HC Deb 07 June 1912 vol 39 cc487-91

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."


In moving this Motion for the Adjournment of the House, I wish to take the opportunity of making a slight change in the announcement of business which has already been made for next week. As regards Monday, the first business was to have been the Second Beading of the Trade Unions Bill. That is a large measure, the discussion of which it is obvious would probably require the whole day. It has come to the notice of the Government that there is every intention of a Motion being made on Monday for the Adjournment of the House, and, if Mr. Speaker accepts that Motion and it receives the sanction of the House, it would occupy the time of the House, probably from 8.15 until the close of the Sitting. Under these circumstances the Government have thought it advisable to change the business for that day. My right hon. Friend has been in consultation with the Noble Lord opposite (Lord Balcarres) and with other hon. Gentlemen who speak for the different sections of this House, and it is proposed that the business on Monday shall be the Report and Third Beading of the Government of India Bill to be followed by the Second Beading of the Mental Deficiency Bill and, if time allows, the Second Beading of the Criminal Law Amendment (White Slave Traffic) Bill, standing in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Fareham, which the Government has resolved to accept.


What supply will be taken on Thursday?


Land Valuation Office (Inland Revenue).


Although especially interested in the business originally put down for Monday, I feel it is quite impossible to resist the decision of the Government. We are all aware that certain events are transpiring outside this House that may require to be reviewed here on Monday, and it would be very inconvenient indeed if we had to split up the Debate on the Second Reading of the Trade Unions (No. 2) Bill, and to adjourn it at 8.15 until another day. But I hope the Government will make it quite clear that this postponement is a postponement only, and that they intend to put this Bill down at the earliest possible date which can be arranged through the usual channels. If the Government will give me a pledge to that effect I shall not propose to offer any opposition to the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman. May I say, with reference to the other Bill, the White Slave Traffic Bill, I hope the Government will give it such a place as will ensure its Second Reading.


My hon. Friend may rest assured that the postponement on Monday is only a postponement of the Bill in which he is particularly interested. As regards the second point, touching the White Slave Traffic Bill, I will bear in mind what he has said. I can assure him that the Government are quite as anxious as any section of this House to see that Bill carried.


I do not wish to criticise the arrangements for business which have just been announced, as they evidently meet the convenience of the two Front Benches. But I wish to say frankly, with regard to the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, wrongly called the White Slave Traffic Bill, it must be clearly understood that there are some Clauses in it which require very earnest and searching criticism and, indeed, will get it. As for any desire to put down this foul and degrading traffic, I can assure the House there is no one more inclined to be severe upon it than I am. This Bill was originally introduced under another title, but no definite effort was ever made to pass it. There were no demands for its Second Beading, and it repeatedly happened apparently that hon. Members preferred to be at horse races or engaged in squaring their financial arrangements subsequently to attending to the business of this House. A totally false impression has got abroad in regard to this Bill. It was frequently on the Notice Paper last year, but night after night no Member took the trouble to move it. It is represented that it was down on the Order Paper at least one hundred times, but that there was always somebody who cried, "I object." That is not true. There was no definite effort made in any quarter to get it passed. This year it has only been moved two or three times, and that has been when there has been a big Division. For instance: it was moved on the night of the Division on the Second Heading of the Home Rule Bill. It was also moved on the night when the Division was taken on the Welsh Church Disestablishment Bill. But that was simply because hon. Members happened to be in the House and thought it well to stay behind and call for the Bill. No one, however, has seemed inclined to put himself to the slightest inconvenience to get it through, and I do not want it to go forth to the public that "Indefatigable efforts" have been made to get the Bill through. I certainly have not seen anything of them, and I have been as much in attendance as any hon. Member of this House. The Bill will, no doubt, effect some good. But as to one of its Clauses—I do not propose to go into the merits of it—those who champion the right of innocent women to be preserved from arrest on suspicion will naturally examine it very closely. I have been astonished to hear it suggested at Question time that there is no disposition to discuss this Bill. I venture to assert that the action which has been taken by some of us has been taken with the object of having it properly discussed. I do not object to anything in the Bill that will lead to the stamping out of procuration and other abominable evils, but we certainly are desirous of preventing innocent people being arrested on suspicion. I hope it will not be thought that when endeavouring to secure the proper consideration of these Clauses we are animated by the slightest possible sympathy with the degrading traffic.


May I remark that my hon. and learned Friend in charge of this Bill would have moved it on many occasions had it not been for the fact that during several weeks he has been suffering under a severe domestic affliction. I merely rise to point out to the Home Secretary that from what has fallen from the last speaker it is perfectly obvious there is no objection on principle to the Second Reading of this Bill, and I do hope that if it is to be taken on Monday next it will be placed at such a point on the Order Paper as will ensure its going through.

Mr. W. F. ROCH

I should like to ask the Home Secretary, seeing that he suggested that the question of the strike might be discussed on Monday, whether it is possible to have Sir Edward Clarke's award obtainable from the Vote Office?


It is there already.


I tried to get it, and could not.


It ought to have been there. I will certainly do my best to see that it is available.


I should like to ask the Home Secretary whether it would be possible to have the Criminal Law Amendment Bill placed second Order instead of third? I agree with the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Booth) that there has been a great deal of misrepresentation about this Bill, and that the more time we have to discuss it, and the fuller it is discussed, the better for everybody. I venture to say there are not six Members of the House who have ever read the Bill, or who have the slightest knowledge of what is in it. They are caught by the words "White Slave," which are put in the Title of the Bill, but which do not occur in the Bill, and only one Clause of the Bill relates in any kind of way to this particular traffic. I remember the Chief Secretary to Ireland saying that he believed that a good many Bills got through this House on account of their titles. The agitation on behalf of this Bill has been solely on account of its title. In these circumstances I trust that a real opportunity will be given for the discussion.


In view of the appeal made by the Noble Lord, supported by the hon. Baronet, the White Slave Traffic Bill, wrongly so called according to the hon. Baronet, will be placed second Order.

Question put, and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at Twenty-three minutes before Four o'clock till Monday next, 10th June.