Parliament — Business Of The House—The New Rules Of Procedure—Eleventh Rule (Consideration Of A Bill, As Amended)
Order read, for resuming Further Consideration of the New Rules of Procedure.
, in rising to move the 11th Resolution as follows: —
said, the object of the Resolution was to bring the details of the Bill immediately before the House, and to do away with the intermediate stage between Committee and the consideration of the Bill, as amended."That, on reading the Order of the Day for the Consideration of a Bill, as amended, the House do proceed to consider the same without Question put, unless the Member in charge thereof shall desire to postpone its consideration, or notice has been given to recommit the Bill,"
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That, on reading the Order of the Day for the Consideration of a Bill, as amended, the House do proceed to consider the same without Question put, unless the Member in charge thereof shall desire to postpone its consideration, or notice has been given to re-commit the Bill." —(Mr. Gladstone.)
Amendment made, in line 1, by leaving out the words "on reading," and inserting the word "when," instead thereof.—( Mr. Gorst.)
Amendment made, in line 2, by inserting, after the word "amended," "in Committee of the whole House has been read."—( Mr. Beresford Hope.)
, in rising to move, in line 2, after the words "as amended"—
said, that the object of the Amendment was to enable a debate to be raised upon a Bill where it had undergone considerable alteration in Committee. For instance, in the case of the Arrears Bill, provisions were inserted in Committee, relating to the purchase of small tenements, of which there was no trace in the Bill on the second reading. In such, cases it was very convenient that there should be a discussion on the whole Bill as amended."Unless in the opinion of the Speaker the scope of such Bill has been materially altered or enlarged in Committee,"
At the end of the foregoing Amendment, to insert the words "unless in the opinion of the Speaker the scope of such Bill has been materially altered or enlarged in Committee." —(Mr. Gorst.)
Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
said, the objection to the Amendment was that it would refer that matter to the opinion of the Speaker and impose on him without necessity an additional burden—a thing which was undesirable. If a Bill had been seriously and vitally altered in Committee, it would be perfectly competent for any Member to move that it be re-committed, in order to raise a discussion and call attention to the changes it had undergone, even although he might not intend to persist in his Motion. Again, in Committee, after the Bill had been gone through, the Chairman must put the Question, "That I report the Bill, as amended, to the House;" and then there would be a full opportunity for discussing the whole of the Amendments which had been made in it. Thus there were actually two occasions for raising such a discussion as the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) contemplated; and his Amendment was, therefore, unnecessary.
said, he thought they ought to be careful how they allowed Members to be ousted from their opportunities of opposing the further progress of a Bill which had been materially altered in Committee. Although it might not be right to require the Speaker to give an opinion as to the extent to which a Bill had been altered, it would, on the other hand, be rather hard if Members objecting to the measure so altered could only take the course of moving its re-committal, which might be highly inconvenient, and not what they desired.
SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, that they had often found Bills so greatly and materially altered in Committee that it was necessary that the House should afterwards consider them on coming up for Report. If the right to discuss Bills at that stage was abolished, the House would lose all opportunity of criticizing the details of a measure after it had passed through Committee. The House should remember that it was hampering itself by new Rules and Regulations in every way; and from what they had seen already, it was clear that the Government would not be slow to put them in force. There was little doubt that, next Session, the Government would have two or three first-class Bills passing through the House at the same time, and that was a further reason why the discussion on the Report stage should not be done away with. Experience would show in the future, as it had demonstrated in the past, that Bills would be materially altered in going through Committee; and if the present Rule, as proposed by the Government, should pass, there would be no opportunity of considering the changes made in any measure. The reason why the legislation of that House had been so successful and so satisfactory was because it had been carefully considered at every stage. This would not be the case if they got into the habit of driving measures hastily through the House. That was not the wish of the country, although he knew that several right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench were most anxious that certain measures of their own should be driven through the House. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India had declared that this was the reason why he was desirous of seeing the clôture passed, and the President of the Board of Trade had frankly admitted that his object in supporting the Rule was to get certain measures passed by Parliament. That being so, he (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) viewed with reluctance every proposal made to abridge the liberties of Members; and if the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst) went to a division with his Amendment he should vote for it.
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, that the present Government once brought in a Bill professedly for the philanthropic and harmless object of relieving distress in Ireland; but during the progress of the measure through Committee they attempted to introduce into it wholly different and highly contentious matter, to which serious exception was taken by Members sitting in various parts of the House, and which related to what was called compensation for disturbance. That was an illustration of the great abuse which might occur under the system which the Government desired to establish. In future, those who had been somewhat disrespectfully referred to as private-Bill-mongers might have a strong temptation presented to them to introduce apparently harmless Bills which might afterwards be converted into substantially different measures, and would have virtually to be swallowed by the House without the discussion of their principle. The House ought, therefore, to have an opportunity of debating, at the stage of Report, the principle of a Bill, which might, perhaps, have assumed an entirely new aspect during its progress through Committee.
MR. STANLEY LEIGHTON
said, that if a Bill had been altered and come out of Committee a different measure, or materially changed, a second opportunity of considering it was necessary. The Chairman or the Speaker might safely be trusted to determine whether any serious alteration had been made, and might be allowed to shape its future course, having regard to that fact.
SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he agreed that Bills had sometimes gone up into Committee and had come back again materially altered. It had always struck him that there ought to be some provision for considering Bills passed through Committee for the purpose of pointing out what was the effect of the Amendments made there. That might be an inconvenient rule if invariably followed; but where considerable Amendments were adopted it would be found of the greatest utility. In that way the inconsistency so often complained of by Judges, and difficulties of interpretation, would be largely avoided.
said, he might remind the House that they had already accepted a modification of the Half-past Twelve Rule; and they must carefully bear in mind the fact that certain Bills not formerly affected by that Rule would, in future, come within its operation.
said, that the Amendment then before the House would not meet the wishes of the right hon. Member for South-West Lancashire; but if such a step were to be taken at all, it would come more usefully when the House had decided finally upon the form the Bill was to take.
Amendment proposed, at the end of the foregoing Amendment, to insert the words "the Question shall be put forthwith that."—( Mr. Gorst.)
Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
said, he distinctly objected to the Amendment, as it would remove the chief benefit of the Rule.
Amendment, by leave, Withdrawn.
Amendment proposed, in line 4, after "or," leave out "notice has been given." —( Mr. Monk.)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Resolution."
said, he would accept the Amendment, substituting the words "or a Motion shall be made."
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
said, he wished to move an Amendment which would have the effect of preventing a Bill, as amended, being proceeded with where a Motion should be made to oppose or re-commit the Bill.
Amendment proposed, in line 4, after the word "to," to insert the words "oppose or."—( Mr. Sclater-Booth.)
Question proposed, "That the words 'oppose or' be there inserted."
said, he must oppose the Amendment, as it would strike at the whole principle of the Rule.
LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
maintained that if this Rule were amended in the direction proposed, they might as well have no such Standing Order.
Amendment, by leave, Withdrawn.
Main Question, as amended, put.
The House divided:—Ayes 57; Noes 27: Majority 30.—(Div. List, No. 396.)
