. HEALY
The course the right hon. Gentleman has taken is reasonable as regards most of the measures to which he has referred, but I certainly endorse every 1886 word which has fallen from the Leader of the Opposition in regard to the Revenue-Bill. There are matters connected with administration in Ireland which I desire to draw attention to by means of Amendments, and I do not think the Government would really resist them. They are not matters of very first-rate importance from the point of view of the revenue which they bring to the Government, but they are matters of essential importance to those who have to pay that revenue. They largely affect certain increment which the Government are insisting on getting from tenants in towns, because the question of tenant right in towns has been hit by certain Clauses in the Budget in a way I am satisfied the Government never intended. Then, again, there was the question of site values, which they are insisting upon in spite of a promise which has been made that agricultural land should be exempt. These are points which are not of very great moment from the point of view of the Government and yet unless we have an opportunity by means of the system of finance, we shall have no check whatever upon the system of tax collection in Ireland, which is much more rigid and much more sweeping and razor-like than tax collection is in this country. I wish to enter my protest against any suggestion that we should agree to an attenuated discussion so far as this Revenue Bill is concerned. There are two or three matters which me certainly wish to bring forward and I hope we shall have an opportunity of doing so. May I also express my disappointment at the failure of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to keep his undertaking with regard to the licensing proposals? Undoubtedly there are licensing anomalies to which his attention has been called. He gave the House a distinct assurance that one of the subjects which would be dealt with in this Revenue Bill was the question of licensing. I read his Memorandum this morning, and I read the Bill this morning, and to my surprise the question of licensing has not been touched upon, and I understand that, is due entirely to the initiative of the right hon. Gentleman himself. I heard through the ordinary channels of information that Clauses were being drafted to deal with these provisions. Why these Clauses have been struck out of the Bill I cannot understand. Confining myself that Bill, I certainly say we should not be asked in any way to restrict our debate upon it.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I think a large number of Members on this side of the House sympathise with the view which has been so strongly stated by the Leader of the Opposition that an opportunity should be given this Session to review the whole finance of the year by means of a discussion on the Revenue Bill. After all, one of the main functions of this House is the control of finance. During the General Election before last we were told that that was the peculiar prerogative of this House, and surely, after having made that case, we are not going to abandon what we so strongly asserted then to be our prerogative! It is very interesting to observe the measures for which we are now being asked to suspend the Eleven o'clock Rule during the rest of the Session, and it is mainly to call attention to these measures that I rise. We find that these measures are the two Mental Deficiency Bills and the Appellate Jurisdiction Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Am I to understand that the Scottish Mental Deficiency Bill is abandoned?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
No. I hope we may take it, but I have not included it in the list of necessary measures.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I understand then that there is no pledge to pass the Scottish Mental Deficiency Bill. As a Scottish Member, therefore, I have no objection to that, but I think I am in a stronger position in appealing to the right hon. Gentleman to withhold this benefit from England, if indeed it be a benefit. What I wish to ask is, if the right hon. Gentleman opposite is desirous of getting a full discussion of the Revenue Bill, which he indicates is the most important thing of all, why not let him appeal to the Government to withdraw the Mental Deficiency Bill, and the Appellate Jurisdiction Bill? There would then be time for a full discussion of the financial position of the country, which is done in every Session in this House, and if we fail to have it this year, the House of Commons will have abandoned one of its chief duties.
§ Mr. MITCHELL-THOMSON
I wish to ask what are the intentions of the Government with respect to the Soudan Loan Bill, and the Highlands and Islands (Medical Service) Bill. I should like also to know what are their views in regard to the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Consolidation Bill?
§ Dr. ADDISON
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what are the intentions 1888 of the Government in regard to the Public Health (Prevention and Treatment of Disease) Bill? The right hon. Gentleman did not mention it in his speech.
§ Lord ROBERT CECIL
I wish to say a word about one of the Bills on the list. The right hon. Gentleman did not say anything about the Children (Employment Abroad) Bill. That is a Bill which, I am sure, the Prime Minister would agree with me in saying is of a very urgent character. I trust that whatever else happens nothing will interfere with it.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
May I ask the Prime Minister what are the intentions of the Government with respect to the Local Government (Adjustments) Bill?
