§ SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucester, Forest of Dean)
asked the Leader of the House (1) when he proposed to take the Military Manœuvres Bill, and (2) whet her there were any more Government Bills yet to be introduced?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
moved:—That, for the remainder of the Session, Government business be not interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the sittings of the House, and may be entered upon at any hour though opposed; and that at the conclusion of Government business each clay Mr. Speaker do adjourn the House without question put.The right hon. Gentleman said:—I cannot give an answer to the first question of the right hon. Baronet. I cannot say on what day the Military Manœuvres Bill will be taken, and perhaps it will be more convenient to reserve any questions until I have made the very brief statement which I now propose to lay before the House. My Motion asks the House to suspend for the remainder of the Session the 12 o'clock rule. As hon. Members will readily understand, I do not make that Motion in the expectation that we shall be burdened with many sittings of great length—["hear, hear!"]—but simply because at this stage of the Session, and with a view to the winding up the Session, it has been found convenient by my predecessors for many years past to remove the dead wall which our rule has put up at 12 o'clock, and which sometimes causes business which might very well be concluded without throwing any undue burden on the House in the course of one night to extend over several. [Hear, hear!"] Now, as the sole justification of my asking the House to suspend this rule is that we may bring the Session to a close, they will naturally ask Me what Measures I hope to pass before that most desirable consummation is reached. The "slaughter of the innocents" will in this case not be very great, for, as the House knows, the controversial and difficult Bills are for the most part either disposed of or are so far advanced that very little more requires to be done to enable them to pass all their stages in this House. I may perhaps go through the Government programme in order. As I 181 understand, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture has to-day announced that lie terms to bring in a small Bill for the purpose of informing the country what the views of the Department and the Government are without any intention of passing it this Session. That is a convenient course to pursue in regard to certain questions, but it is not necessary that I should ask the House to deal with this Bill, which avowedly is only introduced in order to get it printed and circulated, and with regard to which the House will not be asked to make any expenditure of public time. The second class of Bills includes those large and more controversial Measures which must be passed before the Session is brought to an end, but which I do not think require very much more labour to be expended upon them within these walls. These are the Workman (Compensation for Accidents) Bill, Public Health (Scotland) Bill, Congested Districts (Scotland) Bill, and the Education (Scotland) Bill, the Foreign Prison-made Goods Bill, which is very nearly concluded, the Metropolitan Water Companies Bill, and the Works Bill. I imagine nobody will dispute that these Bills ought to be finished before we separate, and I do not think that in finishing them we shall have to expend very much more of our time or energy. Then there is a class of Bills which I may describe as small and wholly uncontroversial departmental Bills. I shall not ask the House to expend any great portion of its time upon them. I believe must of them will go through without much opposition. They are a kind of Bill from which, of coarse, no party derives glory or credit, and nobody, I think, desires to stop them, for they are very necessary for the Smooth conduct of administrative business. Outside these small departmental Bills, which I think a very few hours will dispose of, there are Bills of a larger kind which I think we ought to get, but about which I do not venture to speak with the same absolute confidence. They arc Bills quite uncontroversial in their character, demanded by both sides, and I think the House would do well to pass them into law in the course of the present Session. Two Measures which I have specially in my mind are the Military Manœuvres Bill and the Land Transfer Bill. The latter Bill is now 182 before Grand Committee, and I have some reason to believe that on both sides there will be found a desire to pass that Bill into law. That observation I may make with even greater force in re-, rd to the Military Manœuvres Bill. My right hon. Friend the Under Secretary for War has taken very great trouble to throw the Bill, with the general objects of which, I believe, everybody is agreed, into a form which need raise no opposition. he informs me that he has reason to believe that no opposition of a serious character will be offered to it, and I have every hope that we may get this question out of the way in the course of the Session. Another Bill about which I do not venture, to speak with the same confidence, but which belongs to the same general category, is one which has come down from the House of Lords, the Fisheries Bill. That, I have reason to believe, is demanded by almost all the fishing interests in the country, and I should be very glad to see it passed. I have not been able to make myself acquainted with the views taken in all parts of the House with regard to this Bill, and it may be that serious opposition will be announced in one quarter or another, and if that is the case there is, I am afraid, little hope of the Bill becoming law; but I still entertain better hopes. There remains one Bill, which I cannot describe exactly a departmental Bill, and which, perhaps, hardly comes within the brand category of the Measures I have enumerated—that is, the Irish Judicature Bill. That has not been yet introduced and will not be till next week. It would be premature for me to give any account of its provisions, but this I may say that, front such inquiries as I have been able to make, it will be introduced in a form acceptable to all parties in the House.
