HC Deb 07 August 1876 vol 231 cc704-12

moved— That upon Tuesdays Orders of the Day have precedence over Notices of Motions, Government Orders having priority, and that Government Orders have priority upon Wednesdays.


in rising to move, as an Amendment, to leave out the words "and that Government Orders have priority upon Wednesdays," said, that he did not intend to oppose the first part of the Motion—that relating to Tuesdays; but he protested against the latter part, by which Government would take Wednesdays also. Wednesdays had al- ways been appropriated to what were erroneously called "private Members." There were really no private Members. They were all as much public Members as the Members of the Government in that House; but it had been found convenient for the transaction of Public Business that certain arrangements should be made, which it was now proposed should be set aside. Up to 1871 there had been only two attempts to take Wednesday from the private Members, and what had occurred since 1871 showed the danger of establishing that precedent. In 1853 the then Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, proposed to take a Wednesday and made a Motion to that effect, the object of which was to defeat a Bill of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. The Motion, which was resisted, was nevertheless carried, but it only referred to one particular Wednesday, and could not be fairly quoted as a precedent in support of a proposal to take all the Wednesdays. In 1857 the Government asked the House to allow them to put down Supply as an Order of the Day on Wednesdays and take their chance with the other Orders, but the House declined to do so, so that 19 years ago the same question was debated. In recent years encroachments had been made over and over again upon the opportunities and privileges of private Members, and he thought the House ought to regard with very great jealousy any such proposal as the one then before it. It would not do for private Members to give up their right of discussing subjects in the House; and although it might be thought that great waste of time was caused by the discussion of Bills introduced by unofficial Members, yet that was not really the case. So far from being useless, the discussion of such Bills often led to important legislation. The House was becoming more and more a Chamber for the registering of Government proposals, and in this respect it was giving up to a great extent its own proper functions, and losing in no small degree the power they held over public opinion of the country. He had a Bill on the Paper for Wednesday next in reference to University education in Ireland. The measure was one to which considerable importance was attached, and, as matter of fact, several Representatives of Irish constituencies were at that moment on their way to England, in order to take part in the discussion. He did not expect any material advantage to result from the discussion on that day, as he could not say he should persevere with the second reading; but the consideration of the Bill would not take very long, and the subject was one that ought, if possible, to be decided without loss of time. On all these grounds he would submit to the House his Amendment.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "and that Government Orders have priority upon Wednesdays."—(Mr. Butt.)

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, there was no desire or intention on the part of Her Majesty's Government to invade the rights of independent Members of the House with regard to Wednesdays. On the contrary, they had always upheld such rights. It was intimated a short time back by himself that if the House would accord to the Government the privilege of taking precedence on Wednesdays, they would be grateful for the gift, as it would materially assist the progress of Public Business; but the proposal was not pressed when hesitation was expressed on the part of some hon. Members. It certainly seemed unreasonable, therefore, at the end of the Session for a private Member to ask for the solitary Wednesday that remained. He could understand that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Limerick was deeply interested in the Bill which stood in his name on the Order Book for Wednesday next, and he had a very good opportunity for proceeding with it on Wednesday last, when it stood first in the Orders of the Day, but he postponed the stage, and could not therefore blame any one for the fact that it stood over. As he had said, the Government had no desire to invade the privileges of private Members; but they had arrived at a period of the Session when, in ordinary circumstances, a single day was of moment, and, as business at present stood, it would be of inestimable value, for there were one or two Bills that had yet to go to the other House of Parliament. He hoped, therefore, that the hon. and learned Member would not press his Motion, for he had already explained his Bill to the House, and could hardly expect to obtain a satisfactory settlement of the question this Session, even if Wednesday next were at his disposal.


said, it appeared to him to be perfectly correct, as stated by the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt), that the unofficial Members of the House were gradually being placed in a very disadvantageous position. Their privileges were being curtailed by degrees, and it would be well for them to seek a remedy for a growing evil. In his opinion, much would be gained if a slight alteration were made in the mode of introducing Bills by unofficial Members. He hoped that as early as possible steps would be taken by means of which unofficial Members would be enabled to give such Notice of their intention to introduce Bills as should inform the House beforehand of the general nature and provisions of the measures in question. The House would then be in a position to judge whether it was one likely to promote any practical purpose; and, if not, it could be rejected at once, instead of being allowed to cumber the Order Book at future stages, merely to serve as a peg on which to hang a discussion. He ventured to make that suggestion to the House in the interest of Government as well as of non-official Business.


said, he quite agreed with the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate) that something should be done to prevent such a glut of measures as appeared on the Order Book as the Session drew to a close. At the same time, he thought the Government request to take next Wednesday was only reasonable, and he hoped the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) would not press his Amendment. He had heard with satisfaction the promise of the Prime Minister that the interests of private Members should not be thrust aside unnecessarily; but he could not avoid complaining that private Members were not treated as they ought to be, and he specially objected to the conduct of the right hon. Gentleman in refusing to give the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Fawcett) a night to discuss a Motion of No Confidence, merely because it had not received the approbation of the front Opposition Bench. He thought it was only right that the right hon. Gentleman and the Government should know this.


