§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL (Oldham)
in moving "That, in the opinion of this House, it is inexpedient that when important Acts of Parliament have been passed for a limited period any of such Acts should be included in a general Bill for the continuance of expiring laws brought in at the close of the session without affording any fair opportunity of considering the propriety of their discontinuance or of their modification," said the Amendment had been carefully framed in conformity With precedent and followed very closely the lines of the celebrated Amendment moved by the 1080 late Mr. Butt. It would not be in order in considering the Second Reading of the Bill to discuss the merits of the various thirty-five Acts contained in the Schedule. Only two questions could be considered—first, whether any of these particular Acts were suited for perpetuation in such a measure, and, secondly, whether this was a convenient way of renewing these various legislative proposals. One reason why there should be a real discussion on the Bill this year was that for the first time it contained the Vaccination Act, which the Government had agreed to put into the Schedule in order that it might be reviewed from time to time, but that concession would be entirely valueless if it came to be assumed that the Bill should go through practically without discussion. It was difficult to conceive a more cumbrous, clumsy, and inconvenient method of dealing with legislative proposals than that provided by this Bill. It was a weird constitutional expedient which had not even the justification of antiquity. All sorts of Acts were jumbled together in the Schedule without order, sequence, or arrangement; some were good, others were bad; some ought to be purely temporary measures, while others ought most decidedly to be permanent. But no discrimination was made. Nobody had inveighed more against this style 1081 of legislation represented by this Bill than the Prime Minister himself, while the late Lord Salisbury and Mr. Disraeli had also spoken strongly against the practice. He moved the Amendment, not with the intention of challenging the whole body of law contained in the Bill, but because it embodied in a concrete form the objections which might be entertained to this form of legislation. In the hope that it might draw from the Government some declaration of their intention in future years to depart from this undesirable method of proceeding, he begged to move the Amendment.
§ MR. WHITLEY (Halifax)
, in seconding the Motion, said this was a subject which ought to be properly debated. The schedule kept increasing by the addition of Bills which there was not the energy in the House or the time to properly revise. He hoped that the next stage of this Bill would be put down earlier in the day in order that they might have a thorough review of this growing practice in order to see whether some of the Bills put down in this measure could not be removed by the process of consolidation. He thought the Bill dealing with corrupt practices might be consolidated and a Bill introduced on the subject and referred to a Grand Committee.
To leave out the words from the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, and add the words, 'in the opinion of this House, it is inexpedient that when important Acts of Parliament have been passed for a limited period, any of such Acts should be included in a general Bill for the continuance of Expiring Laws brought in at the close of the session without affording any fair opportunity of considering the propriety of their discontinuance or their modification.'"—(Mr. Winston Churchill.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Questions."
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J BALFOUR,) Manchester, E.
said those who criticised the present method of dealing with the subject were amply justified, but manifestly it would take a very large portion of a session to deal with the subject otherwise. The present Government had not found time to do so, but possibly the Gentlemen opposite, when in the course of events they came into power, might have before them no measure of great importance and be able to deal with that matter. He hoped the House would tolerate the present system for one year more.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I mean when the hon. Member's friends come in they may find time to deal with this question.
§ MR. SWIFT MACNEILL
said he did not know who the right hon. Gentleman meant by his friends, because he had no friends in this House except those who did their best for the benefit of Ireland. He remembered Mr. Butt, in 1873, coming over to Ireland and declaring that there would shortly be no longer this farce of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. He thought this measure was a great scandal and an insult not only to the intelligence of this House but also to the Irish Members. There were no fewer than nine of the measures included in this Bill which affected Ireland, and that was a proof of the necessity of 1083 Ireland having its legislative business in its own hands. His hon. friend had stated that this was not a new importation into Parliamentary practice. That was true, but in its aggravated form it was not more than twenty years of age. In former times legislation of this kind was passed with the greatest apologies, but these things were all gone now. The Prime Minister regarded Parliament as a sort of registration machine. He would be very unjust to himself and his constituents if he did not protest against this to the utmost of his power.
§ MR. WINSTON CHURCHILL
said that if the House would permit him to withdraw the Amendment he would not persist in it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to. Bill read a second time, and committed for to-morrow.