§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Order for Committee be discharged: That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee on Law, &c."—(Mr. Secretary Matthews.)
§ (4.58.) SIR HARCOURT (Derby)
I rise to appeal to the Government not to take this course. I am sure they must feel as everybody feels that this is a measure which it is desirable to forward as soon as possible. The Bills which are sent to Standing Committees are generally Bills that have a great deal of technical detail in them, but that is not the case with the present measure. I do not see what the Standing Committee can do with this Bill. Though I do not happen to have the honour to be a Member of the Standing Committee to whom the Bill will be referred, I know that they will be able to do nothing with the Bill. It is merely an additional stage which will be of no sort or kind of advantage. It will be sheer waste of time to send the Bill to such a Committee. The Government cannot expect that a Bill of this importance can escape discussion in the House. Generally speaking, the object of sending a Bill to a Grand Committee is to get rid of a discussion in the House, and the Government cannot hope, considering the interest that is felt in the Bill by the Police Force throughout the country, to prevent the measure from being discussed. My right hon. Friend who presides over the Standing Committee will state the condition of business before the Committee, and show that the Motion can only have a dilatory effect; that it will bring about nothing but mischief, and do no good whatever towards settling this question. Therefore, I hope the Government will not press the Motion, but allow the Bill to be dealt with in the usual way. All that will happen if the Bill is sent to a Grand Committee will be that when it comes back here on Report stage it will have to be argued all over again.
§ *(5.1.) MR. G. OSBORNE MORGAN (Denbighshire, E.)
Perhaps, as Chairman of the Grand Committee to which this Bill would be referred, I may be allowed to say a word as to the business 820 before that Committee and the prospects of passing the Bill into law this Session if the proposal of the Government is acceded to. At present the Committee have two Bills referred to it—the Amendment and Consolidation Bills on the Housing of the Working Classes. These are very important measures. The Committee has sat once on them, and has got through three clauses of the Amendment Bill. There are several other clauses still to be dealt with, including the sixth, which refers to the application of the Bill to the County of London, and these it is very desirable to have fully discussed. I may mention that the rate of progress of the Standing Committee does not improve, for one Amendment suggests another. I am quite sure that I am understating the time that would be necessary if I suppose the Bill now before the Standing Committee can be disposed of in two more Sittings. Then it will be necessary to amalgamate the two Bills—the Amendment Bill and the Consolidation Bill—into one. That will involve re-printing and loss of time; and supposing it is possible to deal with the Consolidation Bill as a matter of form in one sitting—as to which I will say nothing—it is obvious that it will not be possible to reach the Police Bill before Monday fortnight, the 21st July. Now, I know from painful experience that it is extremely difficult at the end of July, and still more so at the beginning of August, to get a quorum of this Committee together. I have sat for an hour without getting a quorum, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Stirling tells me that he has had to sit for three hours without being able to get a quorum. I have the highest opinion of the action of these Committees. They do their work exceedingly well, provided the work referred to them is of the proper kind. The Members who attend are generally picked men, and they do not vote on Party lines. They hear the discussion, and they do not play to the gallery. Besides this, the Chairman has generally the advantage of having the drafter of the Bill at his elbow to consult with if necessary. Still, if you do not want the Grand Committee system to be discredited, let the House be careful what Bills are referred to these Committees. Any measure involving a 821 Party question, or any heated discussion, is unsuitable for reference to a Grand Committee. Moreover, the Committee naturally will object to sitting for weeks to do work which is absolutely useless, as was the case two years ago when the Employers' Liability Bill, after being considered for a month upstairs, had to be dropped in the House, because every Amendment which had been discussed before the Committee was put down for reconsideration in the House. I should not grudge any amount of time bestowed on a Bill provided it is usefully bestowed. As I hold the position of Chairman of the Committees, it is as well that I should say nothing about the Bill under discussion. All I will say is, that if it is referred to us, it will be treated in a workmanlike manner, but I certainly doubt whether we shall not have sufficient time to deal with it properly, and send it back to the House in time to be passed this Session. I hope, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman will not insist on sending the Bill to the Grand Committee.
