HL Deb 17 March 1896 vol 38 cc1116-32

*THE SECRETARY FOR SCOTLAND (Lord BALFOUR) moved the Second Reading of this Bill, and thought he would best consult the convenience of the House if he deferred any remarks he had to make until after he had heard what points in regard to the Bill were challenged. It seemed to him it was essentially a Bill for consideration in Committee and not for Debate upon the Second Reading, except upon some points upon which information might be required. But in answer to a Question which Lord Tweedmouth put to him the other day, and which he promised to reply to to-day, he had to say he had a Bill to consolidate all the enactments in regard to public health in Scotland, and which incorporated the Amendments proposed in this Measure, and in compliance with the request the noble Lord made to him last week he would at the conclusion of to-day's sitting move that it be read a first time.


thanked the noble Lord for the information he had given and for the concession he had made. That would be for the convenience of their Lordships' House and for the convenience of every local authority throughout Scotland who would have to consider the various propositions of this Bill. There was one other subject which he desired to press upon the noble Lord opposite. He understood the noble Lord to propose that after the Bill had been read a second time it should be referred to a Select Committee of that House. In his opinion that would be a most sensible course to adopt, but he suggested that the noble Lord should consent to refer the Consolidating Bill and not the Amending Bill to that Select Committee, in order that that Committee might consider the whole new code of public health for Scotland. He thought that the course he suggested would not tend to prolong the proceedings upon this Bill in either that or in another House. As far as he was personally concerned he should be only too glad to do anything that would expedite the proceedings relating to the Bill in Committee. He felt that this was not a measure that could properly form the subject of a prolonged Second Reading Debate, because they were all agreed upon its principle. The existing Public Health Act of Scotland was passed in 1867, while that for England was passed in 1875, and that for London in 1891. Since the passing of the Scotch Act an almost revolutionary advance had been made in relation to public health legislation, and the object of the Bill was to bring the counties of Scotland up to the level of her boroughs, and to that of England and London. There were one or two points in the Bill to which he should wish to refer. If Section 9 were correctly drafted, it appeared to him to be somewhat retrograde, because it merely gave the local authorities power to appoint a medical officer, whereas it ought to require them to make such an appointment. He also thought that the powers of the medical officer should be somewhat strengthened. It appeared to him that as the Bill stood the medical officer had a considerable amount of responsibility thrown upon him without having a corresponding increase of executive authority conferred upon him, so as to enable him efficiently to discharge his duties. He should like to see some definite executive powers conferred upon the medical officer as were given him in the Edinburgh and Glasgow Acts. He should further like to see the exact relations between the medical officer and the sanitary inspector more clearly defined. From his own experience of the working of the existing Act the medical officer and the sanitary inspector had in many cases simultaneous jurisdiction, with the result that considerable confusion occurred. It appeared to him that the medical officer ought to be made superior to the sanitary inspector, and that the latter ought to be put under the authority of the former. He also thought that the position of the medical officer should be made more secure, and that the local authority should not have power to dismiss him without the consent of the Local Government Board. The Bill proceeded in Section 14 to define anew the meaning of the word "nuisance" as something "injurious or dangerous to health." He should, however, prefer to define it by the milder expression "dangerous or prejudicial to health," which would have a wider range. He thought that by Section 25 (f), which related to dairies, sufficient power of initiative was not given to the medical officer, as he was prohibited from inspecting dairies unless he was accompanied by a veterinary surgeon. It was also somewhat remarkable that a medical officer should not be allowed to take any steps to prevent the distribution of milk from suspected dairies without the sanction of the local authority, which might lead to most dangerous delay. In his opinion, a medical officer should be empowered to enter any suspected dairy, and upon his own authority to take the necessary steps to prevent the spread of infection by the distribution of the milk. By Section 25 (t), regulating hospitals, he thought that it was a mistake to require local authorities to establish such institutions in the Highlands or in sparsely populated districts, and that in their place the local authorities should be empowered to employ trained nurses at the homes of the infected people. The next section provided that the local authority should recover the expenses of patients treated in the hospitals from the patients themselves. He thought that such a provision, except where the patients received special treatment, would destroy the whole advantage to be derived from the establishment of such institutions, and would make them very unpopular. He then came to what he regarded as the most inexplicable and worst clause in the Bill—he referred to Clause 38 (l), which related to the acquisition of land by local authorities. He thought that the proposal in the clause was a most cumbersome one, and that the local authorities should be enabled to acquire land for the purposes for which they were entitled to acquire land by mere representation to the County Council without the intervention of Parliament and the tardy and expensive procedure of a Provisional Order. The powers which he proposed to give were not of a novel character, and had already been adopted in the case of Parish Councils by the Acts of 1893 for England and 1894 for Scotland. The land might perhaps be required for the site of an hospital, for drainage purposes, or to carry out some other useful object. Large portions of land would not be taken. Then there were the powers as to building, as given in Clause 45. In the boroughs a special officer should be appointed, who would have to report on the buildings that were proposed to be put up, but that provision was not included in the Bill. He thought that in this respect the counties should be placed on the same footing as the burghs. There was another question well worthy of consideration. In certain cases houses were condemned by the local authorities as unfit for habitation. There was a recent case in one of the islands where the district committee condemned some 200 or 300 "black houses" as unfit for human habitation. Under the existing Act the County Council had power to close these houses and turn the unfortunate people on the moor, but it had no power to do anything more. The local authorities had no power to put these poor people into other houses. A local medical officer had given a description of one of these houses. It contained three apartments, and only one door. The first contained the cattle, and the manure was allowed to accumulate for twelve months. The next was the kitchen, which was divided from the first by a rudely-constructed wooden partition. The third apartment was the bedroom, where the whole family, irrespective of age or sex, slept, and this also contained all sorts of rubbish. The Bill should give power to deal with such cases as this. He did not intend to go into detail, for the Bill was one which could only be discussed in Committee. He was not so foolish as to believe the Bill of the noble Lord could be one which would fit in with all his views; nor did he think that such a Bill, if introduced, would have much chance in the House of Commons constituted as it was. All that he and his friends desired was to make this Bill as perfect as possible, and to achieve that he would give all the help he could to the noble Lord. ["Hear, hear!"]


