HC Deb 31 July 1897 vol 52 cc4-6

"This Act shall continue in force till December 31, 1899, and no longer, unless Parliament shall otherwise determine."

The object of his Amendment was to retain the control of the House of Commons over this Bill when it became law. It was not just that, where a Measure gave the military authorities such highhanded powers over the rights of private individuals it should be made permanent and there irrevocable except with the assent of the House of Lords. He denied that under the present new rules of procedure relating to Supply, the House of Commons could keep its control over the Measure by refusing the money necessary for carrying out the provisions of the Measure, because towards the close of the Session the Government might force the Vote for the expenses through the House by closuring all discussion upon it upon the last "appointed" day. He begged to move the new clause which stood upon the Paper in his name. ["Hear!"]


said that by moving the clause the hon. Member suggested that the Government should go back upon the whole principle of their Bill, which was that the military authorities should have power permanently to carry out the manœuvres. In these circumstances he could not accept the clause. ["Hear, hear!"]

MR. J. DILLON (Mayo, E.)

said that there could be no doubt that this Bill proposed to set aside the ordinary rights of the subject in certain cases. If the Measure passed in its present form the House of Commons would lose all control over it, because the whole machinery of the Bill evidently contemplated that it should be of a permanent character. If the Bill were made a temporary one only the House of Commons might refuse to allow it to be renewed, no matter what the House of Lords might desire; but if it were passed as a permanent Measure the House of Commons could not repeal it without the consent of the House of Lords. It would be no safeguard whatever that the Order in Council putting the Act in force should be subject to disallowance by an address of both Houses of Parliament, because the Government might put down the Motion for the address at the bottom of the list of Government Orders of the Day every night, and thus tire out those who were opposed to the provisions of the Act being put in force; or they might, by suspending the Twelve o'clock Rule, bring the matter on at a time when the House was worn out. The fact that the House had to vote the money to defray the expenses of putting the Act in force afforded no security whatever, because the expenses might be provided for in a supplementary Estimate which the House might have no opportunity of discussing. One never could tell how new rules would work and what developments might follow them. Already he saw that notice had been given within the last few days of certain supplementary Estimates—


Order, order! The hon. Member is travelling beyond the subject of the clause under discussion.


said that he was aware of that—[laughter]—but he was merely endeavouring to show that the fact that the House of Commons was to vote the money necessary to defray the expenses of putting the Act into operation would afford no security whatever. He should support what appeared to him to be the very moderate demand of his hon. Friend. ["Hear, hear!"]

MR. ARTHUR JEFFREYS (Hampshire, Basingstoke)

said that he had many soldiers in his constituency, and among them there was a strong and unanimous feeling that the Bill should be passed and made permanent. He had even heard this excellent Government abused for not having forced the Bill through last year. The agriculturists in his constituency had had a good deal of experience of manœuvres, and they liked them.

MR. W. WOODALL (Hanley)

said that he could not agree with his hon. Friends in desiring that this Bill should be temporary. Under the safeguards provided by the Bill there would be ample opportunity of discussing the operation of the Bill—far more than if it were included in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. However, the important concessions made by the Government entirely justified the opposition to the Bill of last year. Unfortunately, the areas available for manœuvres in this country were very few, and the provision that no area might be utilised more than once in five years might be found inconvenient. He knew some parts of the country where the manœuvres would be welcomed.

MR. J. CARVELL WILLIAMS (Notts, Mansfield)

said that this was a very drastic Measure, and some of its provisions were of an experimental character, so that it was most likely that amendment would be found necessary after a time. If the clause were agreed to, manœuvres could be carried on for two years, and thus the necessary experience would be afforded of the working of the Bill. If the Measure worked well, there would be no difficulty in obtaining the renewal of the Bill.

Motion made, and Question put, "That the clause be Read a Second time."

The House divided:—Ayes, 16; Noes, 94.—(Division List, No. 353).

Clause 1,—