§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. COURTNEY
expressed a hope that the House would consent to the second reading of the Bill, the object of which was to consolidate and simplify certain Acts of Parliament relating to the Commissioners of Public Works in Ireland. The provisions of the Bill contained no novelties, and were not likely to raise any discussion of a controversial character. There was nothing involved in the Bill which ought to give rise to any discussion at all; and he proposed, after the Bill was read a second time, to move that it be referred to a Select Committee, such Committee to be composed in a manner which would be satisfactory to the Irish Members. Of course, due Notice would be given of the appointment of the Committee. He begged to move that the Bill be now read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Courtney.)
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
said, the Bill contained very long and multifarious provisions, and it had only been placed in the hands of hon. Members that morning. The House ought, at any rate, to be allowed 24 hours for considering 240 it. He would, therefore, ask the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury, to postpone the Bill until another day.
§ MR. MOLLOY
would join with the hon. and gallant Member for the County of Dublin (Colonel King-Harman) in asking the Government to postpone the further consideration of the Bill. The Irish Members knew nothing about it; and although the hon. Gentleman said he proposed to refer it to a Select Committee, to be composed in such a manner as would be satisfactory to the Irish Members, the hon. Member's idea of composing a Committee to the satisfaction of Irish Members was one thing, whereas the actual composition of the Committee might be another. Her Majesty's Government and the Irish Members did not always agree upon that point; and he thought at that hour of the night it would be rather hard to ask the Irish Members to consent to the second reading of a Bill of which they knew absolutely nothing.
§ MR. BIGGAR
said, he would move the adjournment of the debate, on the ground that the Bill, which contained 67 clauses and 33 pages of print, had been laid upon the Table so recently that hon. Members had had no opportunity of making themselves acquainted with the nature of its provisions. It was perfectly impossible for hon. Members to know anything about it, and especially to know whether it was proposed to make any alteration in the composition of the Board of Works. The Board of Works, as at present constituted, was a most unsatisfactory Body. He thought the best way would be to withdraw the Bill, and introduce one which would afford a guarantee for the substantial amendment of the Board of Works. A measure which simply reaffirmed the constitution of a Board which was at present considered most objectionable would only involve a waste of the public time. It was absurd to introduce a Bill which allowed the existing law to remain practically without amendment. He begged to move that the debate be now adjourned.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." —(Mr. Biggar.)
§ MR. COURTNEY
said, it was with great reluctance that he assented to the proposal of the hon. Member. He was 241 very sorry that the second reading of the Bill had not been agreed to. The Bill was a Bill of mere machinery, simply relating to the means by which the Board of Works acted, and had nothing whatever to do with the law under which the Board acted. If it were not read a second time now, it was impossible to say when it could he taken again. At the same time, he felt that he was unable to resist the appeal which had been made.
§ COLONEL NOLAN
wished to point out the extraordinary manner in which the Irish Business was managed in that House. The Irish Members were not like Members who represented English constituencies, who got to know something of Bills before they were put down upon the Paper. The Irish Members were not in the confidence of Her Majesty's Government, and they were not afforded an opportunity of making themselves acquainted with the provisions of a measure of this kind in advance. The present Bill was only issued that morning; it was a very long Bill; and it had now been proposed that night to read it a second time without any speech in explanation of its provisions. What the House ought to have had was a short speech from the Secretary to the Treasury, explaining the provisions of the Bill. His own impression was that the hon. Gentleman was unable to do that in consequence of not having read the Bill himself. As to the assertion that the Bill was simply one of machinery, he disputed it altogether. The Bill was a very important one, and in its present shape it was likely to create dissatisfaction in Ireland. What the Irish people wanted was a measure to remodel altogether the machinery by which the Board of Works was at present worked. He hoped this slip-shod method of dealing with legislation for Ireland would not be continued in future.
§ COLONEL COLTHURST
said, it was only fair to the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury to say that this Bill was in every word the same as a Bill brought forward on the same subject last year. He was able to make that statement, as he had been personally concerned in the matter. About three weeks ago he had had a Motion on the subject asking that the whole matter should be referred to a Select Committee, and he still believed that 242 that would be the best plan of dealing with it. His hon. Friend the Secretary to the Treasury asked him to forego that Motion, and promised that a Bill should be introduced at once and referred to a Select Committee. As the hon. Gentleman had stated, the Bill did not contain any controversial matter. The next Bill on the Paper, which related to land improvement and arterial drainage in Ireland, was a much more important measure. With regard to the present Bill, nothing satisfactory could be arrived at simply by a discussion in that House. It must go through the ordeal of a Select Committee; and there was an understanding that when a Select Committee was appointed there should be power to call witnesses, and the hon. Members for Cavan (Mr. Biggar), for Galway (Colonel Nolan), for Dublin County (Colonel King-Harman), or for King's County (Mr. Molloy) would be able to bring forward any evidence they thought fit. To adjourn the debate now would only be to prejudice the chance of another investigation taking place in the course of the present Session. His hon. Friend must know that at this moment the subject of arterial drainage was absolutely at a standstill in Ireland; and it would be at a standstill until something was done in regard to these Bills. He hoped the hon. Member for Cavan (Mr. Biggar) would allow the Bill to be read a second time.
§ COLONEL KING-HARMAN
said, that if his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the County of Cork (Colonel Colthurst) had been able to read the Bill and make himself master of its provisions, he had been much quicker than he (Colonel King-Harman) had been. He presumed that the hon. and gallant Gentleman received the Bill only that morning, at the same time as he (Colonel King-Harman) and other hon. Members; but it would seem from the knowledge the hon. and gallant Member possessed of its provisions that he must have had the Bill placed in his hands some days before Parliament adjourned for the holidays. As other hon. Members had not enjoyed a similar privilege, they were anxious that the debate should be adjourned.
§ Motion agreed to.
§ Debate adjourned till Thursday.