§ Mr. G. H. ROBERTS
I am sure everybody will understand that the Government must embrace the opportunity given on an occasion of this sort for stating their programme for the remainder of the Session. We have to regard it as a regrettable necessity that some of the cargo has to be jettisoned. I wish to put in a plea on behalf of those portions of the cargo in which I am specially interested. My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford (Mr. Jowett) has for two or three Sessions introduced a small Bill entitled the Provision of Meals Bill, to enable school authorities to feed poor children even when the schools are not in session. I understand that the opposition to the measure is very small. I do not wish to disparage the opposition offered by the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir F. Banbury), but if I am correctly informed there are very few Members of the House who are opposed to the measure, and therefore I respectfully suggest that the Prime Minister might very well afford the necessary facilities for the Second Reading. The Bill would occupy very little time in Committee, and I am sure the passing of it into law would give general satisfaction to a large body of people in the country. I was pleased to hear the right hon. Gentleman state that it is his desire to pass into law the Industrial and Provident Societies (Amendment) Bill. I hope that he will conform to that intention, for there is a very great desire in almost every part of the country that the measure should be passed. I understand that there is comparatively small opposition to it, and I feel sure that if the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to afford facilities for the Second Reading, he will find that the opposition is almost of a negligible character. [HON. 1889 MEMBERS: "No."] Those who object to it would have an opportunity of making their opposition manifest, and there would be an advantage even in that. I am assured that there is not much opposition to it, and if opposition were demonstrated, those interested in the measure in the country would know whether the promises made to them are being fufilled in the House. So far as I have been able to ascertain the opposition is not very serious. I understand that, irrespective of party, there are a considerable number of Members who would gladly see the Bill passed into law. I wish to say, in the absence of my hon. Friend the Chairman of the Labour party, that he understands -there is a desire to discuss the Report of Lord Kitchener. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether it is in contemplation that time shall be given for this purpose, or whether the Foreign Office Vote is again to be put down, and whether, in his opinion, that matter can be properly discussed then or on the Appropriation Bill? These are points I wish to put to the Prime Minister on behalf of those with whom I am associated.
§ Major ANSTRUTHER-GRAY
May I ask whether the Prime Minister can tell us upon what date he intends to take the Scottish Estimates? He promised to tell us to-day.
§ Mr. BOOTH
I think it would be convenient if the Leader of the House would indicate at what period he hopes the. House will adjourn for the holidays after completing the programme which he has sketched out. I wish to make an appeal to the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition voiced to-day a reasonable desire, in my opinion, for a discussion of the finance of the year, and I associate myself with some of the remarks which came from hon. Members below the Gangway as to the desire that, at any rate, the critics of the Government finance should have a fair and reasonable opportunity of putting their case before the House. At the same time, I would say to hon. Members opposite that when a minority on this side wish to discuss certain measures they should not always swoop down upon them without hearing a word of what they have to say. The suspension of the Eleven o'clock Rule at this stage is almost entirely in the interests of the Government, which wishes to carry measures not, of a party character—that is to Gay, so far as those on its own side of the House are concerned. The principal contentious measure of that kind 1890 —the Mental Deficiency Bill—is one that I have not the same concern to fight now as I had last year. Considerable concessions have been made which have altered entirely the tone of my opposition to the measure. But there are other matters, and what do we find? We find that when there is a considerable body of opinion on this side of the House against a measure, and when hon. Members venture to criticise the conduct of the Front Bench, a Closure. Motion is almost invariably proposed. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, that is done both in Grand Committees and in this House. I venture to say that the great majority of the Opposition would vote for closuring discussion on the Mental Deficiency Bill. I, therefore, suggest to them that I do not think they will get the Session over any quicker by taking that course. My own view is that when a minority feel seriously on a question, it is much better to let them express their views. If they are allowed to do so in the earlier days of a Bill, the sooner will it be got through. In spite of the claim from the opposite side of the House that there should be full discussion and free speech, I think we shall witness again that the course taken by hon. Members will be entirely opposed to that claim. They will come in and vote down the small minority on this side of the House who are pleading for what they consider matters of right for their constituents. We shall give them their claim for free speech and fair discussion when they are prepared to exercise it on the Bill which they strongly advocate, and which they have, by some mysterious means, thrust on the affections of the Government.
§ Sir FREDERICK BANBURY
The hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. G. H. Roberts) stated that there was very little opposition to the Industrial and Provident Societies (Amendment) Bill. I have received a circular from shopkeepers in my Constituency stating that the shopkeeping class as a whole are strongly against the measure. Under these circumstances I have to say that there will be strong opposition to the Bill. As to the Bill to provide free meals for school children, I have to say that it is of a most controversial character. It has been introduced by the Labour party for seven years, and, so far as my memory goes, it has never obtained a Second Reading. It is perfectly absurd for the hon. Gentleman to say that that particular Bill, which has not 1891 yet passed the Second Reading, should be proceeded with. I wish to say a word about the Finance Bill and the Revenue Bill. We were told that the arrangements in regard to financial legislation will not prevent the House as a whole having a proper discussion of the Revenue Bill and the Finance Bill in the form in which we used to discuss the old Finance Bill. I think the hon. Member for North-West Lanarkshire (Mr. Pringle) expressed the feeling of a great number of Members in the whole House, and certainly on this side, when he said that two or three years ago this House constituted itself the sole authority in finance, and that we ought, at any rate, to have an opportunity of discussing the subject. What have we had during this Session? This is 22nd July, and the Revenue Bill has not been read a second time, while the Finance Bill has only had a short Debate on the Second Reading, and the Committee stage has not yet been taken. When I came into the House it was inconceivable that the Budget should not be passed before the end of July, and I venture to say that it will be a great blow at the prestige and usefulness of this House if financial discussion is to be burked in future. I cannot hold out any hope that if we do get a discussion on the Revenue Bill it will be a short one. I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he will kindly inform me if he proposes to give a day for the discussion of the Marconi Contract?
