House Of Commons
Monday, 22nd June, 1874.
MINUTES.]—PUBLIC BILLS— First Reading—Statute Law Revision* ; Infants Contracts* .
Second Reading—Friendly Societies * ; Valuation (Ireland) Act Amendment* ; Gas and Water Orders Confirmation* ; Courts (Straits Settlements) * ; Wenlock Elementary Education* ; Civil Bill Courts (Ireland) * .
Committee— Report—Colonial Attorneys Relief Act Amendment* .
Considered as amended—Working Men's Dwellings* .
Third Reading—Intoxicating Liquors* ; Juries (Ireland) * ; Municipal Privileges (Ireland)* ; Drainage and Improvement of Lands (Ireland) Act (1863) Amendment * , and passed.
Ireland—Public Houses In Dublin
asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland, What number of houses licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquors to be consumed on the premises were in Dublin at the time of the appointment of the present Recorder; how many there are at present; and, what has been the increase in the population of Dublin during that period?
, in reply, said, that he had not been able to obtain exact information on the subject; but he believed that when the present Recorder was appointed, the number of public-houses in Dublin was about 1,400. Since that time they had diminished to about 800, to the great benefit of all parties concerned. The population of Dublin in the year 1831, when the first Census was taken, after the appointment of the Recorder, was 203,000. At the last Census the population was 246,000.
Local Government Board—Sanitary Condition Of Epping District
asked the President of the Local Government Board, If he is now prepared to state what steps he proposes to take to remedy the bad sanitary condition of the Epping Local Board District?
Sir, Epping is not a Local Board District. The Guardians have become the Sanitary Authority under the Act of 1872. Since this Question was last addressed to me, I have received a Report from the Guardians showing that the rate of mortality in the District had been exaggerated, and that, if the workhouse be excluded from consideration, it was only at the rate of 19·13 per 1,000 during the six months ending December 1873, and is still lower in the present year. Great and unforeseen difficulties have arisen in the execution of the works of drainage and water supply undertaken by order of the Secretary of State some years ago, and these have been increased by the transfer of jurisdiction which has since been made. The Local Government Board have been urging upon the Guardians to take over the existing works, and render them available as far as possible for the purposes for which they were designed.
Spain—Recognition Of The Existing Government—Question
asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether Her Majesty's Government are willing to recognize the existing Government in Spain?
Sir, the question of recognizing the existing Government of Spain is one which has engaged and is engaging the serious attention of Her Majesty's Government. There is no desire on the part of Her Majesty's Government to defer such recognition unnecessarily; on the contrary, it is their wish to give all moral support in their power to those who, under whatever Constitutional form, are endeavouring to maintain freedom and public order against reaction, on the one hand, and revolutionary anarchy on the other; but, considering the essentially provisional character of the present political organization of Spain, they think it better to wait until that organization shall have been placed on a more definite and permanent footing.
Mercantile Marine—The "Wreck Register 1873 "—Question
, asked the President of the Board of Trade, If he can say how soon the Wreck Register for 1873 will be issued?
Sir, The Wreck Register for 1872 was not circulated till October last, so that there has been no unusual delay this year; but in order to show all the casualties in the winter in one Return, and to be able to present The Wreck Register at the beginning of each Session, it has been determined in future to make it from the 30th of June to the 30th of June, instead of the 31st of December of each year. The Return for the six months ended the 30th of June 1873, is now in the printer's hands, and will be published as soon as the maps can be lithographed.
Cattle—Importation Of Infected Cattle—Question
asked the Vice President of the Council, Whether it is true that on the 3rd instant 200 oxen were landed at Thames Haven from Oporto off a vessel called the "Olga;" that several of these animals were found to be affected with foot and mouth disease, and were slaughtered in the Corporation lairs, but that the remainder of the cargo were sold for distribution over the country; and, whether he will consider how far home restrictions can be of avail in checking spread of disease while such facilities are afforded for its importation from foreign ports?
Sir, it is the fact that 200 oxen coming from Oporto were landed at Thames Haven from the Olga on the 3rd instant. They were then inspected and certified to be free from any contagious and infectious disease, including foot and mouth disease. They were exposed in the Metropolitan Cattle Market on the 4th instant, on which day six English boasts were seized on account of their being affected with foot and mouth disease. On the 8th instant, 11 foreign beasts, supposed to have formed part of the Olga's cargo, were found to be affected with foot and mouth disease, and were slaughtered accordingly. The rest of the cargo may have been distributed in the country. There is no reason to believe that the disease was imported by means of these animals. With respect to the last part of the Question, I can assure my hon. Friend that the Lord President is giving his best attention to the consideration of the restrictions which may be made available for checking the spread of disease, while such facilities are afforded for importation from foreign ports.
Industrial School, Feltham—Duke Of York's School
asked the Paymaster General, Whether, when he, in reply to a Question on Thursday last, gave the House to understand that the boys at Feltham were boys of a class such that the "Duke of York's Boys" could associate with them with advantage, he was aware that the boys at Feltham were boys "under detention," detained on warrant; that sixty-three discharged during the last three years had been re-convicted, and committed to prisons; that of the boys admitted into the School in 1872, one hundred and sixty-nine, and in 1873, one hundred and fifty-four, had been convicted of "more serious offences" than begging and vagrancy; and that of the boys admitted in 1873, one hundred and twenty-nine had been convicted of larceny, six of unlawful possession or of attempts to steal, and seven of being in dwelling-houses for an unlawful purpose, against only fifty convicted for vagrancy or begging?
No, Sir, on that occasion I did not go into those details. I based my answer that Feltham is an Industrial School on the Annual Report, on a letter from the Superintendent, on another letter from the Inspector of Reformatories and Industrial Schools, on the facts that the lads go direct into the Army and Navy from Feltham, and that the London School Board sends truant boys there. I may, however, say that these formidable looking offences consist chiefly of pilfering from parents by children of from 9 to 13 years of age, and that the relapses mentioned amount only to 8 per cent of the whole number discharged. The hon. Baronet has, however, not given my Answer accurately. I did not say that the Duke of York's boys might associate generally with advantage with Feltham boys. I expressed no opinion upon the point. What I gave the House to understand was, that the "Feltham eleven," being composed wholly of unconvicted boys, had a right to be deemed as respectable as its antagonists. Since the second Question appeared, I have communicated with the authorities of both Schools, and this is what really happened. Twelve boys went to Feltham from the Duke of York's School in charge of the commandant and chaplain. At Feltham they were met by 12 Feltham boys of good character, under the superintendent and a master. They played their match in a field, and none of the other boys who were looking on were allowed near. The two elevens dined together in a tent with a master, and the visitors were, at the end of the match, marched back as they came, without the slightest communication with the rest of the School. I may add that it has long been the practice for Feltham to play the respectable village clubs in the neighbourhood; that the Committee, among whom are General Brownrigg and Colonel Lyon Fremantle, men not likely to be careless of the welfare of soldiers' children—have given their decision in favour of the matches; and to show the opinion of parents, I may say that a short time ago the Fife Major of the Fusilier Guards, who had his child's name down for Chelsea, withdrew it because he had obtained an admission to Feltham. I trust, therefore, that the House will not express an opinion hostile to the return match, in which I hope the soldiers may recover their lost laurels.
