§ MR. T. M. HEALY
Mr. Speaker, with regard to the Motion on the Paper in the name of the First Lord of the Treasury as to financial business, I should like to point out that it contains five distinct propositions, and I wish to know whether, in accordance with the practice of the House, the Motion ought not to have been in paragraph form and each proposition put separately from the Chair?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
It is one proposition. I do not see anything unusual or improper in the Motion as it stands.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I understand that, as in the case of the Rules of Procedure, the Rules of the House may be discussed and voted upon each paragraph separately.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
That would be contrary to the statement I have just made. Of course, Amendments may be moved, but I shall put the Motion as one.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
May I ask whether it is not the fact that each of the Rules of Procedure was dealt with and divided upon separately?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
My observation did not apply to the whole of the Rules, but to each individual Rule which contained several propositions.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY
I submit, Sir, that the First Lord of the Treasury ought not to be allowed to put the House into a difficulty. A Member may not take the same view of one part of a Motion that he does of another part.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I do not think any difficulty will arise. Any hon. Member can move to omit any portion of the Motion.
§ *THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster
Mr. Speaker, I have now to move—That until the proceedings on the Supplementary Estimates, 1888–89, the Excesses, 1887–88, and the Vote on Account for 1889–90 in the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means, and on Report therefrom, and the 143 several stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill, are concluded, the proceeding thereon shall hare precedence of other Orders of the Day and Notices of Motion on every day for which they are appointed. The provisions of Standing Order No. 56 shall be extended to any day on which the said Votes are set down. Such financial business may be entered upon at any hour, though opposed, and shall not be interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the sittings of the House, except of Standing Order No. 5. But after such proceedings are disposed of no opposed business shall be taken.I regret that I am under the necessity of moving this Motion, but, as I have already stated, it is imperative upon the Government to make provision for the services of the country. By introducing the Consolidated Fund Bill to-day we shall be able to insert in it on Thursday the provision as to the Vote on Account. This is not a Motion brought forward for the convenience of the Government, but in the interests of the service of the country, and whether hon. Members approve the course which I now suggest or not, it is but right that we should make provision for the service of the country. That provision cannot be regularly and adequately made unless we take the Vote on Account on Thursday next. The business on the Paper for this Evening Sitting will, of course, be superseded if my Motion is agreed to. But I may say with regard to the first Motion, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) and which deals with mining royalties, that the Government have considered it, and, although they are not prepared to accept it in the terms laid down by the hon. Member, they are prepared to accept it in substance. As to the second Motion, which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Woolwich (Colonel Hughes), we are of opinion that upon the whole the hon. Gentleman is right in asking for a judicial inquiry into the circumstances under which workmen entered in the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, and other Government establishments between December 17, 1861, and June 4, 1870, have been hitherto refused the benefits of the Superannuation Acts. The third Motion on this evening's paper is that of the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir G. Trevelyan), but I think it will be generally admitted that in the ordinary course of things it could not have been 144 reached before 1 o'clock in the morning. I regret that it is not in my power to afford the same terms of conciliation to hon. Gentlemen who have Bills on the paper for to-morrow; but I venture to say to the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) that he has hitherto been so successful in obtaining days for the discussion of matters in which he is interested that I think in this instance he may well submit to the necessity which is imposed upon us. In the event of Supply not being concluded to-morrow we propose to conclude it on Thursday. The Financial Bill will be read a first time to-day. It will then receive a second reading, and in Committee we propose to introduce as an Amendment a provision for the Vote on Account and such Votes as may be taken to-night and to-morrow, so as to report the Bill in the House on Monday next. We shall then be able to read the Bill a third time on Tuesday, and that is the latest day on which it will be possible to comply with the financial regulations of the country. Under these circumstances, I trust the House will accept this Motion and proceed with the discussion of the Estimates, having due regard to their proportional interest to the country and apportioning time accordingly.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That until the Proceedings on the Supplementary Estimates 1888–9, the Excesses 1887–8, and the Vote on Account for 1889–90 in the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means, and on Report therefrom, and the several stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill, are concluded, the Proceedings thereon shall have precedence of other Orders of the Day and Notices of Motions on every day for which they are appointed. The provisions of Standing Order No. 56 shall be extended to any day on which the said Votes are set down. Such Financial Business may be entered upon at any hour, though opposed, and shall not be interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the Sittings of the House, except of Standing Order No. 5. But after such Proceedings are disposed of no opposed Business shall be taken."—(Mr. W. H. Smith.)
§ *MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
If a soft speech could turn away wrath, I quite admit that the right hon. Gentleman has made his proposal in as soft and kindly a fashion as it was possible to do it; and so far as my hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. Burt) is concerned—he, no doubt, will presently express his view—it does seem to me to go a long way to disarm opposition, so far 145 as the very important Motion standing for this evening is concerned. The right hon. Gentleman says the question submitted to the House is not for the Government, but for the country; but he forgets the country has no opportunity of expressing an opinion upon it. I think I might answer, at any rate, for the Members who sit around me, that if we thought the First Lord was going to give an opportunity to the country, if—after providing the financial means of government for the moment—he intended to give the country an opportunity of generally expressing a verdict, partially expressed at Kennington the other day, I think I might then promise him we would withdraw all opposition to his Motion. He was good enough to say, in equally kindly fashion, some words as to my good fortune in the ballot. If he would undertake to give my Bill, which stands first for tomorrow, that precedence on some other day it obtained by good fortune in the ballot, but which it now loses entirely, then I could understand the applicability of his address personally to myself. But the effect of the Motion is to take away the time from private Members. On every conceivable pretence the rights of private Members and the House are constantly being taken away. I deny that the present Government has any right to ask the House for the indulgence it now seeks. What is the case presented by the First Lord? The case is that by law they are now in a position in which—unless they take away the rights of private Members—they cannot comply with the law as a Government should. But they knew that before they fixed the date for the assembling of Parliament. It is the duty of a Government not to speculate on private Members' time, but, having the whole authority at their own disposal, make such reasonable appropriation of the time as shall prevent that necessity. What is the effect of a Motion like this upon Members who have balloted for Bills? Under the new Rule, no Member having charge of a private Bill has the slightest prospect of having that Bill passed into law, unless on the first day of the ballot he is able to fix a date so that the Second Reading can be taken before Whitsuntide. So the practical effect, when the Government takes the whole time in this fashion, is to 146 postpone the consideration of the legislative proposals submitted by private Members until next Session. If it were a Motion for which I could ballot night after night, the uncertainties or chances of the ballot might modify the rigour of the right hon. Gentleman's Motion; but I have no chance of a ballot again for position for my Bill. I can only do it on the first night of the Session; and if No. 1 is to be killed by the Government in this way, what becomes of No. 2, No. 3, and the others? If the first number has no chance of being submitted to the judgment of the House, then the ballot, so far as private Members are concerned, becomes an entire sham, and should be so understood outside. Not only were the Government late in assembling Parliament—and I am quite ready to admit that hired men have a good excuse for being late in resuming work; but that is no excuse for a Government charged with the administration of the country—but, moreover, it arose from the bad management of Government time last Session. We should not have sat until Christmas Eve if the Government had not wanted to appoint new officials with new salaries, and, after having wasted on their project twelve nights of their time, abandoned their Bill. These twelve nights might have been devoted to Supply, and might have saved the necessity of any adjourned Sitting at all. We agree that, with his onerous duties as Leader of the House, the First Lord may well be anxious for a prolonged rest, but he has no claim upon our indulgence on that account. He stands before the House as having wilfully selected a date for the meeting of Parliament which, with no good fortune, would leave him any spare time but what he might obtain by taking away from private Members a right they have had for generations, and which has been attended with great advantage to the country on the whole; though sometimes, perhaps, time may have been wasted. I stated yesterday my especial reasons for opposing this Motion, and, on a matter of fact, I