§ The PRIME MINISTER indicated assent.
§ Sir HERBERT ROBERTS
I quite agree that the present situation should not be allowed to interfere with our having a general discussion on finance. I think there will be fairly general agreement when I say, having in view what the Prime Minister said in regard to certain difficulties which have arisen in connection with the working of the Act in connection with building operations and the housing problem, that the Clauses in the Revenue Bill substantially meet the main difficulties. When they become law a great many of the misconceptions which have arisen will be swept away. In the general interests of the community I trust that the Government may be able, with the general consent of the House, to pass the Bill.
§ Mr. COOPER
I desire to draw attention to the fact that as I read the Motion 1892 moved by the Prime Minister the Five o'Clock Rule on Friday will be suspended In this connection, if you are going to sit probably one or two whole nights in the week, and certainly late on most nights, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can give us some assurance that we shall be able to get away in reasonable time on Friday evening?
§ Mr. CASSEL
May I remind the Prime Minister, in connection with the Revenue Bill, of what he himself said in November, 1910. I am sure that he will not depart from it. No one has expressed more eloquently or forcibly than he himself the importance of giving the House of Commons the opportunity of reviewing the whole financial situation and giving private Members the opportunity of moving Clauses on the Revenue Bill. In November, 1910, the right hon. Gentleman, who was in the position of having to shorten discussion on the Finance Bill, came here and said that it was under very exceptional circumstances, and on the eve of a Dissolution. On the 21st of November, 1910, what he said was:—Nor do we intend, as it appears from what I have already said, to deprive the once of Commons of the power which it possesses and should always possess whatever may be the new taxes of the year, to take into consideration the general scheme of the taxation of the country, and proposing, if occasion requires, modification of taxes which are already on the Statute-Book and which may he done by the machinery of new Clauses."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1910, col. 205.]Does the right hon. Gentleman still think that it is important that the House of Commons should possess that power? He goes on to say:—I think the House should maintain that control The only question is how and when it should be exercised.In that particular case he promised at the very commencement of the new Session that the first thing that should be done would be to introduce a Resolution that it is expedient to amend the law of Customs and Excise, and that was done. I submit that at this stage of the Session this year it would be departing from what he said in November, 1910, if he were to deny to the House of Commons that opportunity, more particularly having regard to the fact that we have had in this Session as specific pledges of Amendment of that Bill as could possibly be given. If he gives a pledge for next Session, he could not possibly make it more specific than the pledge which he has given for this Session. At the Leicester by-election leaflets were issued, professing to be based 1893 on the highest authority, promising amendments in the Revenue Bill. I submit that it would be contrary, both to principle and to his own utterances, if he were not to proceed with the Revenue Bill and give a fair opportunity to the House of moving new Clauses on it.
Mr. MacCALLUM SCOTT
I would like to join in the appeal to the Prime Minister to make room for the Revenue Bill and to make the necessary adjustments in the other part of the programme to enable him to do so. The Revenue Bill is important not merely from the point of view of opportunity for discussion which it may give rise to, but from the point of view of its merits. Many of my Constituents are interested in the concessions granted in this Bill, and I think that it, will be found to the advantage of the Government that it should find an opportunity for granting the concessions winch are there given. But when I look at the Bills for which it is proposed that this should be sacrificed, I think that the case is all the more urgent. Unlike several of my hon. Friends, I am not opposed and have not been opposed to the Mental Deficiency Bill. I am in favour of it, but; if it comes to be a choice between the one and the other, I think that this House would be fulfilling its duties better by proceeding with the Revenue Bill, and I find that even more emphasised by the discrimination which has been made between the two Mental Deficiency Bills, the Bill for Scotland and the Bill for England. I am in favour of both, and I am just as much in favour of one as the other. If the Mental Deficiency Bill is important, as I believe it is, why should the Scottish Bill be sacrificed rather than the English Bill? I believe that this Bill is accompanied by Grants of public money. Naturally, we Scottish Members are interested in that subject. I do not see any adequate reason with reference to this question of Mental Deficiency, which is very important, why public money which has been voted for the solution of the problem in England should not be simultaneously voted for the solution of the problem in Scotland. I think that there is no case for the differential procedure with regard to these two countries. If one is to be sacrificed, both should be sacrificed, and I would suggest that in the choice between that and the Revenue Bill preference should be given to the Revenue Bill.
