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The Sessional Orders—Public Business—Money Votes

Volume 114: debated on Wednesday 5 February 1851

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The usual Sessional Orders were moved and agreed to; on that for fixing the days for Committees of Supply,

said, he had given notice last Session of his intention to move that no Money Vote should be taken after 12 o'clock, and that intention he should now fulfil. At that period experience had told him that the House was generally very indulgent. On questions of Supply nearly three-fourths of the Members quitted the House, leaving those only who were desirous of watching over the public expenditure; but these were barely sufficient in number to compete with the Ministerial phalanx that was always in reserve: and the consequence was that Money Votes were carried without that attention which even common decency demanded. By limiting the Votes to 12 o'clock, this evil would be obviated, and it might, at the same time, be the means of making Ministers bring on their Votes at an earlier period of the day. He did not intend that those Votes which should have been moved before 12 should be suspended, but that no new Vote should be proposed after that hour. He proposed to add to the Order the words, "and that no Vote for Money be taken in Committee of Supply after midnight."

thought that it would not he wise for the House to bind itself down to any positive resolution on the subject. He hardly knew an instance in which the Government had persevered in an attempt to force a Vote after 12 o'clock. He was quite sure that in his time no such thing had occurred. Whenever opposition had been made to a Vote after that hour, the Government had given way. It was, in fact, understood that opposed Votes should not be taken after midnight, and he could not call to mind any deviation from that rule. His hon. Friend well knew that there were many Votes to which no opposition was offered, and it could not signify very much at what time such Votes were taken. There were certain periods of the Session when it was desirable to make more rapid progress than at other periods, and half an hour or an hour occupied for that purpose did not necessarily involve a waste of public money. It was far better that the House should be left to exercise its discretion as the occasion arose than that a rule should be established which might tend to impede the despatch of public business.

said, it was to avoid those discussions which often occurred as to whether the House should proceed or not, that he proposed this Amendment. Many Members were anxious to go home at 12 o'clock, but they were reluctant to do so while the public money was being voted away. If any circumstance arose to require the suspension of the Order, he should be willing to agree to it; but, lot what he proposed be the general rule, and the business of the House would be better managed.

thought the practice of taking Votes for public money after 12 o'clock most objectionable. The last grant to Maynooth was taken at a quarter after 1 o'clock in the morning. He would support the Motion of the hon. Member for Montrose, considering it quite indecent to vote away the public money at such late hours.

said, the greatest mischiefs had arisen from bringing forward votes of importance after 12, and even; 2 o'clock in the morning. When his hon. Friend the Member for Salford (Mr. Brotherton) used to perform the onerous duty, in which he persevered for some years, there was some check to the evil; but his hon. Friend had of late years relaxed in his efforts, and that was an additional reason for adopting the Motion.

observed, that it was often absolutely necessary, for the sake of the public service, that votes should be taken after midnight; and the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) felt that necessity, for be declared he would be ready to vote for the suspension of his rule whenever the necessity arose. But in that case the House would just be as likely to engage in debate, whether the occasion was one of necessity or not, and with the prospect of such discussions upon if, the value of such a rule would be infinitesimal.

After a few words from Colonel SIBTHORP,

Question put, "That those words be then added:"—Ayes 47; Noes 116: Majority 69.