§ *(5.9.) THE PRESIDENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. RITCHIE, Tower Hamlets, St. George's)
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has raised a practical objection to the Bill being referred to the Grand Committee, namely, that the Committee is already engaged on the consideration of two important measures, which, in the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman, will probably not be disposed of until Monday fortnight. Well, as I am responsible for the two Bills now before the Grand Committee on Law, I may be allowed to say something on that question. I think he has greatly over-estimated the time likely to be taken up by the two Bills before the Grand Committee. The right hon. Gentleman said that only three clauses have been disposed of by the Grand Committee. That is perfectly true, but the bulk of the Amendments on the Paper had reference to those three clauses. The remaining Amendments do not touch an important question of principle. Some of them are Amendments which are proposed by the Government, and are not likely to lead to any discussion at all. There is only one question of principle which has to be decided, and I believe that if 822 the Committee could have sat for another hour yesterday they would in all probability have got through the whole of the Amendments on the Paper. Reference has been made to the London clauses. I do not think there is a single Amendment to the clauses dealing with London, and I am confident I express the opinion of the London Members when I say they are perfectly satisfied with the provisions of those clauses. As to the Consolidation Bill the right hon. Gentleman complains that the measure is not printed. It is in print, as amended by the Amending Bill, and as the Committee proceed so the Consolidation Bill is amended. The right hon. Gentleman said that the pace at which the Grand Committee proceeds does not increase. So far as my limited experience of yesterday is concerned, I think every member of the Committee was actuated by a desire to confine discussion within the smallest possible limits, and to assist the progress of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Bills referred to Grand Committee should not be Party Bills or Bills containing any vital principle which was matter of dispute between Parties. That is exactly the kind of Bill the Police Bill is. All Parties are agreed as to the desirability of superannuation. [Cries of "No."] Well, then, many are, and the right hon. Gentleman is entirely in accord with the Government on the point. There are matters of great importance to be considered, but they cannot be said to be in any sense of the term Party Questions. The right hon. Gentleman says that by referring the Bill to the Grand Committee we are adding another stage, and he talks about the proceeding as a dilatory proceeding. I venture to say that if devolution is favourably regarded by the House, this is an occasion on which the principle of devolution might most fairly and properly be applied. I do not at all agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it means the addition of a stage. I believe that, in all probability, the Bill will come back from the Grand Committee in such a form that it will lead to very little discussion in the House. [An hon. MEMBER: The Employers' Liability Bill.] The Employers' Liability Bill was a Bill of an altogether different description. In it there was most contentious matter, but no con- 823 tentious question is involved in this Bill.
§ (5.17.) MR. LAWSON (St. Pancras, W.)
I think the course the Government are taking will lead to a good deal of friction and delay. I cannot share the right hon. Gentleman's view as to Grand Committees. I have served the whole of this Session on the Grand Committee on Trade. Bills which did not involve Party considerations, but which greatly interested the financial and commercial Members of the House, were referred to the Committee. Those Bills were fought word by word, line by line, clause by clause. I thought there was a great waste of time. The reference to the Committee did not save discussion, because one of the Bills came down to this House, and was debated afresh. I fear questions affecting the Metropolitan Police will be debated in this House after the Bill has passed through Grand Committee. I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the Grand Committee on Law will get through its Bills as soon as he imagines. There are not many contentious Amendments to the Housing of the Working Classes Bill to be considered, but there is one serious question in connection with compensation to be debated. The consideration of the subject will take one, if not two, Sittings. I hope to see the Bill passed, but I should prefer the discussion upon the clauses to take place in Committee of the Whole House.
§ (5.23.) MR. HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
In common with every man, I believe, on this side of the House, and with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, I have every desire to see this Bill pass as quietly as possible. I find there are already 86 Amendments upon the Paper, and I am quite sure these will be quite as well, and far more rapidly, discussed in Standing Committee than in Committee of the Whole House. Having regard to the present position of the Notice Paper, and to the amount of business to be considered, I think the course proposed by the Government is best calculated to secure the rapid enactment of the Bill.
