§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ MR. COBB (Warwick, S.E., Rugby)
I feel that it would not be right at this very late hour that I should detain the House with any explanation of this Bill, which has been for some time before the House I believe that some Bill of this sort will command the approval of all parties in the House, and the only object I now have in view is to do something towards putting this allotments question at least one stage forward. In the hope that the Government will give an assurance that that is also their intention, I will confine myself to moving the second reading of the Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time,"—(Mr. Cobb.)
§ MR. RADCLIFFE COOKE (Newington, W.)
I beg to move the adjourn- 228 ment of this debate, on the ground that it is wholly impossible at this hour to discuss a Bill of this importance. It has 62 clauses; it deals with every parish in England, with few exceptions; it establishes a Corporation in every parish, and enables those Corporations to borrow money and acquire land without the consent of this House, on the security of the Poor Law Fund. I only mention these few points to satisfy the House that this is a Bill which ought not to be proceeded with in this fashion.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Radcliffe Cooke.)
§ MR. BROADHURST (Nottingham, W.)
I wish to appeal to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House to use his influence with his followers to induce them to withdraw this Motion. This Allotments Question is one that is well understood by nearly every Member of this House. It is a subject in which great interest is taken by hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House. The hon. Baronet the Member for East Norfolk (Sir Edward Birkbeck) has a very useful Bill before the House, and he has received very great assistance this Session from my hon. Friends here. I myself have done what I could to assist the passage of that Bill, and if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) could say a word to ensure the second reading of this Bill, we might, perhaps, find time for more ample debate.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster)
No one feels more interested in this question of allotments than I do and have done, and this feeling is shared entirely on these Benches. The Government have an Allotments Bill of their own, which will deal with the question much more effectually and thoroughly than the Bill of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Cobb). The hon. Member only asks us for an assurance that we should give this matter one step forward. We believe that will be best secured by the consideration of a measure which is about to be introduced in "another place," and which, we hope, will be passed through this House during the present Session. The machinery with which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cobb) has clothed this measure we deem to be unsatisfactory; and, therefore, I 229 hope the hon. Member will consent to postpone this Bill until he can see our own measure, which we believe will be thoroughly satisfactory to both sides of the House.
§ MR. COBB
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. H. Smith) will, I am sure, give me credit for only trying to do what is in my power to push this question forward. It will, perhaps, be also within his memory that a month or five weeks ago I asked him whether, seeing that an Allotments Bill was promised in the Queen's Speech, he would not bring it forward at once, and consent to that, as well as the large number of other Bills before the House on the subject, being referred to a Select Committee, so that the work of allotments might be going on. I am quite willing to accept that now, and not to take a Division. Otherwise I feel that I must resist the Motion for the Adjournment of the debate.
§ MR. FINCH-HATTON (Lincolnshire, Spalding)
I want to say one word on this question of the adjournment of the debate, being equally interested with the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Cobb) in the question. On the distinct understanding from Her Majesty's Government that if we agree to the adjournment of the debate to-night they will not only introduce their Bill into the other House, but proceed with it here this Session, I shall support the Motion for the Adjournment.
§ MR. NEWNES (Cambridgeshire, E., Newmarket)
I beg to point out that the hon. Member who has brought forward this Bill has not received the assurance he asked, that the Bill of the Government and the other Bills shall be referred to a Select Committee. This is a question of the deepest possible importance to the rural districts of England, and we should be very much better employed in dealing with it than in coercing the Irish people. At all events, I hope that unless the hon. Member receives a distinct and emphatic assurance that this question will receive the attention of the House he will refuse to accept any compromise.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
It is quite impossible for the Government to give any such assurance. They cannot consent to refer this Bill to a Committee, 230 and the reason is obvious. The Government have prepared and are ready to introduce to Parliament a Bill of their own, which deals with this subject in a more satisfactory manner than this present Bill does. Holding that opinion, it is out of the question for the Government to assent to the second reading with the idea of referring the Bill to a Select Committee. I can assure my hon. Friend behind me that the Government are prepared to deal with the subject at once. No time will be lost in introducing it into the House of Lords, and we hope it may pass into law this Session. It would not be in Order for mo to discuss the provisions of the Bill now. The hon. Member says it has often been discussed before, and that there is a practical agreement upon it; but I think what there has been a practical agreement upon is that there shall be a Bill dealing with the question of allotments. The principle of this Bill has not been under discussion, that principle being that the parish shall set up an authority, with full power to deal with the matter. All I have to say on this point is in reference to the observation that in principle this Bill has been assented to. What has been assented to is that there should be an Allotments Bill; the Government are pledged to that, and the Bill will be introduced.
§ SIR WALTER FOSTER (Derby, Ilkeston)
I have hope that opinion has made some progress on the other side, since in the last Parliament we had an Allotments Bill opposed very much on the same grounds by the Party opposing this Bill now. Again, we have the assurance that the Government have a better Bill ready. But we have not seen the Government Bill, and we do know that the principle of this Bill commends itself to many of us on this side. We recollect, also, that we are not receiving the support we hoped for from the professed friends of the Allotments Question. We ask only for a decision upon the principle, and that being denied us, we must take a Division technically upon the adjournment; but which will be accepted as a division on the principle of the Bill of my hon. Friend.
§ MR. CHANCE (Kilkenny, S.)
I only wish to say that the Government, by the action of one of their own supporters, have been prevented from stating what their objections to the Bill are, and that 231 is a most inconvenient state of affairs. It may be a bad Bill, it may be a good Bill, I will not discuss it now; but I wish to point out that all we have is a promise that at some time some Bill will be introduced in "another place." Meanwhile, the Government stand uncommitted on this Bill. We want them to state their views, and give reasons for their "Yes" or "No" to the Bill. I would appeal to the First Lord of the Treasury to induce his supporter to withdraw the Motion for Adjournment. We desire to have the views of the Government stated, and the country desires it. When it learns that a Motion from an hon. Gentleman sitting immediately behind the Government Bench prevented the Government from expressing an opinion, the country will draw its own inference from the occurrence.
§ MR. CHANNING (Northampton, E.)
I am bound to protest against the course of the Government. The whole time of the House is taken up by Irish affairs, and when an opportunity occurs of doing useful work in a matter vitally important to England it should not be let slip. The argument of the President of the Local Government Board that the Bill of the hon. Member for Rugby brought in a novel principle—the principle of a popularly elected body—is precisely the reason why this Bill deserves full consideration. Before we go to a Division I should like to ask how it is that we hear from the Government about the introduction of a Bill in "another place" only when this Bill happens to be unblocked upon the Orders to-night? I hope the Government will see their way to inducing the hon. Member to withdraw his Motion, and not give their assistance to burke the free discussion of this question in the face of the whole country.
§ MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.)
If this Motion is not withdrawn, the understanding is that, practically, the Division is upon the principle of the Bill. The Government have shown they are trying to dodge the agricultural labourers; but we can hold them to this question until they pronounce their opinion distinctly.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 143: Noes 85: Majority 58.—(Div. List No 144.)
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.