§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [15th April], "That the Bill be committed to the Standing Committee on Law, &c."—(Mr. Lea.)
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ (11.40.) MR. LEA (Londonderry, S.)
I said all that was necessary on the previous occasion when this Bill was under consideration, and I will only now add that the promoters of the Bill will be quite willing to accept any reasonable Amendment in Committee. I intend to 1164 move that the Bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Law.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
I notice that there are on the Paper two Instructions to the Committee, one of which deals with the question of reducing the Licensing Duty proportionately with the reduction in the number of hours for business. Seeing that Ireland is deprived of many of the advantages which accrue to this country in the shape of manufactures, and seeing that the manufacture of spirits is—
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
I rise to a point of order. The Motion before the House is that the Bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Law, and that certain Instructions be given to the Committee. I wish to ask whether the Committee to which the Bill is to be referred should not first be decided on before any Instruction is moved?
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The House must decide what Committee the Bill is to go to before it gives an Instruction, and the Motion now before it is to refer the Bill to the Standing Committee on Law.
§ MR. SEXTON
I have but just entered the House, and misapprehended the nature of the Motion. What I object to is a Bill of this nature, affecting Irish interests only, being referred to a Grand Committee on which there are only seven Irish Members, especially when the opinion of Members representing Ireland has been so very evenly divided on the question of the Second Reading My experience has been that when Bills relate to only one of the three countries they have been either dealt with by the House itself or referred to a Committee, on which the Representatives of that country can exercise a material, if not a preponderating, influence. For instance, on the Committee dealing with the Irish Estates of the City Companies, out of 11 Members four or five were Irish. 1165 Again, in regard to the Bankruptcy (Ireland) Bill, the Committee was composed almost entirely of Representatives from Ireland. But this Bill is to be withdrawn from the cognisance of the House in the Debates in which the 100 Members from Ireland might have considerable influence, and it is to go to a Grand Committee, in which the Irish Members will be, by reason of their infinitesimal representation, placed at a grievous disadvantage. I believe it is a fact that all the Irish Members on this Standing Committee are with but one exception in favour of this Bill; and, therefore, I say it is an absolute injustice to refer the Bill to that Committee. The Bill was supported by 25 Irish Members, and opposed by 31. With the majority so small it is a mockery to refer the measure to a body of 80 Members, of whom seven only are Irish Members, all but one being in favour of the Bill. It may be said that the Committee of Selection have power to add Members. They have power to add 15 Members. I do not suppose they would add 15 Irish Members. At any rate, I am unwilling to abdicate my function as an Irish Member in favour of the Committee of Selection. I claim my right to discuss this Bill here. It is a Bill of details, and not of principles. If you are to discuss it at all effectively you must do so in Committee; and, as far as I can prevent it, I must decline to allow any stage of the Bill to be removed from the purview of the House, and handed over to a body which is at present most un fitted by its composition for the discussion of such a Bill. The Bill strikes particularly at certain cities in Ireland. Those five cities are Belfast, Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and Waterford, and they are represented in this House by 16 Members. Surely it is absurd to suggest that this Bill can be properly considered by a Committee on which not one of these 16 Members has a seat. Surely it is reducing legislation to a mockery to suppose that this is a fair or intelligent method of proceeding by the Bill. I represent an important body of 1166 opinion in the City of Belfast; and I decline to be a party to such a novel and unjust proposal as the reference of a Bill concerning the interests of many of those for whom I speak to a body of which the Members from Ireland form a contemptible and helpless minority. I move that the House resolve itself into Committee on the Bill on this day month I name this day month, because it appears to me from the state of Public Business that there is no probability that the House will be able to spare time for the subject at any earlier period. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has many weighty matters deserving his attention. He has thrown some things overboard, but has still an amount of cargo on board which he cannot dispose of before this day month.
§ MR. SPEAKER
As a point of order, I do not think the hon. Gentleman can move to put the matter off for a month. If he will name an earlier day the Amendment can be put.
§ MR. SEXTON
Of course, Sir, I will move the Motion in any form you consider in order. This day week.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House do resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House on the Bill upon Tuesday next."—(Mr. Sexton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ (11.52.) THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. MADDEN) Dublin University
I do not think the hon. Member for West Belfast has made out a case. He has argued that a Bill relating exclusively to Ireland should be referred to a Select Committee; but I would remind the House that the Light Railways Bill of 1889, which related exclusively to Ireland, was referred to the Grand Committee on Trade.
§ MR. MADDEN
There was a grant of public money, but that question was 1167 decided by the House. It was not that question, but the details of the Bill, which were referred to the Standing Committee on Trade. It is an answer to the argument of the hon. Gentleman, which was that a Bill relating to Ireland was always referred to a Select Committee and not to a Standing Committee. The case I have cited is an exact precedent for dealing with the present Bill in the way proposed by my hon. Friend opposite. I must say I think, speaking not only on behalf of the Government but also for myself, this is a Bill which may with great advantage be referred to the Standing Committee on Law. The law relating to licensing in Ireland is rather intricate, and the details of the Bill require to be dealt with with extreme care. I think that it is extremely desirable that the Committee to which the Bill is referred should be the Standing Committee on Law. It is true there are not many Irish Members on that Committee; but in the case of the Light Railways Bill a large number of Irish Members were added to the Grand Committee, and I have no doubt that precedent will be followed on the present occasion by the Committee of Selection.
§ (11.55.) MR. J. NOLAN (Louth, N.)
I wish to direct the attention of the House to the manner in which a very important interest in Ireland is being treated. It has been made perfectly clear that the overwhelming majority of Representatives of three at least of the provinces of Ireland are opposed to this Bill. The measure is pressed forward in this House day after day by two gentlemen, one of whom I believe is an Englishman and the other is a Scotchman, and they are supported by a number of Members who, broadly speaking, represent only one shade of political opinion. To-night a very important step is proposed to be taken in connection with this Bill, and it is proposed to be taken at the fag-end of an 1168 Evening Sitting. The hon. Member in charge of the Bill moved the Motion in a speech of a few words, and he only had the opportunity of doing so by some arrangement with an hon. Member on the opposite side of the House. I wish to assure that hon. Member that when he gets another chance of pushing forward the Bill about which he has recently been making appeals to hon. Members he had better avail himself of it, because we shall remember that it was—what I suppose it would not be Parliamentary to call a trick, but—the arrangement between himself and the hon. Member in charge of this Bill that led to this Bill being taken at the fag-end of an Evening Sitting, in the absence of a large number of the Representatives of Ireland who take an interest in the question and have Motions down in reference to it. I am prepared to endorse what the hon. Member for West Belfast has said about the undesirability of referring this Bill to a Committee constituted as is the Standing Committee on Law.
§ (11.59.) Mr. LEA 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.
MR. J. NOLAN
There are only seven Members from Ireland on the Committee, and only one who may reasonably be assumed to be in favour of the trade whose interests are affected by this Bill.
§ Mr. SINCLAIR
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 Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Thursday.
§ House adjourned at five minutes after Twelve o'clock till Thursday.