§ MR. HERBERT PAUL (Edinburgh, S.)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury what course the Government propose to take with regard to the Fatal Accidents Inquiry (Scotland) Bill, which his passed through the Standing Committee.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.),
who was received with cheers, said, perhaps it would be for the convenience of the House if, in answering the hon. Gentleman's question, I were to give the House an indication of the views of the Government with regard to the public business which will have to be passed before Parliament is prorogued. ["Hear, hear!"] The pressing business is to pass such an amount of Supply as will enable the General Election to take place without any inconvenience to the public service, and my hon. Friend the Secretary of the Treasury and other Members have put down Votes on Account for these moneys. If the House follows, as I trust it will, the precedent of 1886 in this matter, the course of business would be as follows: The Vote on Account would be passed through this evening. To-morrow we shall take the Report of Supply and the First Reading of the Appropriation Bill. On Thursday we shall read the Appropriation Bill a second time. On Friday we shall take the Committee stage, and on Saturday the Third Reading. If the House consents to that proposal, the Appropriation Bill will go up to the House of Lords on Saturday, and I believe there will be no difficulty in passing it through all its stages on that day. ["Hear, hear!"] 89 I think we should then be able to prorogue Parliament on Saturday [Cheers], and if that were done the Dissolution would take place upon Monday, and the Writs would be issued on that day. [Renewed Cheers.] I hope that that will meet the wishes of both sides of the House. But there are other matters with which the Government propose to deal—matters which may be properly called non-controversial. Those Bills, either because they are non-controversial or because they represent a vast amount of labour in the Grand Committee ["Hear, hear!"] and have been thrown into a shape, which, speaking generally, may be described as acceptable to most of the interests concerned—there being such Bills, I think I ought to say something about them. Let it be understood in the first place that it will be impossible for us if we are to carry out our policy successfully to defer prorogation for these Bills. If they are to be taken, they must be taken in the interstices of other business. If the House gets rapidly through Supply to-night, there may be time for it to deal sufficiently with the measures I will now recapitulate. In the first place, let me mention two Departmental Bills brought in by the late Government and passed through the House of Lords. The first is the Colonial Boundaries Bill, and the other is the Extradition Bill. I am informed that the first of these is urgently needed for public reasons, which, if necessary, my right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Colonies will explain. As to the Extradition Bill, I am informed that we are almost obliged to pass it in order to keep our obligations to the French Government. These Bills are of a non-contentious character, and I hope they will be allowed to pass. Then there is the Naval Works Bill. This is really a part of the financial scheme of the late Government, which has reached the stage of the Third Reading, and I hope there will be no opposition to it and that it will pass. Then as to Bills which have already passed through the Grand Committee, some of them are of a controversial character, and I do not think they are capable of being dealt with in the small remainder of the Session. There is the Pistols Bill [Laughter], which, though it has no 90 innocuous title, comes under that description. The Church Patronage Bill, I am also told, must meet with a good deal of opposition in the House, as it has produced a good deal of feeling in the country, so that it will be impossible to continue its later stages. There is another Bill, the Summary Jurisdiction (Married Women's) Bill. So far as I am acquainted with it, I think it is very desirable it should pass; but if it leads to any discussion it cannot pass, and I cannot put it in a very high place among the Orders after Supply. But if it meets with no opposition, I see no reason why it should not pass. The Rating of Machinery Bill, I imagine, will be of too controversial a character to pass. [Cheers and cries of"No!"] As there have been no amendments to it there will be no Report stage, and therefore it is probably not the kind of Bill the House would like to see passed in its present shape into law. ["Hear, hear!"] There remain two principal measures, the Factories and Workshops Bill ["hear, hear!"] and the other, the Fatal Accidents Inquiry (Scotland) Bill. ["Hear, hear!"] I have taken some pains to acquaint myself with what has passed in the Grand Committee on these Bills, and though I think it would be excessive to say they are absolutely non-controversial, I believe it is true to say of both of them—especially of the former—that they were so thoroughly discussed in the Committee, and there has been so much compromise ["hear, hear!"] and so much pains taken to meet the demands of all concerned, that I think it would be a misfortune if the House found it impossible to pass them even in the few days that remain to us of Parliamentary life. [Cheers] I should propose to put that Bill the first after the financial business, in the confident belief that it will be sent to another place without any undue delay. As to the other Bill, it was, I believe, very fully discussed in the Scotch Grand Committee. The Bill does something towards assimilating the law of Scotland to the law of England, and I hope that this Bill also will meet with the approval of the House. ["Hear, hear!"] If the Government are fortunate enough to carry the House with them, then we shall have the satisfaction of meeting our constituents not later than Monday next.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT) (Derby
, who was received with cheers, said: I do not rise to make any objection to the proposals which the right hon. Gentleman has made, as it must, under present circumstances, be desired on both sides that the Dissolution shall take place at as early a date as possible. With regard to the Bills which the right hon. Gentleman has referred to, I am extremely glad that he proposes to go on with the Factories Bill. I think it would be a matter greatly to be deplored if that Bill were not passed into law during the present Session ["hear, hear!"] and I am sure that on this side of the House there will be every endeavour to assist in passing it. I can say the same thing with regard to the Fatal Accidents (Scotland) Bill. These are the two most material measures to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. The others which he mentioned are almost a matter of course, and there will be no objection to forward those Bills.
