§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Dodson.)
§ MR. OTWAY
said, he had not been aware that at that hour of the night it was the intention of the Government to proceed with this Bill. It contained very important clauses, which materially affected the interests of persons who had invested large capital in cement works on the Medway. The proprietors of these works were already under considerable disadvantages in the competition they had to meet from foreign makers of cement; and if they were to be saddled with all the restrictive provisions of the present Bill they would be placed under still greater disadvantages, and the particular industry they carried on would be almost entirely destroyed. He regretted very much that his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Dodson) had not paid more consideration to the position of these persons, and the large amount of capital they had invested in this industry. He (Mr. Otway) did not intend to oppose the second reading of this Bill; but he hoped his right hon. Friend would consider the circumstances to which he had referred, and that when the Bill went into Committee some provisions would be introduced to except the manufacturers of cement, which was a perfectly harmless manufacture, having no sanitary disadvantages attached to it, from the restrictions which it was proposed by the Bill to impose upon other manufacturing works. Ho trusted that his right hon. Friend would bear in mind the observations he now made, because an injurious interference by legislation of this kind with an important industry was really no light matter; and, certainly, if the Bill were passed in its present form, it would have that effect.
MR. ALDERMAN LAWRENCE
wished to urge upon the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board the same arguments in reference to the cement works on the Thames which had been used by his hon. Friend 428 the Member for Rochester (Mr. Otway) in the case of the cement works on the Medway. These works were threatened with interference, not only by the present Bill, but by another measure. In point of fact, there were two Bills hanging over the heads of the cement manufacturers for the destruction of their interests. It was, however, admitted, he believed, by those who supported the Bill in regard to alkali works that cement works were not of the same deleterious character. Objection might be made to the smoke and the vapour; but, on sanitary grounds, the same objections which applied to alkali works could not be sustained. He would therefore urge upon his right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board the necessity of fully considering that what was suitable and proper in the case of alkali works might be altogether unsuited for cement works.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
was sorry that the Bill had been brought on at so late an hour of the night (12.15), when his hon. Friend opposite, the hon. Baronet the Member for Gravesend (Sir Sydney Waterlow), who had a Motion on the Paper to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, was not in his place. It was unfortunate, under all the circumstances, that the Bill was brought on, for he happened to know that it attracted a good deal of attention. He had himself received several letters in regard to it; and it was, therefore, to be regretted that it should be brought on at an hour of the night when hon. Members who were interested in the matter were absent. As it was highly inconvenient to discuss it in their absence, he begged to move the adjournment of the debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. R. N. Fowler.)
§ MR. DODSON
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not press the Motion. This Bill is a Bill which is, in the main, a Bill to consolidate, and to a slight extent to amend, the existing law relating to alkali works, and, speaking generally, the Amendments which are proposed by it, are accepted by the alkali manufacturers. The extensions of the present law, proposed in the Bill are extensions which are founded on the Report of a Royal Commission, 429 which reported on the subject some time ago. It is essentially a Bill of detail, and one which can only be fairly considered in Committee. When it gets into Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Rochester (Mr. Otway), and my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Alderman Lawrence), can both be heard in reference to the question of cement works; and, without making any distinct pledge upon the subject, I can assure my hon. Friends that I shall be perfectly ready to pay attention to any objections they may have to make on the subject. I will only add that if the House will now agree, as I trust it will have no objection to do, to the second reading of the Bill, taking into consideration the nature of the provisions of the measure, I do not intend to take the Committee upon it until after the Easter holidays.
§ SIR R. ASSHTON CROSS
I hope my hon. Friend behind me (Mr. R. N. Fowler) will not press his Motion. I am sure the hon. Members who object to the provisions of the Bill could never have lived in a place where alkali works are carried on. Her Majesty's Government have not brought in the measure without full consideration. The question has been carefully discussed, not only by a Committee of the House of Lords, but by a Royal Commission; and I believe that the proprietors of alkali works are perfectly satisfied with the provisions of the Bill. It would be a positive injustice to the whole country if the Bill were not proceeded with. I hope the Motion will be withdrawn. The hon. Member who has given Notice of a Motion in reference to the Bill ought to be here to move it. If he is not in his place, it is no reason why the Bill should be postponed.
§ EARL PERCY
remarked that, as a Member of the Royal Commission which had inquired into the matter, he sincerely hoped the Bill would be allowed to proceed. It was a Bill of an important nature, as far as its provisions went, and the provisions themselves were of a very moderate character. On several previous occasions, in other years, a Bill for this purpose had been laid before the House. In the last two years a Bill had been introduced by the late Government, which went a good deal further than the present measure; and he thought it would be extremely unfortunate if such a mo- 430 derate measure of reform as that which was now proposed were not to be adopted. They were constantly hearing of the difficulties which private Members experienced in bringing measures forward; but he could not see that the Government had any further facilities than private Members for bringing forward measures that were not of general and widespread interest. The present Bill was not of general interest, because there were not many parts of the country that were much affected by the operation of alkali works. He could, however, assure the House, from the knowledge and experience he had gained by serving on the Commission, that the provisions of the Bill could not be seriously objected to, even by those who were acting most in the interests of the manufacturers. It would really injure no interest, and would be of the greatest advantage to many of those who were now suffering from the nuisances the Bill sought to remove. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board would persevere with the second reading of the Bill, and that some real progress would be made this Session in removing this nuisance.
§ MR. R. N. FOWLER
said, in view of the feeling which appeared to prevail in the House, and the appeal of his right hon. Friend (Sir R. Assheton Cross), he was willing to withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Original Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a second time, and committed for Mondag 25th April.