§ (5.24.) MR. PICTON (Leicester)
It is not only Bills that excite strong Party feeling which ought not to be referred to Grand Committees, but Bills 824 that excite strong local feeling. Members who are not on the Grand Committee will not be content to allow the Bill to pass without comment, and therefore, I think the best thing is to take the Bill in Committee of the whole House.
§ *(5.25.) MR. C. DARLING (Deptford)
It appears to me the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby has entirely lost sight of one consideration, and that is that, if the Bill is to be taken in Committee of the whole House, it may be used by some one less scrupulous than himself for the purpose of obstructing some other measure which may be objected to. Perhaps if the right hon. Gentleman had realised this point he would not have taken the objection he has.
§ (5.26.) SIR G. TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)
I must say with respect to the hon. and learned Gentleman that his argument is a very poor one. The chances of this Bill being discussed in Committee at some length have nothing to do with any other consideration than its extreme importance and its special character. I feel very strongly on the point of referring this-Bill to a Grand Committee. This is not a Bill of great detail, but a Bill which every Member of the House thoroughly understands. It is a Bill which hon. Members feel extremely strongly about, and it is quite impossible that when the Bill has gone through the Grand Committee it should not afterwards be discussed at length on Report, because it affects every district throughout the country in a matter which every Member understands, and which, as a guardian of the public purse, he feels very strongly about. The discussion on questions of retirement, salary, pension, and—[An hon. MEMBER: Salary!] Well, the question of salary is to be raised incidentally by an hon. Member below the Gangway, and the question must in some sense be discussed because, of course, pension is only another form of paying deferred salary. These questions ought to be discussed in the face of day. There is no desire on this side of the. House to delay the Bill, because we want to have the Bill passed, and passed in such a shape that it will be advantageous to the police, and not disadvantageous to the ratepayers.
§ *(5.29.) MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S. W.)
It is impossible to pass by unnoticed the uncertainty and vacillation which have characterised the proceedings of the Home Secretary. In the first place, he proposed to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, then he altered his mind, and thought he would take the Bill in the Committee of the whole House, and now he proposes to send the Bill to a Grand Committee. The particular circumstances in which we find ourselves are very likely to lead to positive disaster. What are those circumstances? The Home Secretary quarrelled with the Chief Commissioner of Police over the details of this Bill. He has represented himself in the contest as the guardian of the public purse. On the other hand, the Chief Commissioner of Police has declared himself as the special champion of the claims of the men, and the men regard him in that character. I do not want to judge between the Home Secretary and the Chief Commissioner of Police, but I say that, inasmuch as these things have occurred, the Home Secretary should give the police an earnest of his good faith by displaying energy and despatch in dealing with this Bill. These are just the qualities which have been in this ease conspicuous by their absence. The right hon. Gentleman proposes to refer the Bill to the Grand Committee upon Law. The Chairman of that Committee tells us there is business before that Committee to occupy them for at least a fortnight. I will divide that by two, and say the present business may be disposed of in a week. At least a fortnight will be occupied by the Bill in Grand Committee, and so there will be three weeks from now before the Bill comes back again to this House, and Heaven only knows what or where the Government will be three weeks hence. More than that, from what has taken place already, we may draw the reasonable inference that there will be a determined effort to defeat the Bill in the House. Well, it will come back to us, at all events not earlier than the last days of July, and then, or early in August, a determined effort will be made by possibly not a large number of Members, but, I believe, a number of Members who have formed a strong conviction against the Bill, to defeat it, and it is 826 matter of doubt whether, to use a Times phrase, the Government will have "sufficient moral energy" to force the Bill through in the face of a determined opposition. As to what has fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt), I support what he has said. I cannot see more than one reason for referring this Bill to the consideration of a Committee at all, and that would be if the Committee were empowered to receive evidence in regard to the pay and conditions of service generally of the rank and file of the Metropolitan Police, and if you choose to give that opportunity I should not oppose it. But the Grand Committee has neither the power nor the machinery for an inquiry of that character. Therefore, I say, the time spent over the Bill in Grand Committee will be sheer waste, and you will only be deferring for three weeks the inevitable battle that must be fought out on the floor of the House. For thin reason I support the suggestion that the Bill should be considered in Committee of the Whole House, and if the right hon. Gentleman persists in his Motion he will incur very great responsibility. He endangers the Bill, and if the Bill is defeated I hope the police and the public will place the responsibility of the disappointment of our reasonable hopes where it ought to be, with the right hon. Gentleman and his Motion.