§ Lord HUGH CECIL
In response to the very courteous reference which the right 1894 hon. Gentleman has made to me about the Sir Stuart Samuel Indemnity Bill, apart altogether from the question raised by my right hon. Friend, which goes to the root of the matter, I should be very glad to fall in with the suggestion with the view to seeing whether the discussion could be shortened. Coming to the Mental Deficiency Bill, we are often told that the House of Commons would work very well if it was not for the bitter party feeling and if matters could be adjusted in a friendly spirit by appeals to the good feeling of the House. I hope that the Prime Minister will use his influence with the Home Office to inspire them with the spirit of conciliation upon that Bill. It is a very long Bill and I am not sufficiently familiar with it to know whether the criticisms which have been addressed on it have been fully met in Committee, but it is precisely the sort of Bill which might easily be passed if handled in a very conciliatory way and which would be very difficult to pass if it is not. I may express the hope that the Government will meet the reasonable criticisms on the Report stage of the Bill, in which case it might be allowed to pass through. I may call attention to what does seem to me the extraordinarily humorous way in which the Government and the Liberal party have handled the great constitutional question of the Money Bill. Three years ago they proceeded to a great constitutional revolution. They were indignant with the House of Lords for rejecting the Budget of 1909.
Coming to the effect of the constitutional revolution in respect of Money Bills, the Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that it was desirable to bring in this Revenue Bill separately because its contents would not fall within the definition of a Money Bill, and, therefore, it was necessary to separate it from the Finance Bill, which was a Money Bill. The upshot of the matter is, therefore, that the House of Lords retains, under the Parliament Act, substantial power over this Revenue Bill and all similar measures of the kind, showing that, even under the Parliament Act, it would have been able to reject the 1909 Budget, and that, therefore, the whole purpose of Clause 1 of the Parliament Act is not secured. Instead of killing the pigeon, they have killed the crow. It is the liberties of the House of Commons that have been destroyed and not the liberties of the House of Lords. The upshot in the House of Commons is that we are kept until the 1895 third week in July before we enter on the details of finance at all, a procedure which, as the hon. Member for the City says, is absolutely without precedent in the finance of previous Governments. Earlier in the Session, while you were discussing these matters, it was universally agreed that it would be a great abuse of the forms of the House if the finance of the year were kept over to what we call the dog days. I never could quite make out what they are, but I understand them to mean the end of July and the beginning of August, which is precisely the time when, if we are to discuss it at all, we shall have to discuss it. We are told that if we discuss it at all, we must discuss it under a penalty.
We are told that the House of Commons, whose rights were vindicated three years ago, would have the opportunity taken away from it altogether. We are treated like a person who is likely to over-eat himself, and if he helps himself too freely from the dish, it would be taken away from him and he would be left hungry for the rest of the day. If the Government were really zealous for the liberties of the House of Commons, the very last liberty which it ought to take away is the liberty of revising the financial arrangements of the country year by year. Under this new system, if this precedent is to be followed in future, it will rest with the choice of the Government of the day to say whether we are to have any voice in financial revision from year to year. Everyone knows that the Government always has a congestion of business in the middle of July, and always has to drop a great deal, and unless we make a stand now the powers of reviewing finance will seldom or never be allowed to the House of Commons in future. It will very soon become an ordinary custom for the Leader of the House, whether Liberal or Unionist, to get up and say, "The House is accustomed to the statement at this period of the Session that there will be no opportunity of reviewing the general finances of the Session. We regret that we cannot introduce a Revenue Bill this year, but we hope that next year we shall be more fortunate." The truth is that the Government does not care and never has cared two straws about the rights of the House of Commons. It cares for nothing but the party convenience of the moment. It attacked the House of Lords two years ago in the name of that party convenience, and now it is 1896 treating with contempt the ancient historic rights of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. JOHN WARD
I understand that the business before the House is the question of the allocation of time during the remainder of the Session and the selection of the subjects to be discussed. I am interested in one subject for which, so far, no opportunity for discussion has been found this Session, though I have put questions to the First Lord of the Admiralty upon it, and I should like that in the allocation of time an opportunity should be found for discussing it. I am referring particularly to the administration of the Fair-Wages Clause by the Admiralty Department. I do not think that there is any serious objection to the way in which any other Government Department administers that Clause. I have been present on almost every occasion during the discussion of Naval Estimates this Session and I have tried to raise on several occasions the question of the administration of the Fair-Wages Clause by the Lords of the Admiralty, but I have failed. We are generally discussing the preponderance of shipbuilding in this country as compared with other countries. We are discussing all the subjects under the sun except those subjects which, after all, apply to the most vital interests of the working people of the country. The House of Commons has passed Resolutions that fair, decent wages should be paid to workmen employed by Government Departments, and there is no particular hostility to that Resolution on the part of any other Government Department. But on the part of the Admiralty there has been open and inveterate hostility. They have tried to shirk their responsibilities in every way, and yet, so far, riot five minutes has been devoted to that side of the administration during the whole of the Session. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is giving an extra day for Supply. In answer to the hon. Member for Colchester, he did not state to what Supply that extra day was to be devoted. I would ask that the Vote relating to construction of works and buildings should at any rate be put down for an hour or two once during the Session, so that this peculiar and interesting subject might be properly considered. Every other party who comes before this House for rights and privileges in the construction of public works, has now to toe the line by the Standing Orders of the House. The= 1897 Admiralty are the only people who can construct these great works without passing special Bills before a Committee of the House. That being the case, we should at least once during the Session have an opportunity of discussing the way in which the Admiralty apply and enforce the Resolutions previously passed by the House of Commons. I enter a protest against the time being so allocated, either by misfortune or by design, that one of the most interesting topics from the Workmen's point of view, namely, the recompense for their labour when employed under the Admiralty, stands no chance of being considered this Session.
