HC Deb 09 June 1890 vol 345 cc428-33

Bill considered in Committee.

(In the Committee.)

Clause 1.

(11.39.) SIR G. CAMPBELL (Kirkcaldy, &c.)

I do not know whether the Government intend to proceed with this very important Bill at this time of the night. The measure involves the most important considerations, and I think the Committee will be very slow to deal with the affairs of this enormous tract of country in the short time now at our disposal.


The hon. Member is not entitled to discus's the Bill as a whole.


What I was about to do was to suggest that at 20 minutes to 12 o'clock it was impossible to do justice to the Bill. I think it will be better that I should move to report Progress, and I beg to do so.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."—

(11.40.) THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH,) Strand, Westminster

We cannot consent to report Progress. Almost the whole House, with the exception of the hon. Member, desire that the very great labours of the Committee which has sat on the Bill should bear fruit.

(11.41.) MR. CHAINING (Northampton, E.)

I entirely concur in the desirability of hastening the passage of the Constitution of Western Australia. The questions which have to be raised before the Bill passes through the House are, however, of such importance that I think my hon. Friend is justified in asking that more than a quarter of an hour should be devoted to discussing them. The question is, whether emigrants should have their fair share in the future of that country. I think that question will lead to long discussion, and to my mind the Government would do wisely in assenting to the suggestion that has been put forward.

(11.42.) MR. J. MORLEY (Newcastle-upon-Tyne)

In this matter I am certainly of the same opinion as the First Lord of the Treasury, and I hope my hon. Friend (Sir G. Campbell) will not press his Motion. This Bill was fully discussed on the' Motion for the Second Reading. It has been submitted to a very strong Select Committee, the members of which were most assiduous in their attention and unanimous in their judgment as to the most important parts of the measure. My hon. Friend behind me did not vote upon the point which he is now apparently going to contend for. In the Committee he had an opportunity, of which I think he cannot deny he amply availed himself, of raising all questions. I think that in a matter of this kind, in which the Australian colonists are greatly concerned, when the Governor of western Australia is detained in this country because the Bill is not passed, when all the colonists are of one mind in urging the passage of the Bill as soon as possible, we ought to allow the measure to get through the House as soon as possible.

(11.44.) MR. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)

I think there would be a good deal in the observations of my right hon. Friend if it were possible to pass the Bill this evening. It is, however, hardly worth while to commence it at this late hour. It seems to me that it would be almost an insult to the Australian colonists to take the Bill piecemeal— discussing it for 10 minutes on one night and 10 minutes on another. I think the Government are bound to bring it on at a reasonable hour. We shall gain nothing by merely commencing the discussion this evening. The hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Sir G. Campbell) has many observations to make on the Bill, and the only result of going on with the Committee stage to-night will be that the Government reply to his speech will have to be postponed till another day, and then his observations will probably be repeated by someone else. I observe that in the case of discussions at this time at night, when an hon. Member states his reasons, no answer is given to him on that day, and practically, as far as time is concerned, nothing is gained by hon. Gentlemen making observations. Under these circumstances, it is hardly worth while to prolong discussion now, and I would urge the First Lord of the Treasury, out of respect to the Australian colonists, to put down the Bill for an earlier hour some other evening.


I protest against the passing of the Third Reading this evening. There is one question which alone will take several hours to discuss—namely, the proposal to grant a pension of £333 to Mr. Wharton, in spite of the protest of the Western Australian people.


The hon. Gentleman speaks of a protest. I do not know anything of such a protest.


I have the protest.


No such protest has been made to Her Majesty's Government, and I cannot admit that a document such as that stated by the hon. Member to be in his possession can, on that ground, be assumed as coming within the cognisance of Her Majesty's Government. Of course I cannot discuss the question of Mr. Warton's pension on the Motion to report Progress.

MR. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)

I entertain the greatest possible respect for the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J Morley), but on this occasion I hope the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy will per- severe with his Motion. It is monstrous to proceed with a measure of this kind at 10 minutes to 12 o'clock. If there were no other reason for delaying the consideration of this measure, I think the rumours which have been in circulation during the last two or three weeks with reference to the objects of the promoters of the Bill form a reason. We know what has been going on in many of the Australian colonies, and we are anxious to prevent the same evils arising in Western Australia. I do not say the rumours are true, but it has been said that the Bill is promoted by a number of land grabbers. It is well that such a rumour should be disproved, if possible. Those of us who entertain broad views on the question of laud tenure reform will stoutly resist any attempt on the part of a handful of men to obtain possession of the land of Western Australia. I think it would be most unfortunate for this country, as well as for the colonists themselves, that the Bill should be passed without the most serious deliberation.


I opposed the Second Reading of the Bill because I thought the measure was proposed in great haste and without due consideration, and because the principle upon which it proceeded was not one which commended itself to my mind. But as a strong Select Committee has reported in favour of the Bill, and in view of the fact that every Australian Legislature has passed a unanimous vote in favour of the Bill, I am not prepared to pursue my opposition any further. At the same time, I think the demand that the measure should be brought on at an early hour some other evening is a reasonable one.

SIR R. N. FOWLER (London)

I agree very much with the view expressed by the hon. Gentleman. I was not in favour of the Bill originally, but, considering that the Australian colonists are unanimous in favour of the measure, it seems to me there is only one course open to the House, and that is to press the Bill. I think, too, that it ought to be taken at any hour.


As reference has been made to the Select Committee, I think it right to say that although we had ample opportunity of discussing some parts of the Bill, we had not sufficient opportunity of discussing the most important portion of the Bill, namely, the disposal of the temperate southern lands. If the Government think it worth while to go on, I shall not further resist them.


I am sure the Members of the Select Committee who are present will boar me out when I say that the statement made by the hon. Gentleman, that the last portion of the Bill was not adequately discussed, is absolutely without foundation. There was no sort of impediment put on the discussion of the Bill. If hon. Members will take the trouble to read the Report, they will see that a large portion, a disproportionate amount of the time of the Committee was occupied by the observations of the hon. Member himself. So far from any check being put on the discussion of the Bill in the Select Committee, I give the statement the most unqualified denial.


Ten sittings were held to take evidence on the Bill, and the discussion of the Bill is limited to one sitting. I assent that a great part of the time was occupied in considering whether the northern lands should be reserved. When we come to what I think is the serious part of the Bill, the question of making over to the present inhabitants of the colony the temperate southern lands, Members commenced to pack up their papers; not 10 minutes were given to the discussion.

(11.57.) DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)

I observe that the Government are pursuing their usual tactics, namely, dragging on at a late hour of the night a measure dealing with an important colony. They actually condescend to devote three or four minutes to the consideration of a Bill which really gives a now Constitution to Western Australia. Irish Members have the utmost respect for anything that falls from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle (Mr. J. Morley), but in some matters, notably in colonial matters, we have to consult very largely the opinions of our constituents, and I assure the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy that if he had not moved to report Progress, I should have felt it my duty to do so.

It being midnight, the Motion for Progress lapsed without Question put; and the Chairman loft the Chair to make his Report to the House.

Committee to sit again to-morrow.