§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE) (Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
Mr. Speaker, I have to inform the House that it has been the duty of the Government to consider the state of Public Business, in connection especially with the principal measure of the Session, and I have now to ask the House to permit me to communicate to it the conclusions the Government have arrived at on the subject. The House will remember that, in introducing the Local Government Bill, I informed the House that the Government had felt it to be their duty to make proposals in the Bill dealing with the Licensing Question; but that they did not consider that portion of the Bill as one which was in any sense vital to the Bill. The proposals we made were of such a nature that we hoped they would have been recognized as very substantial concessions. We believe the effect would have been to reduce the number of public-houses wherever such a reduction was desirable. It is, however, clear that our proposals will meet with strenuous opposition. There are on the Paper no less than 200 Amendments on the Licensing Clauses, occupying 13 pages of the Notice Paper. We have not yet completed the consideration of the 2nd clause in the Bill, which consists of 125 clauses; and we are now within little more than two months of the end of an ordinary Session. The chances, therefore, of being able to deal with this question, as well as with the many other important questions in the Bill, are, in the face of the Opposition, very small; and the result of a determination to adhere to these clauses might very well be that we should find ourselves, after a prolonged struggle, with so little time left as to make it practically impossible to pass the remainder of the Bill during the present Session—a result which, we believe, would be regarded both in the House and the country as little short of disastrous. Looking, therefore, to all the circumstances of the case, the Government have resolved that they 1833 will not ask the House to proceed with the Licensing Clauses of the Bill.
§ MR. J. C. STEVENSON (South Shields)
The right hon. Gentleman, in the statement he has now made, has referred to the Licensing Clauses of the Bill. I hope he does not intend to include in that category Clause No. 9, which deals with Sunday closing. No question of licenses or of compensation arise out of that clause.
§ MR. RITCHIE
Yes; the determination of the Cabinet includes all the clauses in any way bearing on the Licensing Question.
§ MR. STANSFELD (Halifax)
I think I am entitled, in the name of my Friends on this side of the House, to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and the Government on the conclusion at which they have arrived. I venture to express the opinion that it is a sensible conclusion. I agree with the reasons which the right hon. Gentleman has stated. I do not think it would have been practicable, even with the use of the powers which the new Rules give the Government, to pass the whole of this measure, including the Licensing Clauses, during the remainder of this Session, unless it were most unduly prolonged. I must admit that I, for one, regret, for some reasons, the conclusion to which the Government has come, though I think it wise and inevitable. It would have been a great thing if it had been possible for this House to have come to some conclusion with anything like unanimity upon this great question. But I cannot deny that the Government gauged the situation, so far as I can judge, correctly; and, therefore, I have nothing to say in deprecation of the resolution they have now announced to the House. But with respect to the question of my hon. Friend as regards Clause 9, I hope that that may be a matter for further consideration. ["No, no!"] I would remind hon. Members that none of the clauses can be withdrawn without the consent of the House. The 9th clause stands on quite a different footing from all the others. I need not trouble the House by any explanation of it.