found myself in conflict with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If he will permit me to say so, that conflict of fact is not one on which he is in a position to express judgment, for I was here and he was not. What happened on Thursday? To show there was no despotism on our part to aggravate 147 the difficulties of the Government, it is enough to remind the House that when the Secretary of State for War made an appeal to us not to prevent him getting at once into Committee, many of us—I myself had a great question to raise—refrained from raising questions, and you soon left the Chair. Consequently we shall not be able to raise those questions we desire to raise until particular Votes are taken in Committee. Perhaps next Christmas we shall be told, as we were last Christmas, that it is too late; that everybody wants to get away; and we shall be asked not to occupy time then, seeing that we shall have an opportunity of doing so "at an early day next Session when Estimates are again brought in." Sir, it is a question for the country. It is a question for the country when private Members' grievances shall be considered. Grievances used to come before Supply in the old time, but now, it appears, Supply is to come first, to come always, and to come clumsily. Last year we had six Votes on Account; indeed, I am not sure whether there were not more—they came so often, that one hesitates to trust one's memory. Now we are beginning the same thing, and private Members' rights are to be sacrificed. On Thursday we followed the course pursued when we allowed the Secretary for War to get into Committee without opposition, and what happened? The Opposition allowed the Supplementary Naval Estimate to be taken without a word of challenge, because we wanted to spare the Government any annoyance. There was good matter for debate, £800,000 gone to the bottom of the sea, and an item relating to this state being on the Estimate. I had myself voluminous notes, and I thought the matter might be raised, and if I had had an idea that this Thuggism was to be applied to our rights I should not have hesitated to raise it. We allowed the Vote to be taken without challenge at all. There was an eloquent and useful word or two from naval supporters of the Government, but not a word of criticism to delay the Vote. The Vote for men also passed and the Vote for money might have been taken at ten minutes past 8 on Thursday, without challenge or dispute. There was no one here to dispute it, except myself and a few other Members, well-intentioned towards the 148 Government I am sorry to say. I repeat it now. Four Members on the Government side rose, and made interesting speeches, and my view frankly was that the Government were in no haste to get this Vote taken, but they rather wanted to delay it until late in the evening, so that they might say blame rested on the Opposition. Why did they not take the Vote when they could have taken it? It is utterly futile to say they could not have prevented their followers from speaking with the more than willing—the devout obedience they yield to the First Lord. They knew how pressed he was for time; they knew he was in a corner; and one sign through the ordinary Government channels of communication would have stopped them, and, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said in the North, have made them "stifled Ciceros" for the time. I ask the Government whether it is fair to take any, and in a fashion that is not reparable, not simply the places of Members who have Motions on the paper, but to destroy their opportunities which by the only possible ballot of the Session were secured for submitting legislative proposals to the House and country? I do not pretend to deal as I would elsewhere with the real grounds why the right hon. Gentleman should not have the assent of the House to his Motion. I quite agree, if the Government had the general sympathy of the House, not only of their own devoted supporters—I quite agree, if they had the general sympathy of the country with them, this great concession should be made to enable them to carry on the Government with facility; but because I believe they have not got that sympathy outside, and because I am sure they have done everything possible to alleviate those sympathies inside among Members on this side, I intend not only to protest as I do now, but to divide the House against this effort so early in the Session to utterly destroy the only opportunity of independent Members to obtain a judgment on their proposals.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT (Derby)
The First Lord has founded his demand for this Resolution upon the imperative necessity of passing within the financial year what is called the Consolidated Fund Bill, one of those temporary Appropriation Bills passed by Parliament 149 with reference to Votes in Supply on particular dates. As I understand the right hon. Gentleman, he says it is necessary that all the Votes in Supply should be put into this Bill; that the Bill will not operate unless these Votes in Supply and the Vote on Account in particular are passed. Now, I venture to challenge that statement. I speak in the presence of those who have had greater experience than I have had, and I say it is not the practice of the Treasury; that it is not the rule of Parliament—it is a new practice introduced, I will not say surreptitiously, but with very little explanation endeavoured to be introduced by the Government for the first time, in order to force on the Vote on Account, and so prevent our having adequate time to discuss it. That is my reading of this transaction. On the other hand, I say that if the Consolidated Fund Bill is passed at any time it will cover the Vote on Account, although that Vote on Account be agreed to subsequent to the passing of the Bill, so long as the Vote on Account be taken before the last day of the financial year. I ask whether that has not been the previous practice of the House, and whether it is not the rule of Parliament? The Government are attempting to alter this rule; and why? Because they shrink from the discussion of the Vote on Account. We claim every day that can be given to the Vote on Account, and I will say why; but first I will bring the Government to book on this practice of Parliament and of the Treasury. I will take their own Consolidated Fund Bill of 1888; the Act, in its second clause, states that Her Majesty's Treasury may pay out all moneys which had been voted to make good the Supplies granted for the service of the year ending on the 31st of March, 1889. They may consequently, under the authority of that Act, for any purpose voted by Parliament before March 31st, 1889, pay out whatever money is voted up to that date. This is not merely an interpretation of the law, but it has been the practice of the Treasury up to this time. Is the Consolidated Fund Bill to be in the same terms this year as it was last year? If it is in the same terms, you may pay money voted on account down to the 31st of March. If it is going to be in different terms, then the question arises 150 —Why is a change going to be made? This pressing on the Vote on Account is a new and surreptitious form of the closure. We are surrounded by closure at every step. Every means is taken in one way or another to prevent the public discussion of the conduct of the Government. If these devices are allowed to be operative, the time will soon come when the House of Commons will not be a place for discussion at all. I know, if you had your will, that would be the case. The House would become a mere vestry to register the transactions of the Government; this is what you are fast turning it into by your methods of procedure; but it does not signify so much to us; if you will not let us discuss your conduct here, there are other places where we can do so. As an old Parliamentarian I would much rather discuss your conduct in your presence in this House; but, if this is not what you wish, we must discuss it in your absence and elsewhere, unless you are going to prolaim meetings in this country. It will be discussed, for I trust we shall still have the right of public meeting that is not permitted in Ireland. I say there is no financial necessity, and there is no legal necessity, for your passing this Bill in haste if you introduce it in the same language in which you did last year. This will be according to previous practice at the Treasury, and there is no reason why the Vote on Account should close before March 31.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
And the Report. That, as I understand, has been the established practice. We hear some whisper of some higher authority behind the Treasury which insists on the new practice, but I know of no authority which has the right to control the practice of Parliament and the Treasury, or at all events, let us hear the claim and we will examine it. We stand on the established practice of Parliament and the Treasury, and we claim distinctly to keep open the Vote on Account to March 31. We are told Supply occupies too much time as compared with former days, but there never was a Government behaved as this Government has behaved. We have had a little experience of the conduct of administration. We saw yesterday how the Chief Secretary for Ireland 151 treats the Home Office, and we have seen to-day how the Colonial Office treats the Irish Office. Such confusion and maladministration was never exhibited before. We are getting at the truth bit by bit, but it is very hard to get at; it requires a surgical operation to be practised by Members on this side; but by degrees we are getting it out, and we see how every department of the Service has been prostituted. ["Oh, oh!" and cries of "Withdraw!"] I shall not withdraw; I have the right to challenge the conduct of the Government in these matters; I mean to do so in Committee of Supply. I shall challenge it with reference to Mr. Anderson, with reference to the prison doctor, with reference to the Irish Constabulary, and with reference to the Resident Magistrates. It is said they have taken all these men, paid by public money, and placed them at the service of the Times newspaper; and I shall not spare them. When we are asked for £10,000 for the Attorney General, I shall ask what services he has rendered to the State in the course of the last nine months? These are proper questions for Committee of Supply; and it is in Committee of Supply that the conduct of the Executive Government is to be examined. Therefore, I will resist by every means in my power attempts to shove Committee of Supply into a corner, to use the closure on Committee of Supply, and to silence the Opposition upon the Vote on Account, on a pretext which I believe to have no foundation in law or in the financial practice of the country. Therefore, so far as this Motion is concerned, so far as it claims to shut our mouths on Thursday on the Vote on Account, I say there is no precedent or necessity for it if only the Government will introduce their Financial Bill in the same terms as that of last year, which was passed on March 27. We are entitled to examine the conduct of the Government as in my opinion it requires to be examined.