§ *(5.33.) MR. T. H. BOLTON (St. Pancras, N.)
I am sure the Government, will not think I am actuated by hostility to the Bill in what I am going to say, because I have voted with them on this question and supported the police superannuation provisions in the Local Taxation (Customs and Excise) Duties Bill. But I think the Government must see from the discussions we have had that there is much difference of opinion, which will not be sufficiently ventilated in Grand Committee, and so, after the Grand Committee has had the Bill before it, the whole question will be re-discussed in the House. So far as I and other Liberal Metropolitan Members are concerned we shall raise no unnecessary discussion. We are in favour of police superannuation, and we shall give the Government support in making the system of police superannuation effec- 827 tive in London. But there are other Members in the House representing provincial boroughs and counties, who feel a deep interest in this Bill, and as the principle of the Bill applies to provincial boroughs and counties as well as to the Metropolis, they holding different views to ours, feel it their duty to discuss the Bill on behalf of those they represent. Under these circumstances, I appeal to the Government to consider whether it will not be better to get the Bill into Committee of the whole House as soon as possible, relying on the support they will receive from the House generally, and especially from Independent Members on this side. So far as we can prevent it, there shall be no dilatory or embarrassing proceedings to defeat or retard the progress of the Bill through Committee. It is not, and ought not, to be made a Party question. Both sides of the House are deeply interested in having this question satisfactorily settled, and no real or ultimate Party advantage can be gained from difficulties connected with the administration and management of the police. The desire should be on both sides, and I believe it is to have a system settled which shall be fair to the police and fair to the public. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir W. Harcourt), who is committed by Bills he has in former times introduced to the principle of police superannuation, will co-operate with the Government in giving effect to that principle. I do not suppose for an instant that the right hon. Gentleman will offer any factious opposition to the Government proposal, nor do I think any of the occupants of the Front Opposition Bench desire other than a reasonable discussion. I hops the Home Secretary will take advantage of the friendly suggestion made. We must all feel that the settlement of the question of police superannuation has been too long delayed. It is in the interest of the police and the public that it should be settled, and it will be a great disappointment to the police and all of us who take an interest in the well-being of the Force if the settlement should be thrown over to the chances of another Session. I will not labour the appeal, but I do urge the Government to reciprocate the spirit in which the suggestion is made, defer to the evident 828 sense of the House, and let the Bill be dealt with in Committee of the whole House.
§ (5.37.) MR. ATHERLEY-JONES (Durham, N. W.)
The reception which the Bill received on the Second Reading was such as to afford no great assurance that the Bill will rapidly pass through Committee. I am bound to say that my view is, if ever there was a Bill that ought to go before either a Select Committee or a Standing Committee, it is this Police Bill, and I am certainly fortified in that opinion by the speeches from the two hon. Members who last spoke from this side. There is no doubt about it that the Debate which took place on the Second Reading clearly manifested there was a very strong intention, with perhaps the object of catching applause, to press forward the Bill as much as possible in the interest of the police and as little as possible in the interest of the ratepayers. The Bill is brimful of details; there is the question of the period of superannuation, the amount of superannuation, the amount of deductions to be made from the police pay, the question of the amount to be borne by the ratepayers, the amount to be borne by the Imperial Government; in fact, I may say every clause is brimful of detail of a financial character, and, under the circumstances, I think, if only for that reason, apart from the other and more formidable reason given, it is desirable the Bill should be dealt with by a body free from the heating influence of a Debate in this House, and where it can be approached in a judicial spirit.
§ *(5.40.) THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE HOME DEPARTMENT (Mr. MATTHEWS, Birmingham, E.)
