HC Deb 06 November 1893 vol 18 cc229-34
MR. DALZIEL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

In the absence of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dumfries, I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury if the Government propose to introduce a Local Government Bill for Scotland this Session?


I think this question has already been answered by my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Scotland, but it is the last question relating to the introduction of Bills during these Autumn Sittings, and affords me the opportunity for making a statement. There was a question put to me on Friday by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol, who, I think, it was understood would repeat his question to-day, and I will consider the question as having been put. It substantially amounts to this—what course the Government intend to take in regard to Parliamentary Business outside the two important Bills they desire to push forward, and what steps they will take to give effect to any intentions they may have formed on that subject? I will, therefore, proceed to give the answer upon this matter. I myself, having been absent from the House during a considerable part of September, have no exact personal knowledge of what took place then; but I have communicated with my colleagues, who know exactly what took place in the House, with regard to the expectations, and, I may say, understanding, upon which the House was requested to meet on November 2. For the purpose of avoiding any possible misapprehension, we have drawn up a Minute which will state distinctly to the House the views and intentions of the Government, and I hope it will meet with approval. That Minute I will now read— The Government asked hon. Members on both sides of the House to make the sacrifices involved by the present prolongation of an already lengthened Session for the special purpose of making progress with two measures, the Local Government (England and Wales) Bill and the Employers' Inability Bill; they feel, therefore, the duty imposed upon them to confine, as fur as they are able, the business of the present Sittings to the consideration and passing of those two measures, and to the final disposing of those Government Bills which were passed through the House of Commons in the earlier portion of the Session. They do not propose to introduce any new Government Bills unless of a character demanded by administrative or financial necessity. They further propose to reserve the power of taking up any non-contentious Bill of pressing necessity, should such a course be found to be the general desire of the House. To facilitate these arrangements, and to avoid inconvenience to hon. Members, it is intended to move the Adjournment of the House, at every sitting, so soon as the end of the Government Orders has been reached. Having given that reply to the general question, I must add, in conformity with it, that I am sure my hon. Friends will perceive that the tenour of the reply expresses not so much our desire with reference to this or that particular measure which we might very gladly see forwarded, as our desire to act in perfect and absolute good faith with what we think to have been a distinct understanding entered into with the House after it had sat for a period of eight months, and had, during those eight months, I think I may fairly say, done harder work than had ever been performed in any previous Session of Parliament, at least within my recollection. My hon. Friend who has asked about the Places of Worship (Sites) Bill, the hon. Member opposite who has put a question about the Evicted Tenants Bill, and other hon. Members who have communicated with me without putting a question on the Paper, will, I hope, accept this explanation as at least indicating the motives and grounds upon which we are proceeding. With respect to the Evicted Tenants Bill, I think I ought to say that the first part of the question, which asks whether we intend to introduce a measure in the present Session dealing definitely with the subject, has already received its answer in the announcement of my right hon. Friend near me, that it was intended to introduce a measure dealing with the substance of the question in the next Session of Parliament. With respect to the second part of the question, which asks whether we propose to deal with the subject on a basis somewhat more limited, I think I must say that such a course would appear to be excluded by our understanding with the House, inasmuch as the compulsory element in the question would involve the necessity of bringing before the House a contentious subject which we could not introduce compatibly with our undertaking.

MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)

May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether it is competent for the Prime Minister to take away the rights of private Members without Motion made? I maintain that no understanding was come to before the Adjournment except as regarded Public Business, and I protest against this abrogation of the rights of private Members.

MR. SEXTON (Kerry, N.)

The right hon. Gentleman has said that the compulsory character of the proposal respecting the Evicted Tenants Bill prevents him from regarding it as a non-contentious measure. With reference to the proposal to renew Section 13 of the Land Purchase Act of 1891, I beg to remind the right hon. Gentleman that the operation of that clause rests on voluntary action. There is nothing compulsory about it. It was inserted with the consent of both Parties, and the proposal to renew the clause emanated from a Member of the Unionist Party— namely, the hon. Member for South Tyrone. In these circumstances, I beg to ask the Government to reconsider the propriety of introducing a Bill for the purpose of renewing the clause, is the only practicable means of ascertaining whether this policy would be opposed or not.


