§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordsthis House declines to give a Second Heading to this Bill until the complete proposals of the Government with regard to rent restrictions have been submitted to the House.When the Minister of Health asked leave to bring in this Bill, I took the opportunity of putting certain considerations before the House in opposition to the Measure. Although on that occasion a Division was not taken, I have thought it right, when the Order for Second Reading was taken, that the House should have an opportunity of dealing with the essential contentions which at that time I put forward. It is on that account that I now propose to move that this House declines to give a Second Reading to this Bill until the complete proposals of the Government with regard to rent restrictions have been submitted to this House. Before dealing with the main point, I think it is important that the House should recollect the history of the statutory treatment of this interesting and difficult topic. The first Act dealing with the control of houses was passed in 1915. There were afterwards two Statutes, passed in 1919, and there were certain provisions in the Courts (Emergency Powers) Act which also affected this question. It is important that we should remember the reasons the principal Act, when it was proposed in 1920, was commended to the favourable attention of the House. We wore told that it was to be the final Measure. I think it will be found in Dr. Addison's speech on that occasion that he put the case for the Bill as a great consolidating Measure which was to give certainty to everybody, and which, 1430 when its operation had ceased, would enable us to dispense with control altogether. That profession is borne out by the title of the Bill, which was described asAn Act to consolidate and amend the Law with respect to the increase of rent and recovery of possession of premises in certain cases,and so on. Therefore, this consolidation and setting a definite limit to the period of control was understood to be the final Measure in which Parliament would deal with the topic. As we all know, it is not the final Measure. We have already, in this Session, had two Bills dealing with this subject, and, more important than either of the two Bills now before the House, there is still another to come, which threatens to overshadow in importance probably any of the Statutes which have been passed dealing with the question. Why is this Bill introduced? It is introduced because up to the present time the Government have not made up their minds as to what is their policy in regard to the continuance and extension of the amending Bill. I believe it will be agreed in all quarters of the House that such delay is absolutely inexcusable. They knew, when they took office in the autumn of last year, that this problem urgently required attention. They appointed a Committee to inquire into the matter. That Committee had a prolonged investigation, and then it reported. What have we seen since? We have seen, first of all, the Committee thrown over and their Report absolutely turned down; and, secondly, a new policy, very vague and shadowy and not clearly defined, adopted. There was some definition of it, or at least an attempted definition of it, in a period when two by-elections were going on, but, since those by-elections, the Government have been absolutely silent as to what they intended to do.
If we were to pass this Measure, we should be encouraging them to continue in their policy of silence. We should be condoning this delay and this vacillation. In these circumstances, I think the House ought to decline to give a Second Reading to this Bill. A far more important thing in relation to this matter than the Government's own futile and vacillating action is the effect of it—how it is affecting the public, and how it is going to affect the procedure of this House. We know that at the present moment there are a very large number of people outside who are anxiously waiting to know what 1431 the Government intend to do. There are hundreds of thousands of tenants in all parts of the country, many of whom have received notices which are now coming to an end, who do not know whether under the Government's policy they are going to be protected or not. I say, therefore, that in the interests of these people it is essential that the main proposals of the Government should be placed before the House and the public without further delay. There is another reason. I have had during recent days hundreds of letters from people in different parts of the country who are affected by this Measure and who are uncertain whether they will be able to stay in their houses. They do not know whether to buy new houses. Some of them have not the means to buy new houses. They are left in this uncertainty, owing to the ineptitude of the Minister, which, if we pass this Bill, will be allowed to go on. There is the confusion of the existing law. When the principal Act was before the House, we were told that, it was going to settle the law in a definite form which would be generally understood, at least by those familiar with the interpretation of statutes. We know how ill justified that claim has been. There has been no statute in recent years which has given occasion for more litigation, which has been more difficult to interpret, and in relation to which many judges have thrown up their hands in despair of giving any accurate interpretation at all. Only this morning there is a case coming under this Act reported in the "Times," and it is very interesting to read an excerpt from the judgment of one of the judges who decided the case. It was Mr. Justice McCardie, a judge whose reputation is known to everybody as a sound lawyer, and whose words, therefore, are entitled to more than ordinary respect. He gave the second judgment in the