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Motion For An Adjournment

Volume 217: debated on Saturday 2 August 1873

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said, that before proceeding to the Business on the Paper, he wished to say a few words with reference to the count-out on Friday night. On Thursday the Prime Minister announced the understanding that had been come to, by which hon. Members should have an opportunity of bringing on Motions last night; but he (Mr. Bentinck) confessed he was rather suspicious at the time whether a House would be kept, from the right hon. Gentleman advising the hon. Member for the isle of Wight (Mr. B. Cochrane) to ask his Friends to come down and support him. He considered counting out a vicious practice, as it prevented private Members bringing forward matters of great importance, and he considered that the Prime Minister, as trustee of the time of the House, was bound to take care that when private Members had matter of importance to submit to the House they should have an opportunity of doing so. Instead, however, of doing so, the right hon. Gentleman, during his term of office, had encroached upon them to the utmost extent. He had availed himself freely of morning sittings, and he had unfortunately induced hon. Members to yield to him the privilege of going into Committee of Supply on Mondays without Motions, and therefore the Prime Minister had more time at his disposal than any Prime Minister ever had before. It seemed to follow that it was more than ever his duty to be careful of the rights of private Members during the residue of Tuesdays and Fridays. The Government alone could keep a House on those days after the morning sittings, because the physical power of human nature would not enable men to sit from 2 to 7 o'clock and then to return at 9. How had the Prime Minister fulfilled his obligation? The House had been counted on. Tuesdays and Fridays so often that the evening sittings had been reduced almost to a farce; and it was almost impossible for any private Member to bring a question on now. He had just now given Notice to postpone until next Session a Motion, the Notice of which had been on the Paper ever since March. He had never been able on the Ballot to get a chance of bringing it on. These repeated counts-out rendered it impossible for many questions to be disposed of. Last night he was not present himself—he never intended to be present—it was the business of the Government to make a House; and he was told there were 15 or 16 Members of the Government present. The other Members of the Government had no right to be more agreeably engaged elsewhere. If the right hon. Gentleman could not get the other Members of the Government to attend to their duties in that House, all he had got to do was to discharge them, and there were plenty of hon. Gentlemen below the gangway who would undertake to fulfil their duties. If these counts-out wore to continue, it would be utterly impossible that the business of the country could be transacted. He therefore gave Notice that, next Session, unless an arrangement was come to for preserving the rights of private Members, he should oppose the Sessional Order relating to morning sittings, so unfortunately commenced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. To put himself in Order, he moved the adjournment of the House.

seconded the Motion without agreeing with the hon. Member for Whitehaven. What appeared to him to be at the root of the counts-out was the taking of Supply on Monday without Motions. He demurred to the statement that it was physically impossible for a Gentleman to be in his place at 7 and again at 9. He had no difficulty in doing it, and the hon. Member for Whitehaven could have been present at 9 on Monday night if he had liked. It was not the fault of the Government that the House was counted out, for it was entirely owing to the absence of private Members. The Prime Minister, notwithstanding his recent indisposition, was in his place, which showed that he was anxious to keep a House for those who had Questions on the Paper; and the Treasury bench was full.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—( Mr. Cavendish Bentinck.)

said, he was obliged to the hon. Member for Falmouth for the manner in which he had done justice to the Ministry. Listening to the hon. Member for Whitehaven he began to doubt whether the hon. Member's speech was not from beginning to end a piece of refined irony. He said it was physically impossible for hon. Members to sit from 2 to 7, and then to return by 9, and then he complained that the Members of the Government did not do it. How were the Members of the Government to do that which was physically impossible for hon. Members? Were not the Members of Government subject to the infirmities of human nature? If the hon. Gentleman thought not, he (Mr. Gladstone) would cheerfully make over all his to the hon. Gentleman. When the Government, out of its 31 Members, furnished a contribution of 18, while the other 620 hon. Members furnished a contribution of 13, he must say he thought it a waste of time to discuss the complaint the hon. Member had made.

endorsed the remark of the right hon. Gentleman that the Members of Her Majesty's Government, like other mortals, were subject to the infirmities of human nature. The House had seen abundant proofs of that during the last few days. He was unable to agree with the hon. Member for Whitehaven that the practice of counting out the House was a vicious one. On the contrary, he thought that any hon. Member who called attention to the fact that the business of the country was being transacted by fewer than 40 Members was performing an act of patriotism, and that the practice was no disadvantage when compared with the hole-and-corner way of doing business which sometimes occurred on questions of great importance, when less than 40 Members were present. He regretted, however, the pernicious alteration of the forms of the House which prevented grievances from being discussed before Supply was granted, and hoped that next year there would be a return to the ancient practice.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.