(11.) Resolved, That when the Order of the Day for the Consideration of a Bill, as amended, in the Committee of the whole House, has been read, the House do proceed to consider the same without Question put, unless the Member in charge thereof shall desire to postpone its consideration, or a Motion shall he made to recommit the Bill.
The New Rules Of Procedure— Twelfth Rule (Notices On Going Into Committee Of Supply)
, in moving the 12th Resolution, which was as follows: —
said, that the Resolution was one of considerable importance. It rested on the ground that the practice which it proposed to deal with was of rather modern date, and that that practice had been of significant effect on the Business of the House only during the last 10 or 20 years. In the year 1811 the first instance occurred, according to Sir Erskine May, of a Motion, the nature of which was now so familiar—namely, against going into Committee of Supply. Up to 1820 there were only three or four such Motions. Up to 1837, embracing five years after the Reform Act, when the great change in the Business took place, there were about two cases each year, and up to 1860 no more than 11. But during the last 10 years the cases had increased to 33 actually moved, besides the discussions raised and other incidental proceedings, which were about as many more. That showed that the item was becoming a serious and important one in the Business of the House. Of course, it was not to be denied that they were making a serious demand upon independent Members. In the course of the debates he had heard statements to the effect that the Government only were interested in those Resolutions. But in some of them at least private Members were equally interested. Plow was the time of the House now divided? In the first place, the Government were liable to have a very considerable portion of their evenings blocked up by unlimited questions. The Question time belonged to private Members; and, therefore, it was not accurate to say that even on Mondays and Thursdays the Government had the whole time. Independent Members had Question time on five days of the week, Tuesdays for Motions, Wednesdays for Bills, and Fridays for Notices on going into Supply. The latter they did not propose to interfere with. The result was that two days a-week were given to the Government, and more than three to independent Members, against which there was to be set whatever advantage was obtained by the Government by Morning Sittings in the latter part of the Session. The object they had in view in reforming the conduct of Business was to facilitate both independent Members' and Government legislation; but it was the Government Business which had most egregiously failed of late years. In consequence, they thought they might reasonably ask from the House that, excepting on days as expressed in the Resolution, when the Army, Navy, or Miscellaneous Estimates were brought forward, there should be no preliminary Motions on going into Committee of Supply. They thought that that additional time would be a division of the time of the House which was just, and, on the whole, not illiberal towards independent Members. In making this demand they acknowledged the authority of the House, and they put it before the House as a rational and a fair demand, in the conviction that the House would give it just consideration and a favourable reception."That, whenever the Committee of Supply-stands as the first Order of the Day on any day except Friday evening, on which Government Orders have precedence, Mr. Speaker shall leave the Chair without putting any Question, unless on first going into Supply on the Army, Navy, or Civil Service Estimates respectively, or on any Vote of Credit, an Amendment he moved, or Question raised, relating to the Estimates proposed to be taken in Supply,"
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That, whenever the Committee of Supply stands as the first Order of the Day on any day, except Friday evening, on which Government Orders have precedence, Mr. Speaker shall leave the Chair without putting any Question, unless on first going into Supply on the Army, Navy, or Civil Service Estimates respectively, or on any Vote of Credit, an Amendment be moved, or Question raised, relating to the Estimates proposed to be taken in Supply."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
rose to move, in line 1, after the first word "That," to insert—
The effect of the Amendment would be to enable the Minister to make his statement at a much earlier period than he could under the present Regulations of the House; while, at the same time, it would not curtail the rights of private Members. It was proposed in the year 1857 by Mr. Wilson to make the statement on the Civil Service Estimates with the Speaker in the Chair; but the proposal was not then received with much favour. The right hon. Member for Westminster (Mr. W. H. Smith) in 1877,when he was Secretary to the Treasury, proposed to follow the same course; and the noble Lord the late Member for Liverpool (Viscount Sandon) in the same year made a similar proposition with regard to the Education Estimates. The course he suggested was not adopted on those occasions; but no objection was taken on principle, but only on the ground that due notice had not been given. The principle, in fact, was very generally approved; and Mr. Raikes, who was temporarily not a Member of the House, said that a more satisfactory change could not be introduced."The usual statement by the Minister in charge of the Army or Navy Estimates, or by the Vice President of the Committee of Council, shall be made, the Speaker being in the Chair, on the Motion 'That Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair,' and that."
In line 1, after the first word "That," to insert the words "the usual statement by the Minister in charge of the Army or Navy Estimates, or by the Vice President of the Committee of Council, shall be made, the Speaker being in the Chair, on the Motion 'That Mr. Speaker do leave the Chair,' and that.'—(Mr. Salt.)
Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted,"
said, that the Amendment of the hon. Member in its present shape would produce great inconvenience, because, after a Minister had made his statement with the Speaker in the Chair, a Member who had on the Paper some Notice on going into Supply would interpose and the discussion which ought to follow immediately upon the statement of the Minister would be interfered with, and at last would be taken in the most inconvenient manner. He would prefer that Mondays, and Mondays alone, should be set down for going into Supply without any Motions by independent Members, and that no other Government Business should be allowed to displace Supply on those days. But he had seen Mondays which the Government professed to keep for Supply appropriated to other Business, and the consequence was that they had to scamper through Supply in July and August. He recollected the right hon. Member for North Devon (Sir Stafford Northcote), the cause of whose absence they all deplored, making, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, a very important statement with the Speaker in the Chair, and Gentlemen who felt interested in the subject desired to follow. But his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Nolan) had a Motion on the Paper with respect, he believed, to rifled guns, and brought it on, three or four Gentlemen spoke to it, and it was with great difficulty that the discussion was brought back to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement. He was therefore opposed to the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Stafford.
SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, there was a great deal to be said in favour of the Amendment of his hon. Friend (Mr. Salt). There could be no doubt that it would be a great convenience to Members of the Ministry to be able to come down to the House, and so avoid the desultory conversations which generally happened when any question such as the hon. Member referred to arose. They must admit that whenever a certain responsible statement was made within a fair and reasonable time, the House had an opportunity of traversing the whole of it, and were able to bring to bear upon it that criticism which was so essential to the interest of the country. Therefore, so far as he could judge of the whole question, whilst giving his Friend every credit for a desire to save the time of the House, yet he thought it would not be for the best interests of the country that the Amendment should now be adopted. He (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) thought the proposition of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) was about the best that could be made, if the Government were prepared to say that they would take Monday, and Monday alone, for he believed that the House would give them that day. But if they did not do so, he thought they would involve the House in a serious position. He recollected serving on a Select Committee in 1871, when the present Lord Sherbrooke (then Mr. Lowe) was in the Chair, and Lord Beacons-field (then Mr. Disraeli) was on the Committee. The proposal of the Government of that day was precisely the same as it was at this moment, with one exception. They gave up the whole of Friday; and if the House would now remark, the Government put down Friday evening, clearly showing that they were going to take Friday morning for Committee. What happened on that Committee, however, was that Mr. Disraeli said—"Oh, no; we cannot stand your taking all these days; but we will give you Monday." The right hon. and learned Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) then, perhaps, not exactly in that Parliamentary language some would desire, said—"This is a job between the two Front Benches, and I will oppose that," and Monday clear and simple was assigned to the Government. But what use did they make of it? Was Supply put down for Monday? No. Supply was brought in late again that year, and did not get finished in sufficient time. The way in which Supply had been brought in this House in recent years had been an absolute scandal to the House. This year they had had many questions of Supply brought in at 1, 2, and even 3 o'clock in the morning, owing, as they were told, to the exigencies of Business; and they succumbed to the inevitable. By the proposals that had now been made to the House, they were asking private Members to give up an amount of time they could not spare. The Prime Minister had told them it was part of his scheme that they were to have early Morning Sittings on Tuesdays to get through the Business, and that the Evening Sitting should be relegated to private Members. Again, there was the proposal to have Morning Sittings on Fridays; but how would hon. Members be able to carry on any discussion at 9 o'clock on a Friday evening at the end of the week, after they had been sitting there hour after hour during so many nights? They had never sat so late in recent years as since the present Government came into power. They had sat there until 3 and 4 o'clock in the morning, passing legislation for them. They had now passed 11 of the most stringent Bales that possibly could have been made, and they were now asked by the Government to pass a 12th, which would absolutely annihilate private Members' rights. Let the Government take Monday for Supply. That would not only settle the question in five minutes, and satisfy the House, but also satisfy the country.
SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he agreed that it would be an advantage to have the Ministerial statement in a full House; but there was the inconvenience that the discussion would very likely be broken off by some Member who might have a Motion on the Paper on a totally different subject. The question was one of the balance of inconvenience. The Government would naturally claim the largest slice of the cake; but they ought not to get too much, or to misuse their share of the public time. As his hon. and gallant Friend had said, the result would be perfectly satisfactory if the Government took Monday for Supply on the understanding that Supply alone would be the work of that day, and that not more than one Vote of Credit would ever be asked for. As for Tuesdays, why should not the private Members take the Morning, and the Government the Evening Sittings? If the Government wished to pass this Rule with anything like unanimity, they would have to revert to the old Rule of leaving to private Members the time they had, and being content with Mondays.
said, that the Rule recommended by the Committee of 1871 gave the Government more days than Monday for Supply. There seemed to be conclusive objections to this Amendment. The effect of it would seem to be that when a statement had been made, on going into Committee the subjects dealt with would be discussed in a desultory way in Committee, and much of the Minister's statement would have to be repeated. It was better that the statement should be made in Committee, when the Minister could be followed by Members who could speak as often as they liked.
MR. J. LOWTHER
said, he believed there was a great deal to be said in favour of the view of the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), and he could not support the Amendment which would give the Government not only every Supply night, but also what were called first nights. There was a great practical inconvenience in a Minister who had an important statement to make waiting for hours while a variety of subjects were discussed. It ought to be positively known when a Minister would make such a statement. It was a grave question whether they should part with the Constitutional right of stating grievances before granting Supply. It might be that the practice dated from 1811; but it must be remembered that there were formerly other opportunities of calling attention to grievances, and most able speeches had been made on the presentation of Petitions. He had objected strongly to any Government taking Supply on Monday night before the statement of grievance, and he could only regret that his political Friends had not always been staunch to the Constitutional doctrine. He hoped the Government would not insist on the Resolution as it stood, and that they would consider whether it left Members due facilities for calling attention to grievances before Supply.
LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
said, he was glad the Government had not adhered to the original form of the Resolution, but had incorporated an Amendment of which he had given Notice. This Rule would be as effectual as any in advancing Public Business, and it would operate quite as much in favour of the private Member as of the Government. At present, early in the Session, private Members disorganized the Business of the Government, and later on the Government retaliated, with the result that the weakest went to the wall.
MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
I rise to Order. The noble Lord is not confining himself to the Amendment.
LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
said, he was replying to the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken. Was it supposed that the redress of grievance before Supply only dated from 1811, when the practice was introduced of stating grievances on going into Committee of Supply? The practice of Motions on going into Committee of Supply only began in the year 1811. The evidence of Mr. Bouverie was clear that the practice was by no means of ancient date; and Lord Eversley, in his evidence before a Committee of the House in February, 1861, said that if he could put a stop to the practice he would do so. Before 1811 Notices of Motion always took precedence of Orders of the Day. The present practice, beginning in 1811, was developed gradually; at first, two such Motions were, on the average, made each Session; but by degrees there grew to be no limit to the number. He hoped the Government would stand by their Rule.
MR. E. STANHOPE
said, he thought the Amendment, taken by itself, was objectionable, because its effect would be to take away even the small modicum of time for discussing private Motions which the Government proposed to leave hon. Members. At the same time, it touched one of the greatest grievances which they had to endure. It was monstrous that Ministers of the Crown should have to make important statements at 12 o'clock at night. The Rule would make things worse than ever, and would be found so intolerable as to require speedy alteration.
said, that the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Salt) had said that it was inconvenient that Ministerial statements should be made in Committee; and the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) had said it was inconvenient that they should be made with the Speaker in the Chair. He would ask was it necessary that they should be made at all? They were, after all, generally long and uninteresting speeches, full of details which were supplied by the clerks of the various Departments—the War Office, the Treasury, the Admiralty—and could easily be printed and distributed as official Reports. He intended to move that a printed statement by the Minister in charge of the Estimates proposed to be taken in Supply should have been at least one week previously circulated among the Members of the House.
GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
said, he hoped the Government would adopt the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham.
I must point out that the matter cannot be properly discussed until the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham is before the House.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
MR. GORST moved to omit the word "whenever," in line 1, the effect being to make the Resolution begin with a statement that Supply should be the first Order of the Day on Monday. Since he had had the honour of a seat in the House there had not been a single case in which the Dockyards Vote had been discussed before August. In order that the Government might carry their Bills, Supply was put off week after week and month after month, until it was hurried through at the end of the Session. His Amendment was an attempt to bring home to the mind of the House its duty with regard to Supply, and to secure, as far as possible, that that duty should be efficiently performed.
Amendment proposed, in line 1, to leave out the word "whenever."—( Mr. Gorst.)
Question proposed, "That the word 'whenever' stand part of the Question."
SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT
said, that if there were any Members who desired that the Government should pass no Bills at all they ought to support this proposal. The consequence of the Amendment, if carried, would be that the Government would only have four days for carrying their Bills. The proposal of the hon. and learned Member meant simply that the Notice Paper would be choked with Motions on going into Committee of Supply, and the very reason for which they were proposing these Resolutions—namely, to facilitate Public Business—would be frustrated. All Members, therefore, who desired that the Government should do more legislative Business than at present would vote against the Amendment.
said, he thought that there were several fallacies in the ob- servations of the Home Secretary. The question was not whether the Government should have facilities for pressing on their Bills, but whether they were justified in the wholesale appropriation of the time heretofore at the disposal of private Members. Under the Rules that now existed the Government had no power to put down Supply, unless Members had a correlative right of discussing their grievances. The Government proposed to grapple with the inconvenience, the existence of which everyone admitted, by taking every day in the week except Friday evening. It was indicated as clearly as possible in the Resolution that the Government intended to take Friday morning, and to leave the Friday evening only to private Members. For his part he was not disposed to acquiesce in the proposal of the Government. It would greatly tend to shorten the discussion if the Government indicated what concession with respect to the time of the House they would be prepared to make to private Members. In such a Rule as the present there were two evils to be guarded against. The first was to take care that Supply was not finished too rapidly, and the second to take care that Supply was not postponed till too late in the Session. It would cause both inconvenience and disaster if Supply were finished too early in the Session, for it was desirable that it should be kept open, in order that independent Members might have some control over the Government. If the Amendment now before the House would have the effect of causing Supply to be finished too soon, it would be an objection to it; but no such objection had been urged by the Home Secretary. The other inconvenience—that of postponing Supply till late in the Session — might arise under the Rule. It would be quite possible for the Government to use up all their Government days to pass those measures which they said the country was so anxious for; and when the House was wearied out, as it now was, when only 100 Members were present to discuss the most vital changes in the organization of the House, the Government could take four days in the week for Supply. It would be impossible, then, for a wearied House to adequately discuss the Estimates, and the Votes would be passed without discussion, and serious injury be done. That monstrous inconvenience he was not prepared to face. It was very well to tell them that they could rely upon the Government. They had a right to be suspicious of the Government, and they were bound to take care that Rules were not passed which would enable the Government to postpone Supply until it could not be adequately discussed. He believed that if the Rule were passed in its present shape such a power would undoubtedly be given.
said, that on that side of the House they were anxious to facilitate Government Business, but they did not wish private Members to be entirely crushed out. They were told at the commencement of these discussions by the Prime Minister that in all probability Tuesday would be taken a short time after the commencement of the Session as a Government night. Private Members would then only be able to bring on their Motions at 9 o'clock. They could not keep a House then, and therefore only Friday evening remained to them. He would suggest that private Members should be given Tuesday morning, and that Supply should be taken on Tuesday evening.
said, he understood the Home Secretary to state that it was a question whether the House preferred legislation or Supply, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to prefer that Supply should be thrown over to a late part of the Session. [Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT denied that he had said anything of the kind.] That was how he understood the right hon. and learned Gentleman's words. For himself, he was inclined to think that the country would be better pleased with its Representatives if they gave more attention to Supply. Supply ought to be taken early in the Session, and not thrown late; and if the Prime Minister was anxious that the finances of the country should be conducted with the care which he had so often expressed, it was not easy to see how he should object to that Amendment.
SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
said, he thought it would be convenient that they should dispose of the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham before they went further into that discussion. Afterwards they would have an opportunity of discussing the serious and vital question whether they should give the Government every day of the week except Friday, and thus give them such a command over the time of the House that they might have the power of lengthening or shortening the Session almost as much as they pleased. He thought the Amendment had better be withdrawn.
MR. R. N. FOWLER
said, he thought that the effect of the Resolution would be to hand over the whole time of the House to the Government, and practically to extinguish the rights of private Members, and he, therefore, protested earnestly against it. Morning Sittings were to be taken early in the Session on Tuesdays and Fridays, and that meant "a count out" in the evening. The Government would not have a reason for keeping a House on Friday; and even if a House were then kept, private Members would only have in the whole week the four hours from 9 o'clock to 1 in order to bring forward the questions in which they and their constituents were interested.
said, he must complain of the exaggeration of those who said the Government would have every day of the week. It was nothing of the kind. As to Morning Sittings commencing early in the Session, they would commence at such a period of the Session as the House might think fit. There, however, was an evident jealousy about Morning Sittings; and he, therefore, thought the better way of dealing with the matter was to postpone it, and to disarm that jealousy by taking no power at all under this Resolution with respect to Morning Sittings. It would then become simply a Monday and Thursday Resolution. If the House found occasion, it could hereafter make any modification it chose in regard to Morning Sittings. To give the Government Monday alone would be to give them what was insufficient in amount; and, moreover, it would give it in the worst possible form. It was impossible to conceive a worse arrangement than to say to the Government that they were to take Supply every Monday and legislation every Thursday. That meant delay, long intervals, and feebleness of discussion. The Government had said they did not wish to obtain any distinct or definite concession from the House as to Morning Sittings. They had reserved their liberty, according to their experi- ence, to propose Morning Sittings on Tuesdays at an early period of the Session, if they found that independent Members did not choose to employ the Evening Sitting in discussing their own Motions. That surely was not a very violent or extravagant thing to suggest. However, they were willing to dismiss the whole of that subject from the Resolution, and to take the minimum boon, which he thought the House would be disposed to give them; that was the power of proceeding with Supply with something like consecutiveness on Mondays and Thursdays, and, when it was convenient, to use both Mondays and Thursdays for the purposes of legislation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite (Mr. Gibson), influenced by a most powerful imagination, actually feared that Supply might be prematurely finished. [Mr. Gibson dissented.] At all events, the right hon. and learned Gentleman thought it worth while to argue that Supply might finish prematurely, and then the control of the House would be lost. Now, it would not be lost or weakened in the slightest degree. The control of the House depended not on Supply, but on the Appropriation Act, and the Appropriation Act was not touched by that Resolution. Then it was said that Supply might be thrown very late. That was a practical evil with which they were now struggling. That Resolution was a Resolution in favour of full and effective discussion on Supply. Hon. Gentlemen often found themselves so hampered when they desired to discuss the Estimates in detail that they were almost powerless; and when the Government asked for Mondays and Thursdays in order to go into Supply, they meant that when it got into Supply the House might return to the full performance of its primary duty of considering, criticizing, and curtailing, if they could, the demands made by the Government for the Public Service. Probably the first two months' experience of the next Session would enable them to judge in some manner of the working of the new system; and if it were found necessary to introduce a new regulation as to Tuesdays and Fridays, the matter might then be discussed.
said, that the right hon. Gentleman forgot the immense number of private Members' nights recently taken by the Government. He did not think it was any exaggeration to say that the Motion of the hon. Member would take the whole of private Members' nights, and they must remember that next Session they had to look forward to fresh Irish legislation. No doubt, the Prime Minister stated last night that no fresh departure was in contemplation; but that was no guarantee that none would take place. They might have to consider some measure of Home Rule more or less modified. The Government said they would be content with the Mondays and Thursdays, but for how long? Would the Prime Minister guarantee that they should have them for the whole Session? One of the weakest arguments the Prime Minister had ever used was that in favour of continuity of legislation, and of pressing it forward speedily. If they had not advanced it continuously from day to day, perhaps there would not now be so great an outcry for the introduction of amending Acts. Judging from the past, they might well think that if measures were not hurried through Parliament with such speed they would be spared the fiascos they had so often seen of late in Government legislation.
SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he thought the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) was right in saying that the Prime Minister, in first introducing the Rules, had referred to the intention of the Government to take Tuesday nights.
What I said was that, in view of the fact that the House had been counted out on 16 Tuesdays, the Government might feel it their duty to obviate so great a waste of public time.
SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, the effect, at any rate, would be that Friday alone would remain at the disposal of private Members. He did not think that even the Government expected to pass their Rule in the form pesented to the House. One of the great objections to the old practice was the frequent taking of Votes on Account. There was no great objection to taking one Vote on Account; but the repetition of such Votes was greatly to be deprecated, and he wished to give formal Notice that if this Rule were passed as it stood, he should strongly object in the future to perpetual Votes on Account. He quite agreed with what had fallen from the Prime Minister in reference to the disadvantage of breaking the continuity of debate by making Monday and Thursday Government nights, and had often felt that it was an arrangement which was attended with many inconveniences.
LORD EDMOND FITZMAURICE
said, he believed the proposal of the Government to be perfectly equitable to private Members, whose sentiments in this matter the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) did not express. It practically embodied the views of the influential Committee of 1871.
The House divided:—Ayes 104; Noes 40: Majority 64.—(Div. List, No. 397.)
MR. CAVENDISH BENTINCK
rose to say that the concession of the Prime Minister was no concession at all, and he desired to move an Amendment, the effect of which, he said, would be to restore the Resolution to the form in which it stood when they adjourned for the holidays. As had been stated, it was the revival of a proposal made in 1871. Lord Sherbrooke told the Members of the Committee that the proposal of the Government was that on Mondays and Thursdays the Speaker should leave the Chair without putting the Question; and Lord Beaconsfield said if the Government limited the proposal to Monday he would agree to it. And in February, 1872, by the very narrow majority of 40, a Resolution was carried, giving the Government Monday only for Supply, and abolishing the privilege of making independent Amendments to the Question of the Speaker leaving the Chair on that day. The Resolution was dropped by the late Government in 1874, and. not revived until 1876, when it was introduced in a modified form by omitting the word "first;" and then the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India, while supporting the proposal, said—
This Resolution dropped in 1878; and when the Government deemed it necessary to propose it in the more stringent form of the Resolution of 1872, they were met with one of the most violent and obstructive oppositions which mo- dern times had seen. The debate was carried on during the nights of the 17th, 20th, and 24th of February until a late hour. The opposition was led by the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), who, in an exhaustive oration, exposed the conspiracy of the wicked Tory Government to suppress free speech. The hon. Member was supported by every section of the Opposition, by the hon. Members for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn), Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), Glasgow (Mr. Anderson), Kincardineshire (Sir George Balfour), and many others below the Gangway—by the hon. and judicial Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread), who"That the late Government never wished to hinder Motions on going into Committee of Supply."—[3 Hansard, ccxxvii. 472.]
But the most important feature on that occasion was the action of the Members of the present Government. The noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India urged the retention of the power to make Motions on Supply, but suggested that they might be advantageously transferred to the Report of Supply under a new Rule to be framed for that purpose, which Rule it was, perhaps, needless to say was not amongst the proposals now before the House. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary objected strenuously to any curtailment of the rights of private Members. He said—"Thought the power to bring forward questions on Supply should be retained, it being a privilege the House would not willingly surrender."—[3 Hansard, ccxliii, 1370.]
The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Chamberlain) and the First Commissioner of Works (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) followed in the same strain; but the most active and busy opponent on that occasion was the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Sir Charles W. Dilke), who, in some 10 divisions, offered wilful and persistent Obstruction, and repeatedly urged that the ancient practice of discussing grievances before granting Supply was one of the most valuable parts of our Parliamentary Constitution. It was only fair, then, to ask the Members of the Government why they had so materially changed their views since last August, for it was admitted, even by its authors and supporters, that the old Rule had worked well? He (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) thought that the real reason was to be found in the Prime Minister's long - standing and persistent enmity to the independence of the House of Commons, which was, in fact, in his idea, another "Upas tree," which he was determined to cut down at the first opportunity, and he had, therefore, seized the occasion of an Autumn Session and of a weary House to accomplish his purpose; and the frank and candid admission made that evening by the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. G. Russell), that "nine-tenths of the Party opposite regarded the will of the Prime Minister as law," showed that the Prime Minister had them completely under his control, and could make them vote as he pleased, and against their own convictions. He (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) could not conclude without calling attention to the misstatements which the Prime Minister had made in his speech of October 24th to the 12th Resolution, as originally drawn. The Prime Minister said that—"If there was a tendency on the part of the Government to draw the strings tighter, that was all the more reason why Members should not relinquish the privileges they now possessed…And he knew of no circumstances which could induce him to think that the House of Commons would do well to enlarge the powers of the Executive Government at the expense of the authority of Parliament."—[Ibid. 1524–5.]
Now, in reply to that statement, he (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) would observe —first, that Friday was appointed for Committee of Supply in 1860, in exchange for the whole of Thursday given to the Government, and the abolition of the Motion for Adjournment from Friday till Monday, upon which Members had a right to speak; secondly, that, according to the existing practice, a large portion of Friday's time was available to the Government, as proved by the fact that on 10 Fridays at least during the current Session Votes in Supply had been taken. If the Resolution were carried in its present form, the "gag" would be complete—Monday and Thursday would belong to the Government, and on Tuesday and Friday independent Members would be counted out, because the Prime Minister, failing to follow the practice of Lord Beaconsfield, took no pains to make a House at 9 o'clock, and it was only the Government, with the aid of their paid janissaries, as all experienced Members knew, who could accomplish that result with any degree of certainty. He (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck) appealed to the independent Members of the Party opposite, and especially to the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), not to be influenced by the Prime Minister and by the dictation of the "Caucus" at his back, but to adhere to the opinions they had so frequently expressed when in Opposition, and support the Amendment which he had the honour to move."Under the established usages of the House, Friday, which was originally a Government night, has become a Members' night, with very few exceptions. It is desirable that the House should boar in mind that Friday used, in the regular course, when Business was far less urgent than it is now, and when less Business was initiated by Ministers, to belong to the Government. And when the present Regulation was made that Friday should be a night of Committee of Supply, it was contemplated and expected and intended that a large portion of that night should be available for Government Business."—[3 Hansard, cclxxiv. 51.]
In line 1, to leave out from the word "Supply," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "appointed for the consideration of the ordinary Army, Navy, and Civil Service Estimates stands as the first Order of the Day on a Monday, Mr. Speaker shall leave the Chair without putting any Question, unless an Amendment be moved, or Question raised relating to the Estimates proposed to be taken in Supply, on first going into Committee on the Army, Navy, and Civil Services respectively,"—(Mr. Cavendish Bentinck,)
Question proposed, "That the words 'stands as the first Order of the Day on' stand part of the Question."