Ireland—The Condition Of The Liffey—Question
asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Whether his attention has been called to the strong observations made by the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland on Wednesday last as to the abominable condition of the River Liffey, and to the intimation of that learned Judge that he would retire from the Bench if the nuisance should continue; and, whether Her Majesty's Government propose to take any proceedings to compel the Corporation of Dublin to cleanse the Fiver Liffey?
, in reply, said, his attention had been called to the observations of the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland on the occasion referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman, and he was afraid the observations were made with only too good reason. It was some years since the Corporation of Dublin obtained from Parliament power to take action with a view to cleansing the River Liffey, and it was also some years since the Government then in power carried a Bill to enable an advance of £300,000 to the Corporation of Dublin to act upon the powers they had obtained. He could not then enter upon the reasons which had caused the delay, but if it was a question of expense, he was authorized to state that the present Government were prepared to give a favourable consideration to any application that might be made by the Corporation for increased borrowing powers. Whatever might be done with regard to a permanent remedy for the state of the Fiver Liffey, he thought some temporary remedy might be applied which would in a great degree abate the existing nuisance. Proposals to tills effect had been made to the Corporation of Dublin by the Lord Lieutenant, and if they did not take such steps as might to some extent remedy the nuisance, Her Majesty's Government would be prepared to deal with them in anyway which might be justified by the existing law.
, in explanation, said, that on Thursday next the Common Council of Dublin would meet for the purpose of asking Parliament for such increased borrowing powers as had been rendered necessary by the increased cost of work and materials, in order to carry out the cleansing of the Liffey.
Island Of Reunion—British-Indian Coolies—Question
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, If he will lay upon the Table a Copy of the Report of Her Britannic Majesty's Consul on the Condition of the British-Indian Coolies in Réunion?
, in reply, said, he could not promise at that moment to lay upon the Table of the House a Copy of the Report. The Report had been referred to the Viceroy of India, and until the Foreign Office had received the Viceroy's observations upon it, it would not be expedient to lay the document upon the Table of the House.
Russia—Reported Polish Amnesty
asked the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether any communication, official or otherwise, has been addressed to Her Majesty's Government, by or on behalf of Count Shouvaloff or the Russian Government, that an amnesty has recently been granted to all Poles, with the exception of two or three deliberate assassins?
Sir, no communication of the nature alluded to by the hon. and learned Gentleman, official or otherwise, has been received at the Foreign Office.
Board Of Works (Ireland)—Loans Under The Land Act—Question
asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland, If he is aware of the existence of any rule of the Board of Works in Ireland requiring all deeds for securing loans to tenants under the Land Act to be witnessed by the Solicitor for the Board, or his clerk, no matter where the parties may reside; and, if so, whether he is prepared to maintain a rule, involving in some cases great expense to the tenants taking advantage of the Act, as essential for the security of the Board?
Sir, the sales referred to by the hon. and learned Member are sales under the 35 & 36 Vict., e. 31, sec. 1, sub-sec. 3, amending the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1870. There have been only three sales under that Act, and they have been conducted in the usual manner, the responsibility of investigating title and securing the Board's advance devolving on the Solicitor to the Board. The conveyance to the tenant and the mortgage to the Board are effected by one deed, the form of which has been settled and printed for the use of the public. Following the usual practice in such cases, the Solicitor has required that the deed securing the Board's advance should be executed by the parties in his presence, or in the presence of one of the Board's officers, not only for better security, but to facilitate proof of due execution, should such become necessary. No costs, save disbursements, are charged either against landlord or tenant. In the case referred to by the hon. and learned Member, the Board's advance to the tenants amounts to about £4,000, and the only charge against them will be the expense of witnessing the execution of the deed of conveyance and mortgage, amounting, it is calculated, to only 13s. each. With regard to the execution of the deed by the landlord in London, the solicitor for the tenants was informed more than three weeks since that the Board's solicitor expected to be in London during the month, and could see it executed without charge, but no reply has been received.
Will the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government be good enough to state to the House which Bill will be taken on Thursday next?
Sir, if we conclude the consideration of the Factories Bill in Committee to-morrow evening, I propose that the Gold Coast Vote shall be taken on Thursday evening. As I am addressing the House upon the course of Business, I may mention another special subject, with regard to which I have intimated my intention to consult the convenience of the House. I allude to the subject of Home Rule in Ireland. I think, after what has occurred, it would not be conducive to public interest that there should be any further silence on this subject; and, therefore, as I understand that the course I propose will meet the convenience of hon. Gentlemen from Ireland who sit opposite me, it is my intention, with the permission of the House, to reserve the evening of to-morrow week for a discussion of the question.
Will the Vote in Supply with regard to the Gold Coast be the First Order of the Day?
If we conclude the Committee on the Factories Bill tomorrow evening, Supply will be the First Order of the Day on Thursday. The Vote on account of the British Museum will come first, but I do not anticipate it will take up much of the time of the House.
I am informed that the British Museum Vote will probably take a long time.
I do not anticipate that such will be the case. Even, however, if the discussion of the Vote takes up a longer period than usual, there will still remain a sufficient length of time for an adequate discussion of the Gold Coast question.
Municipal Corporations (Borough Funds) Act—Legislation
In reply to Mr. A. MILLS,
said, he was aware of the difficulties which had arisen under the Act referred to by the hon. Member, but he could not undertake in the present Session to bring in an amending Bill.
Intoxicating Liquors Bill Bill 160
( Mr. Raikes, Mr. Secretary Cross, Sir Henry Selwin-Ibbetson, Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
Order for Third Reading read.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the third time."—( Mr. Secretary Cross.)
