§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. BIGGAR (Cavan, W.)
The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of this Bill should, I think, have given us some explanation of its object. He has moved his Motion a great many times, but, so far as I know, he has never given any explanation of the measure, which may be of a very objectionable character. I think that all these Bills dealing with the Registration and the Franchise should be in the hands of the Government of the day. The law as to registration is in a most anomalous state; but if we wore to have every private Member of this House coming forward with Bills in favour of their pet 589 theories, we should be occupied for the whole Session with these questions. The Government of the day should take the matter up, and introduce the necessary reforms. This Bill may or may not be of a desirable nature, but it seems to me to be one liable to very great abuse. There is little doubt that at no distant date the County Councils will have control of the police. Under the present law they have not that control, and the police are, therefore, independent of the Local Authority. When they take over that control, however, if the police have votes the County Council would be able to command those votes, and thus give the majority on the Council an unfair advantage over minorities. It would be well to decide that the Bill shall be read a second time this day six months; but, seeing that it has not been explained, and that no reason has been given for acceptance, I beg to move that the debate be now adjourned.
§ Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." —(Mr. Biggar.)
§ *THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
I hope the hon. Gentleman will not persist in his Motion. As he has moved the adjournment of the debate, it is impossible to explain the object of the Bill. It is a very simple measure, and if the hon. Member will withdraw his Motion I will explain it.
§ MR. COURTNEY (Cornwall. Bodmin)
I hope the hon. Member for Cavan will withdraw his Motion. He asked for an explanation of the Bill last year, which he received, and now he allows the measure to be read a second time—although it is true he opposed it on every other occasion.
§ MR. KENNY (Tyrone, Mid)
I do not think that in the 10 minutes allowed to us it is possible to consider this important question of the franchise law. The Bill would place certain persons in the service of the Crown in a better position for voting purposes than everybody else. ["No, no!"] Yes, that is so, and, under the circumstances, I ask whether the Bill is not one for the Attorney General himself to bring in. When the Liberal Government dealt with the subject of the election law the Attorney General the Member for Bury (Sir Henry James) himself took 590 charge of the Bill. It was not left for four private Members to deal with' it.
§ MR. BLANE (Armagh, S.)
The Bill seems to me one for the enfranchisement of 14,000 voters, and, consequently, one of great importance. I have no hesitation, under the circumstances, in supporting the Motion of my hon. Friend.
§ MR. NOLAN (Louth, N.)
I beg to support the Motion of my hon. Friend, if only as a protest against the attempt to rush such a measure through at this late hour.
§ MR. J. O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.)
I certainly think the House is entitled to more time to consider the measure than can be afforded to-night. I believe it to be a most objectionable measure. ["Order, order!"] I do not wish to discuss the merits of the Bill, but I should like to have time to consider it. It is becoming too much the practice with hon. Members on the opposite side of the House to spring these Bills, like mines, upon the House, and I must protest against such a slipshod method of legislation. The hon. Member for Cavan has done excellent service in objecting to the passage of the measure.
§ MR. BYRON REED (Bradford, E.)
rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question. Debate resumed.
It being midnight, the Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate lapsed without Question put; and the Debate on the Second Reading stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Thursday, 2nd May.