§ MR. JOHN DILLON (Mayo, E.)
Of whom has the right hon. Gentleman made inquiries? [Ministerial cries of "Order!'']
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
I could not enter into that question across the floor of the House. Of course, if the hon. Gentleman has views upon the form which this Bill will take the Chief Secretary or I will be most glad to consult him upon that or any other matter connected with the conduct of Irish legislation. But as I have reason 183 to hope that this Bill will be agreeable to the great profession with which it deals, and as the reform is one agreeable even to those who will be reformed —[laughter]—which is rather unusual—I hope it will pass through the House without any difficulty. I do not know that I have much more to say, except with regard to two Measures about which I confess I do not entertain quite such sanguine hopes. Difficulties have arisen with regard to the Post Office Consolidation Bill. Consolidation Bills, though most useful legislative efforts, cannot be passed through this House if any serious difficulty arises in connection with them. Difficulties have arisen in connection with the Post Office Consolidation Bill, and I am not yet in a position to say whether they can be surmounted. If they can, and the Bill is passed as non-contentious, well and good, but it will be impossible for me to ask the House to expend any time in dealing with objections and difficulties which had better be met outside the House than across the floor. There remains one other Measure which I confess I most earnestly hoped would be put on the Statute Book in the course of the present Session—I allude to the Criminal Evidence Bill. ["No!" and murmurs.] The principle of that Bill, as the House knows, has many times over been endorsed both by this House and by the House of Lords. It is absolutely non-party in its character, and though I cannot say even high authorities are unanimous upon it—["Hear, hear!"]—the great preponderance of expert opinion is in its favour, and those who dissent from its principle belong not to one Party more than another. But it has come to my knowledge that there is little, if any, prospect of carrying that Bill through without expenditure of time, which after our prolonged labours I do not think it would be right to expect of the House. Even those who are most in favour of the Measure within the House, and many legal authorities, chairmen of Quarter Sessions, and others outside the House who will be affected by it, are of opinion that it is not a Measure which ought to be hurried through with undue haste. That being so, and it being evident that the friends of the Bill as well as its opponents are desirous of insisting upon very full discussion of its details, I am with very great reluctance obliged 184 to announce that the Government have been forced to abandon the hope of passing the Bill through. I trust that this much-needed legislation will not be long deferred; but I feel as Leader of the House, and therefore responsible for its business, that it is quite hopeless again to attempt—what has been so often attempted and so invariably found impossible—to pass this Measure through the House in the interstices of time left by lucre controversial Measures. I think this general view of the Session will content hon. Gentlemen; and if they share the views which I have ventured to express we may hope to bring rapidly and amicably to a close this Session which, by the beginning of August, will have extended over quite as long a period as the working part of our year ought to consist of. I hope that, with the view of preventing any undue delay in the completion of business, the House will grant the additional privileges which. I ask for in the Motion I have now the duty to propose.
§ SIR WILLIAM HARCOURT (Monmouthshire, W.)