case, and he explained why he thought it necessary to give a long judgment on this matter, although he was agreed with the judge who had given the first judgment—a most extraordinary thing—and he says:Agreeing as he did with the substance and with the great majority of the observations made by Mr. Justice Lush, he would not have delivered a long second judgment had he not felt that the cases under the 1432 Act were in such confusion that it was desirable that each member of the Court should state his views on the working of the Act and the effect of the decisions which had been given on the relevant sections.When you find a learned judge talking in this way of the confusion of the cases arising under an Act which is expiring on the 24th of next month, and when we are told that the Government intend to introduce not only a Bill to continue this Act but one to amend it so as to make the law clear, I say that in all these circumstances we have an unanswerable case for calling upon the Government at once, before we pass this Measure, to say what are their proposals. How are they going to deal, not only with the more obvious questions as to the length of time during which houses are going to be controlled, but with the difficult legal questions of interpretation which have arisen in a large number of cases? That is the case for the Amendment which I put forward. There is something more. This Bill is totally unnecessary. It is a waste of the time of the House. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman of the procedure which was adopted in relation to the principal Act. That Act professed to deal with the term ending on the 24th June that year, the year 1920, and so far as Scotland was concerned it dealt with notices expiring on 28th May this year. But that Act was not passed until 2nd July, 1920. Consequently, for the purpose of the effective operation of the amending and continuing Act, both in England and Scotland, it is unnecessary that it should be passed before 24th June this year. All that is necessary is that similar provisions as appears in the former Act should appear in this Bill. If hon. Members care to refer to the principal Act, they will find that Section 1 of that Act deals with notices given since the 25th March, 1920. It goes back in relation to notices of increase to 25th March, 1920. Again, in Section 5, which deals with the restrictions on the right to possession, there is this provision:Where any order or judgment has been made or given before the passing of this Act, but not executed, and, in the opinion of the Court, the order or judgment would not have been made or given if this Act had been in force at the time when such order or judgment was made or given, the Court may, on application by the tenant, rescind or vary such order or judgment in such manner as the Court may think fit for the purpose of giving effect to this Act.1433 That provision was in the Bill as introduced, and, as a result, large numbers of people never attempted to take legal proceedings at all, and, where they did and where, in fact, they had obtained judgment, there were large numbers of cases where under this Sub-section the judgments were never allowed to become operative. I say, therefore, that there is no reason why the Government, if they know their own minds on this question, should not immediately introduce their principal Bill and have in it a Clause similar to that which I have just read to the House.
There is another thing, apart altogether from the meaning of this delay, that is the effect of it in regard to the proceedings of this House. From day to day and week to week we have the introduction of the new Bill put off, and when it comes to a discussion of this question it will be found that the Bill will be rushed through at break-neck speed. The right hon. Gentleman smiles at that suggestion, but July is just the time when that happens. He supported the Government that brought in the last Bill. He connived at the way it was passed. When was the Third Reading passed? At 4 o'clock in the morning. It is not surprising that we have had all these legal difficulties. It is not surprising that we have had case upon case dealing with an Act which is more obscure than any other Act that ever reached the Statute Book. It is the necessary result of legislation under these methods and under these conditions. The Minister of Health seems to regard this as a matter of amusement. It is a matter of amusement that you have had all these legal decisions rendered necessary, and that hundreds of thousands of humble men and women have been put to large outlays in litigation in order to have their legal rights defined. I have never seen a Minister before treating contemptuously a measure of such public interest. There is to be to-morrow before this House on the Report stage a Bill which has been rendered absolutely necessary by one of these legal decisions, a decision which has caused practically a social convulsion in the West of Scotland, and in these circumstances it seems to me you may have the same thing resulting again if you adopt the same methods.
It is for these reasons that I am asking the House to accept my Amendment. Those who support it are not opposed to 1434 the continuance of rent restriction. We believe in the necessity of the continuance of control, and it is because we believe in its necessity and in its urgency that we are opposed to the dilatory methods which the Government are now pursuing. We believe it is essential, not only that the period of control should be defined, but that the law relating to all houses, as it affects both landlord and tenant, during the whole period of control should at once be clearly and definitely stated, so that all this confusion and uncertainty, which have caused so much trouble in the past, may be brought to an end.
§ Mr. LINFIELD
I beg to second the Amendment.