§ MR. BURT (Morpeth)
I join my hon. Friend in his protest against the proposition of the First Lord, on behalf of private Members, though at the same time, so far as I myself am concerned with my Motion on the Paper for this evening, I feel I have no reason to complain. I understand the right hon. 152 Gentleman has substantially accepted my Motion, so I have no intention to continue the debate. I should not have stood between the House and the Chancellor of the Exchequer were it not that I am anxious to give him an opportunity of answering two questions. I have to ask when the Government will be able to place upon the Paper the exact terms of their proposal in reference to Mining Royalties, and also whether the Royal Commission it is proposed to appoint will include in its inquiry mines under the Crown and Mines Royal? I join emphatically in the protest against further enroachments on the rights of private Members.
§ *THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN,) St. George's, Hanover Square
I cannot give an absolute answer to the question of the hon. Member; but the Government will in a few days give notice of the exact terms of reference to the Royal Commission. With regard to the more technical part of the speech of the right hon. Member for Derby, I am at a loss to understand what he really means, and I only hope that the difficulty of understanding what he means is not shared by himself and his colleagues. Nothing can be more preposterous than the idea that we should have any sinister object in view in wishing to pass the Vote on Account and to embody it in the Ways and Means Bill. There is only a single occasion, of which the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian will be well aware, on which the Vote on Account has been passed so near the close of the financial year. That was in the year 1853, and although we have admitted it is not positively illegal, yet it is distinctly a financial irregularity that a Vote on Account should not be included in the Ways and Means Bill. I challenge any hon. Member or right hon. Member opposite to say whether it is not the regular practice that that should be done. Then what did the right hon. Gentleman mean?
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
What I asked was this: Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer mean to say that the Ways and Means Bill of last year would not legally have covered any Votes for that year although voted after the introduction of the Bill?
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
The right hon. Gentleman asks whether it would not 153 "legally" cover such Votes. I have admitted that "legally" it would; but I contend, on the other hand, that it is against the regular practice of the House, and that there is only one single exception to such regular practice which the right hon. Gentleman can quote. Let the House thoroughly understand that there is no positive law; you may take funds voted in the Ways and Means Bill for the Army and the Navy, and by law apply them to the Civil Service; but it is against every principle of finance that it should be done, especially when the separation is made in the debates of the House between the two, though I know that the sums voted are not ear-marked in the same way as the Votes themselves are earmarked. It is entirely against the practice of the House and against all financial tradition that such a course should be pursued. Then the right hon. Gentleman says that we are introducing an innovation, and challenges us as if we for some surreptitious cause were anxious to introduce such an innovation. The right hon. Gentleman piles challenge upon challenge, and says, "I am going to ask you this and to ask you that," but what we wish is that those questions should be put, and that we should not lose time night by night before coming to these Votes. We expected to be on this Vote yesterday, and we endeavoured to hasten on business; but then the friends of the right hon. Gentleman opposite would not allow us to do so. Perhaps some of those gentlemen who cry "No" spent a portion of the five hours which were devoted to discussing a Vote of £200. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby appears to approve of speech after speech being made, repeating precisely the same arguments simply in order that a certain number of gentlemen may each figure in the Scotch newspapers.
§ DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College Division)
Is the right hon. Gentleman in order in attributing motives?
§ DR. CAMERON
The right hon. Gentleman said that a number of Scotch Members repeated statements over and over again simply in order that reports of their speeches might appear in the Scotch newspapers.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I do not think that the motive of desiring to have one's speech reported in a newspaper can be said to be a dishonourable one.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
The hon. Member for the College Division is very susceptible as to motives; did he hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby charge the Government with every kind of surreptitious motive? He said that he would state what their motive was, and that it was a surreptitious one, and would not be avowed. What we do contend, and will contend against anybody, is this—that we have allowed ample time for all the business of the House. The hon. Member for Northampton said that we should not have called the House together so late, and should not have speculated upon taking the time of private Members. We made a most careful calculation, and we saw that there was ample time, provided that hon. Members would not abuse the opportunity. But has the hon. Member for Northampton counted the number of days so far occupied? Ten days were spent upon the Address, although the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian and his Friends above the Gangway, I believe, thought themselves that four or five days would be amply sufficient. I know that they have no control over hon. Members below the Gangway; but they must take that into account; and the hon. Member for Northampton will see, if he looks at the way in which business has been conducted, where really lies the waste of time. Take the case of the discussion on the Navy Estimates. There was a Vote of £3,000,000, and it was taken in one night by 12 o'clock. The hon. Member charges hon. Members on this side of the House with having purposely prolonged the debate. A more extravagant proposition I never heard. Was the hon. Member here from. 10.30 P.M. till 12, when the hon. Member for the College Division of Glasgow—to whom I will attribute no motives whatever—spoke three or four times, and the hon. Member for Mid Cork two or three times?
§ DR. TANNER (Cork, Mid)
May I correct the right hon. Gentleman? I spoke twice—three minutes the first time and four minutes the second. Put that in your pipe.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
The waste of time was simply in order that we might not commence the Supplementary Estimates that night. I trust that I am only replying to the hon. Member for Northampton when I say that a more deliberate—an almost avowed—waste of time than that of Thursday was never witnessed in this House. An hour and a-half was spent simply in order that we might not go to the Supplementary Estimates. I am not sure that this was not deliberately avowed by hon. Members below the Gangway, and then we are told that it is we who are delaying business. We are most anxious to meet the charges which the right hon. Gentleman makes against us. The right hon. Gentleman is very fond of putting a charge in one sentence when he knows that we cannot reply at the time. He has made a number of insinuations, upon each of which we are most anxious to meet him, and to have done with all those insinuations and suggestions, and we wish that he would induce his friends below the Gangway and elsewhere to shorten the proceedings so that we may come to the discussion of these important matters. We have no desire whatever to escape from that discussion, and we shall be able to answer then such suggestions as that we have prostituted the officials of the Civil Service. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman, as an ex-Minister, knew that the Civil Service is too high, too honourable, too great, to be prostituted, and that any Government which took such action would find that the instrument would break in its hand But the right hon Gentleman, so long as he can get the cheers of his own friends, so long as he can turn to his allies below the Gangway and ask them to endorse whatever falls from his eloquent lips, is not concerned really to bring these matters to an issue, as we desire. I do not charge the front bench, because they have no control, but I say that if there had not been a preposterous waste of time upon the Supplementary Estimates, which the hon. Member for Bradford 156 himself spoke of as paltry, we should yesterday have been able to begin these more serious questions which the right hon. Gentleman is so anxious to approach, though his desire is not less than ours that we may have an opportunity of meeting them.