The right hon. Gentleman has expressed a feeling which is general in the House, that the time has arrived when arrangements should be made to bring the Session to a close. The Motion with reference to the Twelve o'clock Rule has usually been made about this time in the Session. The right hon. Gentleman has accompanied it with a statement of the Measures which he hopes to pass. It belongs to the right hon. Gentleman's office and situation to be sanguine on this subject; but he has not raised, as far as I know, any very controversial questions. With reference to the first category, I think there is a general concurrence that they are Measures which ought to be dealt with in the present Session. As to the Compensation for Accidents Bill, there is one point I will press upon the right hon. Gentleman, and that is to use his influence to secure that the Bill shall be returned from another place at the earliest possible moment. That is a Bill in which the whole of the House is greatly interested; and an effort should be made to enable it to be dealt with before the number of Members in attendance has greatly diminished. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of certain departmental Bills, and as to those there will always be a 185 disposition on the part of the House to facilitate their progress. Those are the Bills on which the right hon. Gentleman hits expressed a confident hope. Then he comes to the Measures on which his Dopes are less confident, and when a Gentleman in the position of the First Lord of the Treasury is not very confident about a Measure, it generally happens that it has to be dropped. There are two Measures which, speaking for myself alone, I should lie very glad to see passed. The Military Manœuvres Bill is one that ought to be passed. [Ministerial cheers.] We have not a large Army; but such as we have ought to be placed in the most efficient condition—[Ministerial cheers.]—and provision ought to be made for the discipline and action of that Army. Another Bill which, I confess, I am very anxious to see passed, is the Land Transfer Bill, which will be disposed of by the Standing Committee, to-morrow. There is only one other matter on which we ought to have an understanding with the right hon. Gentleman, and that is, that, with one exception, he does not intend to introduce any new Bill after this date. That undertaking ought to lie given, because it is impossible to consider new Bills properly at this stage of the Session. As to the Twelve o'clock Motion, I flail offer it no opposition.
§ MR. DILLON
said that the Leader of the House had made no allusion to the Bill for the relief of distress in Ireland of which the Chief Secretary had given notice.
§ MR. DILLON
said that he was very disappointed to hear it, because he thought that the Chief Secretary had at last been roused to the condition of things in North Mayo, which was a disgrace to the Irish Government. As to the only other Irish Bill which the Government were attempting to pass—the Irish Judicature Bill—the right hon. Gentleman said that, from inquiries he lend made, he believed the Measure would meet with acceptance from till quarters of the House. He should I like to know what the provisions of the Bill were, and where the right hon. Gentleman made his inquiries. His attitude to the Bill would largely depend in the manner in 186 which the Government proposed to deal with the economies effected by the Bill. Throughout the whole of the Session there had been no legislation for Ireland. The Irish Members were entitled to some consideration—[ironical laughter]—first, because they attended the House unwillingly, and, secondly, because they had to come so far. It was hard to send Irish Members back after attending the house, for six months with nothing for I related in the way of legislation. There were two matters which he would urge upon the First Lord. There was a short Bill proposing to give compulsory powers to the Congested Districts Board of Ireland. The Bill had been largely accepted by the Irish Unionist Members; it would have the support of nine-tenths of the Representatives from Ireland; but it had persistently been blocked by one English Member. He hoped the Government would at least give the Irish Members this small Bill to take to their constituents. He would also appeal to the right bun Gentleman, even at this late period of the Session, to do something for the cause of Catholic University Education in Ireland. He reminded the House that two considerable Irish Bills were introduced by the Government in the beginning of the Session, and that the Government had an Irish policy when the Session began. But they had since dropped and withdrawn these two Bills, obliterating Ireland out of the programme of the Session. There has been an outcry on the part of a small section in Ireland against the Catholic University proposal, but nineteen-twentieths of the population, including Unionists and Nationalists, were agreed on this question, and if it were left, to them it could be settled peaceably. Why then should not the right hon. Gentleman undertake to settle this question for Ireland even at this late period of the Session? He further reminded the Government that a very large proportion of the Irish votes in Supply had yet to be disposed of, including the salary of the Chief Secretary, the Constabulary Vote, the Law Charges and Criminal Prosecutions Vote, which had acquired exceptional importance this year in view of the disgraceful series of proceedings on the part of the law officers in connection with the trial of the brothers Maguire; the Votes 187 for the Land Commission and the Congested Districts Board, as well as other important Irish Votes. How far did the right hon. Gentleman propose to go in connection with the Bills down on the order paper for that evening?