, in moving, as an Amendment, that the Bill be read a third time that day three months, said: Sir, in proposing the Amendment of which I have given Notice, I know that I act under some disadvantage, and I may perhaps be allowed to say that I am not a very suitable person to bring forward the Amendment, because I see it stated in the newspapers that I am an impracticable Utopian fanatic. But knowing that this House is almost the only assembly in the world which will patiently and candidly hear both sides of a question, I beg the House to discard all prejudiced views relating to it. This Bill, of which the third reading has just been moved, it is hoped will be an improvement on the existing law, and not a measure to injure it. I hope, however, to make out to the satisfaction of the House that the measure is injurious to the existing law, and that it embodies proposals which will not tend to the advantage of the public; and if I make that out to the satisfaction of the House, the House ought to vote against the third reading of the Bill; but if I do not succeed in making that out, then the House ought to vote for the third reading of the measure before us. I will refer the House to what happened a few years ago on the subject. Mr. Bruce, then Secretary of State for the Home Department, brought in a Bill to regulate the sale of intoxicating liquors. The Government of the day, and both sides of the House, considered it all important that the question should then be settled before a General Election, in order that it should not be made a party question, and accordingly, the party then in Opposition, but now in power, while offering a most strenuous opposition to all the other measures brought forward by the Government of which Mr. Bruce was a Member, energetically assisted in making it as perfect as possible. Unfortunately it was not so settled. The Bill was passed, a change of Government took place, and with it, it was expected that a change of policy would take place also. The late Government had succeeded in passing important measures, including the Irish Church Act, the Irish Land Act, and the Ballot; but the present Government, now they have returned to power, the measure which they choose for Amendment is the one they assisted in passing, leaving untouched those to which they showed so determined a front. On the 10th of April, the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary came down to the House and made a speech upon the evils of drunkenness and of the present licensing system. But whereas Mr. Bruce was endeavouring to do something good, it soon appeared that the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary was endeavouring to do some harm. No doubt, the course which the right hon. Gentleman took, coupled with what had taken place before, has made him popular with a certain portion of the community, and I have even heard that a song has lately been composed in his honour. I do not know much about it, but I am told that the chorus runs as follows—
"For he's a jolly good fellow,
Whatever the Rads may think;
He has shortened the hours of work,
That song, I believe, is sung very much in the public-houses and gin-shops of London by the class which has been called the "residuum." The right hon. Gentleman's measure, however, has not earned the approbation of many other sections of the community, for the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do, that when his Bill was brought in, there was such an overwhelming and unanimous public opinion against it as has seldom been equalled in England, and when we get more official information—when we get the Returns from the police—if the right hon. Gentleman dares to produce them—we shall then see that the Act of 1872 was working well, and that we ought not to have rejected its provisions. The right hon. Gentleman unfortunately declines to produce those Returns, which I am sure would very much strengthen my case against the present measure. Well, after that unanimous expression of opinion, we went into Committee upon the Bill, and division after division took place in favour of making it more restrictive than it is at present; because it was always a noticeable fact that when a division took place with the object of making the Bill more restrictive, the Government majority was the smallest. There can be no doubt the Bill, when it got into Committee, had been very much improved, and when it came out of Committee, it walked about under false pretences. Next, Sir, we went into discussion on the Report; and the Bill emerged from those discussions just as bad as it was when it was first introduced. Now let us consider for a moment what the Bill really does. The Government know as well as I do, and if I misstate the case they can set me right. Well, this wonderful Bill, in the first place, will have this effect in London, that it will open 8,000 drinking houses, nearly 3,000 of them being beer-shops, for half-an-hour longer than before—namely, until 12.30 at night instead of 12 o'clock. And be it remembered, that in the four mile circle around Charing Cross beer-shops have, nevertheless, for the last 30 years been open after 12 o'clock. Again, in the metropolitan police district, which is the outer circle of 15 miles from Charing Cross, the existing beer-shops will be opened an hour longer than heretofore—namely, from 10 to 11 o'clock at night. That is bad enough, but then we come to another case which I will point out—namely, that of the large towns. It is well known that in Liverpool, Warrington, Hull, Birkenhead, and other places or towns containing upwards of 4,000 houses, at present, by the will of the magistrates, public-houses and beer-shops are kept closed until 7 o'clock in the morning; but under the Act we are now passing, these houses will all have to be opened at 6 o'clock, notwithstanding the remonstrances of hon. Members who represent those towns. With reference to the hour of closing at night, hon. Members also have begged and prayed that a fresh nuisance should not be inflicted upon them by Parliament, contrary to the will of the magistrates as proposed by the Bill; but with what result? Why, here we are, in spite of everything, passing what we were asked to strike out. Well, now, as to Sunday closing in the country, the hour is to be postponed from 9 until 10 o'clock, which will give an hour more drinking on every Sunday in those large districts, which I consider to be an extraordinary thing for the House to insist upon in the face of public opinion. Some people say we get something out of the Bill by closing the public-houses at 10 in these districts on week days; but the whole effect and benefit of that is counter-balanced by the number of beerhouses which will be opened for an extra hour, which I consider is a good indictment against the Bill. Indeed, the more it is looked into, the more it will be seen how admirably it is calculated to increase a public nuisance. I know the right hon. Gentleman will get up presently and defend his Bill, but let him dispose satisfactorily of that point. Again, we are told that, by Clause 6, the publican may, by paying 1½d. a-week less, obtain a six days' licence; but as the saving will be so insignificant, no one will think of availing himself of it, and the extraordinary part of the matter is that the discretion is to be left in the hands of the publicans, and not in those of the magistrates, the country gentlemen who are almost to a man supporters of the present Government. The 9th clause is called the drink-up clause; but it will not do much, and the 11th deals with the case of night houses, being, as I suppose, preliminary to the right hon. Gentleman's