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the Question, in order to add the words
could. He hoped their delay in legis-
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL (Sir RICHARD WEBSTER) (Isle of Wight) said, that no one knew better than the hon. Member that the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill must be brought in at the end of the Session, and it was always necessary to bring it in at a late period, as it was impossible to know early what Bills the Government would be introducing, and what Bills would require to be dealt with in this way. The hon. Member had asked a very fair question as to the Employers' Liability Act, and in reply he (Sir Richard Webster) could assure him that no one was more anxious than himself, and the Government also had been most anxious, to bring in a Bill on the subject, not embodying altogether the recommendations of the Committee, but to a great extent adopting them. He might say that the recommendations of the Committee would form a very large basis for the Amendments that the Government would propose to introduce into the new Bill. It was not only an amendment Bill but a codifying Bill which the Government had pre-Laws Continuance Bill, and he admitted pared, and which they hoped to have the convenience of the principle. The passed this Session. It was the inten- ground of his objection was that the tion of the Government to introduce a Bill contained no less than 34 Statutes, measure embodying the recommenda- several of which ought to have been tions of the Committee, and going dealt with by amending and reforming further by qualifying the relations Bill. The fact was that an omnibus Bill between masters and servants It was of this kind and at this period of the because the Home Secretary desired to Session was a test and a meter of the make the Bill as complete as possible incompetence of the Government. If that the measure became so heavy that the Government had not wasted the it was impossible to deal with it this public time several of the Statutes inSession. The Government desired to cluded in the list would have been dealt deal with the matter at the earliest with. He joined with his hon. Friend possible opportunity next Session. (Mr. Arthur O'Connor) in protesting against the failure of the Government to amend the Employers' Liability Bill. There were many of his own constituents and numerous workingmen throughout Great Britain who felt the gravest disappointment on account of the failure to amend the law in this respect. He also thought that the Irish Sunday Closing Bill should be excluded from the pro
MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.) said, no doubt there must be an Expiring
MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.) said, ho must complain that questions ripe for settlement had not been treated by the Government during the long Session just coming to an end, although they had the complete control of the time of the House. It seemed to him that the object of the Government was to evade their responsibilities as long as they
MR. CONYBEARE (Cornwall, Camborne) said, there was a good deal of ground for the complaint made as to certain Acts contained in the Bill. He found that there were no less than eight Acts in this Bill relating to one subject-namely, Parliamentary elections and corrupt and illegal practices at Parliamentary elections. It appeared to him that such subjects as these should not depend on an annual Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, but that all the provisions relating to such an important matter as Parliamentary elections should be properly dealt with in a permanent law. He must also complain of the inconvenient policy pursued in regard to the endowed schools schemes and the payment of the Charity Commissioners, and record at the same time his strong objection to the Sunday Observance Prosecutions Act.
that was more in dispute in Ireland than
visions of this Bill. He hoped that he would be able to obtain a reply from the Government to the Question that he addressed to them on this subject yesterday. It was very inconvenient when so many questions came on relating to Ireland there was no Irish Minister present. They had become used to that state of things at Question Time, but now there was no Minister present. It was some consolation that when they mentioned their absence one of them always came out of some dark corner. The Parliamentary Under Secretary (Colonel King-Harman) had just entered from behind the Speaker's Chair. He hoped that right hon. and gallant Gentleman would pay attention to what he said. He would remind the Government that the Irish Sunday Closing Act was passed in 1878 as an experimental measure, and that it expired in 1883. It had been repeatedly stated in the House that at the end of the five years there would be an inquiry into the working of the Act in order to ascertain whether it had failed or succeeded. Ever since 1883 the Irish Sunday Closing Bill had been annually renewed, but not as a separate Statute. It had been renewed under circumstances that had rendered discussion and inquiry as
to its success impossible. He was in-between this Session and the next there
THE CHIEF SECRETARY FOR IRE-
would satisfy the hon. Member for West Belfast, he would do his best to look into the question in the course of the Recess. As to the complaint of the hon. Member -that there had been no opportunity of discussing the Act-he was not prepared to deny that it might be a proper thing that the question should be fully discussed by the House. But the hon. Member would admit that the discussion could not take place this Session.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Mr. COURTNEY) (Cornwall, Bodmin) said, he rose for the purpose of making a suggestion, which might possibly save time and satisfy the requirements of the hon. Member for West Belfast. He remembered distinctly the history of the passing of the Irish Sunday Closing Bill, and the kind of objection which was taken to it before it was carried. He remembered on one occasion Mr. N. Murphy speaking for four hours on a Wednesday afternoon in opposition to the Bill, and that Major O'Gorman defeated it Session after Session. But eventually it was carried. He thought, in face of the experience they had had of this Bill, a discussion upon it now would be an entire farce. They would have just the same sort of lengthy speeches leading to no result whatever. There had been twice introduced already, on the responsibility of the Government of the day, a Bill for making this Act perpetual; and in one of the Bills he believed it was proposed to extend the Act to the large towns. The opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary was in that direction at present; and he thought he might fairly suggest that the right hon. Gentleman might undertake to introduce a Bill at the commencement of next Session, which, on the understanding that hon. Members from Ireland would assent to the second reading, might then be referred to a Select Committee, and the evidence taken before it would at length place the House in a position to decide upon this much disputed matter. In respect of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, it was said such a Bill would not be necessary if the Government did not go on wasting its time; but that was an accusation always made-[Mr. ARTHUR O'CONNOR: And always true.]-and in his opinion never true. That was just one of those reckless statements which hon. Members were in the habit of making. There must be an Expiring Laws Continuance Bill; but if the Government would accept his suggestion an important matter of dispute might be avoided and the question settled.
