HC Deb 17 May 1899 vol 71 cc889-90

Order for Second Reading read.


said he regretted that his honourable friend the Member for South Somerset, who had intended to move the Second Reading of this Bill, was unable to be present owing to illness, and under these circumstances he had been requested to move the Second Reading. As this Bill had not been before the present Parliament, although it had been introduced and passed Second Reading in many Sessions of other Parliaments, it might be convenient, and he thought it was rather important, that he should give a short account of the history of the Bill. It had been introduced no less than ten times in the House of Commons, and it had passed a Second Reading no less than seven times, with very large majorities. He held in his hand a list of those majorities. Since 1887, which was the first year the measure was introduced, there had been majorities in favour of the principle of the Bill varying from 152 to about 100. Although those majorities had decreased in the last year or two he thought he could show that this was not due to any increased strength of the opposition to the Bill, but rather to the fact that the supporters of the Bill regarded its Second Reading as a foregone conclusion, and did not think it necessary to come down to the House to vote. But more than that, this Bill had not only passed a Second Reading with considerable majorities, but it had also gone through the ordeal, in 1887, of a Select Committee of the House of Commons, and in 1895, which was the last session of the late Parliament, the measure was not only read a second time, but was also referred to the Grand Committee on Trade, and although it was received with a certain amount of opposition by some members of that Committee, the Bill was reported unamended to the House. He firmly believed that in that year the measure would have passed a third reading had it not been for the fact that the Government found themselves obliged to take up the whole time of the House. He was sorry to say that they had never had the assistance of the Government either from one party or the other with regard to this Bill.

Notice being taken at half past twelve that 40 Members were not present, the House was told by Mr. Speaker, and, 24 Members only being present, Mr. Speaker retired from the Chair until Four of the clock, when the House was again told by Mr. Speaker, and, 34 Members only being present, the House was adjourned by Mr. Speaker without question first put till to-morrow.

Adjourned at Four of the cloc'..