I think any hon. Member who went through the last General Election should know that the people are intensely interested in the question of rent restriction. At all events, that was my experience, and it was not confined to persons who were supporting my candidature. It was shared in by all sections of the community. I am surprised to find that there should be any doubt prevailing about the subject on the opposite side of the House. Indeed, I expected and hoped we should have had very considerable support for the Amendment from that side of the House. There is very considerable anxiety prevailing amongst all sections of the community. There is a state of great uncertainty in the minds of the people. They do not know what is going to happen. That uncertainty is very largely increased by reason of the uncertainty in the minds of the Government themselves. We have had a variety of policies from the Government on this question. They have already proposed the decontrol of certain houses this very year, and this has had a very great effect on the minds of the public at large and on the by-elections. The Government has been made aware from all parts of the country of this state of feeling in the minds of householders, and I think this state of anxiety should not be allowed to continue. The Government ought to know their minds by now. I am quite aware that the right hon. Gentleman has not been in office for a very considerable time, but this subject has been before the House for a long time. The Government has been in office since last November, and its predecessor gave very considerable attention to the subject. We 1435 were told that certain proposals had been before the Cabinet and were the decision of the Cabinet. I want to know now whether those proposals have been cast aside and whether the Government are still searching about for another policy. I think we have a right to ask that they should make up their minds immediately so that the people who are so vitally interested shall be put out of their anxiety and know what is to be their fate in the very near future.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member will remember that on the First Reading I said it would not be in order on this Bill for the Minister or anyone else to discuss another Bill which is to be brought in later.
§ Mr. LINFIELD
I think it is due at all events to the House that we should have an explanation from the Minister as to why the Government have not stated their proposals in regard to this Measure, the Rent Restriction Act, and I invite him to state definitely and distinctly so that the country may know what the Government's policy now really is.
Mr. J. RAMSAY MacDONALD
I am rather surprised that the Minister in charge has said nothing to us in introducing this Bill. Supposing we were inclined to take the most charitable view possible of his position, and were not inclined to oppose the Second Reading of the Bill on account of the circumstances in which he finds himself, surely it is all the more necessary that he should tell us what he proposes to do with the month's grace that he is going to get under this Bill. I do not think the House ought to allow this Bill to have a Second Reading until it gets certain pledges from the Minister. When is he going to introduce this other Bill? That is the first question. Quite obviously—and there may be something of real substance in the point made by the hon. Member behind me—if what the House is doing, assuming it passes this Bill, is putting itself absolutely in the hands of the Minister so that when we approach 31st July we shall find ourselves in this unfortunate position, that there will be three or four major Bills in front of us every one of which we want to have passed, but not one of which under the circumstances shall we be able thoroughly to discuss, and if one of those major Bills is this hitherto unintroduced 1436 Bill, Members on no side of the House are doing their duty to themselves, to their constituents, and to this House in giving the Minister the power to put them in such an unfortunate position. Nor do I like this idea—I dislike it constitutionally—of passing a Bill after the event and then putting a Clause into it that it is going to be held as though it were passed six weeks or six months before it was passed. I cannot imagine any kind of legislation more upsetting to those who come under its influence than that. Talk about the uncertainty and the unhappiness of mind of the poor tenant at present. It is a very unfortunate way of showing sympathy for that unfortunate state of mind for the Minister to suggest that he should not disclose his Bill until a certain period, but that he should pledge himself to put a retrospective Clause into it.
What the House wants to know exactly is what is the Government's policy. If we give him this Bill, if we remove the date to the end of July, how is he going to use that month? Is he going to use it to delay or to discuss? If he is going to use that month for the purpose of delay I am going to oppose the Second Reading. If on the other hand he comes to us now—I think he ought to have done it before—and says, "I am only asking for this extra month because the state of business is such that I cannot get my new Bill through by the end of June, and I have no intention of putting a retrospective Clause into my Bill; I am asking the House for this extension of a month in order that before the end of July the House may thoroughly have discussed my new Bill," then so far as I am concerned, I am perfectly willing to give him the month he asks for, but I certainly am not prepared to give him a blank cheque. Surely every Member of the House must admit that we are justified in pressing that point. Committees have been appointed, and Committees have been thrown over. Bills have been drafted, and drafted Bills have been torn up. Ministers have been appointed and have been sent to constituency after constituency and rejected time after time. The only excuse the right hon. Gentleman has now for saying, six months after the election, "We are not ready with legislation on one of these pre-eminently important points that require legislation," is that the Government has shilly-shallied, 1437 that it could not make up its own mind first of all, and when it did make up its mind it found it had made it up wrongly. That is the only justification for asking for a Second Reading for this Bill.