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON (Manchester, N.E.)
strongly supported what had been said by the Leader of the Opposition as to the great importance of pressing for ward the Military Manœuvres Bill. The opinion of those who had given the subject consideration was to the effect that the measure was one which ought to be passed this year, dealing as it (lid with the safety of the country and the efficiency of our forces.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Montrose Burghs)
said that last week he asked the First Lord of the Treasury whether, and when, he could give a day for the discussion of a Motion censuring the Commission inquiring into the working of the Land Acts. The right hon. Gentleman made a suggestion on that occasion which he promised to consider in consultation with hon. Gentlemen from Ireland. This he had done; and he understood that the right hon. Gentleman's proposal was this—that the subject should not come forward in the shape of a Motion such as he had put en the paper, but that the discussion might lie raised on the report of the Irish Land Commission Vote. This proposal, however, threw what was undoubtedly one of the most important of all the Irish subjects back to a period of the Session when there would be little chance of effective discussion. The right hon. Gentleman had not told the House what course the Government intended to follow in connection with Irish Supply, but he might in this matter suggest a compromise. It was the withdrawal of his Motion, and that I risk Supply should be, taken on one of the days which would be at the disposal of the Government—say on Monday after next week—and that the Irish Land Commission Vote should be taken on one of the days. This arrangement would allow of effective discussion of an important subject interesting to all classes in Ireland.
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
asked whether the House was to take it for granted that there 188 would not be included in any departmental Measures any novel proposal, such as any alteration of the existing system of advancing public money, or any proposals to advance public money beyond the area of the United Kingdom. Any proposals of that kind should be reserved for next Session.
§ MR. ARTHUR JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)
asked the First Lord of the Treasury, whether he had forgotten the Bill dealing with the Adulteration of Food Products, and whether the right hon. Gentleman remembered that a large deputation waited on the President of the Beard of Agriculture asking that a Bill should be brought in. A Committee sat for two years discussing this matter, and there was an unanimous report in favour of a Bill. Many petitions had been presented from all parts of the country in favour of a Bill, and the right hon. Gentleman no doubt remembered that he had expressed the hope to be able to introduce a Bill and to give it a Second Reading.
§ MR R. B. HALDANE (Haddingtonshire)
called attention to the Bill for amending the constitution of the University of London.
MR. GIBSON BOWLES (Lynn Regis)
said he was rather alarmed to Bear the right hon. Gentleman class among those Bills which could probably be passed the Fisheries Act Amendment Bill. Almost all fishermen highly disapproved the measure, and if it were pressed it would lead to controversy and discussion. He trusted that the right hon. Gentleman would not use the method of pressure—he would not say of coercion—which was in the hands of the Government by the suspension of the I2 o'clock rule to force the Bill through. The Bill was down for that evening, and he hoped an assurance would be given that it would not be pressed forward after midnight.
§ MR. EDWARD STRACHEY (Somerset, S.)
called attention to the last portion of the right hon. Gentleman's Motion, which would shut out the Bills, good, bad, or indifferent, of private Members. There were many Bills of private, Members of great interest and practically non-controverisal, as, for example, the Locomotive and Highways Bill. Another Bill, interesting to boards of guardians, was that which gave power 189 for the supply of calf-lymph; there was very little objection to that measure. As an Amendment, he moved after the word "day," to insert the words "except Wednesdays." This would give an opportunity to private Members on Wednesdays to make progress with those hills which were not controversial in their character, and which were generally approved by both sides of the House.
MR. GIITFFITH BOSCAWEN (Kent, Tunbridge)
thought that in the case where Bills had been read a second time and passed through Committee, and upon which great labour heel been expended, it was rather hard that a Motion like this should abolish the opportunity of their being further considered. Of course everybody was interested in his own Bills. He himself was particularly interested in the -Locomotives on Highways Bill—a Bill which had been unanimously reported on by a Select Committee, which had passed through the Standing Committee on Trade, and which was backed by Members on both sides of the House; and there were only one or two points outstanding, which he thought could be easily adjusted in a satisfactory manner. He hoped, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman, whether he accepted the Amendment or not, would at all events try to make some exception in favour of certain Bills not of a controversial character, on which a great deal of labour had been expended—labour which would be altogether wasted unless the course he suggested were taken.
