§ SIR ROBERT ANSTRUTHER
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department, Whether, having regard to the objections that have been made to some of the provisions of the Licensing Bill, and the statement made on the introduction of the Bill by the Home Secretary that he would gladly consider any suggestions that might be made for the improvement of the measure, the Government are prepared to make any changes therein; and, if so, whether they will be so good as to state them to the House?
I rise, Sir, for the purpose of relieving my right hon. Friend of the duty of answering this question, because I think it will be better, considering the period of the Session at which we have arrived, that I should state for the convenience of the House the intentions of the Government with respect to the progress of Public Business. We believe it to be the duty of the Government to give what light and knowledge we can on the subject, and make as fair and reasonable an estimate as possible of our powers. The remarks, therefore, refer not only to the Question asked by the hon. Baronet, but to the Questions 7 and 8 on the Paper (relating to the Bills on Local Taxation and the Resolutions of the Select Committee on the Business of the House), as well as to the Question relating to the Ballot Bill, of which an hon. Friend behind me has given notice. What I have to say refers almost entirely to the Bills mentioned in the Queen's Speech. There is, however, one exception, with which I will begin—a Bill which has grown out 400 of circumstances not before us for official consideration, as far as Parliamentary action was concerned, at the time of the Queen's Speech—I refer to the Westmeath Crime and Outrage Bill. We propose not to bring that Bill on in the ordinary course of evening business, but to ask for a Morning Sitting on Friday next for the purpose of reading it a second time. There is one other subject which it may be convenient to dispose of before Whitsuntide in the same manner—namely, the consideration of the Resolutions arrived at in Committee on Public Business. I may here, perhaps, be permitted to say that, as to one of the Resolutions arrived at by the Committee, the commencement of business at a quarter-past 4 o'clock, I have consulted Mr. Speaker, and learn from him that, putting aside the case of Private Bills, such as the one we have just been considering, and subject to any final decision of the House, the state of Public Business is such as to warrant our commencing at that hour, and in the meantime, pending the decision of the House, that course will be taken. There are three of the measures mentioned in the Queen's Speech that may be considered as either actually or virtually passed through this House. One of them is the Trades Unions Bill; the second is the University Tests Bill, which stands for discussion in the House of Lords this evening; and the third is the Ecclesiastical Titles Bill. Then, Sir, the next Bill is the Army Regulation Bill, with which we are to proceed to-night; and in case no unforeseen necessity should arise, it is our intention to go forward with that Bill upon the ordinary Government nights until we are through Committee. After that, as has been said before, we shall proceed to the Ballot Bill. That Bill stands for Mr. Speaker leaving the Chair; but it will be recollected that before Easter hon. Gentlemen opposite very courteously allowed the second reading to be taken, almost without discussion, on the understanding that the debate which usually occurs on the second reading should be taken upon Mr. Speaker leaving the Chair. In fixing the day for that Bill care will, of course, be taken that hon. Gentlemen opposite shall have due notice. After that will come the Scotch Education Bill. Then there are the Bills relating to the important subject which we have described generally under the name of 401 Local Rating, which were introduced after a prolonged and comprehensive statement by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty. It is not possible for us to proceed with these Bills during the present Session, and we should not, therefore, proceed with either of those two Bills. Then there are the Bills which are called the Lord Chancellor's Bills, which were before Parliament last year. With regard to those measures it is extremely desirable that they should be discussed in the House of Commons, and that the opinion, especially of the legal profession, should be elicited with respect to their provisions. I am not, however, able to announce any resolution on the part of the Government respecting them. Whether we shall be able to bring them forward will depend upon the state of public business; but we will give the House as early information on the subject as we possibly can. There still remains a very important Bill—the Licensing Bill. That Bill, which is briefly called the Licensing Bill, is susceptible of a rough division into two parts—one referring to the subject of Licensing, and the other to the subject of Regulation; the granting and condition of licences on the one hand, and the actual regulation and jurisdiction on the other. With regard to the first of these subjects, we have been obliged to come to the same conclusion as with regard to Local Rating. It is not in our power to bring that subject fairly to issue in a manner to do justice to the subject and to all parties in the House of Commons, and, consequently, with regard to that most important portion of the Bill, we think the most regular course will be to withdraw that Bill; but allow me to add that, as regards that portion of the Bill dealing with the question of Regulation, it is by no means our intention to abandon it. We hope it will be in our power to embody those clauses, or a great portion of those clauses, in another Bill, and we hope not only to be able to introduce that Bill, but to pass it into law in the course of the present Session. I could not give any minute definition of the nature of these portions of the Bill beyond saying that they are what may be called the police clauses relating to the hours of closing and to adulteration; and also those relating to the difference of jurisdiction over beerhouses and publichouses. I have, I think, mentioned 402 the whole of the Bills named in the Queen's Speech. There are others of great importance, not mentioned in the Queen's Speech, which we also hope to pass. Among them are the Tables of Lessons Bill, which we are engaged in considering before asking the House to go into Committee upon it; the Mines Regulation Bill, the Pilotage Bill, and the Merchant Shipping Bill.
§ MR. HUNT
asked, Whether the Government had come to any decision about the Game Laws Bill introduced by the Lord Advocate, and whether they would support his suggestion to read all such Bills a second time, and refer them to the same Committee?