§ *SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
The most serious charge that can be brought against a political Party is that of delaying business, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken this opportunity of making that charge across the floor of this House. He rests it upon two cases. I shall name them both, and the House will be able to come to its own conclusion whether or not I have met the cases named by the right hon. Gentleman. The first had reference to the Scotch debate of last night. The right hon. Gentleman says that that debate was unduly prolonged by hon. Members who wished to have their speeches reported in the papers. Now, Scotchmen do not intrude Scotch business frequently in this House, and this was a subject which Scotchmen feel very deeply upon; indeed, I think that since the debate of yesterday Englishmen and Irishmen are beginning to understand why Scotchmen entertained that deep feeling about it. In the first place, the Government, presuming upon the pliability and peaceful disposition of Scotch Members, wished to bring on this debate as late, probably, as 12 o'clock at night. I do not think that that in itself was a proposition calculated to induce Scotch Members to enter on the debate with a feeling that they were going to be fairly treated. The debate came on early yesterday, and it was a case in which no financial or administrative defence whatever was offered for adding a very considerable sum to the Estimates. The Chancellor of the Exchequer got up and flung across the Table a quantity of very highly-spiced attacks upon hon. Members, and especially upon my hon. Friend the Member for the College Division of Glasgow, and before my hon. Friend was able to reply the debate was cut short. The right hon. Gentleman talks of this as a frivolous matter; but he has been a Scotch Member himself, and he should know that Scotch Members look pretty closely into all questions before they vote. What was the character of the Division taken 157 last night? Twenty-seven Scotch Members, including several habitual supporters of the Government, voted against the Ministry, and to the best of my belief there were only eight Scotch Members who voted on the other side, and at least three of those were Members of the Government. I do not think that it is fair that when a debate, on which Scotchmen feel so strongly, is conducted with perfect propriety on the one side, and on the other side, without any attempt to give an argument which can hold water in a financial discussion. I say I do not think it is fair to charge the majority with delaying business. The other case relied on by the right hon. Gentleman may be more shortly disposed of. The Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to the Navy debate on Thursday night. Now, by far the greater part of the evening was taken up with an interesting discussion, but one which, nevertheless, was not of a nature intended to be raised in Committee. Committees are intended to check a too great expenditure, and it was not until the last hour and a-half that Members sitting on this side of the House had an opportunity to come to the real business of the evening, and to discuss and vote whether, or not, the number of men proposed for the Navy was a proper number. I say that when a Vote of three or four millions is proposed, it is not for the Government to say that the Opposition are delaying business, when, after along and technical discussion, they give only an hour and a-half to the Radical Members to make speeches for the purpose of showing that the proposed increase of 3,000 men, with the necessary additional expenditure of about £100,000, should not be granted.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE ADMIRALTY (Lord GEORGE HAMILTON,) Middlesex, Ealing
May I point out that, in that hour and a-half, there was not a single proposition of that kind made?
§ *SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN
I am only adopting the period fixed by the Secretary to the Treasury opposite. My point is that it was not until the end of the evening that that proposition was, for the first time, brought forward, and I say that those hon. Members who objected to this increase in the Vote would have been wanting in their duty if, even at that 158 late hour, they had not brought the matter forward. I consider that I have conclusively proved that, in these two cases, the fault does not lie with the economists, who wish to turn Committee of Supply to its proper use.
§ DR. CAMERON (Glasgow, College Division)
As the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred to me, it is only due that I should explain precisely how the matter stands, and I shall do so in a very prosaic fashion. On Wednesday evening I asked the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House a question as to the order of business for the following day. I did so because the Scotch Members were particularly interested in one or two Votes proposed to be taken. The right hon. Gentleman told us that he would take the Navy Estimates, and also that he proposed to move a suspension of the 12 o'clock rule, and he went on further to explain that he would not avail himself of that suspension of the rule to proceed, after 12 o'clock, with the Supplementary Estimates. Well, Sir, as a matter of fact, on Thursday's papers, we found the Supplementary Estimates set down after the Navy Estimates, and, in order to make sure, I asked the right hon. Gentleman if they were not so put down merely as a matter of form, and if he intended to adhere to his engagement of the previous evening. He replied that if he had an opportunity of bringing on the Supplementary Estimates after the Navy Estimates, he would do so. I then put the question to him—Will the right hon. Gentleman undertake that, if the Supplementary Estimates are got on with, advantage will not be taken of the suspension of the 12 o'clock rule to carry on the discussion till the early hours of the morning, and get rid of a couple of inconvenient votes which come up on those Estimates?The right hon. Gentleman would not undertake that, if these important Scotch questions came on at five minutes to twelve, he would not press the discussion to a close, or enforce the Closure. I told the right hon. Gentleman that he would facilitate business if he would do so, but he declined. I wanted to ventilate the Samoan Question, and I thought that that was a legitimate subject to raise on the Navy Vote. I should have spoken longer on it than I did if the right hon. Gentleman the Chairman of Committees had not failed to see that the bearing of 159 my intended observations on International Law was relevant to the Vote in question, and I was, therefore, obliged to be shorter than I had intended to be. The right hon. Gentleman says that I spoke more than once. Well, I was obliged to do so, because the First Lord of the Admiralty would give me no answer whatever to my perfectly legitimate question on this most important subject. Altogether, I think I spoke but a very short time, but if it is any satisfaction to the right hon. Gentleman I may inform him that about half-past ten, I, through the ordinary channels of communication, communicated to the representative of the Government, that if they agreed not to take advantage of the suspension of the 12 o'clock rule and hustle through very contentious Scotch Votes, I would use my influence with hon. Members below the Gangway to prevent any discussion being carried on on the Naval Vote. I got no reply, and, that being so, I was determined that these Votes should not be taken after 12 o'clock, and by the Closure disposed of at 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning. I had no wish to see the discussion of them utterly burked by being brought on at an untimely and unseemly hour in the morning. The whole speech of the right hon. Gentleman has been marked by his characteristic exaggeration. He spoke of five hours being wasted. Now, he is an arithmetician, and he is the head of the arithmetical Department of the Government. How does he make his figures up? I only make out that three and a half hours were spent in the discussion.
§ DR. CAMERON
There was not another hour and a half so spent. The right hon. Gentleman talks as if we had wasted the time of the House. He made, on that occasion, a most bitter and uncalled-for attack on myself, totally outside the question before the House. I was prepared to answer, and shall take an early opportunity of answering him before the Vote passes into law. But what did the Leader of the House do? Before I had an opportunity of answering, and when five or six other Scotch Members were wishing to speak, he moved the Closure and gagged us all. Yet he would have the world believe that 160 we were obstructing. I say it is the Government who are obstructing, particularly in this case. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the debate being upon a paltry amount of £200, but with us, it was not the amount, it was a question of principle which was involved. It was a question of guarding the most precious Constitutional liberties of our country in a legitimate manner in a Court of Law, and without Government interference.
§ MR. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)
The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer must be very well convinced that he has succeeded in bringing about, partly by his own practice, and partly by the necessity it imposes on others, a great prolongation of this debate. The debate arose on a Motion which is in its nature wholly prospective. It has relation to the arrangement of the coming business of the House, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby entirely conformed to the character of the Motion, and spoke strictly with regard to the coming business of the House and the time it would require. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, apparently not finding that field of argument a promising one, went in to a quantity of retrospective matter, and charged Gentlemen on this side of the House, and particularly the Scotch Members—whose character in that respect might, I think, have done something to exempt them from such a charge—with wasting the time of the House. That appears to me to have had a very inconvenient effect. The right hon. Gentleman says, "We calculated beforehand the time that would be necessary for Supply, and if it had not been for the excess that has been used by hon. Members in the disposal of that time we should have been much further advanced." But I want to know what right has the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make himself judge by a preliminary examination of the exact amount of time that will be requisite for discussing Votes in Supply? If the right hon. Gentleman assumes that prerogative, he ought to take care that the proceedings of the Government are within the usual lines. But the proceedings of the Government and of the majority in this matter have been altogether beyond the usual lines, and a new method of government and a new method of administering 161 the law under the name of procedure has been established in Ireland; and in England, under what is known as the Parnell Commission, novelties have been introduced which have raised for us the necessity of entering upon a number of the gravest questions in reference to the Vote on Account. I will not discuss with the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether there has been a waste of the time of the House or not. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman, but I will not discuss the matter, because, even if it were true that, as he thinks, there has been a waste of the time of the House, that is no reason why the House should be deprived prospectively of that time which is reasonably necessary for the discussion of the very important questions which are coming before us. Well, Sir, the state of the case is this. It is admitted that the contention of my right hon. Friend near me is strictly according to law—namely, that there is no legal necessity whatever for closing on Thursday evening the debate on the Vote on Account. Now, let that be recollected as having been stated clearly before the House. What has been set up on behalf of the Government I do not exactly understand. It is not a legal necessity; it is something less than a legal necessity; it is something of an official mystery. Some line of practice is to be departed from which it is admitted has been departed from on former occasions [Cries of "Once!"]; this is my proposition, and it constitutes the ground on which I shall give my vote, and which appears to me to be totally irresistible. There are questions of the utmost importance, some of them of great delicacy as well as novelty, which have to be discussed on the Vote on Account, and my contention is that all the time necessary for discussing these questions ought to be granted to the House as far as the law will permit. When I say as far the law permits, I mean the time for the purpose of reasonably discussing these questions which ought to be given to us; and I say that there is no ground on which the Government can possibly justify that time being taken away. The right hon. Gentleman opposite may say we have time enough between now and Thursday for discussing these matters. I do not say whether it will be so or not—I cannot tell when we may get to the Vote 162 on Account—but this I will say, plainly, that there are a large number of questions to be raised on the Vote on Account in regard to which the liberty of the House ought in no respect to be interfered with, and that only the law would justify that interference. But I contend that the law does not justify that interference. It is admitted on all hands, and by the right hon. Gentleman, that there is a precedent which he himself has quoted for the very practice that is now contended for, and we say we cannot have a stronger ground than the gravity of the questions and their number and the necessity for debating them; that the law does not restrain our privileges; and that, next to the law, there is nothing so sacred to the House as its privileges in the discussion of Votes of Supply. On this ground we ought to vindicate for ourselves the maintenance of those privileges, and to enter the firmest and most definite, though respectful, protest against every attempt to infringe them.
§ MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford)
I have been at the trouble to count the propositions contained in this extraordinary Resolution, and I find that there are sixteen expressed and sixteen understood. In my opinion there never was brought before this House a Resolution containing so many vices. It teems with suppression, and what it expresses it expresses in the worst possible manner. I have merely risen for the purpose of protesting against this system of coercion by Resolution, which simply aims at filching away the time of the House before it has had its eyes opened to what is being done. It involves, in the first place, that we shall sit after one o'clock to-night if it be carried; it next involves that we shall sit to-morrow after six o'clock, and that on Thursday night we shall sit after 12 o'clock. In point of fact it invades every principle which the First Lord of the Treasury established by his famous Procedure Rules; and the right hon. Gentleman who got the House in 1887 to carry that series of Resolutions is now obliged to pose as the "heavy father" in strangling his own offspring. There is not a single Rule he has proposed which he has not—sometimes within two or three days—moved to suspend the operation of. He reminds me 163 of the free Cossack Aitchenoff appropriating other people's property without the smallest respect for the law of nations. I appeal to the long experience of many hon. Members of this House with regard to Votes on Account, and I ask what necessity can there be for including in this Resolution such a Vote? Before I sit down I will move to omit the words "Of the Vote on Account for 1889–90," from the Resolution. This House assented to the new Rules on the distinct understanding that we were not to be kept up after 1 o'clock when there was a Morning Sitting, nor after 12 when we met at three; and yet, not having the pressure of legal force on the question which might arise on the Supplementary Estimates, this Vote on Account is lugged in to prevent the House from fully discussing the matters that might arise upon it. We are told by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goschen) that certain Scotch gentlemen make speeches in order that they may be reported in the Scotch newspapers; but if such were their intention yesterday, it will be impossible now, because no Scotch newspapers can report speeches made at one or two in the morning. I admit that the Government have some, claim in consequence of their own neglect of business, to come to the House in formâ pauperis and claim indulgence as to Excess Votes and Votes for Supplementary Estimates. They say—"We have mismanaged the business of last year. We compelled the House to sit up to Christmas. We did this by making one Gentleman who was very obnoxious to the House an Under Secretary, and we passed a Bill appointing the Parnell Commission, which no one regrets more than the Government." I admit that they have considerable claim on the indulgence of the majority of the House, but, I ask, why is it that, having kept us here till Christmas last year, we are to lose the whole of our rights and privileges now? Is it not fair and reasonable for private Members to say that when you deprive them of their rights on a Wednesday, they ought at least to be reinstated at a later period in the Session, because they are being deprived of their rights at a time of the year when it is difficult to get them restored. If the hon. Mem- 164 ber for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) is prevented from having his Bill discussed to-morrow he certainly ought to have another occasion at a later part of the Session; for, contrary to the usual rule, it is the man who has the first chance this Session who will suffer, while the man who has the last loses nothing. I say the Government are not entitled to impair in any way the privileges of the House. The Irish Members, for a wonder, have not been complained of this Session. That is a refreshing novelty, and when I heard that it was the Scotch Members who were complained of, I almost experienced the feeling's of an archangel at finding that we, the Irish representatives, were without blame. But I would say that we intend to reserve ourselves for this Vote on Account, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby was justified in charging the Government with sticking up this Vote on Account for the purpose of applying the Closure in advance. I say that the Irish Members are entitled to discuss the Vote on Account. The House has seen the way in which questions put to the Government have been answered of late. It saw yesterday the way in which the question about Dr. Barr was replied to by the Chief Secretary, and, I ask, was there ever such an instance of ingenious disengenuousness? We have also seen the way in which the Home Secretary endeavoured to shuffle out of the admission that Richard Pigott during the last three months obtained access in Chatham Prison to the dynamitard John Daly. I say it is a most unfair thing to stop discussion on these questions, and if the time necessary is not granted to the House, the charge made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby will have been well sustained. Our argument is not met by saying that the interests of the country demand the action proposed by the Government. The First Lord of the Treasury seems to coin with great facility a series of soothing phrases which might be wrapped up in the famous word "Mesopotamia." I do not know whether he has heard of the "electric shiver"—a species of fraud by which a certain secret chamber gives forth a kind of false and fraudulent shiver. The way in which the right hon. Gentleman speakes of dis- 165 agreeables in this House reminds me of the electric shiver fraud. What we hare a right to insist upon—we who have had the law so strained against us, who have had to withstand the whole force of calumny, who have had fraud and forgery levelled against us, together with the passing of a Coercion Bill by means of forged letters—is that we should have our hands untied and our mouths unlocked, and be enabled for once in the course of two or three Sessions to debate these matters freely and fairly, and at a reasonable time of day. The House having had the assurance that there would be nothing illegal in taking the Vote on Account later on, I will now move the omission of one of the sixteen propositions contained in this Resolution—namely, that affecting the Vote on Account. I move, therefore, to omit the words "and the Vote on Account for 1889–90."
§ Amendment proposed, in line 2, to leave out the words "and the Vote on Account for 1889–90."—(Mr. T. M. Healy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
I regret I cannot accept the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member. If I were to do so there would only remain one night for the discussion of the Vote on Account. This would really mean precluding the House from discussing the matter, seeing how near is the end of the financial year. Under these circumstances I must ask the House to take such steps as may be necessary to give legal effect to any Vote which may be passed by this House before the end of the financial year. I have stated what I believe to be my duty to the House and the country. [Opposition Laughter.] It may be a laughing matter to hon. Members opposite, but I have stated what I believe to be my duty to the House and the country. I desire to afford every opportunity of challenging the conduct of the Government, and we are perfectly prepared to afford right hon. and hon. Members opposite every conceivable opportunity for that purpose, and, under these circumstances, I trust the House will accept the Vote as it stands.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I do not quite understand whether the right hon. Gentleman withdraws the proposal to close the debate on the Vote on Account next Thursday.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
I have stated that in my judgment the debate on the Vote on Account ought to be concluded on Thursday, and I have given the reasons for which I think it ought to be so concluded. It is for the House to decide whether it will accept those reasons or not.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to closure us on Thursday night, there being no legal necessity for our being closured? The right hon. Gentleman says it will be for the House to decide. We know what he means by that.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
I think I may fairly claim that whenever good ground has been shown or urged for the continuance of a debate I have never sought to prevent its continuance. I desire, as far as I possibly can, to conduct the business in accordance with the sentiment of what is thought right and proper to be done not only on these Benches, but on the Benches opposite.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I will not enter into a controversy on that matter with the right hon. Gentleman, for whom, I beg to assure him, I have the most sincere respect, and whose invariable courtesy I desire to acknowledge; but he has said that he never has used, and never will use, his Parliamentary majority for this purpose if he thinks a good cause is alleged against it. What I ask is whether he thinks we have alleged a good cause. If he gives us an assurance that he is not going to closure us on the Vote on Account on Thursday next, so as to preclude us from challenging the conduct of the Executive Government, I, for one, will give him every facility for bringing on the Vote on Account. I should like myself to have every day till March 31 for discussion of the Vote on Account, and I think I can promise the Government occupation enough in discussing the Votes in every department, and the conduct of the Government in respect of them. I do not desire to throw any obstacles in the way. I think before we proceed with these matters that we ought to have a clear understanding from the Government of what they are going to 167 do on Thursday with regard to the Vote on Account. These is no legal objection to this being done; and I have it from my right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers), who has great experience in such matters, that the question by no means stands on a single precedent as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said. If necessary my right hon. Friend will show that is not the case. Whether it be so or not, as my right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) has said, if there was not a precedent, you ought to create a precedent effecting a settlement of the claim. We do claim the right to challenge at full length the proposals of the Government on the Vote on Account, and I think we ought before we proceed any further on this Resolution, to understand from the Government that they are going to give us every opportunity which the letter of the law allows, to bring their conduct under the judgment of the House and of the country.