§ MR. T. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
was glad the right hon, Gentlemen had relied more on what he called Class 3—
§ MR. J. SAMUEL (Stockton)
, referring to the Locomotives on Highways kill, said that, unless the Local Government Board were prepared to accept some Amend neat giving non-county boroughs power to wake their own byelaws, the Bill would be strongly opposed.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
order, order! The hon Member's observations do not bear on the Amendment before the House.
§ MR. J. SAMUEL
I was only giving certain reasons why the Bill would be opposed unless the Local Government Board were prepared to accept certain Amendments. ["Order!"]
§ SIR J. BLUNDELL MAPLE (Camberwell, Dulwich)
wished, before the right hon. Gentleman replied, and before the House divided, to ask whether he had considered the Service Franchise Bill? The hill had been read a second time, and was down for Committee. It was only a one-clause Bill; and it was a peculiar kill in this respect, that, unless it were passed at once, over 100,000 electors would be struck off the roll. It was a Bill he quite understood the Government would like to take charge of. It had passed the House without division and without opposition, and—
§ *MR. SPEAKER
Order, order! The hon. Member is entitled to ask the Leader of the House to take the Bill into his consideration, but he cannot go into its merits.
§ SIR J. BLUNDELL MAPLE
did not intend or desire to go into the merits of the Bill, only to impress on the Leader of the House the importance of the measure; and he hoped that if the Government could not give facilities for its passing this Session, they would promise to take charge of it next Session.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said he would defer his general reply, as it would not be in order on the Amendment. He would not argue the particular form of it, but he thought it would be most inconvenient and inefficacious to leave Wednesdays to private Members if they were to carry out the object he had in view. With regard to the more general question that lay behind the Amendment—namely, how they were to deal with private Bills which met with general favour—he must say, in the first place, that he could not entertain the proposal that he should give assistance even to Bills which he himself thought of the utmost value and importance if they were Bills of a controversial character. He entirely endorsed what his him. Friend the Member for Dulwich had said as to the value of his Bill. He could not, however, take up a controversial Bill introduced by a private Member. If by some arrangement with Gentlemen opposite they could pass any Bill, any small Bill, which was really universally desired, he should be very glad. But it must be an arrangement made with the 191 Front Benches opposite, and it was only with their consent that he could under any circumstances give assistance of the kind which had been demanded.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Stafford, Lichfield)
thought the Amendment was not quite understood. What was suggested was that after the Government business was over on Wednesdays they should run through the orders of the day so as to give private Members' Bills an opportunity of being passed.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
pointed out that it would make little difference if the Amendment were passed; there was nothing to prevent the Government proposing the adjournment of the House immediately after the Government business had been disposed of.
§ MR. SYDNEY GEDGE (Walsall)
said surely it would make all the difference. The effect of the Amendment would be that when the Government business had been disposed of on Wednesdays, they would run through the Orders of the Day; anything opposed would drop as a matter of course, but anything that was unopposed, and the whole House wished to pass, could be passed in half-a-minute, whereas it could never be brought on if the resolution passed in the form of which his right hon. Friend had given notice.
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I am pointing out that the Amendment would not necessarily have that effect; but that it would be still competent for any Member of the Government to do as is done on Fridays now, to get up and move the adjournment of the House, as soon as the Government business was disposed off.
Question put, "That the words except Wednesdays ' be there inserted."
The House divided:—Ayes, 76; Noes, 258.—(Division List No. 302).
§ MR. HARRY FOSTER (Suffolk, Lowestoft)
asked whether the Government proposed to proceed with the Fisheries Act Amendment Bill after midnight. The Bill had not yet passed the Second Reading, and there was much opposition to it. He hoped this Bill would, therefore, not be taken after Twelve.
*MR. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts, Mansfield)
trusted that if the Twelve 192 o'clock Rule were suspended the Government would lean to the side of mercy. It was one thing to prolong a sitting in order to finish business which was manifestly approaching conclusion, but it was quite another thing to prolong sittings in order to pass Measures of a contentious character. With reference to the extraordinary suggestion of the hon. Member for East Mayo that the Government should introduce a Bill for the establishment of a Roman Catholic University in Ireland during what remained of the Session, he wished to say that the hon. Member seemed to be under the impression that, because there had been little diversity of opinion expressed on the matter in the House, and because the Roman Catholic Bishops and the Government might be able to agree on proposals for carrying out such a scheme, the Measure would be carried with something like unanimity. He need only say that the hon. Member was never under a greater delusion in his life.
