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Volume 203: debated on Thursday 28 July 1870

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, in moving for leave to bring in a Bill to amend the existing Acts by which the time at which Parliament could be appointed to meet after the date of the Proclamation summoning them together was regulated; and also to move a now Standing Order by which the time within which it was at present practicable to obtain Votes in Supply would be shortened, said, that by the existing law Parliament might be summoned by Royal Proclamation, to meet on any day not less than 14 days from the day of the date of such Proclamation. No doubt that interval was fixed upon consideration of the speed of communication and travelling in the reign of George the Third. At the present time such an interval was quite unnecessary. At the time when Parliament was called together in the autumn of 1867, for the purpose of providing for the Abyssinian War, Parliament stood prorogued from the 21st August to the 6th November. On the 4th of November the Royal Proclamation was issued summoning Parliament to meet for the dispatch of business on the 19th; when it accordingly met, and proceeded immediately to consider the proposition of Her Majesty's Government with respect to the Abyssinian Expedition. Such, however, were the delays interposed by the Standing Orders, and by the rules and practices of the House, that it was not until the 27th that the Supply was voted in Committee; the necessary means in Committee of Ways and Means on the 28th; and the Bill received the Royal Assent only on the 7th December. Thus a period of 33 days elapsed after Parliament had been summoned to meet to deal with a business of pressing importance, before the means necessary to meet the emergency could be legally provided. It appeared to Her Majesty's Government that those periods were unnecessarily long, and they therefore proposed by the present Bill to reduce the interval between the Proclamation and the meeting of Parliament to six days. There were special Acts relating to the Militia (the 42 Geo. III., caps. 9 and 91), which provided that when Her Majesty should think fit to call out the Supplementary Militia, and Parliament stands prorogued for more than 14 days, Her Majesty shall issue a Proclamation for the meeting of Parliament within 14 days—14 days is the maximum, not the minimum. It was not proposed to interfere with that special provision. With regard to the Voting of Supplies—at present, after Her Majesty's most Gracious Speech from the Throne, the House proceeds to vote an Address. The Address having been reported and agreed to, Her Majesty's Speech is ordered to be considered at the next Sitting of the House. At its next Sitting the House, accordingly, takes the Speech into consideration; and a Motion being made—"That a Supply be granted to Her Majesty," a Resolution is agreed to that the House will to-morrow (or on a future day) resolve itself into a Committee to consider that Motion. On that day, on the Order of the Day being read, Her Majesty's Speech is ordered to be referred to the Committee; and the House having resolved itself into Committee, and the Queen's Speech being read, the Committee resolves—"That a Supply be granted to Her Majesty." This Resolution being reported to the House, the Report is ordered to be received on a future day. The Resolution being reported, the House thereon resolve that "This House do agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," and resolve—"That this House will, upon a future day, resolve itself into a Committee, to consider the Supply granted to Her Majesty." This Committee is the Committee of Supply. On the appointed day, on the Order being read for the Committee of Supply, and the necessary explanations given, Accounts and Estimates are referred, and the House resolves itself into the Committee, and at last proceeds to consider the matter referred to it. Whatever Resolutions the Committee of Supply may come to, the Report having been made to the House, it is ordered to be received on a future day; and the Resolutions are on that day severally moved and agreed to. When the first Resolutions in Committee of Supply have been agreed to, it is resolved—"That this House will, on a future day, resolve itself into a Committee to consider of Ways and Means for raising the Supply granted to Her Majesty." This Committee is the Committee of Ways and Means. The Committee, on a day appointed, consider of Ways and Means, and having come to a Resolution, that Resolution is reported to the House on a subsequent day; and, having been so reported and agreed to, a Bill is ordered, which must pass through both Houses of Parliament. Through these forms it must be on the ninth Sitting after the meeting of Parliament before the Supply can be agreed to by the House of Commons; and a Bill could not be pushed through Parliament (in the ordinary course) in less than six days. It seemed to Her Majesty's Government that these formalities were unnecessary, and occupied a great deal of time to no good purpose. The new Standing Order he was about to propose would enable the House to appoint the Committees of Supply and Ways and Means without the interposition of the customary forms between the Address in Answer to Her Majesty's Speech and the Committee. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by moving for leave to bring in the Bill.

Motion agreed to.

Bill to amend the Acts of the thirty-seventh year of George the Third, chapter one hundred and twenty-seven, and the thirty-ninth and fortieth years of George the Third, chapter fourteen, ordered to be brought in by Mr. GLADSTONE and Mr. Secretary BRUCE.
Bill presented, and read the first time. [Bill 247.]