§ Sir ALFRED CRIPPS
The Revenue Bill deals with a variety of topics in regard to which, if they are not dealt with, the subject will be left in the matter of taxation in what the Chancellor of the Exchequer admits is an unfair position. The terms of the Revenue Bill are very complicated. Anyone who has studied the Bill and knows the whole question of the Land Taxes must be aware that that Bill cannot be passed without a considerable amount of discussion. But what is the position in which we stand? The Government have admitted through the Chancellor of the Exchequer that reforms in the matter of revenue are necessary, in order to secure that fair treatment to which the subject has a right in matters of this kind. On the other hand, it is common ground that the Bill cannot be passed without discussion. I suggest, under these circumstances, that proper time ought to be given to a Bill which ought to be passed, but which in its nature is such that there must be considerable discussion in order that the terms may be properly adjusted between the Treasury and the Government on the one side and the subject on the other. This subject was discussed at another part of the Session when we introduced the new principle of giving legislative authority to mere Resolutions of this House. When the House adopted that system, to which I was throughout opposed, it was on an undertaking, given in terms by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the opportunity of this House for full discussion of all financial matters, particularly those contained in the Revenue Bill, should not be curtailed, and that the discussion should not be put off to an impossible period of the Session. What is the position now? We are told that this Bill, if it is to be properly discussed, cannot be proceeded 1898 with. If we adopt that attitude, we are giving up our principal duties as the House of Commons, namely, those in regard to revenue and finance. Whatever is done with regard to any other Bill, this particular Bill ought to be brought forward, because its introduction is an admission that there are existing injustices, and it must be properly discussed if those injustices are to be put right in proper form. Therefore, I urge the Prime Minister to allow an opportunity for the discussion of this Bill, because it deals with one of the primary duties of this House, namely, the proper adjustment of matters of finance and revenue.
§ Mr. R. D. HOLT
I desire to join in the appeal to the Prime Minister to reconsider his decision in regard to the Revenue Bill. There is a strong feeling in this part of the House that that. Bill ought to be proceeded with seriously, and that we should be given a proper opportunity for a complete review of the financial position of the country. If the Government knew what was in the hearts of their supporters, they would find that there are many hon. Members on this side who think that their dealings with financial questions in the last year or two have been of a rather off-hand character, and that finance has not been treated as what it really is—the primary function of this House. It has been relegated far too much to a back seat, and to the fag end of the Session. Many of us would like to see these matters dealt with at a much more suitable period of the Session, namely, some weeks earlier than this. At the same time, I hope we May make an appeal to hon. Members opposite, that the opportunity given by the Revenue Bill should not be in any sense of the word abused. Everybody knows that by the needless multiplication of Amendments, you can spend a great deal of time; but if the privileges of this House are abused, sooner or later they must be withdrawn. That is a fact which no one who watches what goes on in the House of Commons can possibly deny. It is impossible for us to get through our business properly unless we do our best to do it expeditiously.
§ Mr. WATT
I desire to call attention to the extraordinary choice of measures to be proceeded with. The Prime Minister has sacrificed the good and retained the bad. He has rejected the Revenue Bill, the Employment of Children Bill, the Milk 1899 and Dairies Bill, and the Milk and Dairies (Scotland) Bill. Goodness knows, we much needed the last-named Bill. While rejecting these, what have the Government retained? The Appellate Jurisdiction Bill, under which two new judges are to be appointed at £12,000 a year. The Government are prepared to devote some of the remaining time to that Bill, instead of dealing with the other measures which I have named. There are already on the Paper four and a half pages of Amendments, many of them standing in the names of four or five Members. I estimate that the measure will occupy two days of the time of the House. I think the right hon. Gentleman would have made a much better choice if he had sacrificed that Bill and given the time so saved to the Revenue Bill, which is so much needed.