§ MR. FLYNN
desired to urge that the Congested Districts Board (Ireland) Bill should be included among the Measures which were to be proceeded with. This Bill would give the board power to acquire land by purchase at a fair price in the poorer parts of Ireland. The Measure was universally desired in Ireland and was practically non-controversial. It was backed by an influential Unionist, and was supported by Irishmen belonging to all parties. He also wished to know when the Bill relating to the reduction of the judicial Bench in Ireland would be introduced. Whether the Measure would be regarded as controversial or not must depend largely upon its character.
§ MR. H. C. F. LUTTRELL (Devon, Tavistock)
hoped the Opposition would not sanction the Motion of the First Lord of the Treasury. The 12 o'clock rule was a very wise provision, and a good many Members were in favour of adjourning every night at an even earlier hour. It might be said that Liberal Governments as well as Conservative Governments had suspended the operation of the rule, but a sufficient answer to that argument was supplied by the old adage, "Two blacks do not make a white." How could they transact business satisfactorily after midnight? He trusted that the Opposition would 193 not submit tamely to the right hon. Gentleman's views. Mention had been made of the Military Manœuvres Bill, and though it was perhaps not highly controversial, it certainly was not a Measure that could be discussed adequately afr midnight. At that hour they were not sufficiently wide-awake.
§ MR. R. J. PRICE (Norfolk, E.)
said the Bill dealing with fisheries was by no means non-controversial. More than half the Members who specially represented the fishing industry in the House of Commons were opposed to it, and lie trusted that it would not be brought on after Twelve o'clock.
MR. D. CHILLY (Mayo, N.)
desired to associate himself strongly with the protest which had been made by the hon. Member for East Mayo against the conduct of the Chief Secretary. In the course of his statement the Leader of the House had sail that the Outdoor Relief (Ireland) Bill, which was On the Paper in the name of Mr. Gerald Balfour, was wholly an indemnity Bill. He pointed out that the condition of affairs in North Mayo was very serious indeed, and he must join in the expression of disappointment which had been made in regard to this Bill.
MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
said the Twelve o'clock Rule had been found to work extremely well, and he thought it should not be departed from except for a clearly-defined purpose, and they ought to clearly understand the limits which were to be placed on any departure from that Rule. He believed that they ought to stick to the Twelve o'clock Rule in its integrity, lad he recognised that he was perhaps in a minority on that subject. If they were to have an assurance that 110 fresh legislation of a. controversial character would be initiated after Twelve o'clock it would, he thought, be a modification which would render this departure less intolerable. With regard to the Fisheries Bill, he had presented a. memorial and petition against it emanating from nearly the entire fishing, industry of his constituency, and he found that hon. Members on both sides of the House Led received similar intimations of opinion. His right hon. Friend should realise that such a. Bill could hardly be called non-contentions.
§ MR. PHILIP STANHOPE (Burnley)
asked whether the Cotton Cloth Factories Bill Was included by the right hon. Gentleman, because they hoped that the Bill would lie passed. There were serious labour difficulties between the operatives and masters in regard to this question, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would give them an assurance that the Bill would be passed.
§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE (Rochester)
regretted that the Law of Evidence (criminal Cases) Bill should not have been included. ["Hear, hear!"] He recognised that it was a very important Measure which require1 considerable discussion, but it was difficult to believe that the Government had ever been in earnest in pressing forward this Bill or had any real intention of passing it into law. Only the worst half of one evening was given to the Second Reading of the Bill, and no other attempt whatever had been made to push it forward during, the Session. He confessed lie did not think it was a very becoming attitude for the House of Commons to adopt, that in order to get a few more days' holiday—[opposition cheers]—they should lose the advantage of a Bill of really first-rate importance. He thought the least his hon. Friend could do would be to assure the House that next Session a real effort would be made to deal with this subject.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
asked that the Metropolitan Water Companies Bill should not be taken at a late hour of the evening. They would like some notice as to when it would he dealt with. They did not desire to oppose the Bill, but there were one or two Amendments on the Paper of considerable importance, mill in which many metropolitan Members were interested.