said, he did not intend to trouble their Lordships at any length, as the Bill, being one entirely of details, many of them of a minute character, could only be properly discussed in Committee. It would be a great convenience to have, as the noble Lord opposite had told them they would have, laid on the Table, in a printed form, the Public Health Act as proposed to be amended by this Bill. He would ask the noble Lord to have the Amendment made in the existing law printed in italics. As to the Consolidation Bill, he would suggest that it should be deferred until next Session, by which time they would have eight or nine months' experience of the changes which they were now going to make, and they would then have the light of that experience before a final settlement. A criticism to which the Bill was open was that it dealt exactly on the same terms with burghs in which houses were concentrated, and with counties in which houses were necessarily very sparse. Then it was provided that the means of drainage, ventilation, etc., of all new houses and cottages should be such as would satisfy the inspectors. Think what that meant in counties like Aberdeen and Inverness! Power was also given to make bye-laws for existing houses. If this were carried out they would sweep away every crofter's house in those counties. There was not one "black house" drained, or possible to be drained, in a satisfactory manner. Their Lordships must not be blind to the fact that the provisions of the Bill would very largely increase the cost of local administration in Scotland by increasing the number of inspectors and other officers. Having criticised the definitions, with regard to which he found fault as being in certain instances incorrect, the noble Earl said these were matters which must be examined in Committee. He hoped the noble Lord would give them sufficient time to consider their Amendments.


agreed that it was desirable that some Measure should be passed, but he ventured to call the attention of his noble Friend to the necessity of having some Consolidation Bill passed. It would be far better to repeal the old Acts, and then have one comprehensive Bill for the public health of Scotland, in the administration of which they would have no difficulty. He was very much in favour of the Provisional Order. He thought that land should not be taken without giving an opportunity of showing why it ought not to be taken. The noble Lord opposite gave a very unfortunate instance when he said that land might be required for the site of an hospital. Nothing could be more disagreeable than that land should be taken to provide a site for an infectious hospital within sight of your house. He should like to have a Provisional Order, so that he could prove his case against this unpleasant neighbour. ["Hear, hear!"] As to the inspectors, they would apparently be very numerous and thrown broadcast over the country, and some of them might have peculiar fancies. He had known instances where the inspectors said, "The building is not in accordance with our views, and you must alter it." ["Hear, hear!"] That was a strong power to put into the hands of any set of inspectors.


