§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
asked the Prime Minister whether his attention had been called to a series of Amendments to Clause 24 of the Licensing Bill in the name of the Solicitor-General that were to be discussed that night; whether these Amendments were nearly three times as long as the clause, and whether they did not entirely recast the substance of that clause and raise questions of very great difficulty and complexity. He further asked whether these Amendments did not appear on the Paper for the first time that morning, and no man in the House had the smallest notion they were going to be put down; whether under the closure Resolution it would not be necessary to deal with this absolutely new matter before half-past ten that night; and whether the right hon. Gentleman would put them down as a new clause on the Report stage in order to give the Opposition an opportunity of considering the new proposals of the Government and of making up their minds whether in their opinion they should be opposed or not. He asked to be allowed to make an observation in the nature of an appeal and to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he did not consider that it was making the closure system absolutely unworkable when the Government could not settle on their Amendments until the day they were to be discussed; and whether, if the House thought it necessary that they should discuss the Bill under these particular conditions, the Government would take the trouble to see that the conditions were not made unnecessarily harsh.
§ MR. ASQUITH
said that the right hon. Gentleman had taken the opportunity to make a speech of a very contentious kind under the guise of asking a question. To anyone who had studied the course of the 1000 Bill his complaint, if complaint it was, was entirely unfounded. More than half the Amendments down in the name of the Solicitor-General were the fulfilment of a pledge given by himself to an hon. Gentleman sitting immediately behind the right hon. Gentleman, and although they had been modified by the substitution elsewhere of "may" for "shall" they had been on the Paper for a considerable time.
§ MR. SAMUEL ROBERTS (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
called the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that the Amendment in the name of the Solicitor-General had been very materially altered since yesterday.
§ MR. ASQUITH
replied that it had been altered to give better and fuller effect to the demand of the hon. Gentleman, and for no other purpose. In regard to the other Amendments, the only new one was that dealing with the definition of monopoly value. That was also a matter that he had undertaken in speech on the Second Reading and more than once since to deal with. There was nothing new in the proposals, which had been indicated over and over again in his own speeches and those of his colleagues.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)
We have asked for it, but the right hon. Gentleman has not given it.
§ MR. ASQUITH
quite agreed that it now appeared in its formal shape for the first time, though its nature had been indicated over and over again. He quite agreed that it was a matter of great importance, and if in the ordinary course of their proceedings that night, there was no opportunity for discussion he would put it down for a very early moment on the Report stage. He did not think it desirable to make a new clause, as the right hon. Gentleman had suggested, but he had the fullest wish that it should be discussed on the Report stage.