I am glad to hear that on both sides there is equal desire to promote the passage of the Bill. [Cries of "No!"] With rare exceptions, the great bulk of opinion is in favour of the Bill. Now, my Motion has no other object. I echo entirely the remarks which have fallen from the last speaker. If the principle of devolution is to be applied at all, the present measure is one which amply justifies the application of the principle. It ought to be borne in mind, moreover, that no Division took place on the Second Reading, and that the general lines of the measure have been assented to by both sides of the House. There is no 829 difference of opinion as to the principle; the differences of opinion which exist have reference rather to points of detail, which certainly can be better, more carefully, and more dispassionately discussed in a Standing Committee than in the House itself. I can scarcely conceive any question on which the House will find it necessary, after the Committee has concluded its labours, to raise the same points again.
§ *MR. MATTHEWS
Then the right hon. Gentleman will not manifest that zeal for the Bill which his words in this House have led us to expect.
§ *MR. MATTHEWS
The right hon. Gentleman will only discuss the Bill in this House, and this leads me to ask when will he find an opportunity of discussing it, considering the large amount of business which has yet to be dealt with? It is in order to promote the passage of the Bill—it being regarded as a matter of grave public importance—that it has been decided to refer the discussion of its details to the calmer atmosphere of a Standing Committee. The discussion of details will unquestionably be more conveniently carried on in Committee. The alteration of one small point in the scale of pensions, for instance, will involve minute and delicate adjustment of other parts of clauses. The Bill will occupy the Committee probably three or four days, while in the House, where the discussion would necessarily be longer, the discussion would occupy at least five days. Consistently with the completion of other business, with which our hands are full, I do not think that the necessary number of days could be found.
§ *(5.45.) MR. H. H. FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
I quite agree it is desirable to pass the Bill this Session, but there are reasons why we object to its reference to a Standing Committee. In the first place, the Standing Committee on Law is not pre-eminently qualified to deal with the question. I say not a word in 830 disparagement of Members who are familiar with the law in theory and practice; but this Bill is concerned with administrative and not legal questions—questions upon which those Members are most qualified to speak who are familiar with police administration in boroughs and counties. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of difficult and delicate details; but I think I know the Bill pretty well, and I have long been familiar with the subject, and I confess I do not see where the points of difficulty and delicacy arise with which we cannot here deal. There are one or two questions of principle underlying the whole measure which the House must decide, and which it will delegate to no Committee whatever to dispose of. A large number of Members representing counties and boroughs are not disposed to accept the principles with respect to superannuation which must be applied to the Metropolitan Police. Another point is the amount of interference which the Central Authority would exercise over the Local Authority. We have for years been working for the principle of decentralisation. The great object of the Local Government Bill was to strengthen that principle and get rid of perpetual Government control in all Departments of municipal and county administration, and that is why we deplore the application of the principle of subventions, which must be accompanied to some extent by Imperial control. But the crux of the Bill is the extent to which we are going to control by Act of Parliament the administration of local funds in dealing with local matters. Representatives of the ratepayers in their respective boroughs and counties can deal with questions affecting finance far more wisely and successfully than this House can deal with them. There are questions of length of service, the scale of pensions, the extent to which you will allow Local Authorities a free hand between a maximum and a minimum, upon which County and Borough Members will have a word or two to say. Then there is another question—the financial one. You are now going to introduce a Bill—I am not saying it is wrong, for I consider myself to a certain extent responsible for it—to compel Local Authorities to establish a superannuation 831 Fund with the ultimate burden on the rates. I have a communication from one of the largest boroughs in England protesting against this principle. You do not apply the principle throughout the Civil Service. But I must not argue that question now. There are two or three principles involved, which, with the Chairman of Committees in the Chair, we might settle in a much shorter time than the Home Secretary supposes. I do not for a moment think we should occupy four or five days. My right hon. Friend near me, and myself, will assist in passing the Bill. The Home Secretary asks, Where are we to find time for a Committee of the whole House? I would ask, Where are we to find time for the Report? I venture to predict that the course now pursued will create delay, and may possibly involve some difficulty in passing the Bill before the Session is brought to a close. We do not know what the Session has in reserve; tell us this, and we may assist in the solution. The hops may be vain, I own; but if the Government would abandon all contentious business now that we have got through a week of July, and concentrate attention on Supply and to winding up the business of the Session, I am sure this Police Bill might, without difficulty, be carried to a successful issue.