said, he had the honour of being the convener of his county, and when they heard that a Bill was to be introduced dealing with public health they all hailed it with gladness; therefore, they were willing that it should be read a Second time, that Amendments might be proposed. He should like to ask whether the procedure was the best for the benefit of the public health of Scotland? He put in a plea for Scotland, for they would not be behind England and Ireland in provisions for the public health. He complained that the amending Act was as large as the original Act, and for this there was no precedent in local government. The question was, was this Bill to be left as it was? If so, then it would cause great confusion amongst those administering it. Why should they tinker the Act further? Surely the Act should be not amended, but remodelled. They should have a complete Public Health Act, and thus save a very great state of confusion. The Society of Medical Officers in Scotland were entirely unanimous on that point, and he believed the noble Lord had received a memorandum from them setting forth what their experience had been. He feared that there would be delay in bringing in the Consolidation Bill once this Bill was passed. Having pointed out features in the Bill to which he took exception, the noble Lord complained that it was a retrograde step to say that any district "may" appoint a health officer instead of "must." Then there was in some districts a great deal of friction in regard to the relations between medical officers and sanitary inspectors. This should be made plain in the amending Act. In his own county of Dumbartonshire there was no friction, but he had communications from other counties in the other direction. He thought the medical officer should be the head and the sanitary officer the hand to carry out what was necessary. It seemed clear that the medical officer should be the one responsible to the local authorities. He had no doubt that the noble Lord opposite was aware that opinions had been expressed in favour of bringing in a perfect Consolidating Bill by the Society of Medical Officers of Health and by the Sanitary Journal. The feeling in Scotland undoubtedly was that they should not have one more added to the Amending Acts, but that they should try to get a perfect Consolidating Act. He ventured to hope that the noble Lord would in the future, as in the past, consult those responsible for the public health in Scotland in the matter. As there was much that was non-contentious in this Bill and need not raise Party questions, which so often tended to delay the passing of a Measure for the public good, he thought the noble Lord might be able to carry it successfully through the House; and if it was passed he was satisfied that it would not only do credit to the Government, but also to the noble Lord who had introduced it and who took such a deep interest in the promotion of the public health of Scotland.


wished to give expression to the feeling of gratitude with which this Bill would be received by the County Council of Fife. He had heard it said on all sides that the Measure had been so well framed that the keenest critic would have difficulty in picking a hole in it. He could not help thinking, however, that it would be in the highest degree unfortunate if there resulted from this Bill another Amending Act. While recognising with lively satisfaction the value and scope of the Bill, it was the opinion of the Medical Officers of Health in Scotland that an Act to codify all the previous Acts, was a matter of urgent necessity; and that it was all important that the clauses of this Bill should only take effect as part of a Consolidating Act. If the present Bill passed into law, one half of the Bill of 1867 would remain in force and the other half would be unintelligibly interwoven in the new Bill. On the other hand, if a Consolidating Bill was passed, they might hope in Scotland that such finality as was possible in public health legislation would be reached. He did not know the course this Bill would follow, but he could not help hoping that the Secretary for Scotland would allow a clause to be inserted giving the local authority power to nominate their medical and sanitary officers. Without a head no business concern could flourish, and he hoped the noble Lord would arrange that all public health business should be subject to the supervision of the chief medical officer of the county.


pointed out that this Bill proposed to give enormously increased power to local authorities in Scotland. He agreed with a great deal that had been said by the Duke of Richmond as to the effect in large districts in the North of Scotland of some of the sweeping powers given by the Bill. The Bill would practically do away with the supervision of the Public Health Committee of the county. The Local Government Board not only became the ultimate authority to which all appeals were to be made, but in every way took the place of the Public Health Committee of the county. That, he thought, was a very serious change in the working of the Public Health Acts. It might work very well in small counties where the district committee was synonymous with the County Council; but where, as in the case of Aberdeenshire, a county was divided into districts, some of them 60 miles long by 30 miles broad, it was necessary that there should be some public authority in the county to check and revise the actions of the various local authorities. He thought that the discussion, as far as it had gone, would certainly convince the noble Lord that he had a heavy task before him to carry this Bill, and he hoped he would be content to let the House, if possible, carry this Bill and consider the Consolidating Bill next Session.