§ DR. TANNER
I wish to say a word or two in respect to what fell from the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Unfortunately, the Chancellor of the Exchequer on several occasions has seen fit to make statements which I cannot say are false, but which are not characterized by exactitude. From unofficial records kept in this House of the length of time hon. Members speak, I find that the other evening I spoke twice, on each occasion five minutes. I was the only Irish Member who spoke below the Gangway during the whole course of the debate before 12 o'clock. Then, again, we find on this record that no less than 10 Members sitting on the Government side of the House took up the major portion of the time of debate up to a quarter past 10 o'clock, and that there were only two Liberal Members who took part in the discussion. I think it is simply ridiculous for the right hon. Gentleman to search round for some of us on whom to fasten his mis-statements—mis-statements which I think are unwarrantable coming from a gentleman of such high position as the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think he really ought to feel very sorry for having offended in this way, and I think he ought to promise not to do so again. I feel rather annoyed, Mr. Speaker, at this rather unwarrantable charge of obstruction which the right hon. Gentleman threw out against me, 168 but I also regret having used the expression which I did at the time the right hon. Gentleman threw out the charge against me.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
I am not able to enter into any engagement with the right hon. Gentleman as to the way in which I shall endeavour to conduct the business of this House, and I am sure he will see that any engagement of the kind which he desires would be one calculated to impose a very serious inconvenience upon public business.
§ *MR. CHILDERS (Edinburgh, S.)
I am very sorry the right hon. Gentleman cannot accede to the practical engagement which my right hon. Friend asked for, because all my right hon. Friend sought was that the Vote on Account should not be absolutely closured on Thursday next. As it is admitted on all sides that these debates could be taken on Monday or Tuesday, and as the Government have already obtained the next Tuesday for the purpose, I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman would have acceded to the request. Let me put to the House—and I have some experience on the subject, having been Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer—what precisely is the character of the Ways and Means Act, commonly called the Consolidated Fund Act. We do not pass simply one of those Acts at the close of the financial year; we usually pass three or four such Acts in the course of a Session besides the final Appropriation Act. The Bill passed within the last few days in the month of March is, except as to one clause to which I will refer, precisely the same as the Bills pased in April, May, June, and sometimes July. Each of these Acts contains two clauses. One of these clauses empowers the Government to pay out of money authorized in the Committee of Ways and Means what has been voted by Parliament in Committee of Supply. And that power to pay what has been voted in Committee of Supply is used, not once, but dozens of times during the Session, with respect to expenditure which has not been included in the authority of the Ways and Means Resolution. I say distinctly, and from my experience—and no one sitting on the front bench will differ from me—that the rule is this, that if you have a sufficient amount voted in Ways and 169 Means, whether in the first Act, the second, or the third, or the fourth—if you have a sufficient balance to meet a particular expenditure, all that is necessary is that the Vote should have been passed in Committee of Supply and reported, and it is not necessary that the particular amount of that Vote should have been included in Ways and Means Resolution. All through the year the Treasury proceed upon that principle, and are constantly issuing money for the service of the different Departments before the amount has been included in the Ways and Means Act. But in the first Act, that passed in March, there is an additional clause, and it refers wholly to the Supplementary Estimates. It is necessary that the Supplementary Estimates should not only have been voted, but that they should be the subject of the Ways and Means Act before the last day of March. If any gentleman will refer to the first Consolidated Fund Act of last Session, he will find this additional clause, which he will not find in the subsequent Acts. It is absolutely necessary that the Supplementary Estimates should be voted and included in the Ways and Means Act passed in March, but it is not necessary as to any other Estimates. Over and over again every year moneys are paid in accordance with the Votes of Parliament that have not been included in Ways and Means. There is thus no difference in principle whatever between the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Acts. Finally, of course, the Appropriation Act recites the actual Votes and authorizes payments under them, but this is on the last day of the Session, when half the expenditure has been already defrayed. But as to the intermediate Ways and Means Acts, the sum named is merely what happens to be the total of the Estimates passed, when leave is given to introduce the Bill, and is merely named as a matter of convenience, the Clerk at the Table being responsible for the amount being correctly added up. I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer says that it has only once happened that the Vote on Account has not been included in the sum taken in Ways and Means. That may be, as in ordinary times there is no pressure as to Votes being taken in sufficient time; but I remember that in 1874, no Army or Navy Votes were, in consequence of the 170 House being late, taken before the first Ways and Means Act. For each Service a Vote on Account was taken; and then, after the Act passed, proper Votes, on which alone expenditure could be based, were adopted in Committee of Supply. We are now in a similar position, the House having met a fortnight after the usual time, and I trust, therefore, that the Government will not persist in an objection which they admit is not founded on legal considerations, but is most inconsistent and in principle altogether novel.
§ MR. JACKSON
Mr. Speaker, I, of course, would hardly like to put my opinion on this question against that of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, but, so far as I am able to judge, he has advanced no new reason; he has simply reiterated what has been admitted by right hon. Gentlemen and by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it is not absolutely necessary to include the Vote on Account in the Consolidated Fund Bill, for which the Royal Assent must be obtained by the 31st March, in order to comply with the strict law. I venture to suggest to the House whether it will approve of what I cannot describe otherwise than as an evasion of the intention of the law. It is true that the Vote taken for the Army and the Navy does provide money which may, without breaking the law, be used for the purposes of the Civil Service, but I would ask the House to consider what this may tend to. If the right hon. Gentleman's principle is not only sound, but desirable in itself, perhaps he will carry it a little further, and admit that it is not necessary to take Ways and Means in the Consolidated Fund Bill for a Vote on Account of the Civil Service, so long as we have money already voted for any other purpose. If that be so, then it will place in the hands of the Government of the day a power which, surely, it is very undesirable it should possess—namely, a power of postponing the discussion on the Civil Service of the year until such a date as it might be compelled to bring it on by the absence of money derived from other sources. I hope, Sir, that the House will not sanction the proposal that money which has been clearly and distinctly voted for the purposes of the Army and Navy should be thus, by the deliberate sanction 171 of the House, appropriated, without any restriction, to the payment of the amounts which fall due for the Civil Service, and I hope that the House will strengthen the Government in its action in this matter. I venture to appeal to the former utterances of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian, who, in times past, has most firmly taken up this position; and I trust that, for the sake of financial regularity, this Vote will be included in the Bill which must receive the Royal Assent before the 31st March.
§ MR. W. E. GLADSTONE
As these matters are matters of very considerable importance, I should have been glad if we could have debated them with the advantage of strict official information in our hands. That we have not got, however, and it is undoubtedly unsatisfactory to be reduced to rely upon memory in such matters. But, Sir, I must say, with regard to the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, his official zeal has entirely misled him. There is a broad distinction of principle between the Military and Naval Services on the one hand, and the Civil Service on the other hand. The hon. Gentleman stated that it would be an evasion of the spirit of the law to apply money voted for the Naval and Military Services to the Civil Service. I challenge that statement. It is not so in point of fact. We have not voted money at all for the Military and Navy Services as such. All we have done is to vote the first Vote, and, carrying the hon. Gentleman's argument to its logical conclusion, according to him, you have no more right to take the money under that Vote and use it for other Naval and Military Votes than you have to apply it to the purposes of the Civil Service.
