HC Deb 26 July 1899 vol 75 cc368-70

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate [21st June], "That the Bill be now read a second time."

Question again proposed.

MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid)

This is a Bill which was introduced by the Government as far back as February 22, which has been kept dangling in the Order Book, and left over until a period in the session when the Government think they can get the Bill through without any discussion whatever. Before the suspension of the Twelve o'clock rule the Government passed eleven Bills, but now there are on the Order Paper seventeen Government Bills, so that practically the legislation of the session is being conducted after the suspension of the Twelve o'clock rule. The present Bill is for the purpose of amending what is alleged to be an error in the Inebriates Act that was passed last year, and it is a coincidence that that Act was passed at a similar period of the session. This is an illustration of the inexpediency of the policy which the Government adopt in driving legislation to a period of the session when it cannot be fairly considered. If the Government in that way bring in Bills which are defective, and afterwards ask for amended Bills, they cannot expect any facilities to be given to them by this House for correcting them. My contention is that there is no need for this Bill, or in the alternative that it does not go far enough. It proposes to deal with Section 2 of the Inebriates Act of 1898, which applies not merely to England, but by subsequent clauses is made to apply to Scotland and Ireland. The amendment sought to be made by this Bill relates to England only, and as there can be no question but that Clause 2 applies equally to Scotland and Ireland, why is it that the amendment now proposed is only to apply to England and not to the other countries? By this Bill you are going to introduce a section of the Summary Procedure Act of 1879, but if you refer to the subsequent section of the Act of 1898 you find it already applies. What is the object of placing the habitual drunkards' offences in this schedule of the Summary Procedure Act of 1879? The moment it is placed in the schedule the Summary Procedure Act applies to that offence as well as any other. Therefore it is not necessary. But what about the case of Ireland, to which the Summary Procedure Act does apply? Are the proceedings there to be under the Criminal Jurisdiction Act of 1855? If that is to be so, why is that not put in? I ask the right hon. Gentleman for his legal opinion as to his reason for not incorporating a section applying to Ireland. And why should Scotland be left out? Why not put in a section which will apply to Scotland? If the offence is to be an offence which is chargeable by indictment, in that case the expense ought to fall on the prosecutor. In Clause 2 it also says the offence may be one which can be punished summarily. Those words are not necessarily having regard to the Act of 1875 being placed in the schedule. If it is not already in the Act of Parliament, I should certainly object in a matter of this kind to our treating an offence against the rules of an inebriate reformatory as a summary offence. A man certainly ought to have an opportunity of meeting the charge.

* MR. JESSE COLLINGS (Birmingham, Bordesley)

The hon. Gentleman has made a great deal out of a very small and simple Bill. The main Act of last year has nothing to do with this Bill, which is simply one of two clauses for the purpose of correcting omissions in the Act of last year. Under the second section of that Act the expenses of prosecution are thrown on the prosecutor; and the present Bill will put the expenses as they are placed in the case of a felony. Then under the main Act, though the Home Secretary is empowered by the Act of last year to make certain laws and regulations, no means are provided for the recovery of fines in case of breach of the regulations. The second clause of the Bill is to repair this omission.

MR. WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)

And with regard to Scotland and Ireland?


Ireland and Scotland are not affected in the same way by the omission.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Louth, N.)

I am; entirely in favour of this Bill, though the hon. Member for Mid Lanark was quite correct when he stated that, as at present framed, the Bill is not applicable to Ireland. The Act of 1898 does apply to both England and Ireland, but this Bill does not. I would respectfully ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will not consult his colleagues at the Irish Office with a view to seeing if some words could not be added to make it apply to Ireland


I shall be glad to look into the point that has been raised by the hon. Gentleman.


And I shall be glad to do so with regard to Scotland.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.