§ (The OConor Bon, Mr. Richard Smyth, Mr. Charles Lewis, Mr. James Gorry, Mr. William Johnston, Mr. Dease, Mr. Dickson, Mr. Redmond.
§ COMMITTEE. [Progress 14th February.]
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, that no confidence could be placed by the Irish people in legislation commenced at that hour of the night or morning. This Bill was run through the second reading, without hon. Members getting any reasonable opportunity of speaking upon it, and there were most important Amendments on the Paper which would alter the entire character of the Bill, and to some of which he should offer every opposition. Public opinion in Ireland was not in favour of this measure to the extent some hon. Members imagined. A large number of his own constituents had requested him to support Sunday closing, and he suggested to them that before they undertook to tell him what were the views of his constituents, as a whole, they should hold a public meeting on the subject. A public meeting was accordingly held at the latter end of last week, and the Chairman of the Town Commissioners, a gentleman who had signed the Memorial sent through him in favour of Sunday closing, presided. At that meeting two resolutions were passed. The first was—Resolved, that this meeting is of opinion and feels that the Sunday Closing Bill now before Parliament is a measure pressed on the House by a minority of agitators against the wish of the great majority of the people of this country; that it is subversive of and an attempt to disturb the vested rights of the licensed traders; that it is also a blow directed against the unfettered rights of the working classes, which they have heretofore enjoyed; and, in conclusion, we have to add that the Bill is against the voice of the majority of the people of this country.They also passed a second resolution—
observed, that it was usual for hon. Members in some way to connect their observations with the Motion with which they presumably intended to conclude.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA
said, he was addressing himself to the circumstance of the Bill being before the House at 20 minutes to 2 o'clock in the morning, and the absolute necessity, owing to the conflict of opinions, for time to deliberate. He would, however, at once move that the Chairman report Progress.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—(Sir Joseph M'Kenna.)
§ MR. O'SHAUGHNESSY
observed, that when the Bill was last before the House, there was no doubt its opponents were taken by surprise by its being brought on at an unexpected early hour; but on this occasion they had full Notice that it would be proceeded with, and the consequence was that they were present. On that account, therefore, he should not support the Motion for Progress; but as they were all interested in the question being properly discussed, he should join in urging the Government to give proper facilities for the fair discussion of the Bill.
THE O'CONOR DON
felt it would be unreasonable in him to ask the Committee to discuss the Bill at so late an hour; but he wished to point out that he was placed in this difficulty—if the Bill was brought on early, complaint was made that hon. Members were taken by surprise, and if late, that it was too late to consider the Bill properly. Then they had the statement of the Government on the last occasion, that they must use every effort to get the Bill on at a time when it could be properly discussed. On this occasion he had stated early in the evening that he should bring the Bill on at whatever hour he could. In accordance with that pledge, he felt it his duty to propose going on; but as to now reporting Progress, he placed himself in the hands of the House, and would bow to its decision. The hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. O'Shaughnessy) had appealed to the Government to give facilities for the discussion of the Bill. He (the O'Conor Don) had made a similar appeal a few nights before. He would not now repeat it; but he would give an assurance on behalf of the promoters of the Bill that they were most anxious to come to the consideration of the Government 1918 Amendments, and to approach them with every desire of coming to a satisfactory arrangement. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had very fairly stated that if the Amendments proposed by the Government were substantially adopted, he would give facilities for the passing of the Bill. On behalf of its promoters, he would meet the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion in the same spirit in which it was made, and in the hope that they might be able to come to some agreement. Of course, with respect to the first Amendment of the hon. Member for Limerick, it went to the whole principle of the Bill, and involved a re-opening of the whole question. This principle had been very fully discussed last Session, and again substantially discussed this Session on the second reading; and they could not assent to a re-opening of it.
§ MR. MURPHY
denied that the principle of the Bill had received a full discussion this Session. It was not debated on the second reading, it being understood that the discussion should take place on going into Committee; but no discussion then really took place. There had, therefore, been no debate worthy of the subject, and it was absolutely necessary that the Bill should undergo a full and fair discussion. It was only now that it was becoming understood in Ireland, and the evidence which the House was receiving from that country showed that its real opinion had always been against the measure. The Amendment of the hon. Member for Limerick struck at the root of the Bill, and it was of the greatest importance that it should be fully considered.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that, of course, at that advanced hour it was impossible they could proceed with the consideration of the clauses, and he hoped that the hon. Gentleman who was in charge of the Bill would consent to Progress being reported. If the Government obtained facilities for the despatch of other Business, they would undertake not later than a fortnight or three weeks to provide a day for the discussion of the Bill.
§ MR. ONSLOW
hoped the Bill would not be put down on the Order Book night after night on the bare possibility that it might be brought on.
THE O'CONOR DON
said, he intended to move that the further consideration of the Bill in Committee should be taken on Thursday next.
§ MR. O'SULLIVAN
called attention to the fact that some of the promoters of this Irish measure had stated at public meetings that their desire in pressing on the Legislature the closing of public-houses on Sunday in Ireland was that they might lay the foundation for an English Sunday closing system—that when the Irish Bill passed, they might assist in bringing forward one for England. That admission having been made, he thought the Government could not do better than fix a day when the principle of Sunday closing in its application to both England and Ireland might be discussed on one broad and common basis.
§ MR. SANDFORD
warned the hon. Member for Roscommon (the O'Conor Don) that if he persisted in the vexatious policy of putting this Bill down night after night, and bringing it on at such an hour in the morning, he (Mr. Sandford) would move on the next occasion that the course was taken that the day for resuming Committee on the Bill should be fixed in September.
THE O'CONOR DON
considered that after the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman, he should not be justified in bringing the Bill on after 12.30; but opportunities might arise through the lapsing of other Business, and the House might be able to come to the consideration of this Bill at a comparatively early hour. It would, therefore, be necessary to keep the Bill on the Paper; but he would undertake, at all events, during the time named by the right hon. Gentleman, not to proceed with the Bill after 12.30.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Thursday.