§ MR. JACKSON
There is a clear distinction between the two cases. It is permitted by law, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. There is a great distinction between applying money voted under a particular head for the Naval and Military Services to other Votes on the same service, and applying it to the Civil Service, which is entirely distinct.
§ MR. GLADSTONE
There is no reference whatever to it in the Ways and Means Act. It is quite plain that the restriction, if there be one, applies to Vote I, which has been actually voted 172 for the Navy and Army; and if you take the money under these Votes and apply it to other military and naval purposes, it is exactly the same thing as if you applied it under Ways and Means for the purposes of the Civil Service.
§ *MR. J. E. ELLIS (Nottingham, Rushcliffe)
I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, that the issue before the House is whether sufficient time shall be allowed for the discussion of the Vote on Account—whether, or not, it shall be closured. The First Lord of the Treasury said he appealed to the House and to hon. Gentlemen opposite whether he had not always allowed reasonable time for discussions; but, Mr. Speaker, that is not our view. Our impressions on this subject are very different indeed, and there is a strong feeling on this side of the House that we have not been allowed a proper opportunity of discussing matters here. I do not base that statement upon mere recollection. I hold in my hand a Return, laid on the Table of the House during last year, which contains an account of the number of times when the Closure Rule was put into operation, and from it I find a fact of remarkable significance, for it seems that during the Session 1887–8, on no less than six different occasions, the assent of Mr. Speaker, or the Chair, was withheld from the proposal to apply the Closure when it was made by the First Lord himself. I think, Sir, that that is ample proof that the First Lord of the Treasury has used the Closure Rule in a manner which he himself will allow, after the action taken by the Chair, not to have been reasonable. No reply has been given to the very cogent remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for North Longford with respect to the extraordinary number of propositions contained in the Motion of the First Lord, and no adequate defence has been made of so remarkable an innovation of the practice of Parliament as is now proposed. I venture to say that the proceedings of Her Majesty's Government, in moving this Resolution, will be appreciated outside this House, for it will show that their desire is to stifle the discussion on the Vote on Account, and therefore I heartily support the Amendment which has been moved.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
The hon. Member who has just sat down has indicated 173 his belief that we desire to stifle discussion. I wish to say again that the Government are prepared to meet any charge which may be brought forward.
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
If it appears to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Mid Lothian and his colleagues that the discussion on the Vote on Account is inadequate and insufficient for the purposes which they have in view, and if the right hon. Gentleman will place on the Paper the terms of any Motion censuring any Member of the Government—in any form that he may think will best bring forward the whole question he desires to raise—we will meet him at once; and after the Vote on Account has been taken we will give not only Government time, but all the time we can control for the purpose which the right hon. Gentleman desires. We will give a full, complete, and exhaustive debate upon any question of censure which can be raised in this House. I absolutely repudiate the charge that we have endeavoured to stifle debate, and I say the suggestion is perfectly unworthy of the hon. Gentleman who made it. We have done nothing of the kind. When it has fallen to my lot as a Minister of the Crown to ask the Chairman of Committees to take certain action, I have only desired to do what appeared to me to be necessary in the interests of the House and of the country, and I deny distinctly that we have tried to stifle debate. I regret having had to intrude so long on the time of the House.
§ SIR W. HARCOURT
I understand the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman is that we should not take the opportunity of examining the conduct of the Government in Committee of Supply, but that we should take the offer to move Votes of Censure upon various Members of the Government as separate Motions. Well, Sir, there is an old saying about gifts which come from the Greeks, and I, for my part, must decline this wooden horse which is offered by the First Lord of the Treasury. And I will tell him why. First of all, the Committee of Supply is the place where you can cross-examine the Government. Cross-examination has lately proved to be very useful, and we desire to put the Government under cross-examination in Committee of Supply. That is the place where we can 174 endeavour to extract the truth, and where we can put question after question until we elicit the truth. That is the place where, according to Constitutional practice, we can deal with the Government. Well, then, Sir, if it were necessary to give another reason, we cannot have Votes of Censure upon all the Members of the Executive Government, whose conduct is, in my opinion, deserving of the strongest censure. You cannot have 20 or 30 different Votes of Censure on all the Departments of the Government, and I should call that a very small number of the Members of the Government whose conduct has to be challenged. In fact, I do not know how many there ought to be. I think we shall have to ask the Home Secretary whether he has not done too little, and the Secretary for Ireland whether he has not done too much; and we shall have to ask the First Lord of the Treasury what he has done. There are, it will be seen, many forms of inquiry for which Committee of Supply is the legitimate and convenient organ, and, having that Constitutional organ at our disposal, we shall exchange it for nothing else. We stand by the Committee of Supply. That is the Parliamentary privilege of this House. That is the engine of the Opposition. That is the means by which they appeal against a Parliamentary majority to the opinion of the country against the conduct of the Executive Government. That is my answer to the right hon. Gentleman. We stand by the Committee of Supply.
§ *MR. C. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)
I wish to give one reason why I intend to vote for the Amendment of my hon. Friend below the Gangway. We have heard this evening of an incident which influences my vote. I mean the Home Secretary's admission that Richard Pigott had been permitted by the Home Office—and by no one else, for the Prisons Board is under the control of the Home Office—to visit Delany the convicted dynamitard in gaol here, after the Government knew that Pigott, on his own admission, was a tainted witness, and had been charged with forging documents which he was about to give evidence upon. That, Sir, seems to me so grave a fact that the Vote on Account ought not to come within the scope of possibility of being closured on Thursday.
§ *MR. GOSCHEN
I have absolutely no knowledge of the matter to which the hon. Member alludes, and I cannot see what bearing it has on the subject. The observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby seemed to indicate that there were going to be five-and-twenty Motions of Censure at least during the Vote on Account. The prospect, therefore, is indicated that this Vote on Account is to be continued at least during half the Session. The right hon. Gentleman says that Committee of Supply is the means by which these matters are to be brought before the House; but what precedent is there for a Vote on Account being utilized for 20 or 30 Votes of Censure? There is no such precedent whatever. If Votes on Account were to be utilized in such a manner it would be absolutely impossible to make any progress whatever with Parliamentary Business. I am not sorry the right hon. Gentleman put the matter so clearly before the House. We see now it is not only a question of one night; the Vote is to be made the engine for the cross-examination of every Minister. It is interesting to observe, and I trust the country will observe, that a guerilla war fare suits hon. and right hon. Gentlemen much better than any opportunity of really bringing a distinct charge against Her Majesty's Ministers which they will be compelled to verify and on which a distinct issue may be taken. We thought hat on this Vote on Account there were to be some definite and distinct attacks made on Her Majesty's Ministers. We were charged with endeavouring, by shortening this Vote on Account, to stifle discussion. We have now offered the opportunity for unlimited discussion on distinct issues to be brought against the Government, and the moment that offer is made the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, who is most forward in bringing every kind of insinuation and innuendo, gets up and refuses to join issue with us upon any particular point. I believe the House might leave the matter there. [VOICES: "Kennington!"] Ah, yes! Kennington, of course! You wish to rest on the judgment of Kennington rather than on the judgment of this House. Hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to parade Kennington before the country, and not to endanger the effect produced 176 by accepting the challenge we make to them to bring forward any distinct charges against the Government. Well, we are very sorry. We should have liked to join battle. But they refuse. They prefer to continue this kind of cross-questioning They wish to continue I do not know how many weeks upon this Vote on Account without coming to the real business of the House. They do not wish to approach any legislation; this is to be the chief work of the Session. I cannot interpret their words in any other way. It cannot, however, be supposed that the House itself will be willing to prolong this debate indefinitely. We have made what we consider to be a most fair offer to our opponents, and I can only express our surprise that it has not been accepted in the spirit in which it is made.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 270; Noes 166: Majority 104.—(Division List, No. 25.)