thought he had not the smallest reason to complain of the reception accorded to the Bill, not only by their Lordships, but also by those public bodies who, up to the present had sent in representations on the subject. No objections had been stated which would have a tendency to interfere with the general structure of the Bill. He had received very able papers from the Society of Medical Officers, from the Sanitary Inspectors, and from some of the County Councils; and he would like to take the opportunity of assuring those bodies that the representations they had made would be most carefully considered. There was much difference of opinion as to the procedure to be adopted in regard to the Consolidation Bill. Lord Tweed-mouth was anxious that it should be substituted for this Bill, when the stage of Select Committee was reached. Opinions in a contrary sense had been expressed by more than one speaker, the medical officers took the same view as the noble Lord opposite, and urged that it would be in the highest degree unfortunate if another Amending Act was the outcome of these clauses, that a Consolidating Act was a matter of urgent necessity, and that these clauses should only take effect as part of a Consolidating Act. Notwithstanding the differences of opinion made manifest that night, there was this agreement, that the Public Health Laws did require consolidation. Personally, he was anxious that the Consolidating and Amending Acts should come into force at the same time. It was almost universally the custom, when it was desired to consolidate and amend the law, to begin by amending it and then to bring in a Consolidating Bill. He was most anxious that the Consolidating Bill should become law during the present Session, and if, after the Bill had been printed and circulated there was a general consensus of opinion that it should be the framework of the Bill submitted to the Select Committee, he would be glad to consider that, and meet the wishes of the greatest number. He would, however, like to reserve his opinion and not commit himself absolutely on that point, because noble Lords who knew what it was to get a Bill of this magnitude through Committee, must see that the unfortunate individual on whom the responsibility rested was not anxious to open up more points for amendment and for what he might without offence call dilatory tactics, than was absolutely necessary. If he should see from the representations made to him that it would facilitate the passing of the Consolidation Bill if this Measure went to another place, not as an amending but as a consolidating Bill, he need not say that these representations would carry the greatest weight with him. Lord Overtoun had asked what would be the nature of the consolidating Bill, and seemed to think that there would be new provisions in that Bill which were not in the Bill now before the House. That was not the case. The consolidating Bill contained nothing beyond what was in the Bill before their Lordships and in the existing law, in as far as it was untouched by the amending Bill. The noble Lord seemed to think that they ought to consolidate in one Act the Factories Act, the Dairies Act, the Contagious Diseases Act, and the Infectious Diseases Acts. That, however, he thought would be impossible, especially with regard to the Factories Act and the Infectious Diseases Acts, which were Imperial Acts, not confined to Scotland. It would be impossible to consolidate them with convenience in a Bill which was intended to apply to Scotland only. There were, however, a few Amendments, some 12 or 15 in number, of a drafting character, which had been introduced into the Consolidation Bill, and which were not in the amending Bill. But they were purely drafting Amendments, and the reason why they appeared in the Consolidation Bill and not in the amending Bill, was that the necessity for them was not noticed until after the introduction of the amending Bill. When this Bill had been read a second time, he should move that it be referred to a Select Committee, and he hoped that the Committee would be constituted and that it might hold a meeting for the arrangement of its procedure before Easter. All the sub equent procedure he should propose to defer until the middle of next month. He trusted that this course would be convenient to those local authorities who wished to consider the provisions of the Bill now before Parliament, and he hoped also that this delay would enable them to make suggestions in time for them to be considered in their Lordships' House. It would be well that as few of these suggestions as possible should be left over for consideration in the other House. He was aware that this was a Bill which would probably be dealt with by a Committee in the other House also, but he felt sure that it would facilitate the passage of the Measure if those who were interested in it made their views known before it left their Lordships' House. He wished now to reply on some of the points raised in that Debate. Lord Tweedmouth had referred to the 9th Clause of the Bill, and said that it was a retrograde movement to make the appointment of medical officers permissive in the manner proposed. The noble Lord failed to discriminate between the two classes of medical officers—namely, those appointed under the Act of 1889, whose appointment was compulsory, and those who were appointed under the 8th Section of the Act of 1867, which section was reproduced with scarcely any variation in the 9th Clause of this Bill. The medical officers appointed under this Measure would have the tenure which the noble Lord desired that they should have, and would not be removable without the consent of the Local Government Board. The noble Lord also suggested that more power ought to be given to medical officers. Others, on the other hand, thought that the medical officers had too much power already. He could only say that, as their powers were defined in a good many clauses of the Bill, he would give those clauses renewed consideration, and would also consider any suggestions that might be made on the subject. The noble Lord, he understood, took the view that the medical officers ought to be the supreme authority in public health matters, under the local authority, and ought to be able to order the sanitary inspector to do whatever the medical officers might think right. That was a fair subject for argument, but he had not as yet seen his way to adopt that view. The sanitary officer had important duties to perform in regard to the inspection of premises, the discovery of nuisances, and other matters; if they should interfere with the status of independence which he enjoyed, they would take away a good deal from the force that attached to his representations. The office of sanitary inspector in Scotland was a very old one, and the opinion of most local authorities, he believed, was that it would be inexpedient to go far in the direction contemplated by the noble Lord. No doubt there had been disagreements and friction between medical officers and sanitary inspectors in some places, because the respective limits of their duties had not been thoroughly defined. This difficulty, to which the noble Lord had called attention, he proposed to get over by giving power to local authorities to regulate the duties of these officers by bye-laws, to be approved by the Local Government Board. He did not believe that it would be possible to draw up one schedule of duties which should be applicable to the varying circumstances of all the different districts in Scotland. The only practicable course would be to give a central authority power to regulate matters in a sensible manner. Lord Huntly had referred to the position of the Public Health Committee. So far as such a committee had any position at present, it would not be interfered with, but it should be remembered that the Public Health Committee of the County Council was not a statutory body, and had no statutory powers. Its object was to systematise and harmonise the public health work of the various district committees, but it had not, under the Act of 1889, any statutory power to enforce its decisions.