§ *(5.53.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster
There was one portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman which I heard with satisfaction, the reiterated assurance that the right hon. Member for Derby and himself were desirous of offering every facility for passing the Bill into law after due consideration. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues think we shall be delaying the Bill by sending it to a Standing Committee. But my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and myself have come to the conclusion that it would delay the measure if we were to send it to a Committee of the whole House. The right hon. Gentleman will admit that I have shown every disposition to meet the views of himself and his friends wherever we could bring our opinions into accord with theirs. I listened with some interest to the statement made by the hon. Member for 832 Bethnal Green (Mr. Pickersgill), who said that there is a small section determined to defeat the measure by all the means in their power. That expression is cheered by the senior Member for Northampton.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
Allow me to explain. My cheer did not express approval or disapproval; it simply meant "Yes, that is true."
§ MR. W. H. SMITH
I accept the statement of the fact that, at all events, there are a number of gentlemen who are determined to defeat the Bill by every means in their power, and we know the power these hon. Gentlemen possess to delay proceedings in Committee. The Government are aware of the difficulty of passing the Bill through a Committee of the whole House in the month of July. They have, therefore, availed themselves of the principle of devolution, in order that the Standing Committee may deal with a stage in which prolonged opposition would be possible in a Committee of the whole House. The right hon. Gentleman has said that there are points of principle with which the House ought to deal. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and the House will have an opportunity of dealing with those points if they are not satisfied with the way in which they are dealt with by the Standing Committee. This is not a Party question, but it is a question of importance, and the Government will accept the assistance of hon. Gentlemen opposite in endeavouring to arrive at arrangements which will be satisfactory to the police and which the interests of the country require. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of this Committee as if it were not competent to deal with this question. But I have read through the list of names, and I find that there are on it a large number of Gentlemen who, as Chairmen of Quarter Sessions and Magistrates, are perfectly qualified to deal with the question.
§ (6.2.) SIR W. HARCOURT
With the indulgence of the House I wish to be allowed to say that I do not propose to divide the House on the question. I do not desire to make it a Party question, but the whole responsibility will rest with the Government. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton and myself are extremely anxious to 833 render any assistance in the House, but we will take no part in the discussion in the Standing Committee. The Government must conduct the discussion there themselves, and take the responsibility themselves. My right hon. Friend and myself could not make ourselves parties to delaying or endangering the Bill.
§ *(6.3.) CAPTAIN VERNEY (Bucks, N)
The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury does not understand what is the nature of the opposition that is going to be offered to this Bill. It is not a factious or Party opposition. The opposition arises from the fact that though the Bill may be excellently adapted to the Metropolitan Police yet it interferes with the powers of Local Authorities in the counties. It takes out of their hands powers which, generally speaking, they have exercised wisely and well. In every county there is a system of superannuation in vogue. It is a different arrangement in different counties, and the County Authorities look with extreme jealousy on the action of the Government in bringing in a Bill which will sweep away all existing county distinctions. It will, therefore, be the duty of Representatives of county districts, before the Grand Committee, and in this House on the Report stage, to make known the views of their constituents. There is still another reason which, in my opinion, justifies the opposition to the Bill. In the celebrated Memorandum, which is marked confidential, it is explained that the reason why the Bill was not brought in sooner was because it was thought desirable that the newly constituted County Councils should have time to consider the subject. Now, the County Councils have not had time to do any such thing. There is no County Council in the Kingdom which has yet spent time in so doing, and therefore, while so far as the clauses affecting the Metropolitan Police are concerned I will gladly do anything in my power to assist the Government to pass them, yet I warn them that great opposition will be excited by this Centralisation Bill, which is, after all, but a preliminary step to eventually getting the police wholly under Government control. If the Government send this Bill to a Committee upstairs, they will not spare themselves subsequent discussion 834 in this House on the Report stage. I repeat, it will not be a factious opposition—it will not be carried on with any desire to embarrass the Government, but solely because our duty to our constituents demands that we should not allow local special arrangements with the police to be swept away, and all parts of the country placed under one system.