threatened measure for putting down illicit drinking in private houses. To be fair, however, I must say that the Bill will effect a change in some places where the magistrates have gone in for longer hours. At Oxford and Cambridge, for instance, where people seem to be given to late drinking, they will have to close earlier—which will, no doubt, be very heart-rending to my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford. I would ask, what do we, the friends of sobriety and order get out of this Bill? Very little, indeed; and I think we can indict it as a nuisance. A great cry has been raised about the endorsement of licences, and I think a step has been taken in the wrong direction in this respect. I will not, however, be hard upon the right hon. Gentleman upon this point, because he gives a discretion to the magistrates there. What I complain of is, that he gives no discretion to anybody in reference to the hours of opening and closing. Then with regard to the penalties which have been mitigated by the Bill, I have no complaint to make, because I believe the certainty of punishment is more effective than it would be were the penalties too severe. Neither do I care much about the adulteration clauses, because from what I hear, I do not believe that drink is adulterated so much as the articles of food which we consume—although, perhaps, looking at the matter from my point of view, the drinking of adulterated brandy may be the best cure for intemperance. The right hon. Gentleman has also relaxed somewhat the police clauses, and I shall not say anything about that if he thinks he can carry on the Act without them; but what I complain of is the lengthening of the hours and increasing the temptation to people to indulge in drink. On the face of that, everything else sinks into insignificance. The right hon. Gentleman said, in his opening speech, that the cause of drunkenness was the leisure and the high wages which people received. I agree with him, that it is the opportunity which causes most of the drinking; that has been my doctrine all the way through. The right hon. Gentleman also said that many people do not know how to spend their money for their own benefit and for the benefit of their fellow creatures; and so he has brought in a Bill, to enable them to spend more of their money in public-houses and beer-shops, out of which no one can receive an iota of benefit but the keepers of those houses. When we come to legislation of that kind, I think we ought to see that there is some demand for it. We ought to know who is asking for it. Have the Bishops and clergy asked for it? Certainly not. They have remonstrated against it, and I hope when the Bill reaches "another place," they will show that they are in earnest about the matter. I venture also to affirm that it is not the Conservative rank and file who have asked the Government to bring in this Bill. I will quote the words of one of them, who represents the important city of Manchester (Mr. Callender), and who received the distinguished honour of being selected by the Prime Minister at the opening of the new Parliament to second the reply to the Address. This Gentleman, in addressing his present constituents, two or three years ago, declared that the present system was destroying, body and soul, tens of thousands of our people, and, therefore, our only plan was to destroy it. What he wanted was, that there should be fewer hours and less opportunities for intemperance; and that could be most effectually done by sweeping away the houses, and therefore the opportunities for intemperance altogether. In accordance with the terms of that speech, I hope the hon. Gentleman will go with me into the same Lobby this evening. Do the Conservative working men want this Bill? I believe the Conservative working men have as much regard for the welfare of their wives and families as any of the Liberal working men, and it is an insult to them to believe that they want it. Can it be, then, that the 20 Conservative brewers, who sit on the opposite side of the House, have made an appeal to the Government to pass the Bill? [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen laugh as if it were so; but it is not, for I find that the hon. Member for Warrington, who has sat in this House as far as the memory of anyone present goes back, only the other night made a speech against one of its provisions. By some, again, it is alleged that while the late Prime Minister sought to descend upon the constituencies in a shower of gold, the present head of the Government has launched his barque upon an ocean of beer, and has succeeded in safely landing at Downing Street. I have, however, watched what has been said on the subject by the right hon. Gentleman, and I have read his letters, and, as far as I can see, he has never by a single word, either spoken or written, committed himself or the great Conservative party to the publicans on this question. I know that once the right hon. Gentleman stated that he was on the side of the angels, but he has never declared himself to be on the side of the spirits. In that very odd and celebrated Bath letter, which had more wisdom in it than was supposed at the time, the right hon. Gentleman talked of harassed trades and worried interests, but then, he had never said what those trades and interests were. The publicans cannot, therefore, justly contend that he meant them, and it is well to recollect that when the Bill of Mr. Bruce was under discussion two years ago, the right hon. Gentleman never came down to the House, or said a word on the subject. To-night, however, he will have to speak, for the Licensing Bill is the great measure of the Session, and he will have to tell the House what benefit he expects the people of this country will derive from its operation. I, for my own part, have no hope that I and those by whom I am supported will succeed in defeating the Bill. I have said what I think of the Bill, and how fervently I condemn it; and I know it is of no use appealing to this side of the House for any strenuous support in throwing it out. The friends of temperance are "few in number;" we are "incoherent in argument;" and we are "inconsistent in action." I look along the front Opposition bench, and I see arrayed upon it the imaginary leaders of an imaginary party; and I know well from what has taken place during the past week, that whenever a contest comes on between the public and the publicans, some of the ablest of them always vote with the publicans. I have but one hope, and it is a feeble hope. I would earnestly appeal to the Conservative Members—to the country Gentlemen, the old traditional friends of order and good government—and I would ask them whether they can bring their consciences to support this Bill for the increase of drink-shops throughout this country? Can those who came in to support the present Government encourage that which will destroy all good government in the country? Will they open wider than they now are the floodgates of demoralization? I know that we are an Assembly of rich men, to whom it will make little difference, personally, how long or how short a time the houses are kept open. We suffer no inconvenience; but what about the women and children of the working classes, to whom it will be an unmitigated curse? Surely they should be regarded! If, then, the House should reject the present Bill, hon. Members will not only gain, by such a vote, the approbation of their own consciences, but the gratitude of posterity as well. For that reason, I beg to move its rejection.And lengthened the hours of drink."
Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—( Sir Wilfrid Lawson.)
Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
feared he should lay himself open to some blame in the eyes of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle in asking him to temper justice with mercy. None, however, could say that the hon. Baronet had not been impartially just, for he had treated with equal severity the first measure introduced on the subject, and also the second and third measures which had been substituted for the first. He asked his hon. Friend to abstain from his design of throttling at the very moment of its birth the first poor child of the Conservative Administration—this weak offspring of a strong Government. He could see in his mind the appeal that would be made by the Government. They would say "Sorely against the grain, sorely against the declarations of our own supporters at the hustings, and sorely against our own original proposals, we have succeeded to a certain extent in restricting the hours of drinking; but we have kept as near the Act of 1872 as public decency permitted." That would be, if not a just, yet a plausible appeal on the part of the Government. On the other hand, the hon. Baronet might say, "I know you gave the hours of closing to be scrambled for by the House, but even my thanks for that concession are considerably diminished by the fact that after a certain party had been successful, the Government tried to wrest that success from them." Some of the supporters of the Government had endeavoured to induce the Home Secretary to move in the direction indicated by the hon. Baronet; but why, he might ask, at the time of the Elections did they not show the same spirit? Bad, however, as the Bill was, it was not so bad as it was when it was introduced by the Government. He would advise the hon. Baronet, then, even at the expense of the Bill to enable them to got rid of the publican and of the idea that the drinking of a glass of beer had a political effect. The Government started in such a position when the Bill was introduced, that the country would have felt more anxious upon this matter, but for the successful effort made by the House to improve it. There was a new Government, a new Parliament, a new majority, and a new Home Secretary, with regard to whom it was worth remembering that even the Liberal Press received the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman with courtesy. ["Oh!"] The leading journal had spoken in favourable terms of the appointment, and had remarked that even those who had not been chosen to the office, would give the suffrage of Themistocles, and admit that next to themselves he ought to have been chosen. He thought the right hon. Gentleman himself had quoted the appreciative terms in which he had been dealt with by the Liberal Press. [Laughter.] It was all very well for hon. Members to laugh, but that was not the treatment which Liberal Members of Parliament had received from the Conservative Press. The right hon. Gentleman commanded an innumerable host against the small army of the Liberal party, and with all these advantages, and this immense power, what had the Government done on that licensing question? They had produced this poor miserable Bill, of which they themselves were obliged to say that it was scarcely important, and amended merely in detail the Act of 1872. It was because the Bill, with all its faults, did not differ so greatly from the Act of 1872 that he believed it would be an unwise course to vote against the third reading. They could not, of course, forget the many changes of opinion which had passed over the mind of the Government in the course of these proceedings. They knew the three great stages through which the Bill had passed. First, the stage of expansion, when they proposed, what no one in the House could be found afterwards to support, that every public-house in the Kingdom should practically be open half-an-hour later. Then, there came the second stage, when, frightened at what they had done, and finding they were not supported by any great interest or party outside or inside the House, they came into Committee, and there surrendered, mainly upon the question of hours, changing from 11.30 in the large towns to 11 in all places of above 2,500 inhabitants, and to 10 o'clock below that line. During the progress in Committee Government supported generally all the Motions restricting the hours, and as soon as they had passed the Bill through Committee they changed their mind again. And then, during the consideration of the Report from day to day, with the shortest possible notice, and in many cases without giving any notice at all, they introduced important changes—if not, indeed, vital changes'—into the Bill. It was in that stage, after having fixed the closing hour for all places under 2,500 inhabitants at 10 o'clock, they introduced again the principle of discretion which they had discarded, while they declared, in doing so, that they had made absolutely no change at all. After having proposed that there should be in towns and populous places a limit of population, they surrendered, at the instance of the hon. and gallant Colonel opposite (Colonel Barttelot), the limit of population, and throw the whole thing open. After an adjournment, which they most unwillingly conceded, they again found out that they had made a mistake, and consented to a population of 1,000 for both towns and populous places. These were some of the changes which had been brought about by a Government that charged Lord Aberdare with not knowing his own mind. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the late Government did not understand their business when they dealt with the licensing question. It seemed to him (Mr. Goschen) that he might, with every confidence as to the result, venture to contrast the conduct of those two Bills through the House. There was not a single hon. Gentleman opposite who was not astonished at the changes of opinion which had come across the mind of the Government during the course of these proceedings. He wished to point out that there were only the towns of between 2,500 and 10,000 inhabitants, besides the metropolis, where the Government had not proposed different hours at different stages of the Bill. He would say on behalf of many who sat on the Liberal side of the House, that they were not responsible for this farrago of opinions. They might have been responsible, if the right hon. Gentleman had confined himself to stating that the hours would I be settled by the House; but he could not deny that during the progress of the Report, he used his majority as strongly as he possibly could, again to change the hours which had been deliberately settled by the House in Committee. Now, let the Bill pass on to "another place," and they might possibly see some more changes of opinion before they had done with it, which would recommend themselves to the acceptance of the House. He could not conclude without making one emphatic observation with regard to these changes of opinion. Changes of opinion founded on evidence placed before the House of Commons were not only justifiable, but commanded approbation; but changes of opinion made without the production of any evidence, or sometimes even in spite of its production, could not command the same esteem. What evidence had the Government produced? On the second reading of this Bill, the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary stated that the original hours of the Bill were founded upon opinions received from the magistrates, the police, the clergy, and the publicans themselves. How much of that evidence had been seen by the House? Of the evidence of the clergy, the magistrates, and the publicans they knew nothing. The House only knew that when they saw the Bill, they repudiated the hours which the hon. Member stated had been fixed on their authority. And as regarded the police, and those celebrated Mayors who were thrown over by the right hon. Gentleman because they had not reported in favour of the Bill, when the House saw the documents, they found that so far from justifying the hours which had been fixed by the Government, they went in the teeth of those hours and recorded the success of the Act of 1872. The evidence of the police they had never seen, and never would see, as the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister rescued the Ministers from the difficulty in which they found themselves; but they had reason to believe that that evidence was in favour of shorter and not longer hours. He thought, therefore, he was not without justification on that the third reading, in protesting against this manner of dealing with the evidence on questions of the highest importance. Not only was the evidence not given to them, but quotations were made from it in support of the other side; so that if it had not been for the pertinacity evinced by hon. Members on the Opposition benches, and for which he hoped hon. Members opposite would forgive them, they would never have known that the bulk of that evidence was in favour of shorter and not longer hours. They knew the state of confusion through which they had passed during several stages of the Bill. Every-body knew how, during the debates, the publicans first lost hope, then hon. Members opposite lost confidence, next the whole House lost its way, and how, finally, the right hon. Gentleman opposite lost his equilibrium. They knew how, in the next stage, he endeavoured to rescue himself from that confusion, and how he succeeded in doing it. The hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle had shown how many imperfections there were in this Bill, and hon. Members on his (Mr. Goschen's) side of the House had endeavoured to remedy many of them, and he (Mr. Goschen) trusted the Government would so far do justice to the House of Commons, as to admit that every attempt had been made to assist them in passing this most difficult Bill. It would never be possible to obtain a unanimous agreement upon questions of licensing, and taking it that they had come to a compromise upon the matter, he thought that on the whole, it was best they should allow the Bill to go to the House of Lords. It was not for hon. Members on his side of the House to consider whether hon. Members opposite had paid the publicans, their friends, in depreciated coin; neither was it for them to consider whether the publicans had changed their opinions. [Cries of "Order!"] He hoped he had not exceeded the privileges of debate on an occasion of this sort. He was venturing to point out that they must throw the responsibility of the measure upon Her Majesty's Government and their supporters, as it was not for that side of the House to consider why they had first recanted, again recanted, and then recanted their recantation. When that Bill wont to the House of Lords it would be followed with very little enthusiasm, and with no respect at all; but he thought that on that side of the House, they should allow it to pass with contemptuous acquiescence.
