Motion made, and Question proposed,
That Government Business be not interrupted, this night, under the Standing Order (Sittings of the House), and may be begun at any hour though opposed."—[Mr. Chanerllor of the Exchequer.)
§ MR. E. ROBERTSON (Dundee)
I do not dispute on general grounds the reasonableness of this proposal at this period of the Session. But I think the Third Order—the Technical Instruction Bill—ought to be excluded from the Motion. I say nothing of the merits or demerits of the Bill, though I would call the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the remarks made this morning in the principal organ which supports the Government, but a 607 measure of this kind ought not to be forced through the House after 12 o'clock. The Indian Budget, which stands as the Second Order will alone afford ample material for a whole Sitting, and I do not think the House desires the unseemliness of an all-night Sitting. I scarcely think the Government would reap much advantage from continuing to support the attitude taken by the Vice President, or that they will succeed in hectoring the Bill through the House. I beg to move after the word "business" to insert the words "except the Technical Instruction Bill."
§ MR. DILLWYN (Swansea Town)
I beg to second the Amendment. I think it would be most unfair to ask hon. Members to sit up all night when the House will sit again to-morrow at noon. I would impress upon the Government the desirability of not carrying this very objectionable Bill further.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I hope that the hon. Member will not press his Amendment, because he must have perceived last night that there is a large preponderance of opinion in this House in favour of the Bill. The hon. Member has called attention to the views which have been expressed in the Press of this morning; but as far as I can see, the hon. Member has wrongly interpreted those views, which appear to me to be in favour of the Bill being passed in its present form. In my opinion the country generally is also in favour of the Bill, which in reality is only opposed by a very small minority in this House. Allusion was made yesterday by hon. Members opposite to what they called the "tyrannical majority," but I have rather to complain of the action of the "tyrannical minority" who seek to prevent the desire of the great majority from being carried into effect. If the Bill is not passed I hope that the responsibility for its loss will be thrown upon those who are opposing it. The Government cannot accept the Amendment of the hon. Member.
§ MR. PICTON (Leicester)
The question turns on the phrase" con- 608 tentious measures." Surely the right hon. Gentleman will not say that it is quite fair to take a contentious measure after 12 o'clock at night. He says it is not a contentious measure because in a very small House very few Members opposed it. I do not dispute that fact, but I say that there is a strong feeling in the country against the Bill as manifested by letters from the Chairmen of various important School Boards, and there has been a Memorial presented against it from a representative body in one of the largest towns in England. Indeed, there is sufficiently strong opposition to the measure to justify us in calling it contentious. We do not say that if the whole country were polled we should be found to have a majority; but what we do say is that there is a sufficiently strong feeling against the Bill to justify us in calling it a contentious measure, and asking that it shall not be forced upon the House at this period of the Session by means of an all-night Sitting.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northamptonshire, E.)
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that the country is in favour of proceeding with the Bill, but the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury made it clear yesterday that he would not condescend to inquire as to the feeling of the local bodies which are mainly concerned. "We take two objections against proceeding with the Bill. First, that the places and persons concernsd have not been consulted by the Government in any reasonable manner; and, secondly, that it is unfair to hon. Members after a wearisome and exhausting Session to ask them to remain here in the last week in August in order to discuss a Bill that is full of contentious matter, and must be strongly opposed unless the Government are prepared to make great concessions. To take such a Bill after 12 o'clock at night would be a monstrous breach of that fair play which the minority of the House ought to receive from the majority. As doubts were thrown most discourteously by the First Lord of the Treasury yesterday upon the authenticity of the letter of the right hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella), which appeared in a morning paper, I have to state that I have this morning received a letter from the right hon. Gentleman, 609 from which I will read a brief extract. It is as follows:—
§ "Aix les Bains,
§ "25th August.
§ "My dear Channing,
§ "Your letter reached me only this morning. I telegraphed a short communication to the Daily News expressing the hope that the Bill would he abandoned."
§ I think I am perfectly entitled to make that statement on behalf of my right hon. Friend after the doubt thrown upon the former letter by the First Lord of the Treasury. I think it will be a great scandal if the Government insist on forcing the Bill through the House at this period of the Session, and I trust that my hon. Friend will press his Amendment to a Division.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 15; Noes 81.—(Div. List, No. 349.)
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
§ Ordered, That Government Business be no interrupted, this night, under Standing Order (Sittings of the House), and may be begun at any hour though opposed.