§ Lords Amendments considered.
§ Mr. JOHN BURNS
I would ask at this moment the indulgence of the House, and entirely for its convenience, the privilege of stating very briefly the attitude of the Government towards the Amendments to this Bill which appear on the Paper to-day. It perhaps would be convenient if I were to give the number and the character of those Amendments in the briefest possible form. There are 181 Amendments to this Bill upon the Paper, of which 39 were moved or accepted by the Government in another place. A number of these 39 were to keep faith with promises and pledges that were made in this House. The remainder, in the opinion of the Government, were not incompatible with the main principles of the Bill. To apply the Bill to Scottish law, custom, and procedure 24 other Amendments were necessary. Important, but not vital, Amendments carried against the Government in another place numbered 18. Amendments consequential to these 18 numbered no less than 47. Minor Amendments carried against the Government were 19, and the Amendments consequential on the insertion of these 19 Amendments were 30. But the vital Amendments, which the Government consider are destructive of the principles and character of the Bill, numbered in our 1449 opinion not more than four or five. It would be perhaps allowable if I were to say, having given those facts about the Amendments and their character careful consideration, that a review of all the facts leads me to the conclusion that this Bill ought to pass, and in my judgment will pass. The time and trouble spent upon it, in all its progress during the last two years, namely 35 days, either in the House of Lords or in this House or in the Committees thereof, supplemented by 36 days in the Special Committee to which the original Bill was remitted, in all more than 70 days of Parliamentary time, leads me to the belief that the House of Commons will insist upon this Bill in its main features becoming an Act of Parliament. What is more, we believe that Parliament will not allow its labours to be thrown away on such a well-considered measure of sober and equitable sanitary reform; and we believe that as this Bill is fraught with great benefit to the working classes in particular and immense benefit to the community as a whole, a serious responsibility will rest upon any section if an Act of this beneficent character is prevented from being admitted to the Statute Book. As regards the four vital Amendments, I will indicate the attitude of the Government on each of them when we come to them. I need only say here that I believe that on second thoughts, when the Amendments from another place, which we intend to reject today, reach the other place, the points at issue will receive more sympathetic consideration than some of them in the same place have received. We cannot be expected to sympathise with emendations that do not amend, nor favour Amendments that do not improve, nor welcome omissions that cripple, nor rejoice at additions which omit important principles and practice that we deem necessary for a good Housing Bill. But having said that, I trust that the House of Commons will meet the difficulties of a great problem such as this Bill embodies with firmness and with moderation, so that all its labours for housing the working classes will remove the existing evils under which the poor live and have their being in large cities, and that as a result of our labours, our firmness and our moderation, each at the right time and in proper proportion, we will prevent the recurrence or these housing evils, and by this Bill being passed into law we will do something to prevent the recurrence of many things that we now see, not only with 1450 regard to housing, but also with regard to the badly ordered condition of towns, cities, and even villages, to rectify which is the object of the Bill that I now have to submit to the House of Commons.