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I need hardly say that I cordially support my hon. Friend and Colleague in opposing this Resolution. I propose to conclude the remarks I am about to make by moving an Amendment, because I believe that if this Resolution is to be passed there are certain portions of it which ought to be amended. I think that the House ought to protest against the reckless assertions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer whenever he speaks of hon. Members sitting on this side of the House. Among other things which the Chancellor of the Exchequer cited as an instance of obstruction from the Opposition was the first Vote for the Admiralty. Now I happen to know what occurred. I proposed an Amendment to reduce the number of men mentioned in the Vote. During the evening I did not move the Amendment, as there appeared to have been a reduction of 3,000 men, and because the supporters of the Government got up and delivered their usual general essays upon the Admiralty, and I thought it would be uncivil on my part to interfere until they had got through those essays. I moved my Amendment at half-past 11. It was a perfectly 177 legitimate Amendment, whether right or wrong. The Division took place at 12 o'clock, and occupied half-an-hour after one or two Members on this side of the House had said a few words. In these circumstances, I consider it most unfair that the Chancellor of the Ex chequer should bring these genera accusations against this side of the House. There is no man in the House who wastes more time than the Chancellor of the Exchequer, for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, a man of figures facts, and statistics, is a great deal too combative. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has attacked the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt). But I have heard the right hon. Gentleman make the same attack 50 times; indeed, the right hon. Gentleman never gets on his feet in the House without saying that the right hon. Member for Derby makes speeches in order to obtain cheers from his own side of the House. The right hon. Member for Derby naturally gets up to speak, entertaining the same views as hon. Members on his own side of the House, and, of course, those hon. Members naturally cheer him. Would the Chancellor of the Exchequer not be surprised if hon. Members behind him cried "Oh, oh!" when he spoke? Let the right hon. Gentleman be satisfied with the cheers which he elicits from that side of the House; but do not let him waste any more of the time of the House by complaining that when hon. Gentlemen get up on this side to express the views of the majority of the Opposition their expressions are approved of by the Party with whom they act. The right hon. Gentleman says—"Why have a discussion on the Vote of Account? Why not propose a Vote of Want of Confidence?" The fact is that we have a primâ facie case against the Ministry; but we want to cross-examine them; we wish to establish the case from their own mouths. We could not do this in a general debate; but we look upon this Vote on Account just as a Royal Commission. We want to have our Royal Commission in the House in order to cross-examine the right hon. Gentlemen. But the Government say, "Not at all; we will not accept that; we want to make long speeches and then come to a general decision on the matter." An 178 other reason why we cannot follow the advice of the right hon. Gentleman is that it is mistaken tactics, when there is a clear minority in the House, to indulge in Motions of Want of Confidence. On such occasions the friends of the Government come down to the House in strong force, and, after defeating the Motion, they go through the country swaggering and saying that they have been whitewashed. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that a guerilla warfare is monstrous. Well, that is just what we are going to carry on. Guerilla wars before now have proved successful; they waste the forces of the enemy. We are not going to engage in pitched battles against the master of many legions on the other side of the House. I agree with my hon. Friend and Colleague, and I would not give a single day to the Government, because never a day in their hands passes without their doing some sort of evil. I would not give them a day, nor afford them the opportunity of getting a single sixpence. The Government may, by means of the Closure, force Supply through; but there is no reason why we should be called on to aid and abet them in maintaining a position which is a false one, because they have not got the country at their back. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury shows a certain sort of suavity, but I discovered long ago that his suavity is very Machiavellian, and the more urbane the right hon Gentleman is, the more utterly I distrust him. What occurred a little while ago? The right hon. Gentleman wished to lay his hands upon a portion of the days set apart for private Members, namely—Tuesdays. The right hon. Gentleman said we should have an opportunity of airing our grievances. He said he wanted half a day for the discussion of the Estimates, and now that he has got it he wants to prevent the discussion of those Estimates, and he practically puts the Closure on the discussion of the Vote on Account. The front Opposition bench asked whether the Government gave up the doctrine that the Vote must be had on Thursday; but the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury said they must leave it to his judgment. What does his judgment mean? It means the Closure. The right hon. Gentleman 179 talked of his duty to the country, but I know of only one duty which the right Gentleman owes to the country, and that is to consult the country. Let him do that. We shall be perfectly satisfied with that; but if the right hon. Gentleman takes up an attitude of defiance, and refuses to consult the country, then we will throw every obstacle we can in the way of the transaction of public business. [Cheers from the Ministerial benches.] I say what I mean; I believe it is our business to do everything we can to provoke a Dissolution; and one of the means of doing that is to render public business exceedingly difficult in the present Parliament. I, for my part, am prepared to do everything I can to attain that excellent, most admirable, and most Constitutional end. The Motion of the First Lord of the Treasury will cause us to sit not only after 12 as long as the right hon. Gentleman pleases, but after 6 to-morrow as long as he pleases. A most important debate is to be inaugurated on the Vote on Account, and, owing to the small amount of time meted out to us, the discussion will be kept up at an hour when there can be no adequate report of it in the newspapers, and when the House is weary and tired out. Anybody who will refer to the pages of Hansard will see that what I say is correct. The 12 o'clock rule was adopted after lengthy consideration; and it was fully understood that it was only to be abrogated when it was necessary to close on a particular night some special debate. Personally, I would not object to our meeting at 10 at night and adjourning at 10 the next morning; but I do like regular hours; and we have now got accustomed to breaking up at 12 o'clock. There is an agitation going on to limit the hours of labour to eight. We meet at 3 and adjourn at 12, so that we have 9 hours' hard work, and we are now called upon by the right hon. Gentleman to continue our labours still further. There is no good reason whatever for that demand of the Government. It is altogether unnecessary to go on after 12 o'clock. We want a fair debate, but it ought to be continued during proper legislative hours. The legislative shop ought to shut up at a proper hour. I beg now to move as an Amendment that the following words be struck out of the Motion:— 180Such financial business may be entered upon at any hour, though opposed, and shall not be interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the Sittings of the House, except of Standing Order No. 5. But after such proceedings are disposed of, no opposed business shall be taken.
§ Amendment proposed, in line 7, to leave out all words after the word "down" to the end of the Question.—(Mr. Labouchere.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ *MR. W. H. SMITH
I cannot accept the Amendment. The hon. Member has stated that it is his intention to offer every possible obstruction to Public Business, and, under those circumstances, it is perfectly clear that it would be seriously injurious to the public interests if the Government were deprived of the facilities which this addition to the Motion will afford them. The powers we ask for are urgently necessary in the position in which we stand—namely, the power to close a discussion when an adjournment would be exceedingly injurious to Public Business. There are many instances when a debate may be closed with advantage to the House, and it is impossible for any Minister to use a power of this sort except with the general assent of the House. I would humbly represent to the House that we have now been discussing this Motion for three hours, and any further prolongation of the discussion must take away from the time available for the consideration of the Estimates in Supply and the Vote on Account, which we desire to approach. The House has already, by a very large majority, refused to strike out a certain portion of the Resolution; and I would, therefore, again urge that we should now come to a conclusion on the Motion and allow business to proceed. The feeling of the House has been sufficiently ascertained by the Division which has already taken place.
§ *MR. STUART (Shoreditch, Hoxton)
I must protest against taking the discussion on the Vote on Account at an hour when the public Press cannot report what we say, and when the Ministry and their supporters will care very little for our arguments. Gentlemen on this side desire to speak to the country through the House.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 267; Noes 161.—(Division List, No. 26.)
§ Main Question put.
The House divided:—Ayes 265; Noes 166:—(Div. List, No. 27.)
Ordered, That until the Proceedings on the Supplementary Estimates 1888–9, the Excesses 1887–8, and the Vote on Account for 1889–90 in the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means, and on Report therefrom, and the several stages of the Consolidated Fund Bill, are concluded, the Proceedings thereon shall have precedence of other Orders of the Day and Notices of Motions on every day for which they are appointed. The provisions of Standing Order No. 56 shall be extended to any day on which the said Votes are set down. Such Financial Business may be entered upon at any hour, though opposed, and shall not be interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the Sittings of the House, except of Standing Order No. 5. But after such Proceedings are disposed of no opposed Business shall be taken.