thought that if hon. Members opposite reviewed the whole history of the measure, they would find that, sick bantling as it was presumed to be, it was obliged to be brought forward as an Amendment of the Act which the late Government succeeded in passing. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Goschen) had asked them to contrast the mode in which the Bill had been passed with that in which the Bill in 1872 was passed. They could indeed well afford to recall to their memories the circumstances connected with the Act of 1872. They know that it was at the close of the Session, when a great many of the Members of the House had gone away, that a number of clauses were put in, and a compromise effected with reference to this very question of hours; the House being assured that the judgment of the Government was not intended to be binding as to the particular hour, but that it was to be left entirely to the discretion of the justices. Speaking on behalf of the present Bill in an entirely unprejudiced manner, he wished to refer to two or three points in which the Act of 1872 necessarily required amendment. First of all, with regard to hours in the metropolitan districts. That Bill was passed through Committee in so great a hurry that there was no hour fixed at which public-houses were to close, and it was only by mere inference that the magistrates were able to come to a decision upon that matter. But it was said that the present Bill made no great alteration in respect to the hours of closing. That was true, but what they had done was this. It was known that directly the Act of 1872 was passed, a great question was raised as to whether it was intended to give the magistrates a discretion with reference to the hours of opening and closing; and what they now said was, that it was better there should be no discretion, that Parliament should take this duty upon itself, and fix the time at which public-houses should open and close. In doing away with that discretion, the Government took the House completely into their confidence, and did not make any recantations. Each side had stated their opinions, and every hon. Member who had spoken had been most attentively listened to by Her Majesty's Government. Having said what they thought about the hours, the House had come to the conclusion that 12.30 should be the time absolutely fixed for closing in the metropolis, instead of leaving the matter in a state of indefiniteness; that it should be 11 in towns and populous places, and 10 in the country. They had also said that exemptions in favour of theatres should be done away with, and that although it was a little hard that no time should be allowed a man for the consumption of liquor, they had refused him any grace in the matter. Although exemptions had been discontinued in the case of theatres, they had been added where they were absolutely necessary, as in the case of harvesting. But there was one clause in the Bill which he was indeed glad to see, and which he hailed with a great deal of pleasure, because it was a step in the right direction, and that was the clause which gave to all landlords power to choose what hour earlier than specified they might close their houses, and which induced them to do it by taking off one-seventh of their licence. He should be glad to see that principle further extended, so as to induce persons to close their houses at 8, 9, or even 6 o'clock, taking off a proportionate part of the licence. It was worth while to pass the Bill, if only for the introduction of that clause. Then there were several other matters. There was, above all, the question of giving to the publican power to protect himself against a malâ fide traveller. They had laid down a definition, as far as they could, to protect the publican. They allowed him to go before a magistrate and throw the onus upon the pseudo-traveller, if he had deceived the publican, and to put the burden on the right horse. There was one other point to which he would call attention, and that was a matter with which his hon. and learned Friend the Member for the City of Oxford said he would deal. Under the Act of 1872 policemen had power to go into any licensed house, and might examine "any room or part of such premises." The publicans naturally resented that, looking upon it as an interference in every way with their private establishments. In the 15th clause of this Bill, the policeman was put in the right direction, and it was not in any way suggested that he should interfere with the private rights of the publican, as he did under the Act of 1872. He had really thought they were to dissociate that matter entirely from questions of party, and, in fact, he understood that they were to discuss it as between men who had the interest of public morality at heart, and the protection of the rights of the publican. He therefore regretted that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London had addressed them in a very different spirit that evening. He hoped the House would look at the Bill as a whole. They had endeavoured to consider by what means they could regulate the liquor traffic, so as to prevent drunkenness without injuring the vested or any other rights which the publican might have. He had found that the; publicans who had come to consult him on this matter were men who had de-sired to conduct their houses orderly; and he had found amongst them rather a desire to limit the hours than to extend them. He hoped, therefore, that the Motion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle would not be accepted. The Bill would go to "another place" for further consideration, when what was bad in the drafting of it would probably be amended; but as regarded the principle of the Bill he thought it was a great improvement on the Act of 1872.
said, he was not surprised that the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, with his opinions, should have moved an Amendment, but he hoped he would not press it to a Division. He thought that in the main the expression of opinion on both sides of the House would pretty much coincide with words attributed to a dignitary of the Dublin Corporation—that bad as the Bill was when it was originally brought in, it was equally worse now. The Public-house Bill would perhaps jostle up against the Bishops' Bill on its way down from the Lords; and if they had the power of speech the Bishops' Bill might take counsel with the Publicans' Bill. If it were true that there was an alliance—as had been said at the last Election—between the Church and the Beer-barrel, then the Bishops' Bill, rather nervous as to its reception in the Lower House, might ask the Licensing Bill, in what temper the House was when it left. The Licensing Bill might say, that it had been conceived by a grateful Government under the exhilarating influence of a successful Election; but that its parturition had been protracted and painful, and it had at last come forth shorn of its due proportions; that it had not expected much favour from the Opposition side of the House, but that on the other side, opinions had been by no means unanimous, and that the Home Secretary even had been on several occasions at sixes and sevens with himself. Never having held office himself, he felt no antagonism to those now in power, nor was he disposed to blame them for their mode of dealing with a question which had many inherent difficulties. He had long recognized the ability of the right hon. Gentleman at the Home Office, who had immediate charge of the measure; and he also fully appreciated the tact with which the Prime Minister had imported good humour into the discussions on the Bill. It was all very well for hon. Members to say that Lord Aberdare, or the right hon. Gentleman now at the Home Office, had equally made a botch of the Licensing Bill; but his own belief was, that anybody who held what he would call that most odious office, would be just as likely to make a botch of a measure of that character. Indeed, if an angel from heaven were to come down and bring in a Licensing Bill, he would find it too much for him, and the result would be just the same. The moment they began to legislate upon questions affecting the social habits of the great masses of the people, with which they were but imperfectly acquainted, they found in the way almost insuperable difficulties. Again, be would appeal to the hon. Baronet not to press his Amendment.