§ Mr. RUPERT GWYNNE
I desire to point out that in every case Bills dealing with agricultural interests have been thrown overboard. The Milk and Dairies Bill, the Milk and Dairies (Scotland) Bill, the Hops Bill, the Bee Disease Bill, the Irish. Creameries Bill, and others have been sacrificed. I would appeal to the Prime Minister to reconsider his decision with regard to the Bee Disease Bill. It is fashionable to laugh when that measure is mentioned, but it deals with a matter of the utmost importance to agricultural districts. Bee disease is spreading, and there is no means of dealing with it. The President of the Board of Agriculture is constantly telling us that he is most anxious to pass the Bill, and I believe that everybody who knows the real state of affairs is anxious that something should be done to, stamp out this growing evil. I do not think the Bill would be very contentious, and I press very strongly that, as agricultural interests have been sacrificed in every other case, the Prime Minister should give way at least in regard to this Bill.
§ Sir J. TUDOR WALTERS
I hope that the Prime Minister, in reference to the Revenue Bill, is not forgetful of the very strong feeling in the country in respect to certain aspects of the land taxes. The only point I want to mention now is the effect on housing. We talk a great deal about rural housing. I venture to say that we are rapidly approaching a famine in houses in the towns, apart altogether from the rural districts. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is thoroughly seized of the im- 1900 portance of this question. I have had the privilege of discussing it with him on many occasions, and he has taken great pains to draft Clauses in the Revenue Bill, which I think would do a great deal towards solving the housing problem. It is largely a matter of restoring confidence. It is not so much that anything in the land taxes has actually injured the building trade or the property market; it is the fear of what those taxes may do—the suspicion of their operation. In the Revenue Bill, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made perfectly clear the scope of the operation of the land taxes so far as builders' profits are concerned. He has made it quite clear that no Lumsden case can ever occur again; that builders' profits will not be taxed; and that the only thing that will be taxed is the unearned increment in land. If once we can get builders, property owners, and those interested in the provision of houses to realise that nothing but unearned increment in land will be taxed, it will not matter how much the Opposition croak and wail, whine and mourn, it will not have the least effect; they will be prepared to go on investing their money in the erection of houses. This matter is so serious that you cannot afford to let it remain over for another Session. Even if you have to stop here a week beyond the time now expected, in the interests of this great question of housing, which is of such vital importance to the working classes, you must deal with the Revenue Bill, and you must give it full and free discussion. You cannot burke the discussion. You cannot say that these Clauses satisfy the necessities of the case, unless you hear the arguments and answer them. Unless you give a fair consideration to all the interests involved, you cannot restore confidence or reinstate the housing problem in the position in which it ought to be. Therefore I very strongly urge on the Prime Minister that no consideration of time should prevent these questions being fully and freely discussed, so that the justice promised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be effectually done, and the Finance Act amended in these most important and necessary particulars.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Mr. MUNRO-FERGUSON
I do not think that the Prime Minister's list this year has been quite so well drafted as usual. The reasons for taking the Revenue Bill are sufficiently obvious, whereas the reasons for proceeding with one or two of the other Bills are not quite so obvious. 1901 I certainly think that the Agricultural Bills mentioned by the hon. Member opposite are more pressing than the Appellate Jurisdiction Bill or the Mental Deficiency Bill, at any rate as far as Scotland is concerned. The last Bill that I named has been pretty fully considered in Committee, but it is one of the most imperfectly conceived Bills, especially as regards its financial Clauses, that I can recollect coming before a Committee, and certainly it would be none the worse off being postponed for another year. I think it is not a good selection to proceed with the Appellate Jurisdiction Bill or the Mental Deficiency Bill, and in preference to taking the Revenue Bill in the first instance and one or two other Bills.