§ SIR HENRY FOWLER (Wolverhampton, E.)
said he believed the Leader of the House personally sympathised with the view that the Law of Evidence (Criminal Cases) Bill should be passed into law if practicable. He thought, however, that it was a lamentable thing that a great law reform which had met with the approval of an overwhelming majority of competent experts, both in and out of Parliament, should not be fully and 195 fairly discussed in a Session in which a large majority had declared itself in favour of passing the Bill. The Government had devoted time this Session to Bills which could not be mentioned in the same breath with this Bill. He knew it was a Bill which ought not to be hurriedly rushed through, and there were a great many points in regard to it on which the most competent authorities differed, but it was very hopeless that the House should be deprived of giving its final judgment in reference to a Measure which had been approved by successive Governments. He desired to emphasise the appeal of the noble Lord that this Measure should receive most careful consideration next year.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
said his noble Friend the Member for Rochester lamented the necessity under which they found themselves of dropping this Bill, and he concurred with him in that lamentation. But the noble Lord went on to say—very gratuitously, in his opinion—that he could only interpret the action of the Government as an indication that they had never been in earnest in taking up this matter. He could assure his noble Friend that they and those who preceded them in dealing with this Measure were by no means open to that imputation. It was true that this Bill was important, that it was drafted at the end of the Session, and that if the House were to attempt to sit on the Bill could be passed. But in every Session of every Parliament that he could remember there had been Bills of which precisely the same could be said. There was no Session in which, if they chose to sit on for a sufficient length of time, they could not pass every Measure that stood on the Order Book of the House. He did not believe that in any previous Session so few Bills had been dropped at the end of the Session or in which the list of massacred innocents had been of such small proportions. He noticed that. when his noble Friend spoke of the House sitting longer in order to pass this Bill his observation was cheered, but he greatly doubted whether the Gentlemen who cheered would stay for that purpose. His experience was that the affection for useful legislation became extremely platonic in the dog days—[laughter]—and he did not believe either that the 196 Bill could be adequately discussed or that it could be discussed without an amount of friction which he as Leader of the House was certainly not prepared to inflict on the House. It must not be supposed that they were not in earnest in regard to this Measure. The moral of what had occurred was that they could not bring it in with ally hope of passing it into law except as a first-class Measure, and when they could do that—and he hoped they could do it at no distant date—then the Bill would pass. Experience showed, however, that any attempt to pass through such a Bill, on which there was so much difference of opinion, at the end of the Session. was doomed to inevitable failure. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thanet asked the Government to give a pledge that they would commence no new business after Twelve o'clock. No new business that was likely to involve the energies of the House would be commenced after Twelve, but to assent to that proposition would place the Government in a worse position than they now were. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would be content with the assurance that there was no desire to overburden the House with work which could not satisfactorily be accomplished. ["Hear, hear!"] As to the Fisheries Bill, he was convinced after what, had happened that it was a controversial Bill. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] Next, with regard to the London University Bill, the Member for Haddingtonshire thought apparently that the Bill had a good chance of passing, but his hopes had been so often raised as to this Bill and disappointed that he did not wholly share the sanguine view of the hon. Member. The Leader of the Opposition asked him to give a pledge that he should introduce no new Bill not upon the Paper. That pledge he could not give for instance, next week it was proposed to introduce the Irish Judiciary Bill. There might also be some small Bills of an uncontroversial character which might be necessary in the public interest to deal with before the recess. There were two Bills which must be dealt with—the Local Loans Bill and the Post Office Bill—the latter of which was intended to carry certain reforms, reduce the charge for telegrams, and make some other changes. ["Hear, hear!"] The former Bill would 197 improve the terms on which local authorities could borrow. He thought that this Bill would he gladly accepted. ["Hear, hear!"] The only remaining point was connected with Irish business. Hon Gentlemen opposite complained that Irish Supply had not been advanced as far as they had a right to expect. He reminded the House that four whole sittings had been devoted to Irish Supply. Since they had fixed the 23 days for Supply, he thought that it would be admitted that Irish Supply had been well treated and hall had its fair share. If arrangements could he made to take further discussion no the Report of Supple he should be glad. The Member for Mayo had complained of the smallness of Irish legislation. He asked the Irish Members to remember last Session, mid also to have regard to the promises held out as to next Session. ["Hear, hear!"] Hon. Members should not confine their view to one Session, but include in that view several Sessions.