§ DR. CLARK (Caithness)
I should like to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether he has considered the Bill of the late Government which stands No. 10 on the Orders—the Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Bill? It was read a second time without a Division, and has now reached the Committee stage. I understand that the inclusion of leaseholders is not opposed, though the extension proposed by other parts of the Bill is opposed. I would ask the present Government whether they cannot see their way to allow the unopposed portion of the Bill to pass into law; or, if not, whether they will allow the Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Act (1886) Amendment (No. 2) Bill, a private measure, which stands No. 69 on the Orders, to be read a second time and passed?
§ MR. H. LABOUCHERE (Northampton)
I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman two questions. Will the Factories and Workshops Bill be put down for To-morrow? Secondly, if we expedite the proceedings so as to get the Dissolution on Monday, will the writs be sent out by an early post; and, if so, will the post-offices be kept open for them to be delivered as soon as received? This is a matter of considerable importance in some districts, as it may affect the date to be fixed for the polling.
§ MR. VESEY KNOX (Cavan, W.)
I desire to ask a question with regard to one Bill not mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman, which has passed through all its stages in this House and has gone elsewhere. I refer to the Municipal Franchise (Ireland) Bill. I desire to say that while there is, I believe, no disposition to interfere with the programme which the Government have sketched out, still the course which they decide to take in regard to that Bill will have an important effect on the course to be adopted in respect to that programme. [Ministerial cries of"Order."] I believe also that no opposition would be offered to any compromise that might be suggested by those who opposed certain parts of the Bill. I ask the Government, therefore, not to stand in the way of allowing that Bill to pass into law.
§ Mr. H. H. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)
, whose rising was greeted with cheers, said, I rather gather from the statement of the First Lord of the Treasury that he intends to take to-night some of the Bills which he enumerated. I wish to point out, in reference to the Factories and Workshops Bill, that it was only reprinted this morning in the form in which it passed the Grand Committee. But there are a certain number of amendments—most of them drafting amendments—to carry out pledges given in the Grand Committee, and which I think it would be desirable to put on the paper. ["Hear, hear!"] So far as I am responsible for those amendments, I am willing to put them down to-night. I think that hon. Members should have an opportunity of seeing them in print, and I would, therefore, suggest that it would not be convenient to take that Bill before to-morrow.
§ COLONEL SAUNDERSON (Armagh, N.)
I should like to point out that Section 16 of the Factories and Workshops Bill presses very heavily on the cottage industries of Ulster, and strong representations have been made to us on the subject. I wish to ask my right hon. Friend whether it would not be possible to introduce some slight amendment in Section 16, in which case, so far as we are concerned, the Bill will receive our entire support.
§ MR. W. JOHNSTON (Belfast, S.)
Would it not be better, under the circumstances, to postpone any amendments to the Factories and Workshops Bill till an Amending Bill to be introduced next year?
Mr. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts, Mansfield)
Are we to understand that the adjournment of the House will be moved each day as soon as the Government business is disposed of?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I will answer that last question at once. I think the course suggested is in accordance with precedent and one which it would be most convenient under the circumstances, that we should adopt. ["Hear, hear!"] I will endeavour to answer the other questions which have been addressed to me. The hon. Member for Caithness inquires about the Crofters' Holdings (Scotland) Bill, but I do not know what course we could adopt to answer the discrimination suggested by the hon. Gentleman between different portions of the Bill. I believe, however, that the clause for the rating leases in the islands and highlands could not be called uncontroversial, and this would prevent us from adopting the plan which the hon. Member suggests. The hon. Member for Northampton asks whether, if our programme of business is carried out and the Writs issued on Monday, facilities will be given for receiving the Writs on Monday night. Although I do not know how the matter stands according to the ordinary practice, I will make it my business to inquire whether that can be done. [Cheers.] The hon. and learned Member for Cavan asks me a question about the Municipal Franchise (Ireland) Bill. Although it is true that the Bill has left this House, I believe that it has not yet been read a second time in another place; and I do not, therefore, think it would be possible for the Government to give any pledge in regard to that Bill. The House of Lords must deal with it in detail, inasmuch as we have refused to deal with its details at all. Under these circumstances, I think it would be impossible to get that Bill passed into law by Saturday. In answer to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Asquith), that any amendments to the Factories and Workshops Bill should be put down, I think there is great 94 force in his suggestion, and, as he thinks it desirable, I shall follow the lead he has given me in the matter, and I shall put the Bill down for to-morrow next after the necessary financial business. In regard to the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend, Colonel Saunderson, I can only say that I have no doubt that those who have facilitated the passage of the Factories and Workshops Bill through the Grand Committee will be able to satisfy my hon. and gallant Friend in regard to the interests represented by him. I say this without personal knowledge of the clause to which he refers, but I trust that the general good sense of the House will see that no clause in the Bill presses unduly on any particular class. [Cheers.]
§ MR. PAUL
May I ask whether the Government, intend to support the amendment to the Fatal Accidents (Scotland) Bill, which stands on the paper in the name of the right hon. Member for the University of Edinburgh (Sir C. Pearson)?
§ After a short interval.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
, rising again, said: One Bill I did not mention was the Scotch Fisheries Bill. I do know whether that is uncontroversial; but, if so, we shall not oppose any objection to its passing into law. [Opposition cheers.]