After a pause,
said, he really thought that it was a monstrous thing that a Resolution which was opposed by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen now sitting on the Treasury Bench for three consecutive days should now be sought to be disposed of in less than three hours. He hoped that Gentlemen who had so much distinguished themselves by their opposition when the Resolution was proposed by the late Government, would condescend to give the House a few hints, at any rate, why they had so materially altered their opinion, and why the House should be called upon to adopt it now. He saw on the Treasury Bench at that moment more than one right hon. and hon. Member who took a prominent part in the opposition at the time referred to; and although he (Mr. Gorst) sat upon the Government side of the House at the time, he did not imitate the conduct of the hon. Member for Swansea (Mr. Dillwyn) and the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands), who ran away from the principles they professed in Opposition when they found themselves on the Government side of the House; but he had assisted the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain), the President of the Board of Trade, and the right hon. Baronet the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Sir Charles W. Dilke), and the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Courtney), in the opposition they then offered to the Resolution. He had done so because he was foolish enough to believe that those right hon. and hon. Members were in earnest, and that they were sincere and zealous to maintain the rights of private Members and the privileges of the House. Of course, if he had then had the experience he had gained since, he would have known what the opinions held by those hon. Members were worth, and that what they did when in Opposition was no guide whatever as to the action they would take when in Office. Certainly, if he had known as much as he did now, he should not have been so foolish as to have joined their ranks. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Whitehaven (Mr. Cavendish Bentinck), who had brought this matter before the House, had referred to the speeches made by Members of the present Government in opposition to the Resolution when it was proposed by a Conservative Government, and in particular he had quoted the arguments of the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Chamberlain). But Her Majesty's Government did not now think it worth while to answer any of the arguments they had themselves adduced against the proposal in the last Parliament. Surely it was worth while that they should make some apology for their change of opinion. It was almost a scandal that the matter should be allowed to be passed by sub silentio, and that not a single reason should be given for the change which had come over the spirit of their dream. He had no wish to repeat the arguments they had used; he had no desire to remind them too much in detail of the position they were now occupying; but the question was really this—Whether they were to take away now from the non-official Members of the House the opportunities which they at present enjoyed of criticizing the acts of the Executive Government? He would warn the Government of one thing—namely, that they could not stop the criticism of the Executive Government. If they succeeded in stopping it in one direction, they might depend upon it that it would break out in another. When the Session of Parliament commenced, there were always a certain number of grievances to be brought forward—a certain number of wrongs and complaints to be made against the Executive Government; and they would find vent and be talked out on the floor of the House in some form or shape. Her Majesty's Government might prevent them being discussed on a Monday or a Thursday; but those who had the grievances to bring forward would find some other day, and if they were to be deprived of the opportunity on going into Committee of Supply, they would find some other by means of Motions for the adjournment of the House or for reporting Progress. In some shape or other an opportunity would be seized for ventilating grievances, no matter what attempt the Government made to circumscribe the occasions when such opportunities would be available. The short experience which he had had of the House taught him that if they wished to be economical in regard to the time at their disposal they would let people talk out their grievances with the Speaker in the Chair and then go into Committee of Supply. They would assuredly make more progress with the Business of the country by adopting such a course. The Motions which were generally discussed on going into Committee of Supply were Motions which involved more or less of principle; whereas in Supply it was not the custom to discuss questions of principle, but simply to consider details in reference to the money proposed to be expended. If they were going to have their Committee of Supply continually interrupted by the cropping up of Motions and questions involving matters of principle, they might depend upon it that their time would not be economically expended. He did not see why the Government should not accept a Rule which had already been tried, and which had been found to work very well, and for his own part he was satisfied that they would be able to get on with Supply without taking away from private Members the privileges which they now enjoyed. He did not believe that Her Majesty's Government were honest in proposing this Rule. He did not believe that they intended it for the purpose of enabling them to make real progress with Supply, but they wanted the Rule to enable them to put off Supply until a late period of the Session, so that when they did go into Committee of Supply they could take the whole time of the House, and, to use a vulgar expression, "rattle through" Supply without being delayed by any Motions on the Question of the Speaker leaving the Chair. In point of fact, the wish of the Government was not to have Supply discussed at all, and the best way of accomplishing that object was not to give the House time for discussing it. In the last Amendment the House had a specimen of the sincerity with which the Government were acting. They would not even pledge themselves to put down Supply on a Monday. They would not pledge themselves to put it down at all in the early days of the Session; but what they really did want was to get possession of the whole of the time of private Members—to take the whole time of the House themselves, and not to afford any opportunity for the discussion of grievances. He trusted the House would oppose every attempt of the kind.
SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
said, that since he had had the honour of a seat in the House, nothing had impressed him so much as the very unsatisfactory way in which the money of the people was voted away owing to the uncertainty of the time at which Supply would be brought on, and the lateness and unreasonableness of the hours at which the Votes were brought on. A reform in this respect was, in his opinion, most necessary. He thought it was essential that Supply should be brought on at a time and under circumstances which would enable hon. Members to give decent attention to the subject. Supply ought to be voted at a reasonable hour, and it was most improper that millions of money should be voted away in the small hours of the morning. For these reasons he most heartily supported the propositions of the Government. On the other hand, he was not without some apprehension that when the Government had the means of taking Supply on Monday and Thursday, the privilege hitherto possessed by private Members of bringing forward grievances would be much abridged. He should have been glad if the Government could have seen their way to adopt some of the suggestions that were at one time thrown out by the noble Marquess the Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington), and that some compensation would be made to private Members in the event of their privileges being abridged or taken away. After the views which had been expressed, he entertained the hope that the Prime Minister would be able to do something in order to protect the interests of private Members.
The House divided:—Ayes 99; Noes 27: Majority 72.—(Div. List, No. 398.)
said, he rose now, in fulfilment of the pledge he had given, to move that after the word "on," in line 2, all the words of the Resolution should be struck out down to the words "have precedence," inclusive, inline 3, for the purpose of inserting the words "Monday and Thursday." The object of the Amendment was to meet the criticisms and complaints of hon. Gentlemen opposite and to expedite the Business of Supply. There seemed to be an impression that the Government was bound to introduce Supply at an earlier period of the Session than had been the case of late, and that not more than one Vote on Account should ever be taken. It was impossible to enter into a proposal of that nature at any length at the present moment, and it would be very difficult to carry out the wishes of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir R. Assheton Cross) without altering the practice in regard to the calling of Parliament together. For example, if they should prorogue, as he supposed they would, in the month of December, and it was the wish of the right hon. Gentleman that they should meet in the middle of January, the Government would be glad to consider that wish; and if effect were given to it, then they might be able to make some progress with Supply before Easter, which next year he believed came earlier than usual. He could not agree with the right hon. Gentleman that under no circumstances should the Government ever ask Parliament for more than one Vote on Account. He did not think that would be possible even with the increased facilities which they proposed to provide by giving the Government the command of Monday and Thursday for purposes of Supply. Undoubtedly the having command of those days would very much alter the position of the Government, and, under ordinary circumstances, he thought Votes on Account ought to become either unknown or known only under very extraordinary circumstances.
In line 2, to leave out the words "any day except Friday evening, on which Government Orders have precedence," and insert the words "Monday and Thursday,"—(Mr. Gladstone,)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Resolution."
SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
suggested that the Amendment should be "Monday or Thursday."
said, he accepted the alteration.
SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he was glad that anything which had fallen from him should have drawn from the Prime Minister the remarks which had fallen from him in reference to Votes on Account. He hoped that in future any such Votes, except a first one, would be unknown and never asked for except upon a very extraordinary occasion. So far as the meeting of Parliament was concerned, he hoped the Prime Minister would feel that the labours of the House had been excessive this autumn. As, however, the question had been raised, and the right hon. Gentleman talked about proroguing in December, he (Sir R. Assheton Cross) was still in hopes that the Notice he had given for putting off the consideration of the Resolutions relating to Standing Committees this Session would receive the favourable consideration of Her Majesty's Government when the House met on Monday next. At any rate, he trusted that the Government might not deem it necessary to call Parliament together again until a considerable time after the usual period in February.
Question put, and negatived.
Question, "That the words 'Monday or Thursday' be there inserted," put, and agreed to.
MR. GORST moved to amend the Resolution by inserting, after the word "Thursday," the words—
"And a printed statement by the Minister in charge of the Estimates proposed to be taken in Supply shall have been at least one week previously circulated amongst the Members of the House."
He had already stated what his views were upon this matter, and he would not detain the House by recapitulating them.
In line 3, at the end of the foregoing Amendment, to insert the words "and a printed statement by the Minister in charge of the Estimates proposed to be taken in Supply shall have been at least one week previously circulated amongst the Members of the House."—(Mr. Gorst.)
Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
GENERAL SIR. GEORGE BALFOUR
said, he hoped that the Prime Minister would accept this Amendment. It was of the highest importance that there should be some printed statement of the kind proposed, and many hon. Members with whom he had conversed upon the subject were in favour of the proposal. Hon. Members would be spared immense labour if they could have all the details before them on a printed paper. He was also able to say, from his own knowledge and experience, that such a statement could easily be prepared by the Naval and Military Departments concerned; and he could not help thinking that such statements would go far towards enlightening the House, when they came to discuss the Votes, upon many questions on which they were left in the dark. He thought, also, that the Budget might be printed; and, in regard to the Civil Service Estimates, he strongly recommended that an attempt should be made to explain in detail many of the items which appeared in them. Experience proved that the Miscellaneous Estimates were, of all the Votes, the worst prepared, the least known, and the most difficult to understand. He would strongly urge that the heads of the Departments representing the Civil Service branch should be required to prepare an explanatory statement, so that the House might become acquainted with the nature of the various items' The House would recollect that when the Votes for the Civil Service came to be taken in Committee of Supply last year, there was a remarkable failure on the part of the heads of Departments to lay information before the House. It was, therefore, of the utmost importance that the Estimates should be accompanied by a printed statement explaining them, and materially lightening the labours of the Committee. For these reasons he should strongly support the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham (Mr. Gorst).
said, he hoped the Prime Minister would receive with favour the proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Chatham, which would tend to the proper discussion of the Estimates, and, by giving hon. Members time for consideration, would enable them better to appreciate the statement made by the Minister in charge.
said, he was, in one sense, no great authority on this subject, because, although he had performed most of the duties devolving on a Member of Parliament throughout a lengthened experience, he had never proposed the Army or Navy Estimates, nor the Indian Budget. He had, however, proposed the Budget of this country a great number of times. Before arriving at a positive conclusion on the proposal of the hon. and learned Member, he should like to have it carefully considered by those who had experience in moving the Indian Budget and the Estimates he had referred to; but, speaking from his own experience as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he thought there was a great deal to be said in favour of the proposition, and that it deserved, at least, impartial and un-biassed consideration. Further than that, however, he could not go, and he hoped the hon. and learned Gentleman would not press his Amendment. It was quite clear that this was no matter of Procedure, and, therefore, ought not to form any part of the present Resolution.
said, he was quite sensible to the objection taken by the Prime Minister with regard to the proposed arrangement being out of place in the Procedure Resolutions. He had never intended to press this Amendment to a division; and, having called atention to the matter, which he hoped would receive further consideration hereafter, begged leave to withdraw his Amendment.
SIR GEORGE CAMPBELL
remarked that last year the Secretary of State for India had taken the course suggested by the Amendment, which met the convenience of Members, and, at the same time, very much simplified his own labours.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
said, he had an Amendment relating to the withdrawal of Supplementary and Excess Estimates from the operation of the Rule. This Amendment, also, he had no intention of pressing to a division, but simply drew attention to the question, in order to afford the Prime Minister an opportunity of saying whether he would give it his consideration.
said, he entirely agreed that Supplementary and Excess Estimates should be discouraged wherever they were the result of want of care in framing the original Estimates. But, under the present arrangements, large numbers of Supplementary Estimates were necessarily brought forward in order to satisfy the theory of a perfect account which was required by our Constitutional system. It would, therefore, be a source of the highest public in-convenience were the hands of the Government tied in the manner proposed by the hon. and learned Member.
said, under the circumstances, he would not move, but would call attention to the subject of his next Amendment. The Resolution as it stood obliged every Member who had a Motion on going into Committee of Supply to bring it forward on the first night of Supply. Now, that was the night of all others when it was essential that the House should get into Committee at an early hour; Members were then desirous of hearing the statement of the Minister in charge of the Estimates, and an appeal was generally made to Gentlemen having Motions on the Paper not to bring them forward, but to allow the Ministerial statement to be made. But if the Resolution were passed in its present form, no one could in future give way with regard to his Motion on the first night, because that would be the only occasion on which he would be able to bring it forward. An hon. Member, for instance, wishing to bring forward a Motion on the state of the Navy would not do so under ordinary circumstances on the first night of Supply, in order that the First Lord might make his statement; but if that were the only occasion open to him he would be compelled to intervene because he would have no other opportunity of making his Motion. For his own part he would prefer to see any other than the first night of Supply assigned to the Motions of private Members, and therefore begged to move its omission from the Resolution.
Amendment proposed, inline 4, to leave out the word "first."—( Mr. Gorst.)
Question proposed, "That the word 'first' stand part of the Question."
said, he hoped the hon. and learned Member for Chatham would be satisfied with having raised the question involved in his Amendment without putting the House to the trouble of a division. The effect of not limiting Motions to the first night on going into Supply would be to open a door to dilatory Motions which it would be difficult to close. The House had already experience of Resolutions of this kind, one of which, the first introduced, was in force in the Sessions of 1872 and 1873; the limitation of Motions then was to the first occasion of going into Committee of Supply on the Army, Navy, and Civil Service Estimates, the result being that the days on which the House was enabled to get early into Committee were much more frequent than they had been in previous years. In 1876 and in 1877 a similar Rule was in force, from which, however the word "first" was omitted, and which produced hardly any perceptible result. In 1879 and in 1880 a Resolution of the kind was again adopted by the House, the word "first" being re-introduced. This, again, had a marked effect of allowing the House to get into Committee of Supply without resistance or impediment. It would be seen, therefore, that they had had full experience of the effect of the present wording of the Resolution; and he thought Her Majesty's Government could hardly be expected to adopt the alteration now proposed by the hon. and learned Member for Chatham.