said, he did not rise to continue the debate upon the Motion, although the hon. and learned Member for Limerick (Mr. Butt) was well within his right in claiming, if he thought fit to do so, Wednesdays for the discussion of Business introduced by non-official Members of the House. The question, however, at that period of the Session was one that should he determined upon grounds of general convenience. The hon. and learned Gentleman had already announced that he did not expect any immediate result to follow the discussion of his measure next Wednesday, and therefore it would be for him to determine whether it would be expedient to enforce his right in the matter; seeing the state the House would be in by the middle of this week, it would be impossible to rely upon having full discussion on other than Government measures. What he desired, however, to ask before the Motion was passed was whether any Member of Her Majesty's Government could state what was to be the order of Public Business during the present week. He believed the right hon. Gentleman had already stated that the Order of Business for that evening would be that after the Report of Supply had been agreed to, the Appellate Jurisdiction and the Cruelty to Animals Bill would be taken. He had no opposition to offer to the last-named measure, but he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that it was a Bill of considerable importance, and after what had been said with regard to it out-of-doors he trusted that it would not be passed without an opportunity being given for a tolerably full discussion upon it. He wished, therefore, to ask whether there was any intention on the part of Her Majesty's Government to proceed with that measure at an hour that would preclude discussion being had upon it, or would prevent such discussion from being recorded, or whether it was intended to make arrangements for a discussion being taken upon it on a subsequent day. A promise had been made at an earlier period of the Session that an opportunity would be afforded for discussing the Suez Canal Shares Bill, and although from the state of Public Business it would be impossible that any full discussion could be had upon that measure, still some hon. Members were anxious to raise certain questions with reference to it. In these circumstances, it would be convenient if the Government could state on what day that Bill would be taken.


wished to know when the Merchant Shipping Bill would be taken, seeing that the Lords' Amendments effected several important alterations in the measure, one reversing a decision of that House arrived at by division, and another reversing a decision of that House arrived at by agreement with the Government. He trusted, therefore, that full and ample opportunity would be given for considering those Amendments.


said, that the Government were most anxious that ample time should be given for discussing both the Cruelty to Animals Bill, the Suez Canal Shares Bill, and the Lords' Amendments to the Merchant Shipping Bill; but, of course, it was obvious to the House that the possibility of doing that depended upon facilities being given, such as the Government were now asking for. The Appellate Jurisdiction Bill ought to be proceeded with as quickly as possible, in order that the necessary Orders in Council carrying it into effect might be prepared. It was impossible to say how long the Report of Supply was likely to take that evening, because there were several Notices upon the Paper that would precede it, and questions might be raised upon the details of the Report itself. It was hoped, however, that the House would not occupy any great length of time in discussing those matters, and that real progress would be made with the Appellate Jurisdiction Bill, which he trusted would pass through Committee that evening. The Cruelty to Animals Bill and the Suez Canal Shares Bill also required further discussion, and he trusted that an ample opportunity would be found for its being had—not only upon those Bills but also upon the Lords' Amendments to the Merchant Shipping Bill. It was, however, no use in attempting to fix days for them at present. Before he sat down he wished to refer to an observation which had fallen from the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), who had spoken as though his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had said that he was disposed to take no notice of a Vote of Censure moved by unofficial Members. Nothing that his right hon. Friend had said would bear that construction. The matter to which the hon. Member was referring was of a different character from what he attributed to it. What his right hon. Friend had then said was, that it was impossible to give up Government days to enable Notices bearing the character of Votes of Censure to be brought forward, unless those Notices were in the nature of important Party Motions, and supported by the Leaders of the Opposition. The days which had been given up in the course of the Session to the hon. and learned Member for Limerick and other hon. Gentlemen had helped to place the Government in such a position at the end of the Session that they were obliged to ask for days which belonged to private Members. But there was no intention on the part of his right hon. Friend to imply any indisposition to attend to the Motions brought forward by unofficial Members.


Are we to understand that the Suez Canal Shares Bill and the Cruelty to Animals Bill will be taken this evening?


Not after 11 o'clock.


Surely 11 o'clock would be too late for the Cruelty to Animals Bill?


I think I may say that that Bill will not be taken this evening.


said, that while everybody was no doubt anxious to facilitate the progress of Business, there was still a great deal to do, and amongst other important questions was the Indian Budget, of which nothing had yet been said. Already sufficient Notices had been given to occupy every Wednesday during next Session. Other Notices would, no doubt, be given. He hoped to secure a day for a Motion of which he had not yet given Notice—for the establishment of Free Libraries and Museums. He should be glad if his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Limerick could conveniently put off the discussion of his Bill to another Session; but, at the same time, he should feel it his duty in the interests of private Members, on whose rights continual en- croachments were being made, to support his hon. and learned Friend's Amendment. If hon. Members yielded to the demands of the Government now without some show of resistance the Government would become more reckless with its time. Not having economized its own time, the Government must now draw on the time of private Members. If the Government had been more careful of its time during the last fortnight it would not now have had to occupy a single half-hour of that which should be devoted to private Members.


said, with reference to an obsertion of the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), that the Indian Budget would be taken on Thursday.


thought it very important that a discussion should be held, even at this late period of the Session, on the Universities (Ireland) Bill. Although it was known that the Oxford and Cambridge University Bills could not pass this Session, the Government considered it necessary that they should be discussed, and it was even more important for Ireland that the next stage of his hon. and learned Friend's Bill should be taken than it was for England to discuss the two University Bills.


begged to state, with reference to what had fallen from the hon. Member for North Warwickshire, that not a single Irish Bill had been introduced into that House which it had not been intended to proceed with, and which had not been carefully considered by a Committee or Cabinet of the majority of the Irish Members.


asked whether the Indian Budget, which he understood was to be taken on Thursday, would be the First Order on that day?


replied that it would be the principal business for Thursday, but as to whether any small business might not be taken before it he could not say.


said, he should, not feel justified in not taking the decision of the House on his Amendment.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 99; Noes 45: Majority 54.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

Ordered, That upon Tuesdays Orders of the Day have precedence over Notices of Motion, Government Orders having priority, and that Government Orders have priority upon Wednesdays.