§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ (11.36.) MR. JOHN REDMOND (Waterford)
said that surely the right hon. Gentleman did not propose to move the Second Reading of the Bill without any explanation. In all his experience, he never heard of a more extraordinary course being taken than to move the Second Reading of such a Bill without any explanation whatever.
§ THE ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR IRELAND (Mr. ATKINSON,) Londonderry, N.
said the Chief Secretary was to have moved the Second Reading of the Bill, but ho was not present at the moment. The Bill had been fully explained.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
said he vas glad the Chief Secretary was now present. He thought it was scarcely respectful to the House, if the Government really intended to pass the Bill, that it should be moved without any explanation whatever. If the Chief Secretary were ready to make an explanation, well and good; if not, the Bill ought to be postponed.
THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRELAND (Mr. WYNDUAM,) Dover
said he explained the nature of the Bill on the First Reading, and was now prepared to hear the observations of the hon. Member, or any other hon. Member, on it, and to reply to any reasons which might be urged for not passing the Second Reading. He understood that the Bill was put down to suit the convenience of the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wexford, who was particularly interested in it.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned." —(Mr. Flynn.)
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL (Tyrone, S.)
said he would regret if the debate had to be adjourned, because the Bill was one that ought to pass. It was perfectly absurd, however, that the Irish Members should be expected to commence a discussion of a Bill of twenty Clauses, to remedy defects in a great Act of Parliament, at such an hour. He had carefully examined the Bill, and he thought that it was calculated to correct many defects in the working of the Act. The Chief Secretary said that he had explained the Bill on the First Reading; but the right hon. Gentleman had done nothing of the kind. He only gave an outline of the measure.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said he was now awaiting the observations of the hon. Member, or of any other hon. Member, upon it.
§ MR. T. W. RUSSELL
said that was not fair treatment for an Irish Bill. Either the House was able to legislate for Irish business, or it was not. He maintained it was; and he would be no party to allowing the Government, or anyone else, to say it was not. That was the very best lesson that the Government could give to the people of Ireland, that legislation for Ireland was impossible in the House of Commons. Ho did not believe that it was; but if the House considered it was fair treatment for an Irish Bill, on such a complicated subject, to be brought on at a quarter to twelve o'clock, he did not know what was to be done with Irish legislation at all. He repeated that, speaking generally, the Bill ought to pass, but it was a Bill which ought to be discussed and considered, and it contained three or four Clauses on which he intended to raise very serious questions. He thought there was a good case for the Motion for the Adjournment.
SIR THOMAS ESMONDS (Wexford, N.)
said he wished to make a suggestion to the House. Many of the Clauses in the Bill were of very considerable importance to counties in which he was interested. For instance, Clause 3 was introduced, to a large extent, in answer to representations made by the District Council to which he belonged. That Clause would remove a very general inconvenience. Then Clause 11, which empowered a County Council to hold half-yearly meetings, was introduced as part of an agreement between his County Council and the Government last year. His suggestion was, that if the Government would give an assurance that some reasonable time would be given to discussion of the Bill in Committee, the Second Reading should now be taken on that understanding.
§ MR. HARRINGTON (Dublin, Harbour)
said that some of the provisions of the Bill would completely upset the local authorities. One Clause enabled the auditor of the Local Government Board, at any time and at his own discretion, to examine the accounts of the local Councils, and to subject any official who did not put himself at his disposal, at any hour or any period of the year, to a fine of £5. For his part he would not consent to the local authorities being placed at the disposal of the auditor of the Local Government Board.
§ MR. MACARTNEY (Antrim, S.)
said the Bill was essentially a Bill for discussion in Committee, as no great principle was raised in it. He hoped the hon. Member would not press his Motion. Neither the House nor the Irish Members on either side would benefit by a debate on the Second Reading.
§ MR. WYNDHAM
said he wished to say that no one was more surprised than he was when the Bill came on. The Bill, of course, demanded consideration and discussion in the House. When he said that he had made a statement on the First Reading he was speaking by the book; and he held that, as the introducer of the Bill, he could not now get up and make a long speech on the Second Reading without hearing the 461 views of hon. Gentlemen. What he said on the First Reading was that the Bill was to remedy certain detects am. hindrances which had been revealed ii the working of the Local Government (Ireland) Act. He was really disposed to believe that they could debate the Bill better in Committee than on Second Reading; and he doubted whether a Second Reading debate would be of any assistance.
§ MR. JOHN REDMOND
said the views he held on the Bill were very much the same as the views of his hon. friend the Member for North Wexford. Some of the provisions of the Bill would undoubtedly be of a valuable character in certain districts in Ireland, and he was not to be taken as anxious to throw any obstruction in the way of the Bill, though, speaking generally, it was a most inadequate attempt to remedy defects in the existing system. When the Attorney General formally moved the Second Reading of the Bill, he protested against the way in which the Government attempted Irish business in Parliament. The position of affairs was this. A great measure of local government had been passed for Ireland; numerous defects had been exposed in the working of the Act; the Government proposed a Bill of twenty Clauses to amend the Act; that Bill was brought in at twenty minutes to twelve o'clock; its Second Reading was moved without a single word of explanation; and then the Chief Secretary said he did not intend to make any speech in proposing the Second Reading. It was true that when the right hon. Gentleman introduced the Bill under the Ten Minutes Rule, he spoke for a few minutes on the general terms of the Bill. That was not a proper way of dealing with Irish questions, and he intervened to protest against it. If this House insisted on arrogating to itself the right to legislate for Ireland, Bills ought to be properly explained; and he thought it was not respectful, either to the House or to the Irish Members, that the present Bill should be brought in in such a way. At the same time, ho thought there was a good deal in what the right hon. Gentleman had said that time might more usefully be spent in discussing the Bill in 462 Committee than on the Second Reading; and if the right hon. Gentleman would give an undertaking that adequate time would be given at a proper period for the discussion of the Committee stage, he would be ready to let the Second Reading pass \ now, having made his protest against the manner in which the Second Reading was proposed. It was necessary, however, that they should have a clear understanding in the matter. It would not do to bring on the Committee stage at the fag end of some sitting, when other business had been disposed of sooner than was expected. If such an undertaking were not given, they could not allow the Second Reading to pass unchallenged. He wished to say, with reference to that Bill, and other Irish Bills, that he would be no party to allowing them to pass sub silentio.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I am afraid I am responsible, at all events indirectly, for the fact that this Bill has come on, unexpectedly, at such a late hour. As the House is aware, certain incidents have happened in connection with the Education Bill during the afternoon sitting, which prevented that Bill being taken at the evening sitting. I can assure hon. Gentlemen that it was always intended that there should be an opportunity for discussing the Bill now before the House. The hon. Gentleman asks whether I cannot promise adequate time. I will promise; hat the Committee stage of the Bill will be put down as the first Order on the day on which it is to be taken.
§ MR. MACARTNEY
asked whether the right hon. Gentleman would undertake. hat the present Bill, and other Irish ills, should not be taken at any sitting of the House without appearing on the Order Paper for that sitting.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.