What we do will depend on what the Minister pledges himself to do. I think we ought to know now. The business for next week is pretty well fixed, and it is not easy to change it in any important respect. We know we shall have to embark very soon on pretty continuous discussion on finance. Obviously there is no Member of the House who cares for the rights of Members and freedom of discussion in the House who is going to give a Second Reading to this Bill, which may mean so much slipshod work done at the last minute. Therefore the Minister ought to tell us at once when he proposes to introduce this new Bill, and in accordance with the statement which he makes will be the attitude which we shall take up regarding the Second Reading. It is a most unfortunate position in which those of us who are tenants of houses affected by this legislation find ourselves. We do not know where we stand. We do not know what we can do. The position of the tenants occupying houses subject to this series of Rent Restriction Acts is becoming intolerable. Any further delay is a source of great uneasiness, and the Government should not ask the House to consent to it. Therefore I ask the Minister to say why he is asking us to give this Bill a Second Reading? Is it merely because there is no time to get legislation passed before the end of June? That is not enough, but if he is going to put the new Bill before us and give it a Second Reading and send it to a Committee, and then let us have Report and Third Reading stage, so that the whole thing can be done with decency and order before the end of July, then I am not going to resist the Motion which he has made.
§ The MINISTER of HEALTH (Mr. Neville Chamberlain)
I rise at once to respond to the observations which have fallen from the Leader of the Opposition, who seemed to suggest that I was in fault in not rising at once to move the Second Reading of the Bill with a speech explaining the reasons why I did so. I would not like the hon. Member or anybody else to think that I have been guilty of any discourtesy to the House. The 1438 only reason why I did not say anything in moving the Second Reading was because I have already made a statement as to the reasons for bringing in this Bill when I asked leave to introduce it on the 19th April. I rather fancy that the Leader of the Opposition was not present on that occasion, and owing to causes which I very much regret; but if he had been present he would not have been under the misunderstanding which obviously exists in his mind to-day, for he spoke repeatedly of the 24th June as the date upon which the present Act expired. If the date were the 24th June, perhaps it might not be necessary to introduce the present Bill. But it is not the 24th June. In Scotland, which I should have thought the Leader of the Opposition would not have forgotten, the Bill expires on the 28th May. In my statement asking leave to introduce the Bill, I pointed out that I could rely on no time after Whitsuntide and that the last day of Parliament in the present term for dealing with this question would be the 17th of the present month.
I say at once in answer to the Leader of the Opposition that there is no desire to delay, shirk or postpone coming to a decision in reference to the other Bill. This Bill is introduced solely because it is physically impossible to get the other Bill through all its stages in this House, and in another place, before the time when the Act expires. I regret that I cannot give him an exact date as to when the other Bill will be introduced. I can only assure him that that Bill is very far advanced, and will be introduced in ample time to give the House full opportunity for discussion. But I would point out that perhaps the Leader of the Opposition may not have considered that we shall shortly have the Housing Bill in Committee, and it will be necessary for the Minister to be present in Committee during the whole of the discussion on that Bill in that stage, and that we must get that out of the way before we take the Committee stage of the Rent Restrictions Bill. It does not seem to me desirable to have a Second Reading of a Bill and then have to postpone it for a long period before we can get to the Committee stage. That is a consideration which has to be taken into account in deciding the actual date of introduction.
1439 The Leader of the Opposition has been very kind towards my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) on the back bench whose Amendment this afternoon is really a frivolous one and purely a measure of obstruction. The hon. Member has been a Member of this House for a good many years more than I have been, and he is a past master in all the arts of obstruction, to which, personally, I do not aspire, but I do care about the needs of the country if he does not, and not for any little party advantages which may arise. He will do himself and his party no good by an Amendment of this kind, which has no real substance behind it.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
May I let the right hon. Gentleman know that, only this morning, I had a letter from an Irish loyalist, whom he himself has betrayed, complaining about this matter?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I will not enter into a controversy with the hon. and learned Member as to the hundreds of letters which he receives on this subject. All I can say is that I have not received any letters on this subject, and it is a curious thing that, if there is any burning indignation throughout the country, there has been no complaint made to the Minister of Health. I have already pointed ou that this Measure is not introduced because the Government has not made up its mind, but because there is no time to get through a new Bill before the old one expires. The hon. Gentleman says that it was totally unnecessary, and he suggested that we should bring in a Bill which should be retrospective in its action. What an extraordinary suggestion that is to make to this House. Consider what would happen. On the 28th May the present Act comes to an end. The hon. Member suggests that we should introduce a Bill which would not become an Act until some weeks, or possibly months, after the 28th May. What is going to happen in the period between the expiry of the present Act and the passing of the new one?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member, speaking about what happened in connection with the Rents Restrictions 1440 in Scotland, said that the same thing might happen again if we adopted the same method. It is precisely because of that that we are taking this action. Now that the landlords have learned what would happen if they do not comply strictly with the law, they might say that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and the position of the tenant during the gap between the expiry of the present Act and the passing of the new one would be a position deserving of sympathy. I do not think that anything has been added to the discussion by the hon. Member from the Labour benches who demands that the country should know what is the policy of the Government. I recommend him and my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone to wait and see.