observed that, under the authority of the County Council, the Public Health Committee appointed the medical officers and the sanitary officers for the county.


said, that might be so, but that the districts were for the purposes of administration, except rating and borrowing, independent of the County Council, and could, if they chose, take their own line upon sanitary matters. He admitted that it was desirable that, as far as possible, the different districts should work together on the same lines, and as the Gentlemen who were on the Committees were mostly members of the County Council, satisfactory arrangements might be made, but what was done must be done by management, and not through insistence. He did not think that his proposals would prevent them from doing that in the future which the noble Marquess said had been done in the past. Lord Tweedmouth had commented upon the definition of the term "nuisances" as something "injurious or dangerous to health,'' saying that he would prefer the milder definition, "prejudicial or dangerous to health.'' But "injurious" was a word which had been in the Statute since 1867, and the definition proposed in this Bill was desirable because it would give extended power. Lord Camperdown had taken the point that the definition of a nuisance as given in this Bill was no definition at all. In that he thought the noble Earl was mistaken, and the Amendments of which he complained were in the Act of 1867, and had been the law over since. The object of putting these words in Section 14 was this. A nuisance might be of two kinds, a nuisance under the common law, or a nuisance as defined by the Act of 1867, which was known, in the phraseology of the Law Courts, as a statutory nuisance. Now, a statutory nuisance could be remedied by summary process, but a nuisance under the common law could only be remedied on an application to the Law Courts under the ordinary procedure. The object of introducing the words referred to by the noble Lord was to provide for summary procedure in the case of nuisances which were nuisances under the common law. Lord Tweedmouth desired that more power should be given to medical officers with respect to dairies, and said the procedure under Clause 25 would be too cumbersome and slow. Perhaps the noble Lord had not noticed that for the first time they were proposing to give power to the medical officers of the district in. which the inspected milk was consumed to go into the district from which it came and there to take proceedings against the owner of the dairy. It was obvious that the views of a medical officer might he influenced by a desire to save his own district from suspicion, and therefore action of this kind must be fenced about with precautions, so as to make sure that no unjust or harsh procedure was resorted to. He would gladly consider the point raised by the noble Lord as to hospitals in the Highlands. He recognised the difficulty of so establishing an hospital as to secure that it should serve the needs of a large and sparsely-populated area. He could not, however, pledge himself to the adoption, of the particular remedy which was suggested by the noble Lord, but he would consider it together with other suggestions that had been made before the Bill went to a Committee. Then there was a difference of opinion as to what ought to be the procedure in cases of compulsory acquisition of land. It should be borne in mind that it was the County Council that would want to acquire land under this Bill, and if no appeal were allowed injustice might be done. Their Lordships, he felt sure, would agree with him that no body ought to be given compulsory power to take a thing which it happened to want for its own purposes, unless a right of appeal against it were provided for. There was only one other point to which he need allude—namely, the point which had been raised on Clause 45. He did think that more stringent powers than existed at present were equired—powers approaching near to those of the Dean of Guild clauses—in those parts of counties which ran up closely to boroughs and urban districts. To all intents and purposes the line of demarcation between the burgh and the landward part of the parish was, in many cases, an imaginary line; the buildings were nearly as thick on the one side as on the other. In these cases, every County Council in Scotland which had considered the subject had found that there was not sufficient power to regulate these matters at the present time. On the other hand, he was inclined to agree with the noble Duke and Lord Camperdown, that it would be absurd to apply all those clauses, in all their stringency, to every building in a remote country parish in Scotland. Therefore the Government had taken the course provided for by the precedent of the English Act of 1875. The local authority shall make bye-laws in this matter as to what requirements they would seek from those who put up new premises, and they shall be confirmed by the central authority. If those clauses had stood the test of twenty years' working in the country districts in England, their Lordships could not be wrong in applying them in Scotland. But, as to whether the safeguards were sufficient, he said that this was a matter which he should be glad to consider in Committee. The noble Lord made a curious reference to the houses, in the parish of Lochs, near Stornoway. He did not understand what it was that the noble Lord recommended. Did the noble Lord suggest that, if those houses, which were insanitary to a great extent on account of the habits of those who lived in them, were condemned, the local authority, out of public money, was to rebuild them? That was a suggestion which had been made in the locality, but it was a suggestion which, up to the present time, he had not seen his way to give encouragement to, because he thought that it would open up a very large and potential expenditure of public money if they were to rebuild insanitary houses out of the rates for those to whom they belonged at present. He thought that this was a policy which would not meet with a large amount of approval, and it was not one to which he could commit himself. He asked permission to correct one point in his observations. While he had been speaking, a note had been placed in his hand which said he had been guilty of an error in stating that the word "nuisance" appeared exactly as they now had it in the Act of 1867. He was aware that there was a precedent for the use of the word, and the precedent was to be found in the English Act of 1875. But the reason for it was not weakened by the fact that the word was not in the Act of 1867. As he should be willing to consider this and other matters in Committee ho hoped that the word would not be deleted.