said, that the Bill had certainly not been introduced for any purpose of satisfying the wishes of the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, nor did he think the hon. Gentleman could expect any greater concessions, after the Bill which he so persistently brought before the House himself. Neither was the Bill brought in on the part of her Majesty's Government to satisfy the expectations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London. They had not—though once or twice in the debate they had heard to the contrary—received much help from the right hon. Gentleman and his Friends towards arriving at a satisfactory conclusion. He admitted, however, that they had no right to expect any. The right hon. Gentleman had a perfect right to lie by for a time, and when the labours of the Committee were satisfactorily concluded, come down to the House on the third reading of the Bill and find all possible fault with the House, the Bill, and himself (Mr. Cross). He hoped his shoulders were strong enough to bear any blame which the right hon. Gentleman might throw on them, and he hoped before he sat down to be able to show the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, that it was not easy to arrive at a sound and satisfactory conclusion relative to one part of the Bill before it was brought to its present state. The right hon. Gentleman had asked why the Government had not left matters alone, and what fault they had found with the Bill of Lord Aberdare. He (Mr. Cross) believed no one in that House had spoken more strongly than himself in defence of the view with which the measure of Lord Aberdare was proposed; but complaints were urged that he made great mistakes in that measure. Those mistakes were before the country, and were the grievances complained of. It was complained that under the Bill there was no security for property invested in the trade, and no security for the character of a man engaged in carrying it on. Those were grievances which he believed they had met by the Bill. In the Bill they made tolerably secure, both the property of the owner and also the character of the occupier, if he conducted his business respectably. They had come to conclusions which, embodied in the Bill, would be a great protection to capital invested in the trade, and to persons interested in it, and which at the same time would tend to make the trade itself as respectable as it could be. In the former Bill there were several harsh provisions. There was a provision of a minimum penalty; there was a provision for the forfeiture of a licence under certain circumstances; there was a provision for taking away the discretion of the magistrates with regard to endorsements; and after three endorsements a licence was to be forfeited. Well, they had by the Bill protected not only the property which was invested in the trade, but the character of the man who was engaged as the occupier of a house in carrying on the trade. They had further done away with exceptional legislation with respect to the trade, and endeavoured to put it on the same footing as all other trades, without particular legislation attaching to it, in order that it should be carried on and dealt with with the same fairness and impartiality as other trades. They had swept away all the adulteration clauses, from which such odium attached to persons engaged in the trade, and in doing so they were enabled also to sweep away the clause which empowered the policeman and the exciseman to enter any part of a public-house and search it. But they also took care that ample power should be reserved to the police to enter such a house and interfere in the interests of public order. He believed that they had done great things for those who were engaged in this trade. They had given their definition of a bonâ fide traveller. They had placed all classes of the trade on the same footing. They had allowed that privilege which he believed publicans valued very much—namely, that of entertaining their private friends, and they had done away with the exceptional licences which were so invidious in the metropolis, and which he believed caused much dissatisfaction in the trade. They had also taken away from the magistrates throughout the country the power of fixing at what hour these houses should be opened and at what hours they should be closed. They were gradually getting into a very undesirable position in reference to this and other matters; and a belief was spreading over various parts of the country that the magistrates were exercising those powers, not for the purpose of adapting these houses to the wants of the particular localities in which they were situated, but were acting perfectly bonâ fide, yet still with a bias on their minds, which led them to the conclusion that the best thing they could do was practically to shorten the hours to the utmost extent allowed bylaw. That was, in point of fact, what the hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle desired to do, and it was a course fraught with mischief. On the other hand, they; had taken security for order, and had done a great deal towards promoting early closing of licensed houses. They had closed the night houses in London, which were a source of untold mischief in the metropolis. They had placed the occasional licences under the same supervision of the police that every other licensed house was before; and they had provided that at all fairs and races every person who obtained a licence to sellintoxi-cating liquors should be placed under the control of the local magistrates, like every one else who sold intoxicating liquors. With the one exception of a question of a half-hour, the provisions of the original Bill had not been disturbed. He believed that in its present state the Bill would prove of inestimable benefit to both the trade and the public. That which kept them so long in discussing, but upon which, as he said in introducing the Bill, no two persons could think alike, was the fixing of the precise hours at which public-houses should be closed. On that matter he should like to say a word or two. When it became evident that the wish of the country was against closing, in the large towns, at 11.30, then there immediately disappeared any reason why public-houses and beer-houses should not be placed distinctly and practically on the same footing. Then came the question what hour should be fixed for the towns and what hour for the country. They had now fixed 12.30 for the metropolis, 11 for towns, and 10 for the country. Next came that question which everyone had admitted to be of the greatest practical difficulty—namely, how they were to distinguish in an Act of Parliament by a suitable definition between town and country. It was easy to pronounce at once in the case of towns of large population. In the case of towns of 10,000 or 20,000 inhabitants, for example, they could at once be distinguished as towns; but when they came to towns of small magnitude in which it was obvious that public-houses should be closed at an hour at which no one would think of closing houses in the larger towns; in the case of those small places it became a matter of the greatest difficulty to distinguish between town and country. He confessed he thought at first he could have made the distinction by means of a definition contained in some other Act. That he had, perhaps, too long clung to the definition of an urban sanitary authority, and to the old well known "parish" or "township." This difficulty presented itself, however, that they always found some perverse individual who had built his house just over the bridge, or otherwise designedly placed his house outside the boundary. It became necessary, therefore, to delegate to some other local authority, not the question at what time public-houses should be closed in the neighbourhood, but simply what was the boundary of the town in every direction. They had done, in fact, precisely what was done in determining the powers of the Boundary Commissioners under the Reform Acts. Having thus settled that question, the next matter was to define the difference between town and country. He had endeavoured to find, but without success, how that could be done, but he found that it could not be done without the assistance of the local authorities being called in, as it had been for the purpose of defining the boundaries of towns, just as was shown by the Census Commissioners in 1861 and 1871, and he had, at last, fallen back upon the term "populous place," well known to the Scotch Law in Acts relating to police, and introduced this very Session into a Scotch Licensing Bill by the hon. Member for Fife. By adopting, therefore, the phrase and the user from the people of Scotland, and by allowing the licensing committee to define populous places as well as towns, they had, he believed, found a practical way out of a difficulty which stood in their way, because they had all along been agreed that in towns the hour of closing should be 11, and in the country 10. The question was a difficult one, and had taken a long time to solve, but it had at last, he hoped, been solved to the satisfaction of the House. The Bill, if it became law as it now stood, would, he thought, be satisfactory not only to the House, but to the country at large, and he hoped it might be a long time before Parliament would be again called upon to consider a Licensing Bill.
The House divided:—Ayes 328; Noes 39; Majority 289.
Main Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read the third time, and passed.
Friendly Societies Bill
( Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Secretary Cross, Mr. William Henry Smith.)
Bill 140 Second Reading
Order for Second Reading read.
