William Gladstone – 1885 Statement on Lord Salisbury Becoming Prime Minister


Below is the text of the speech made by William Gladstone, the then Prime Minister, in the House of Commons on 15 June 1885.

Mr. Speaker, I have received authentic information that Lord Salisbury has undertaken the formation of a Government, and I have likewise received an expression of a desire, to which I am sure the House will be as ready to conform as I am, that I should move to-day that the House, at its rising, should adjourn until Friday next. That accordingly is my intention, and I believe it will be quite conformable to precedent, as it is to the reason of the case, in this necessarily early stage of the arrangements. That being so, we have before us the question whether it is desirable to proceed with the Lords’ Amendments to the Redistribution of Seats Bill—a matter upon which, as I have said before, I am in the hands of the House. But my opinion is that, on the whole, it is for the public interest and for the satisfaction of all parties that we should proceed to deal with them and to complete the measure.

There is another arrangement, rather less in magnitude, but which, at the same time, touches matters of feeling in relation to Royalty of such a nature as makes it desirable for me to submit to the House whether another exception ought not to be made to the more usual practice. The House will remember that some time ago—I do not know how many weeks ago—it was determined, by a very large majority, to introduce the usual Annuity Bill for the marriage of Her Royal Highness tie Princess Beatrice. That Annuity Bill has reached its third reading, and, although it is true a limited opposition was made to it on its first stage, that opposition has not been revived. The House has, therefore, on the various stages of the measure, except upon one occasion, given its unanimous assent to the Bill. As there are practical arrangements connected with that measure, and as it touches the relation of the House towards the Throne, and the loyal feelings of the House, my opinion is that there will be a general disposition on the part of the House to approve that course, if I should proceed to move the third reading to-day.

There is another portion of the arrangements as to which I do not propose to take a similar course, for reasons which, I think, will be obvious. The custom has always been, besides the Annuity, to propose the grant of a capital sum. But towards the grant of that capital sum in the present instance—which is precisely based upon former precedents—owing to the course of Business, the first stage which is to procure the voting of that capital sum has not yet been taken. I have not the smallest doubt in my own mind that that capital sum will be voted with the same readiness and the same loyalty as was the Annuity. But the House has given no decision upon it, and I wish to call attention to that point—that the House has given no decision upon it, and has not become a party to it. The proposal itself is a responsible act, and I think it is better, being a responsible act, however sure we may be of the decision the House will give, that we should properly reserve it to the House, to be dealt with in the usual manner, upon the proposal of a responsible Government.

Consequently, I do not intend, as far as I am concerned, to take any steps in regard to that proposal; but with respect to the third reading of the Annuity Bill, the House will probably be inclined unanimously, as it has been on the later stages of the Bill, to think that, under these circumstances, it is just to make that also an exception to our usual methods of proceeding, and allow the Bill to go forward to the House of Lords by reading it a third time tonight. I beg leave to move that the House, at its rising, do adjourn until Friday next.

William Ewart Gladstone – 1893 Speech on Unemployment

Below is the text of an answer given in the House of Commons on 1st September 1893 by the Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, William Ewart Gladstone, on unemployment.

COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT : I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether, in negatively replying to the representations recently made to him on behalf of the large number of persons in London and elsewhere now without employment, he has considered the state of affairs disclosed by the last number of The Labour Gazette, officially published by the Board of Trade, as to the decline in trade, the increase in pauperism, the 20,000 highly skilled artizans unemployed, and the widespread reduction in wages; and if the Government propose to take any steps to mitigate the consequences to the masses of the people?

MR. W. E. GLADSTONE : I cannot help regretting that the hon. and gallant Gentleman has felt it his duty to put the question. It is put under circumstances that naturally belong to one of those fluctuations in the condition of trade which, however unfortunate and lamentable they may be, recur from time to time. Undoubtedly I think that questions of this kind, whatever be the intention of the questioner, have a tendency to produce in the minds of people, or to suggest to the people, that these fluctuations can be corrected by the action of the Executive Government. Anything that contributes to such an impression inflicts an injury upon the labouring population. Every and any suggestion with reference to the improvement of the position of the people, whether in respect to fluctuations in trade or any other matter, is always entitled to and will have our best and most careful consideration; but I believe the facts are not quite correctly apprehended. The decline in trade is not greater now than at previous periods of depression from which there has invariably been a recovery. Although there is a slight increase of pauperism as compared with last year, pauperism is much less in proportion to the population than at any previous period of our history. The Return of the Local Government Board for the year 1892 shows a percentage of 2.5 of the population, as compared with 3 per cent. in 1882, and 4 per cent. or 5 per cent. 20 or 30 years ago. The unemployed among the artizan population are at present about 6 per cent. for the Unions making Returns, but this rate is not specially high at this moment, and it has fallen pretty steadily since the beginning of the year, when it was 10 per cent., and higher percentages have been known in previous periods of depression.

COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT : Is it not proposed to take any steps at all in the matter?

MR. W. E. GLADSTONE : I have stated that I am not aware of anything in the present depression of trade which indicates any duty incumbent upon the Government except the duty of considering any proposal or suggestion which may be made, and which has about it the smallest promise of utility.

MR. J. BURNS : Will the right hon. Gentleman consider, with the President of the Local Government Board, the desirability of again sending a Circular Letter to all the Local Authorities asking them to give employment to the unemployed on reproductive and useful works, as was done in 1886, 1888, 1890, and 1892 by the late President of the Local Government Board?

MR. W. E. GLADSTONE : Yes; I shall be happy to consider that question.