§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [25th March], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ Question again proposed.
§ Debate resumed.
§ MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
I understood the Government was willing 132 to assent to the reference of this Bill to a Select Committee, and I should like to have an assurance on that point, as otherwise I do not think it would be right to allow a Bill of this kind to go through the House without some debate and without any explanation. This Bill deals with a question upon which I think we ought not to rush to a decision lest we should afterwards find, as we have found in the Ranges Act, that there is interference with the rights of people for whom no redress is provided. The Bill, I understand, gives the Government power to acquire rights over common land by lease or otherwise, and it does not appear to me, so far as I can understand the clauses, that commoners' rights are properly safeguarded. Now that the Financial Secretary has returned to his place, I put the question to him; is it intended to send this Bill to a Select Committee or a Hybrid Committee in order that the rights of persons interested in common lands may be inquired into and protected?
§ (11.32.) THE FINANCIAL SECRETARY, WAR DEPARTMENT (Mr. BRODRICK,) Surrey, Guildford
I regret that I should have been absent for I moment. It is the intention, and a believe that has already been announced by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Stanhope) that this Bill shall be referred to a Select Committee where the clauses will be fully investigated in a manner satisfactory to the hon. Gentleman.
§ (11.33.) DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid)
It is clearly understood then, that this Bill goes before a Select Committee. I know that many Members on this side of the House entertain objections to the Bill, but they are not present, because they assumed that this Bill, standing No. 11 on list for the day, would not be reached before 12 o'clock. Perhaps there will be less objection if the Bill is threshed out before a Committee and subsequently comes before us. I know that questions of commoners' rights arise, and notably in connection with the establishment of a rifle range in the New Forest. But I have neither power of 133 voice or the necessary information to discuss the Bill now, but I sincerely hope that proper means will be taken to allay apprehensions I know have arisen, and I think it is a questionable proceeding to attempt to carry this stage of the Bill under these peculiar circumstances, when it would not have been reached but for the dropping of intervening Orders of the Day.
§ (11.36.) MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (&c.) Carnarvon,
I understand that the Bill includes a proposal to take away a large portion of commoners' rights in the New Forest, and I know that in this many Members take an interest, but they had no reason to expect the Bill would be taken and have left the House. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Labouchere) is anxious to speak on the subject, and it is a question of such public importance that the Bill should not pass without discussion. I know there is a question arises as to the abolition of public rights of way also. Would the Government be prepared to refer the Bill to a Commons Committee empowered to make the usual local inquiry under the Commons Act at the public expense? To put myself in order and to enable the hon. Gentleman to reply, I move the adjournment of the Debate.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned."—(Mr. Lloyd-George.)
§ (11.39.) MR. BRODRICK
I hardly think it is necessary for the hon. Member to insist on that Motion. With regard to the commons part of the subject, I may mention that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) who has specially interested himself in this subject expressed himself as perfectly willing that the Bill should go before a Committee.
§ MR. BRODRICK
An ordinary Select Committee of the House, and I think that inquiry would satisfy hon. Gentlemen for there is nothing in the 134 Bill calling for special local inquiry. In regard to the New Forest there is a local inquiry proceeding, and upon this a report will be made. This is not dealt with in the Bill. The object of the Bill is simply to consolidate existing Acts, and of course the Committee upstairs will have the opportunity of going into details which a Committee of the whole House would not have. We do not propose by the Bill to reopen all the questions connected with commons; it is simply a consolidation Bill which a Committee upstairs will be eminently qualified to deal with. I think there is a general consensus of opinion in favour of such a course, and I hope the hon. Member will not press his Motion.
§ (11.42.) MR. SHAW LEFEVRE (Bradford, Central)
I hope the hon. Member will not proceed with his Motion for adjournment. I have carefully examined the Bill in the interests of commoners, and I am satisfied that it will be in the interest of commoners that the Bill should pass into law. It is not merely a consolidation Bill for it does remove a very serious difficulty arising out of the Ranges Act passed last year. In reference to this I had the honour of introducing a deputation to the Secretary for War, and the right hon. Gentleman has very fairly met the demand made by the deputation. There was one point I referred to the other night in connection with the New Forest range. Proceedings in reference to that range have been commenced under the Act of last year, and I suggested that an Amendment should be introduced providing that this also should be dealt with under a Provisional Order as is provided in the Bill for future proceedings. Subject to this, I think the Bill is satisfactory and may well be allowed to be referred to a Committee.
§ (11.45.) MR. S. T. EVANS (Glamorgan, Mid)
I do not think my hon. Friend's Motion is unreasonable under the circumstances. This measure comes on unexpectedly. It was not expected that the Debate on the Indian Councils Bill would terminate so early as that the Government, by passing over other 135 measures, would reach this Bill. Of course I should not be in order if on this Motion I attempted to discuss the Military Lands Consolidation Bill, nor can I say I am well acquainted with its contents, but I may observe that while the Financial Secretary describes it merely as a Consolidation Bill, the right hon. Gentleman on this side (Mr. Shaw Lefevre), who is well acquainted with the measure, says it is not merely a Consolidation Bill. It appears it does include an alteration in the law. There is a difference of opinion, and there should be a full statement of the contents and discussion if necessary before we dispose of the Second Reading. The short time at our disposal does not permit of a full examination of this Bill of 30 clauses, and I think an adjournment now is only reasonable.
