§ *THE SECRETARY TO THE TREASURY (Sir JOHN HIBBERT, Oldham)
asked the House to give a Second Reading to this Bill. It was not a measure originating with the Government, but one that affected the interests of the working classes. It was introduced by the Government at the request of a conference representing 27 friendly societies, numbering over 2,600,000 members, and representing funds to the amount of £18,000,000. The Bill was non-contentious. He did not believe there was a single clause in it that was objected to. Of the 21 clauses 13 were suggested by the Friendly Societies themselves. Five had been recommended by the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies, one by the National Debt Commissioners, and two by the Miners' Friendly Societies. The latter referred to the deaths of miners in the pits. When bodies were not recovered there was no legal claim to the money 1462 insured, and great inconvenience arose on that account. Two clauses were recommended by the Commissioners on the Aged Poor, one allowing children to be insured at the age of one. It was calculated that 1d. per week from the age of one would enable a person to obtain a pension of about 5s. at the age of 65. This would not solve the old age problem, but would do a great deal to solve it. The other clause recommended by the Commissioners on the Aged Poor was to enable adult and juvenile societies to be amalgamated. These were the principal clauses in the Bill, and he hoped that if read a second time it would be sent to the Grand Committee on Law. The Committee on Law had at present no Bills before them, and therefore they could deal with the question fully. He was not, however, committed to that mode of dealing with the Bill, and if the House preferred that it should be dealt with in Committee of the Whole House, he was quite willing to agree to the proposal. He hoped the House would allow the Second Reading of the Bill to be taken, as he believed it would be a great step in the direction of what was called for by the working classes of the country.
§ MR. G. C. T. BARTLEY (Islington, N.)
protested in the strongest way against the action of the right hon. Gentleman upon this Bill. When the Bill was introduced, the right hon. Gentleman gave the House a distinct pledge that the Government would find time to consider it. This was a most important measure, for it dealt with £18,000,000 subscribed by 2,600,000 of the inhabitants of the country, yet the Government went on ploughing the sands with measures that would do nobody any good, and would not allow an hour or two of the time of the House to be taken up by the consideration of the interests of the working people. He did not oppose the measure at all, but he protested that, of all others, it required to be most carefully thought over. It was making Parliamentary procedure an absolute farce to say that time could not be found for the discussion of this great measure, which concerned the happiness of millions of people, while the Government continued to play gymnastic games with the measures they brought before the House. As 1463 to the proposal to send the Bill to the Grand Committee on Law, he would point out that the previous day, it was an hour-and-a-half before a quorum could be formed in that Committee. He had no desire to stop this Bill, but he did say that it was making legislation an absolute farce and bringing the House into contempt with the country, when this great measure, which affected the interests of the country far more than the measure which they were considering day after day for the purpose of destroying churches, had to be taken after twelve o'clock at night. Only the other day the House, after 12 o'clock, read a Bill a second time, which appeared to have for its object the promotion of the well-being of the working classes, and no sooner was it read than the whole country was up in arms at the injustice that was inflicted on a great number of people. The Government were taking a similar course now. They had been told emphatically that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would find time for the discussion of this Bill, and they had accepted that as a pledge, but because the Chancellor of the Exchequer wished to bring in other measures, like the Local Veto Bill, they were not allowed sufficient time to consider this important measure.
§ SIR HERBERT MAXWELL (Wigtownshire)
agreed with what the hon. Member had said about the manner in which the Bill was introduced, but hoped the House would consent to the Second Reading. It was a measure most important in its details, and affecting a very large number of their fellow-citizens. The measure had been fully considered by the societies interested; it contained the principal recommendations made by the Royal Commission. Some of the provisions in the Bill had been the subject of recommendations by a Select Committee over which he had had the honour to preside, which considered this matter for three years, recommendations come to after much deliberation and discussion with the classes and societies interested, and he trusted the House would accept the Bill.
§ *MR. W. R. CREMER (Shoreditch, Haggerston)
hoped the House would not be influenced by the extraordinary speech made by the hon. Member for Islington, who, according to his 1464 own statement, had no objection to the Bill. Two millions of people would be beneficially affected by the Bill, the whole of the Friendly Societies in the Kingdom had endorsed it, and the hon. Member would have an ample opportunity of expressing any objections at later stages of the Bill.
§ *MR. CREMER
said, it astonished him that the hon. Member for Islington should want time to discuss the Bill, when he confessed that he had not the slightest objection to urge against it. He hoped the House would pass the Second Reading and refer the Bill to the Standing Committee on Law [Cries of "No."] Well, hon. Gentlemen opposite might object to that being done, but as the Bill was one in which so many millions of people were interested, he hoped it would be passed. He believed there was not a single objection to be urged aginst it.
§ DR. TANNER (Cork Co. Mid.)
said, he had at first made objection to the Second Reading of the Bill being passed at that hour, but having heard the explanation of the hon. Member opposite, and the very reasonable exposition of the measure from the right hon. Gentleman who had charge of it, he should withdraw his opposition.
§ *SIR JOHN HIBBERT
denied that he made the definite promise, in the definite terms alleged by the hon. Member for Islington, to find time for the discussion of the Bill. He certainly did say that he would endeavour, if possible, to find time for discussion, but he had been unable to succeed in doing so.
§ Bill read 2°.