§ (6.7.) MR. LABOUCHERE
I have taken no part in the discussion, and I can assure the First Lord of the Treasury that I have no very strong feeling on the subject. I do not think this is one of those Bills which ought to be defeated by what I may call exhaustive tactics in this House. But what I may point out to the right hon. Gentleman is this: that he and his friends are always getting into trouble by trying to put a quart of bad liquor into a pint pot. That is what they are endeavouring to do now. My right hon. Friend from Wales, who is Chairman of the microcosm to which the Bill is to be referred, has stated distinctly that it cannot come before the Grand Committee for a fortnight, and that it would take three weeks before the discussion could be completed. But the First Lord does not accept the view held by the Chairman of the Committee. All I may say is, that if the Bill passes the Grand Committee and comes back to the House in the first week in August, all these Amendments will be brought up again, as he has been warned by hon. Members sitting on this side of the House, upon the Report stage, and no time will have been saved by referring the Bill to Committee. I think the Bill might be carried if the right hon. Gentleman were simply to take it in Committee of this House. He knows that it is not intended to offer any factious opposition to it and those hon. Members who have expressed themselves as opposed to it on principle know that they are in a minority and are not likely to press their opposition to an extreme point. This is in no sense a Party Bill, because I believe the majority of hon. Members sitting on this side of the House are in favour of it. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman whether it would not be wiser to take this Bill in Committee of the whole House rather than send it upstairs.
§ (6.11.) MR. J. ROWLANDS (Finsbury, E.)
I am anxious that this Bill should become law, but I think if it is resolved to refer it to the Grand Committee it will endanger its passing, because some of the points on which there are differences of opinion will necessarily have to be threshed out in this House, and the Government will not have forwarded the consideration of the Bill by sending it to the Grand Committee. I believe that nine-tenths of the Members of this House are anxious to aid in passing the measure; and if the right hon. Gentleman will but make up his mind to put it down for discussion immediately after the Irish Votes have been disposed of, I do not think he need fear any danger of its not passing into law. I may add that the Members for the Metropolis have their own views as to how far the Metropolitan Clauses of the BUI require amendment, and we are anxious, of course, to get to the discussion of those clauses. Before the Grand Committee can deal with the Bill they have two other Bills to dispose of, the one affecting the housing of the working classes, and the other—a very large and important measure—the Consolidation Bill. We should have been anxious to have laid the Metropolitan Clauses before a Select Committee if power had been given to call officers to give evidence with regard to the grievances under which the Force is suffering, because we were desirous that those grievances should be taken into consideration and dealt with in a manner that would be satisfactory to the whole Force. But if the Bill is not to go to a Committee of that description with power to take such evidence then we hold that it is simply a waste of time to send it to a Committee at all, and we prefer to thresh the whole thing out in a Committee of this House. In conclusion, I can only say that if the Government decline to accept our proposition, I re-echo in an humble manner the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, that the whole responsibility with regard to the Bill rests with the Government, and if it fails to pass through the House this Session they alone are to blame.
§ *(6.15.) MR. CAUSTON (Southwark, W.)
Hon. Members have great reason, I think, to be dissatisfied with the action of Her Majesty's Government. The Bill 836 was read a second time without much discussion, for the simple reason that the Government, in answer to the appeal of my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, agreed that it should be dealt with in Committee of the whole House, instead of by a Select Committee, as proposed by the Government. We, therefore, thought that we should at least have an opportunity of ventilating grievances before the Committee. So far as London is concerned, hon. Members on this side of the House representing London constituencies desired that the Bill should go to a Select Committee, in order that the police might have an opportunity of themselves stating their grievances, but now as a third alteration of the plan of the Government, we are told that the Bill must go to a Grand Committee. I can only say that we shall deem it our duty to raise questions upon the Report stage, and the Government must expect that a great many details will be gone into. Question put, and agreed to.
§ Order for Committee read, and discharged; Bill committed to the Standing Committee on Law, &c.