§ Sir RYLAND ADKINS
I desire to associate myself with some of my hon. Friends in regard to the appeal which has been made to the Prime Minister and to the Government with regard to those Clauses of the Revenue Bill which would so greatly improve the operation of the Land Taxes. I will not trouble the House by going into details, but some of them certainly do affect, and affect very much for the better, the conditions of life in South-Eastern Lancashire on the one hand and parts of rural England on the other. It. would be a thousand pities if they were not passed into law this Session. Of course, we all know that in debating matters of that importance it is perfectly easy for the Opposition to so discuss them as to take up time that would make it impossible for them to pass I do ask the Government, to put the Revenue Bill in the forefront of that which now has to be done, and to allow so much time for it that if it does not pass the responsibility is not with them and their supporters, but with those who would rather not have these improvements unless they can have other alterations as well.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I have a, considerable list of topics to deal with, but I will not intrude longer on the time of the House than I can help. First of all, let me refer to one or two points which were made by some of the last speakers. An hon. Member opposite said that we had abandoned the Bills that had been put forward on behalf of agriculture. We have passed two already this Session. Although I regret that time cannot be found for the Bee Disease Bill, the importance of which I fully recognise, everybody in my position has to sacrifice a 1902 great many things he would rather see passed. We must bring as far as we can a certain sense of proportion to bear on the question of what should be retained and what surrendered. With regard to what my hon. Friend said just now with regard to the Appellate Jurisdiction Bill I was very sorry to hear that. The Appellate Jurisdiction Bill is introduced in response to a definite pledge given by this country at the Imperial Conference in 1911 to the representatives of our Dominions, and it is absolutely essential that it should be passed, and that the Supreme Tribunal of the Empire should be properly manned if justice is to be done to India and all the self-governing Dominions. I speak with a full sense of responsibility when I say that both from the point of view of public honour and public expediency, there is no measure in the whole of this programme of legislation which is more urgent. The opposition is confined, as far as I can see, by the Amendments on the Paper, to some four or five Members, I am sorry to say, sitting on this side. We intend to carry that measure through, and it shall receive the Royal Assent before the House rises. That is all I have to say on it.
I come to the other statements, and particularly to the points which were raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. First of all, with regard to the Revenue Bill, I listened with great respect to what the right hon. Gentleman said, and to the remarks in the same sense which have been made by hon. Gentlemen from both sides of the House. Let me say with reference to what the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil) said, there is no desire or disposition on the part of the Government, and never has been in any way, to curtail the rights and privileges, and discretion of the House of Commons in respect to finance. If he had examined the matter he would know that during the present Session we have devoted six days already to the discussion of the finance of the year, three days on the Resolution in Committee, one day upon Report, and two days to the Second Reading of the Finance Bill, and, in addition to that, a seventh day has been given to the discussion of the financial administration of the country upon the Inland Revenue Vote. Therefore, we have seven days already in this Session devoted to this purpose, and we still have the prospect before us of the Committee, Report, and Third Reading 1903 stages of the Finance Bill. Upon the Second Reading of the Finance Bill we entered, and I remember it well, for I took part in the debate myself, on a general review of the taxation of the country. I argued at considerable length the whole question of the relation between direct and indirect taxation as ingredients in national finance. I have never heard a debate, and I have prolonged experience of financial debates in this House, which ranged more widely and more freely over the whole domain of national finance than that which took place on that occasion. Therefore, it is a total misconception of the facts to say that the House has not had up to this stage of the Session at least as much opportunities as those which are habitually offered for the discussion of general question of finance.
If the right hon. Gentleman, I say "if" because it is not a question of hypothesis, desires that we should have—and he has quoted expressions and declarations from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Ministers which certainly ought to be taken into account—a renewal of that discussion, or a fresh opportunity on a large scale, I am quite prepared, perfectly prepared, to do so. We attach very great importance to the Revenue Bill. We think that the provisions which have been very carefully thought cut in its Clauses would mitigate such hardships as exist with regard to what are called Land Taxes, and would simplify and make more just the equality of our present system of national finance. It is all a question of time. If the House is ready and anxious to give time to it, I am perfectly content that they should, but I must at the same time enter this caveat. If opportunity is to be taken on these proposals for Amendment, which, in principle, are virtually, if not universally, accepted on both sides of the House, to enlarge the scope of the measure to an extent which makes it unreal and impossible, then, of course, the House, as master of its own procedure, may feel that it should curtail discussion within reasonable limits. Subject to that qualification, I am perfectly content, in response to the appeal made to me, to give to the Revenue Bill adequate and reasonable time. In regard to another measure to which the right hon. Gentleman referred, and that is the Bill for an Act of indemnity to Sir Stuart Montagu Samuel, I quite recognise the spirit and tone in 1904=which he approached that subject. I am sorry, of course, that it should enter into anybody's mind that there are grounds, or may be grounds, for suspicion in regard to the conduct of the Government on the one side, or the person who enters contract with the Government on the other. The right hon. Gentleman did not say he entertained those suspicions himself, but that there ought to be an absolutely clear conviction in all quarters of the House that there was no ground for any suspicion of the kind. I think that is what the right hon. Gentleman said.
