§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. THOMAS HUGHES
rose to move the second reading of this Bill. It was precisely similar in character to the Bill which the House read a second time last year, with the approval of the then Secretary of State for the Home Department, and which was afterwards considered in Committee of the House, when certain Amendments were inserted. That Bill, however, ultimately became a dropped Order at the end of the Session, and what he now asked the House to do was to place the Bill in exactly the same position as that in which it was left last year. When the second reading was agreed to last year, it was upon the understanding that in case the Bill came out of Committee in an objectionable form, then every hon. Member should be perfectly at liberty to oppose the third reading. That was a perfectly reasonable underderstanding, and he was quite prepared to act on it if the same course were adopted this year. The Bill was printed in the same form as last year, and the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Recorder of the City of London (Mr. Russell Gurney), which had been agreed to by the Committee, not being embodied, he (Mr. Hughes) proposed to read the Bill a second time pro formâ, and to introduce those words at once before going into Committee. Certain hon. Members were afraid that the Bill would affect the Act of Charles II., and in order to meet their views he would be perfectly willing when the Bill was in Committee to allow a clause to be inserted to prevent the Bill in any way interfering with the operation of that Act. Under these circumstances he hoped the House would consent to read the Bill a second time.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second tims."—(Mr. Thomas Hughes.)
§ MR. FRESHFIELD
, who had given notice to move that the Bill be read a 1085 second time that day six months, said, he entirely dissented from the principle of the Bill, believing that it would be improper to alter the law which for 300 years had regulated the observance of the Sabbath in this country. But after the statement of the hon. Member, that, in Committee, he would consent to the introduction of a provision to the effect that the Act of Charles II. should not in any way be interfered with, he would consent to withdraw his opposition at this stage.
§ MR. GRAHAM
opposed the second reading. The exceptions contained in the Bill were so numerous as to weaken the legal sanction hitherto given to the observance of the Sabbath. They would constitute a fulcrum by means of which the enemies of the Sabbath observance would work hereafter for the further infraction of the Sabbath. He moved that the Bill be read a second time that day six months.
§ MR. P. A. TAYLOR
thought it was most undesirable that the question of Sunday observance should be muddled by a Bill which would involve two conflicting principles. Until the question could be dealt with in a much broader and more satisfactory way we had better leave things as they were. He should, therefore, second the Amendment, though upon quite different grounds from those urged by the Mover.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day six months."—(Mr. Graham.)
§ MR. FRESHFIELD
said, the course which the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. Hughes) proposed to adopt would secure the object which the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Graham) had in view. If he had thought that it would not do so he should certainly have pressed his own Motion for the rejection of the measure to a division. At the same time he was bound to say that he was of opinion that if the Bill did pass into law with the provision of which he had spoken, it would be a dead letter in its operation.
§ MR. REMINGTON MILLS
thought that the House would stultify itself by passing a measure involving two opposite principles. If the Bill would be a dead letter after the insertion of the provision respecting the Act of Charles II., what was the good of passing it at all? He should certainly vote against the second reading.
§ COLONEL FRENCH
wanted to know 1086 what was the use of the House spending time in the discussion of Bills introduced by private Members when there was not the slightest possibility that any result would be arrived at? There were certain public measures as to which the Government would be bound shortly to state what their intentions were with regard to pushing them forward,—as, for instance, the Irish and Scotch Reform Bills—and until the course of Public Business had been settled he should certainly oppose the second reading of this private Bill.
LORD CLAUD HAMILTON
considered that hon. and gallant Member was under unnecessary alarm in supposing that this Bill would occupy any great length of time. Its principle was fully discussed last Session, and the objections then taken to it had been satisfactorily met. He hoped no further objection would be raised to its progress to-day.
§ MR. GATHORNE HARDY
hoped that the hon. and gallant Member (Colonel French) would be prepared to facilitate the passing of the measures to which he had alluded. But, as the House knew, certain questions had been raised, for which the Government were not responsible, and which interfered with the progress of those measures; and the sooner those questions were out of the way the better the Government would be pleased, in order that they might go on with the business before the House. With respect to the present Bill, he thought there would be ample time to discuss it, and, without committing himself to the support of the third reading, he was prepared to accept the position taken last year by his predecessor. He thought the Bill should be allowed to go into Committee, and it would afterwards be seen whether the measure in its details was one which could be approved by the House. That was the view taken by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) last year, and he (Mr. G. Hardy) thought the course was one which might be adopted with convenience now. At the same time he thought that considerable weight was to be attached to the objections both of the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 68; Noes 31: Majority 37.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.