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us a little bit more specifically whether we could not have the Bill printed and circulated before we adjourn for the Whitsuntide Recess or at the very outside have it ready in the first week of the re-assembling of Parliament?
§ Sir ALFRED MOND
I hope that my right hon. Friend will take the opportunity of answering some questions which I desire to ask. We sympathise with the Minister of Health in the difficulty in which he is placed. Anyone who has had to investigate, as I had, this thorny problem knows the difficulties involved, and the real excuse in asking for this Bill to-day is that the right hon. Gentleman feels that he has not been in office long enough himself to have made up his mind as to the new Bill which he would like to introduce at the present moment. I can well understand that, but there is no excuse for the Government which has now been in office for six months for not having a Bill ready. Nor is there any excuse for the extraordinary attack which the right hon. Gentleman has made on the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle). During the many years in which I have been in this House I have never heard such a violent onslaught on any Member who is exercising a legitimate function by putting down an ordinary Amendment for the rejection of a Bill in order to make a protest. It looks as if the right hon. Gentleman regarde it as lèse majesté against himself.
§ Sir A. MOND
I was amazed at the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman. There have been grave doubts about this matter ever since November last and the Government has had ample time to deal with the question which is neither new nor extremely difficult. A Committee was appointed when I was in office to go into the whole question. That Committee made its Report and gave its views as to the extent to which modification of legislation was required if the present Act were to be terminated. All that was there for my successor at the time. If it had not been for the bye-elections, at which the Government were not so chary in giving information as to their intentions, we should not have to wait now for a Bill in this House explaining what it is going to do. The "Pall Mall Gazette" explained another policy, and it seems rather curious that we cannot be told now until after Whitsuntide, and that the tenants in this country are not to know, what are the secrets locked up in the mystery box of this Bill, when at one time we had a kind of kaleidoscope of proposals which rivalled the electric signs which we see at night time in Piccadilly Circus. [An HON. MEMBER: "What were you doing there?"] We are grateful for the assurance of the right hon. Member that he has got a Bill nearly ready. But are we sure that it is going to be introduced? Is he satisfied that the Cabinet will accept it? When are we going to see this Bill, and what reason is there that it should not be introduced, printed and circulated at the earliest possible opportunity?
The subject is one which is full of technical difficulties. Those who, like myself, have had to go into the matter very fully and very closely, know that there are a large number of legal and technical difficulties involved. Surely it would be a great advantage to the right hon. Gentleman himself to have the thing fully thrashed out in the country by the various interests involved, and that they should be fully cognisant of the proposals before we get to the different stages of the Bill. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will find that towards the end of the Session there is a considerable congestion of Parliamentary business. With every honest endeavour to provide ample time for discussion, that time always becomes shorter and shorter, and the period available for discussion less and less. It would surely 1442 be to the right hon. Gentleman's advantage, and to the advantage of all of us, that he should abandon the idea of not allowing the House and the country to know the contents of the Bill until we have got through the Committee stage of a very long Housing Bill, which he will have to conduct.