I asked him to make a suggestion, but perhaps it was not his business to make suggestions, and if he will allow me to do-so, I will myself take the initiative of entering into communication with him as to this matter which affects the House as a whole and is not party business. Members on both sides are equally interested in settling on the precedent which our successors can follow. I will respond to the right hon. Gentleman's invitation, and I will make suggestions which I hope may provide some satisfactory mode of procedure which will set at rest one -way or the other any ground of suspicion there may be. If we can arrive at a satisfactory agreement on that point, then I should' hope, subject to what the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University said—
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That we might come to a general decision and remove the measure from the list of contentious Bills. The right hon. Gentleman put a question to me with regard to a Motion which stands in my name as to the Committee on the Insurance Act Amending Bill. I will not make that Motion to-night; we will wait and see how the proceedings in the Committee develop, and we earnestly hope it will not be necessary to go outside the ordinary procedure which is provided under the Standing Orders.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Will the right hon. Gentleman go a step further, and if he unfortunately should think it necessary to renew the Motion and place it on the Paper at a later date, will he give us the assurance that we shall have a reasonable opportunity of discussing it?
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Yes, I will put it down as the first Order, but I hope it will not be necessary. I think in substance those are the points which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the 1905 Opposition dealt with. Now I come to a variety of considerations which have been touched on by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House. I ought to have included among the Bills which the Govern-merit think it necessary to pass the Bill for the Soudan Loan and the Bill for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Both of those we regard as essential parts of our programme. I omitted to mention, in dealing with a great quantity of matter, that my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General thinks it desirable and important to bring forward a proposal to empower the Post Office to borrow money for the purpose of developing and completing our present telephone undertaking. I hope when this proposal is put forward that it may be of such a kind as to secure general assent. Subject to that exception, I have nothing to add in regard to the Bill which the Government themselves will take up. The Noble Lord the Member for Hitchin (Lord Robert Cecil) referred to the third Order on the Paper, a Bill with regard to the employment of children. We hope very much to carry that, and we certainly have not abandoned it. We believe there is a general feeling on both sides of the House that it should pass into law. Then, with regard to other matters which have been mentioned, I did not intend to say in regard to the Mental Deficiency (Scotland) Bill that the Government proposed to abandon it. On the contrary, we hope it will be passed, and it has only been put into the category of Bills not absolutely essential to complete the work of the Session. I hope it will be passed this Session, and I have not abandoned hope, and we shall do what we can to pass it into law. The same remarks apply to Order No. 18, the Public Health (Prevention and Treatment of Disease) Bill, which deals with tuberculosis. I hope that the House may be disposed to allow that Bill also to be passed into law without any prolonged discussion. With regard to the contract of the Post Office in reference to Wireless Telegraphy, papers will be circulated to-morrow, and we propose to have a discussion on that matter, provisionally, on Friday of next week. My hon. Friend below the Gangway referred to three topics in which he and his Friends take particular interest. One is the Bill for the Provision of Meals for Children. I am, as he knows, a very strong supporter of that Bill, and I very much regret that it has not yet passed into law. It is a private Member's Bill, and has not advanced very far, and the Government cannot, in 1906 view of their own legislation, which they are about to make, take it up this Session. Perhaps next Session they may be in a better position to do so. In regard to the Industrial and Provident Societies (Amendment) Bill, I have already made a statement. I am sorry the hon. Baronet the Member for the City of London opposes the measure, but if there were a conference between its supporters and opponents it might result in the Bill being again presented in a form in which it would be generally acceptable. I hope that the hon. Baronet would not then declare a ruthless or protracted war against it. I have already dealt with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition in regard to the Motion which stands in my name on the Paper, and which I shall not move tonight. Finally, I must express a very strong hope that the House will allow us to take Order No. 33, the Elementary Education (Defective and Epileptic Children) Bill. That is a necessary, almost a necessary, complement of the proposed legislation with regard to mental deficiency, and I think our work in that respect will be incomplete if we do not pass that Bill in addition to the other.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
As to the length of the Session, it is our hope, a. hope which is not yet abandoned, that we may be able to bring the Session to an end towards the close of the week which terminates on the 15th or 16th August. It may be in consequence of the elasticity with which I have dealt with the suggestions made on the other side to-day, that the date will have to be a little postponed. I hope not. I hope, without unduly calling upon the House to sit up late at night at this time of the Session, that the comparatively modest and for the most part non-controversial part of the programme before us may be realised, and that the House may attain its long-desired and well-deserved holiday not much later than the date I have mentioned.
§ Dr. CHAPPLE
Can the right hon. Gentlemen say whether the Local Government (Adjustments) Bill will be applied to Scotland?
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, "That, during the remainder of the Session, Government business shall not be interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the sittings of the House, and may be entered on at any hour though opposed; at the conclusion of Government business each day Mr. SPEAKER shall propose the Question that this House do now adjourn, and if that Question shall not have been agreed to, Mr. SPEAKER shall adjourn the House without Question put not later than half an hour after the conclusion of Government business; and on Fridays the House, unless it otherwise resolves, shall at its.rising stand adjourned until the following Monday."—[The Prime Minister.]