§ MR. J. MORLEY
asked what opportunity would be given to discuss the new Commission un the Irish land question.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said the general scope of it was before the House, but if there was anything new to be said surely it could be said on Report of Supply.
§ MR. DILLON
asked was it intended to entertain the point raised by a small Bill of his giving congested district boards compulsory powers?
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
thought that would be a very serious departure. He would not discuss the merits of the Bill, but he might say that he had information to the effect that it would be most violently opposed, and that there was really no chance whatever of its becoming law without an expenditure of time upon it which he was sure hon. 198 Gentlemen would not desire. He did not think it would be possible, therefore, to carry out the suggestions made on the other side of the House. An hon. Gentleman opposite had asked him about the London Water Bill. The hon. Gentleman desired that that Bill should have an early place, but he could not, give any pledge as to that. However, there was not notch more to lie done in Committee, and he thought the Bill might be successfully accomplished.
§ MR. DENIS KILBRIDE (Galway, N.)
remarked that the right hon. Gentleman had said that four days was adequate for Irish Supply. That all depended on the system of government in Ireland. ["Hear, hear!"] Irish Members wanted a further day in order to discuss the reference to the new Land Commission and its personnel, but apparently they were not going to get it. The appointment of that Commission was the most important act of the Government this Session. It was a matter which gave rise to the greatest controversy and serious apprehension amongst a large section in Ireland. The farmers of the north of Ireland were showing more fear as to the result of this Commission than the Nationalist farmers in the south and west; yet in the face of the desire of the farmers of the north, the right hon. Gentleman refused to give a day for the discussion of this matter. There was another point to which he would like to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman. Early this Session the President of the Board of Agriculture gave an undertaking that a Bill would be introduced dealing with the adulteration of food products.
§ MR. KILBRIDE
said he was very glad to hear that, and lie hoped an opportunity would be given for discussing the terms of the Bill. He wished to protest most strongly against the attitude of the Government in refusing a day for the discussion of the Land Commission.
§ MR. C. E. SCHWANN (Manchester, N.)
said the. Right hon. Gentleman had referred to the dog days. That reminded him that there was a Dog's Bill which was very distasteful to many of the inhabitants of Lancashire. He hoped a pledge would be given that that small Bill would not be taken. He felt sure 199 he should have the support of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Thanet in this request, as his constituency was in close proximity to the Isle of Dogs. [Laughter and cries of "Oh!"]
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
said his right hon. Friend intended to introduce the Bill in order that it might be printed and its provisions made known. It would not, however, be proceeded with.
§ DR. AMBROSE (Mayo, W.)
regretted that the Congested Districts (Ireland) Bill was not to be proceeded with. The Leader of the House had said that there was no necessity for it, but he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Congested Districts Board had passed a resolution to the effect that, owing to the want of means, their efforts to procure land were seriously crippled. He was very much disappointed that the Bill, which was only opposed by one Member who had never been in Ireland and knew nothing about the country, was not to be proceeded with.
§ MR. LOUGH
said he wished to ask a question with reference to the Second Order of the Day. The right lion. Gentleman in charge of the Bill had said that no Amendment to a vital part of the Bill could be dealt with until the report came from the Committee on Goods in Transit. He wished to know whether the right hon. Gentleman would undertake that the Bill should not be proceeded with until that report was received.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY
Main Question put. The House Divided:—Ayes, 249; Noes, 89.—(Division List, No. 303.)
Ordered, That, for the remainder of the Session Government Business be not interrupted under the provisions of any Standing Order regulating the Sittings of the House, and may be entered upon at any hour though opposed; and that, at the conclusion of Government Business each day, Mr. Speaker do adjourn the House without Question put.