§ (11.47.) MR. JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)
I may be allowed to point out the fact that there is one clause in the Bill, the 25th, excluding the New Forest from the scope of the Bill, and I have reason to know from local knowledge that local opinion is in favour of the Bill.
§ (11.47.) MR. MORTON (Peterborough)
I should like to be able to advise my hon. Friend to withdraw his Motion, but first I should like to know whether the Bill is to be referred to a Committee of seven Members, or whether it will simply go before the usual Select Committee of four Members? If the Bill goes before a Hybrid Committee with an assurance that all interests will be considered, perhaps we might allow the Second Reading to be taken now. The New Forest people may be protected, but there are other commoners who require protection.
§ (11.48.) MR. FLYNN (Cork, N.)
I am sorry I cannot agree with my hon. Friend (Mr. Morton). There are clauses which, as applied to Ireland, require very serious consideration. There are powers to be given to the War Office over foreshores and tidal waters adjacent, and there have been very serious complaints as to the method of carrying on torpedo practice. There is a contention now going on between the War Office and the Har- 136 bour Authorities as to the firing in Cork Harbour.
§ MR. SPEAKER
I must remind the hon. Member that it is a Motion for Adjournment which is before the House.
(11.49.) MR. PHILIPPS (Lanark, Mid.)
I hope the Motion will be accepted. I know that the hon. Member for Northampton desires to speak on the Bill, and naturally he did not expect that the Orders of the Day would be disposed of in a few minutes that this Bill might be reached. The hon. Member for Hants (Mr. Jeffreys) has spoken of the New Forest, but the district is not within his constituency, and I should be more satisfied if the Member representing them expressed the opinion of the commoners there. In these 30 clauses questions arise that concern the whole country from Scotland to the New Forest, and I do not think we ought to be asked to dispose of the Second Reading in this hurried and unexpected manner.
§ (11.50.) MR. BRODRICK
May I be allowed to explain that the War Office have nothing to gain by pressing the Bill forward? Every power the Bill contains the War Office already have; nothing in the Bill extends those powers, and whatever change is proposed is in the direction of a limitation of the power of the War Office. Should the House decline to proceed with the Bill, the position will be that the War Office will have more extended powers than they would have in the future if this Bill were passed. So far as the Government are concerned, they have no reason to press the Bill. Our desire is to meet objections raised by hon. Members on the other side to the Ranges Act passed last year. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Shaw Lefevre) admits that those objections are met, and I hope, therefore, that the Bill will be allowed to go to the Committee.
§ (11.51.) DR. TANNER
The hon. Gentleman must have raison de quoi—he should have told us all about it at the commencement of the Debate. Have we not often found the Government trying to smuggle a Bill through late at night? The Bill applies to Ireland, and it must be debated if there are objections to it. I think the Government should be satisfied with the progress they have made with their business to-night, and I hope they will not allow their desire to get the better of their good sense.
§ (11.52.) MR. WALLACE (Edinburgh, E.)
I hope the Debate will not expire in this uninteresting manner. I have listened to the reduplicated explanations of the Financial Secretary, and, accepting them in the spirit in which they are offered, I cannot say they carry conviction to my mind. They did not seem consistent with themselves or calculated to promote the object he professedly has in view. I understand that the last argument of the hon. Gentleman was directed to this point; that if he lost on a Division his Department would be gainers. Well, it seems to me that on the face of it that is paradoxical and to a certain extent unintelligible. I cannot see if it is to the interest of the Department he represents to lose a Division why he should persist in persuasion against proceeding to a Division. That the Bill should be hurried on in itself excites suspicion. Many hon. Members interested have left the House under the impression the Bill would not be taken, and I am not free to assume that were they present they would be influenced in favour of the Bill by the considerations the hon. Gentleman has advanced. If the hon. Gentleman had been officially convinced he would have put his views in a way more consistent with his first argument.
§ (11.57.) Mr. A. J. BALFOUR rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put, "That the Question be now put."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 133; Noes 63.—(Div. List, No. 54.)138
§ (12.10.) Question put accordingly, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 56; Noes 140.—(Div. List, No. 55.)
§ (12.20.) Mr. A. J. BALFOUR claimed, "That the Original Question be now put.
§ MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.)
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to ask you if the right hon. Gentleman is in Order in taking that course?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
There is no necessity for a further Motion, the Division already taken lead up to a decision on the Main Question.
§ MR. SEXTON
What I wish to ask, Sir, is whether the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman is superfluous, whether the putting of the Main Question follows on the Original Motion for the Closure?
§ * MR. SPEAKER
There can be no further debate on the Main Question. The right hon. Gentleman having moved that the Question be now put, and that being carried applies to the Original Motion. The proceeding is in order. I am acting under the Standing Order of the House.
§ (12.20.) Original Question put accordingly, "That the Bill be now read a second time.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 153; Noes 44.—(Div. List, No. 56.)
§ Bill read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee." (Mr. Brodrick.)
§ It being after Midnight, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow at Two of the clock.