said, that the definition of "nuisance" in the Bill now before their Lordships and in the Act of 1867 was quite different. In the Act of 1867 (16th Clause) it was stated that— The word nuisance in this Act shall include … any house of insufficient size, water course, and various matters. The clause defined what the nuisance was, but in this Bill it was said in Clause 14— For the purposes of this Act any premises or part thereof in such a state as to be a nuisance shall be a nuisance. That seemed to be a very awkward way of defining "nuisance." It would be far better to introduce a clause as to the removal of the nuisance as in the Act of 1867.


said, he wished for some information as to the procedure it was now proposed to adopt. He understood at first that his noble Friend meant to introduce an Amending Bill, and to pass it through both Houses, and when it had become law to introduce a Consolidating Bill, which would have embodied in it all the provisions of the Amending Bill of 1896, and of the other Acts from 1867 up to the present time. In consequence, however, of some remarks made by noble Lords he now understood that his noble Friend proposed to circulate the Consolidating Bill, and if it met with the approval of their Lordships then he was prepared practically to adopt the Amending Bill and to have only one Bill which should be the Consolidating and Amending Bill in one. If that was so, he should much prefer to see the noble Lord follow the course he originally intended to pursue. He thought that it would be better for the Amending Bill to be properly discussed in Committee as well as all the various alterations of the existing law. When the Bill was passed, then the noble Lord should introduce the Consolidating Bill which would be much more easily understood and much more satisfactory to the country. He was exceedingly anxious to see this Public Health Bill passed, but not so as to produce confusion hereafter by leaving over points which might have been dealt with had some delay occurred at the outset.


The noble Lord has correctly stated the two alternatives before us. I have promised to introduce a Consolidating Bill. That I will do when it is published and circulated and examined, and I am open to argument as to which of the two courses will be most convenient. What I intended to convey to the House for the present was that I would reserve my opinion as to which would be the most convenient course, because between now and the time when we must decide, we shall be able to get some light from those whose convenience we have a right to consult. But at the present time I should not like to make a definite promise one way or the other.

Bill read 2a, and referred to a Select Committee.