SIR R. ASSHETON CROSS
said, he agreed with almost all that had been stated by the right hon. Gentleman who had just spoken. But he must point out that, while his arguments were perfect, his premisses were wrong. The right hon. Gentleman had not touched one part of the proposition of his hon. and learned Friend, who contended that if they gave to private Members the first night on going into Committee of Supply, that was to say, the night on which the Minister in charge would make his statement, Members wishing to hear the Secretary of State for War or the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Ministers themselves, would be kept waiting from 4 o'clock in the afternoon until all the Motions on the Paper were disposed of, no one being able to say when that would be. That he understood to be the difficulty alluded to by his hon. and learned Friend, who said — "If you are to have one night only for Motions, it is better to take the second than the first occasion of going into Committee of Supply, so that the Secretary of State for War or the First Lord of the Admiralty may come down and make his statement at 5 o'clock on the first night, and on the second occasion private Members would have the right of bringing forward their Motions." He thought there were strong reasons in support of that proposal.
Question put, and agreed to.
said, the next Amendment also stood in his name and in the name of the right hon. Member for Hampshire (Mr. Sclater-Booth), and provided that the rights of Members should be recognized in regard to the Civil Service Estimates. The Civil Service Estimates, as everyone knew, comprehended a number of classes perfectly distinct from one another, and there seemed to be no logical reason for not allowing Motions to be made upon the different classes of Civil Service Estimates in the same way as in regard to the Army and Navy Estimates. The Civil Service Estimates were quite as distinct from one another as the Army and Navy Estimates were, and as the latter were from the Civil Service Estimates. He did not see why each class of the Civil Service Estimates should not be treated separately. This was a matter which had been often ventilated in the House before, and often supported by hon. Members opposite; and he did not see why the proposal was not worthy of consideration.
Amendment proposed, in line 4, after the word "or," to insert "on the several Classes of the."—( Mr. Gorst.)
Question, "That those words be there inserted," put, and negatived.
said, he should not move the next Amendment; but he wished to ask the Government whether they would consent to a Rule for reporting Progress at 12 o'clock at night? ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Members might cry "Oh, oh!" but the Business of the country ought to be properly performed. He wondered what hon. Gentlemen would think if their managers and clerks transacted their business every night after 12 o'clock. Now, there was a new state of things under which the House was going to get into Supply at half-past 4 or 5. The House would sit in Committee of Supply until 12—seven hours of continuous exertion—and if the House went on after 12 o'clock passing Votes in Committee of Supply, people outside the House would not consider that their affairs were properly attended to; and they would be right, because it was impossible for any man, however great his power of attention and his ability to attend to matters of this kind, to do justice to the subject after seven hours close attention. He remembered a statement made by the late Mr. Hermon in reference to shortening the hours of labour in factories. That Gentleman said his experience of business was that all the bad work was done in the last hour, and that it was really an economical plan to shorten the hours in the factories, because they would get rid of all the bad work in the last hour. It was just the same in the House of Commons. If they lengthened their hours beyond 12 o'clock there would be bad workmanship. They had an instance of that now; they were finishing up this business at a late hour. He was endeavouring to do his best: but he was conscious that he could not do justice to the subject or adduce proper arguments, because the House had been going on so long with the matter and hon. Members were not able to give proper attention to the subject. He earnestly entreated the House not to lengthen the hours for work, believing that if the House was to go into Committee of Supply earlier in the evening, 12 o'clock would be a sufficiently late hour at which to report Progress. He begged to move an Amendment to this effect.
At the end of the Question, to add the words "but that at the hour of Twelve of the Clock the Chairman shall report Progress without putting any Question."—(Mr. Gorst.)
Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
I notice that the speech of the hon. and learned Member has been made after 12 o'clock, but that the Amendment was framed before 12 o'clock, and I am bound to say that I think the speech is a great deal better after 12 o'clock than it would have been before 12 o'clock. The argument of the hon. Gentleman applies very much to one side and to the other, and I am not disinclined to the general opinion that as soon after 12 o'clock as may be without inconvenience, Progress shall be reported. It is, however, quite another matter to propose that we should have a Standing Order by which the Chairman is to report Progress without Question put. From that point of view it is a matter of serious importance. In the first place, we all know what a great inconvenience these fixed hours sometimes are. We cannot entirely get rid of them; but nothing has been so fruitful in the introduction of abuse by indirect methods of Obstruction, which all our Rules can only partially check, as these fixed hours, and it is now proposed to have three days in the week for Supply subject to that most dangerous arrangement. But, over and above that, it must be borne in mind that very often it is a matter of legal necessity, as well as of public expediency, that Votes shall be taken on a particular day in order to meet the actual wants of the Public Service; but, according to the present proposal, all such Votes will have to be thrown out of consideration, and an absolute unbending Rule will compel the House to stop Supply at 12 o'clock. The proper way of controlling very late hours in Supply is by moving that the Chairman do report Progress. That power will still remain in the hands of hon. Members, and I hope that on occasion they will not scruple to use it.
SIR WALTER B. BARTTELOT
said, he was glad to hear the remarks of the Prime Minister, because, in future, the House would remember that 12 o'clock was the proper time for reporting Progress. The right hon. Gentleman knew that up to 1874 and 1875 Supply was never allowed to proceed much after 12 o'clock. Many hon. Members present did not know that it was an established custom formerly that Supply should never go on till 1 o'clock, but that it was always stopped between 12 and 1. If the House began Supply at 5 o'clock, they could not discuss it with any profit to themselves or the country later than 12 o'clock.
Question put, and negatived.
Main Question, as amended, again proposed.
said, he had given Notice of a Motion to reject this Resolution altogether; but he did not intend to go to a division, not because he had altered his mind as to the mischievous character of the Resolution, but because of the present state of the House. He should like, however, in withdrawing his opposition—under protest—to make an acknowledgment which he felt was due to the Prime Minister for the manner in which he had met the criticisms offered upon this Resolution. He did not suppose the Prime Minister would consider him guilty of any flattery, or as acting in any way except as a strict opponent of the Government, when he said he felt very strongly the candid and patient manner in which the right hon. Gentleman had met all the various Amendments which had been proposed to this Resolution. The Prime Minister had such a majority at his back that he might have enshrouded himself in silence and carried his Resolutions as he had framed them; but, instead of that, the right hon. Gentleman had thought proper to meet, in the fairest manner, all the arguments introduced, or, at all events, to listen to them, and he felt grateful for the way in which the right hon. Gentleman had acted.
MR. R. N. FOWLER
said, he was sorry his hon. and learned Friend had decided not to divide the House, because, having no opportunity of voting, he could not record his strong feeling of opposition to this Resolution, which he regarded as the death-knell of the rights of private Members. He believed that, under this Resolution, it would be utterly impossible for private Members to bring forward important questions; and it seemed to him that the House was taking away from Members all chance of discussing questions which might be considered with great advantage to the country and to the Empire at large. He wished he had an opportunity of recording his vote against the Resolution, and he regretted the course taken by his hon, and learned Friend.
Question put, and agreed to.
(12.) Resolved, That whenever the Committee of Supply stands as the first Order of the Day on Monday or Thursday, Mr. Speaker shall leave the Chair without putting any Question, unless on first going into Supply on the Army, Navy, or Civil Service Estimates respectively, or on any Vote of Credit, an Amendment he moved, or Question raised, relating to the Estimates proposed to be taken in Supply.
Further Consideration of the New Rules of Procedure deferred till Monday next.
House adjourned at One o'clock till Monday next.