MR. SEXTON: That is the basis of my complaint that the subject has not been discussed since the promise was given.
MR. A. J. BALFOUR, continuing, observed that, as the hon. Gentleman was aware, two Bills on which the question could have been raised were brought in by some of his Friends, but they never came on for adequate discussion at all. There was no doubt, however, that the hon. Member would be able to raise the question in a form which would give full opportunity for Parliamentary discussion at some period early next Session. He conceived that would be the proper course from a Parliamentary point of view; but from the point of view of Ministers he was ready to give a pledge that he would look into the subject in the course of the Recess, and to the best of his ability form a judgment upon it. The information he had received, however, distinctly was not in the direction of inducing a modification of the action of Parliament that had already taken place. He had observed that the bulk of Irish opinion seemed to be in favour of this law; and when they found that opinion opposed they often ascertained that the opposition proceeded from those who were, no doubt conscientiously, influenced by motives which were hardly connected with the good of the community. Under those circumstances, and having regard to the decisions come to by his Predecessors in the Office he held, he felt he was bound to tell the hon. Gentleman that his own inclination would be in the direction of the continuance of this law. He was clearly convinced that there could be no possibility of getting adequate discussion of the matter this Session; but in the absence of that opportunity to drop the Bill out of the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill would be a very prejudicial step of public policy, and he could hold out no hope that the Government wouid accept such a Motion.
MR. SEXTON said, that he would be satisfied if the Government would introduce next Session a separate Bill on Sunday Closing, and refer it to a Select Committee. He hoped that this reasouable suggestion of the Chairman of Com
mittees would be accepted by the Government. In that event, he would not resist any Motion to include the Bill. MR. A. J. BALFOUR said, he was perfectly ready, at all events, to give this pledge, that next Session he would endeavour to make some occasion, by Bill or otherwise, for a discussion by a Select Committee or otherwise.
MR. JOHN O'CONNOR (Tipperary, S.) said, he had listened with great attention to the statement of the Chief Secretary, and to the suggestion of the Chairman of Ways and Means. As he was the Member who was about to move the omission of this Bill from the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill, he was anxious to receive from the Chief Secretary some definite statement with regard to the course which the Government intended to pursue. The Chief Secretary had promised them an inquiry, but he did not approach that inquiry with an open mind. He (Mr. John O'Connor) took an entirely different view of the position of the matter from that stated by the Chief Secretary. He came to a different conclusion altogether upon the fact that two Bills had been introduced by former Governments in that House dealing with this matter, and the very fact that those Bills came to nothing showed that there was a great difference of opinion upon the subject, and that the Government were not sincere in their desire to press them forward. The Chief Secretary, it appeared, would be inclined to support a measure for extending the operation of the Bill to the five cities which were exempted. Well, upon a little inquiry as to the results of the operation of the Act in different parts of Ireland-as to the state of things in exempted parts of the country, and the state of things in those places where it was in operation-he thought he would be led to an entirely different conclusion. It was an investigation of facts which had led him (Mr. John O'Connor) to that opinion, and he had no personal interest whatever in bringing the question forward. They courted investigation into the matter, and believed they should be able to prove, before an impartial inquiry, that the view they took was the correct view. What was the use of accepting the assurance of the Chief Secretary that he would inquire into the matter during the Recess, when he brought to that inquiry a closed mind?
Therefore he should, in the absence of any further statement, be compelled in Committee to move the omission of the Bill.
MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton) said, he trusted the Chief Secretary would meet a little more frankly the suggestion of the Chairman of Committees. He thought the matter was one the Government might well meet in the sense proposed. He had no desire to press the Government for any unfair pledge; but to pledge themselves to refer the matter to a Select Committee early next Session did not seem to him to be asking too much.