I should myself be prepared to bring in a measure for reviving the operation of Section 13 of the Act of 1891 for a certain time, if the proposal to introduce such a Bill received the assent of the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his friends. It will be remembered that near the close of the previous portion of the Sittings I asked the right, hon. Gentleman opposite whether he would consent to this subject being treated as non-contentions, but the right hon. Gentleman was not then able to give a definite answer. If the right hon. Gentleman will now consent to treat it as a non-contentious matter I am prepared to introduce a Bill on the subject.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR (Manchester, E.)

As a matter of personal explanation, perhaps I may be allowed to repeat what I did say on the occasion referred to by the right hon. Gentleman. I was asked whether I was prepared to say on behalf of my friends that the renewal of Clause 13 of the Act of 1891 would be regarded by us as a non-contentious measure. I said, in answer, and I have nothing to add to that answer now, that it was quite impossible for me to give any opinion upon what might be a mere fragment of the Government's policy with regard to the evicted tenants, but that if the Government were to come forward and say that their whole policy consisted in the renewal of this particular clause I should then be very glad to consider the matter. I could not consent then to give an opinion upon au avowedly fragmentary part of a policy, and I cannot consent to do so now.


I wish to answer the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green, who has asked by what right we dispose of the fragmentary portions of the time of the House that might accrue to hon. Members through a lapse of the business of the Government before the appointed hour. If we were engaged in an ordinary Sitting I should answer him by saying that we had no title to interfere at all with the opportunities of private Members. But there is an exceptional element in the present case, arising out of the fact that we have asked the House to meet for a specific purpose, for the achievement of a specific task relating to two Bills. In that way an understanding arose which hinds us, not, of course, to overrule any Motion of the House regarding any private Member's Bill, but, to suggest to the House a course which the Autumn Sitting may properly take in order that no person may be misled by our arrangements.


Is it not competent on any night for a private Member to bring forward any subject to which he wishes to direct attention on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House?


It is.


I rise for the purpose of making a strong and respectful appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to grant a day for the consideration in Committee of the Mines (Eight Hours) Bill, which has been read a second time by a majority of 79. On the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman, we canvassed a large number of the Members of this House as to the desirability of holding a Saturday Sitting earlier in the Session. We are quite certain that if we are granted one day it is possible we may get through the Committee stage of the Bill.

MR. H. LAWSON (Gloucester, Cirencester)

Would it not be well to pass a Resolution for the purpose of carrying over the Places of Worship (Sites) Bill and the Places of Worship Enfranchisement Bill to next Session, and reviving them then at the advanced stages which they have reached during this Session?


I am afraid it would not be possible to do as the hon. Member desires. At all events, the matter would involve a great change in our proceedings, and a simple Resolution could not be viewed as a proper vehicle for effecting the hon. Member's purpose. As to the proposal on the subject of the Mines (Eight Hours) Bill, I can again assure the hon. Member who makes it of the interest with which this subject is regarded by us. The hon. Member, first of all, raises the question of Parliamentary tactics, for he has given the opinion that a Sitting of one day would enable the promoters of the Bill to make effectual progress with it. New, matters of this kind are matters upon which the practice of the persons concerned with the arrangements of the Government Business enables them to speak with great authority, and they conceive that a single day would not enable any effectual progress to be made with the Bill. If my hon. Friend likes to lay before the public the letter which I wrote to him some little time ago, it will, I think, render practicable a fuller comprehension of the motives upon which we have acted, and will, perhaps, assist the House in deciding whether any exception ought to be made in favour of this measure. We think that none ought to be made to the rule which we have laid down.


The President of the Local Government Board has announced that the earliest opportunity will be taken next Session to deal with the Equalisation of Rates (London) Bill. Will the Prime Minister say if it will have precedence of the legislation with regard to the Irish evicted tenants?


It would be premature on my part to say anything of the kind.

MR. WOOTTON ISAACSON (Tower Hamlets, Stepney)

Cannot anything be done to enable the Watermen's and Lightermen's Bill to pass? It has only to go through a single stage, and, at any rate, it might be revived in the ensuing Session without the necessity of my again appearing before the Examiners.


I have nothing to add to what I have already stated.