I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that we do not want to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill now before us. We feel, however, that the House has not been treated fairly in this matter. There is a very serious grievance, and not merely hon. Members here, but hundreds of people outside, are left, like Mahomet's coffin, suspended between earth and Heaven. Even landlords do not know what their future is to be, and neither do tenants. I am sure this uncertainty is impeding building enterprise, in which the right hon. Gentleman, as we all are, is very much interested. I would urge on him to get his colleagues to make up their minds as quickly as I know he can make up his own. If the Bill be introduced and printed, I think the right hon. Gentleman will find that its subsequent stages will take a very much shorter time than would otherwise be the case. We are already in the first week of May, and if the right hon. Gentleman will give us an assurance—that was why I rose; to enforce what my hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said, that the right hon. Gentleman should produce his Bill at the earliest opportunity, and let us see it, and let the country discuss it—I, for one, would not oppose the Second Reading of the Bill before the House.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
With the permission of the House, I should like to say a word in answer to the questions which have been put to me. I am very anxious to give some assurance, which will show my right hon. Friend the Member for West Swansea (Sir A. Mond) and the Leader of the Opposition that I am in earnest in what I say; and that I am not attempting, in any way, to take advantage of the Bill now before the House in order to postpone this new Measure until a time when, perhaps, there will be a great deal of pressure on the time of the House, and it may be difficult to get proper consideration for it. The House will understand, however, that there is really a double difficulty in this matter. As well as the physical difficulty, to which I have alluded, there is the fact 1443 that I have personally been in office a very short time. Although I have got the Bill, in its outlines, complete, yet one does desire to go through every Clause again and again in order to try to see that there are not in the Bill a number of defects and blemishes for which the House would blame the Department responsible. Therefore, I do not feel I can accept the suggestion of the Opposition, that I should print and circulate this Bill just yet; but I will undertake that the Bill shall be introduced and printed, at least in the first fortnight after Whitsuntide, and I hope, if possible—I will try—to get it earlier.
We are entitled to thank the right hon. Gentleman for, at any rate, giving that amount of concession to us. I would draw the attention of the House to the fact that this important information has been extracted by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) as a result of an Amendment which the Minister of Health was pleased to describe as frivolous and vexatious. We know now, at any rate, that we are going to have, at a certain date, this Bill brought in and circulated. I think, under these circumstances, the hon. Member was fully justified in putting down his Amendment.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) may well be flattered by the emotional display which he has elicited from the Treasury Bench. That display has merely illustrated that he has put his finger rather forcibly on a weak spot of the present Government and has exposed to the country that, although they have been in power for a period of nearly six months, they have not yet formulated their policy on one of the most vital problems of the day, and are not yet ready to inform these unfortunate people of the position in which they are placed. Observe what the position of the Government is. It is the perennial, the recurring position of the present Government and of their predecessors. Having got into a hopeless mess and a hopeless muddle, they come down to the House, and say, "Either you must give us extraordinary powers, practically without discussion of any kind, or a lot of people in the country will be subjected to the greatest suffering and misery." The right hon. Gentleman, 1444 having got himself and this House into this position, has the audacity to get up and say that anyone who ventures to comment on it is guilty of obstruction. Even in the long and sad history of recent years—[HON. MEEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Hon. Members often see fit to contribute to our discussions a series of well-reasoned cat-calls, which they undoubtedly find the most appropriate means of communicating their opinions. Far be it from me to object to these monosyllabic interjections of the otherwise inarticulate. I will not pursue them into that intricate line of argument.
§ Mr. MOSLEY
I will only ask the House and the country to observe that once again the Government have got themselves into such a position as that in which we are now placed, and that as a result of their vacillating ineptitude, hundreds and thousands of people in the country are left in a state of doubt as to their future position, and are quite unaware of what plans they should adopt in their ordinary domestic life. All this has arisen purely because, for a period of six months, the right hon. Gentleman, and the Government of which he is a member, have been unable to make up their minds. The right hon. Gentleman says that there is no interest displayed in the country, and that he has no letters. He has no letters, because the country has long ago made up its mind that it is quite useless, no doubt, to write to his Department; but he has had, of recent time, some very vivid illustrations of the interest taken in this subject by the country, an interest which assumed such proportions that it removed his predecessor from office. I venture to suggest that if this interest is encouraged, in the way it has been encouraged to-day, and is allowed to develop, in the proper course of time, when opportunity is offered, it will, very rightly and properly, also remove him and the Government which he represents.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
In view of the announcement which the right hon. Gentleman has made with reference to the "obstructive and vexatious" Amend- 1445 ment which I put before the House, and having regard to the value of that concession, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second tome.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I beg to move, "That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee on the Bill."
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not want to press this Motion if there be any objection to it. I thought I should like to get the Bill out of the way.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly considered in Committee.
§ [Captain FITZROY in the Chair.]