MR. A. J. BALFOUR said, he thought he had met, in substance and in spirit, the suggestion of the Chairman of Committees very frankly. He was unwilling to pledge the Government to legislation on the subject; but he was perfectly prepared to pledge the Government to give a Select Committee, in some form or other, by which the matter might be inquired into.
MR. SEXTON said, if they understood that if there was not a Bill there would be a Select Committee next Session, he would advise his hon. Friend not to further press the matter.
MR. A. J. BALFOUR: Yes, that will be so.
MR. JOHN O'CONNOR: I am perfectly satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's statement.
DR. TANNER (Cork Co., Mid) said, it was absolutely necessary on this question of Sunday Closing in Ireland that both sides of the question should be heard. They would never arrive at a judicious judgment on this burning question without taking the interests of all parties into consideration. Although there was difference of opinion on the subject, still a large number of the Members of the Irish Party believed "Ireland successful, Ireland sober." There were several Statutes in the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill that they ought natu rally to object to. For instance, there was the Act which gave power to Lord Lieutenant and Magistracy to collect a certain amount of county cess. That Act constituted a standing injustice in Ireland. He objected to important questions which ought to be thoroughly considered being disposed of in this manner at the end of the Session.
Question put, and agreed to.
Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do carried on in a rational way should be now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to. understood in their proper sense. Bill considered in Committee. (In the Committee.)
Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 20, to leave out the word "December," and insert the word "August.”—( Mr. Clancy.)
Clause 1 (short title).
MR. CLANCY (Dublin Co., N.): Complaint was made just now with reference to the practice of the Government in holding over till the end of the Session several important questions which are ripe for legislation, and then mixing them up altogether in one Bill, and thus getting rid of their responsibility in the matter, and evading the obligation put upon them by their position to endeavour to bring such questions to a settlement. I desire to propose a step now which would compel the Government, if it is taken by the Committee, to make up their minds before the end of the Session upon these disputed questions, and which would not allow them the opportunity of evading their responsibilities and obligations in the matter. In Clause 2, line 20, I propose to substitute for "December" the word "August."
THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREA SURY (Mr. W. H. SMITH) (Strand, Westminster): It must be quite obvious to the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Clancy) that it is impossible for the Government to accept this Amendment. We cannot foretell what the conditions of the next Session of Parliament may be, and therefore it would not be wise to provide that the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill should cease to operate in August. The Employers' Liability Act, for example, might cease to have any force or might expire altogether at the end of August, a few days probably before another Bill could be passed. It would be a most absurd, and, I was going to say, a silly proceeding on the part of this House. No, Sir, the provision
THE CHAIRMAN: Order, order! must remain as it is-namely, that the We are on Clause 1.
Clause agreed to.
law shall continue in force until the expiration of a reasonable period beyond the ordinary course of the next Session of Parliament. It is possible that, owing to circumstances, we cannot now foretell Parliament may continue to sit, as it has sat this year, much beyond the usual period, and, under these circumstances, the Government cannot accept the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman.
MR. SEXTON (Belfast, W.): I think the reply of the right hon. Gentleman was scarcely civil to my hon. Friend. He spoke of my hon. Friend's Motion as a silly one.
MR. W. H. SMITH: I said it might produce a perfectly absurd result.
MR. SEXTON: I suppose a Member of the House is capable of foreseeing the effect of his own Motion. My hon. Friend has never distinguished himself by silliness, whatever may be his other qualities. I think the Motion ho has moved is a highly straightforward one. What is the object of his Amendment? It is that the Expiring Laws Bili shall only continue in operation until Parliament has had an opportunity of considering what it contains-until the 31st of August next year-which is practically the date at which a Session of
Clause 2 (Continuance of Acts in Schedule).
MR. CLANCY: I beg to move the omission of the word "December" in line 20, and the substitution of the word "August." If this alteration be made the Government will be obliged to commence work early in the Session, and to some extent it will prevent the scandal we have witnessed during the last week or fortnight of keeping the House towards the close of the Session until 4 o'clock or 5 o'clock in the morning, and, as it were, holding the blunderbuss at their head of the displeasure of the country if they do not pass the Bills submitted to them. The manner in which legislation has been conducted during the last few days is scandalous. The Government have kept us hero till 4 o'clock and 5 o'clock in the morning, and if we have insisted upon our rights, they have charged us with obstruction. The proceedings of the past week ought to be explained in some form to the country, so that the charges of obstruction brought against Members of the House who desire to have legislation
Question proposed, "That the word December' stand part of the Clause."