§ SIR MICHAEL HICKS-BEACH
I wish to ask the First Lord of the Treasury a Question bearing on the Business of this evening. Supply stands as the first Order of the day. The House is aware that no hon. Gentleman has yet been appointed to fill the Office of Chairman of Committees. I think there 716 is a general feeling in the House that such an appointment should not be made without previous Notice, and without more formality than the ordinary Motion that a certain Member should take the Chair. Therefore, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he could now state to the House whom he intends to move into the Chair?
§ THE FIRST LORD (Mr. W. E. GLADSTONE)
My intention was to conform to the usual practice; and the usual practice, undoubtedly, is to name, at the time when Supply is called upon, a certain Member for the Chairmanship of the Committee. But whether that practice ought to be altered may be open to consideration, and I do not give any opinion adverse to such a view. I wish to reserve it for impartial consideration. Undoubtedly, if I had known that there was an anxiety on the subject, I should not have had the least difficulty in stating yesterday what we propose to do. I now willingly state to the right hon. Gentleman, in anticipation of the possibility of reaching Supply to-night, that my intention is to propose that my hon. Friend the Member for the Bodmin Division of Cornwall (Mr. Courtney), the Secretary to the Treasury under a former Administration, should be Chairman of Committees.
MR. JOSEPH COWEN
asked, whether, when the new Rules were under consideration, it was not the understanding of the House that the Chairman of Committees should not be appointed without due Notice being given, and an opportunity afforded for full discussion?
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I think I can state what took place. I am not aware of any understanding to the effect just stated with regard to the Chairman of Committees. The choice of Chairman is a very responsible duty resting on the Government, who uniformly propose him; and I do not recollect any announcement of an intention to change the existing practice. What did exist, and may have led to the misapprehension, was a feeling that there ought to be some measure adopted to prevent the introduction of what were called, perhaps rather irreverently, "casual" Chairmen on occasions from time to time. In that opinion I entirely shared. We considered a plan for amending what we thought required amendment. I gave 717 Notice of this plan after it had been much considered, in the hope that it would receive universal consent; but a right hon. Gentleman, I think, if I remember right, of very considerable authority on such matters, immediately blocked my Notice, and gave intimation that it would have to be subject to full discussion, and it may not be in my power to find time in the House for the purpose.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
I should be disposed to revive that Notice, provided I see a reasonable prospect of being able to pass it without a serious demand on the time of the House. I do not think I could undertake to find any considerable portion of time for its discussion.