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that as the hon. Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had given Notice of an Amendment that it was inexpedient to proceed with the measure during the present Session, he would not now enter upon the question of the merits of the Bill. He was, how over, anxious to say one or two words as to the course which he proposed to take, and to explain two or three important Amendments which he intended to propose. He stated when he introduced the Bill that, considering the complexity of the subject, and the interest taken in it in the country, it was desirable that the details of the measure should be canvassed outside the House; that, if the necessary Amendments could be agreed upon, the House should go into Committee pro formâ and that the Bill should then be re-printed. Since that time he had received many communications, and had seen a good many members of these societies. He had also conferred with several hon. Members of the House, and had satisfied himself that there were one or two points on which the Bill could be improved without changing the principles on which it was founded. One point which naturally excited great interest, and on which it would be desirable to make a change, was in the matter of infant insurance. Without entering into the arguments which showed that some provisions were necessary to check the evils that were going on, he had come to the conclusion that an absolute prohibition of the insurance of lives of children below three years, as contained in the Bill, was not at present essentially necessary. The danger was not that parents should be able to insure the lives of infants for a sum that would cover the necessary funeral expenses, but that parents and others should have the means by these societies of insuring infant lives very far in excess of the expense of funerals. What he now proposed was, that parents should be allowed to insure the lives of children below three years, as heretofore, bat that the amount should be reduced so as not to be more than was necessary to cover the funeral expenses—namely, from 30s. to £2, as the House might hereafter decide. It would also be necessary to put a stop to the present system of insuring the lives of children in more than one society, and to restrict the permission to the parents themselves. The insurance of infant life would then be put upon a legitimate footing. There were two other points connected with this Bill which required explanation. It had been objected that the measure established a Government machinery much too large, and an idea existed that the Government were going to create throughout the country a very large and important staff for working the Bill. That, however, was a misunderstanding, and it had never been the intention of the Government that a number of new officers should be created. What was proposed was to strengthen the central authority, so that it should include Scotland and Ireland as well as England; and to establish district registration, not by new machinery, but by employing certain officers already known and existing throughout the country. District Registrars were necessary for two purposes—to facilitate the registration of small societies, and to give to the inhabitants of distant districts ready access to information respecting the societies carrying on their operations in the district. The Government, when the Bill was framed, were uncertain what would be the best machinery to employ, and they at first proposed that the Chief Registrar should have the power of framing a system of rules. An impression accordingly prevailed that the Government proposed to establish a much larger and more cumbrous machinery than they had ever contemplated. It was now intended, instead of district Registrars, to employ the clerks of the peace for the different counties, who were to offer facilities for the registration of these societies, and from whom information might be obtained in regard to them. Another change would be made. A clause in the Bill gave the Chief Registrar power to make regulations for carrying out its provisions. That was in accordance with the Trades Unions Act, and a similar provision existed in the Act of 1870, proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Lowe). It was now proposed, in deference to certain apprehensions which had been entertained, not to strike out the clause, but somewhat to limit it, and when the Bill was reprinted some of the regulations which it was contemplated the Registrar should make would be introduced into the Bill. When the Bill was reprinted, the House would see that in place of the district Registrars, whose appointment should be revised by the Treasury, the machinery of the clerks of the peace would be adopted. In place, moreover, of the general power given to the Chief Registrar to make regulations, the House would see the regulations embodied in the Bill itself. He would now move the second reading of the Bill thus modified. The hon. Baronet (Sir Charles W. Dilke) had given Notice of his intention to move an Amendment, declaring that it was too late in the Session to proceed with so important and complicated a measure. He was himself so well aware of the difficulties and complications of the subject, that he had been from the first far from desirous to press it forward unduly and against the feeling of the House and the country, and if a general opinion were expressed that the Bill should stand over until next Session, he should be by no means disposed to force it on. On the other hand, the general effect of the communications he had received from a large number of important societies was that it was desirable, if possible, to pass the Bill this Session, and that the general lines upon which the Bill was framed had obtained the approval of the persons and interests concerned. He wished it to be distinctly understood that what he desired was not so much speedy as satisfactory legislation. Certainly, he was not prepared to force the measure in opposition to the sense of the House and the country. There was one other remark he wished to make. The Bill dealt not only with friendly societies, but with several other classes of societies, and the reason was two-fold. It was very desirable that the country should see what functions were assigned to the Registrar of Friendly Societies; therefore the Bill was made to include all societies with which he was at present connected. In the second place, he believed it would be found that the legislation with regard to these different classes of societies was very nearly, but not quite, similar. There was some little difference, which it might be as well to get rid of; but if the House thought the Bill should be lightened by confining it to friendly societies, it would be perfectly competent to do so. His object, in including those other societies in the Bill, had been to show how many they had to deal with, how important the Registrar of Friendly Societies was, how analogous the treatment of the Legislature generally had been, and how convenient it would be to deal with them all in a single measure. He adhered to the general principle on on which the Bill was founded—that there should continue to be a registration of friendly societies, and that that registration should be of a local and a district character. He would conclude by moving the second reading of the Bill.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—( Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)
, who had on the Paper an Amendment to the effect—
said, he thought the changes announced by the right hon. Gentleman would so very largely reduce the proportions of the Bill, and wholly alter the character of the subject with which they had now to deal, that probably most hon. Gentlemen who had read the Bill, would be of opinion that it was desirable to see more of it. He understood the right hon. Gentleman had expressed his intention to omit from the Bill the various societies with which it dealt other than friendly societies proper. If the House should be of that opinion, although the clauses which dealt with the other classes of societies were very important, considering the interests with which they dealt, he should not move the Resolution of which he had given Notice. At present the Bill dealt with cattle insurance societies, charitable societies, burial funds, scientific and literary societies, trades unions, and loan societies, and it excited very great interest in almost every part of the community. It affected the interests of all union and non-union workmen, nearly all shopkeepers' assistants, and a large number of shopkeepers and their dependents. Besides, the subject was one on which they had singularly little general information, while the Report of the Commission, which sat three or four years and examined. 300 witnesses, had only been in the hands of hon. Members for three weeks, and the four great volumes of Reports of the Assistant Commissioners had been published only last week. The members of the societies as well as the officers were affected by the Bill, and in dealing with a subject affecting 4,000,000 of people and enormous funds without the fullest information, they would be risking considerable damage to the provident and self-reliant institutions of the country as they at present existed. The Bill, it was objected, either went too far, or it did not go far enough. It did not touch the great question raised two or three years ago by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for London University (Mr. Lowe) respecting registration. If it were true that insolvency was common amongst these societies, he thought they would be bound to go further than it was proposed to do, and to insist that no societies should be registered unless they were solvent. Would not Government registration be taken as a proof of solvency? If they did not go that length, he thought they should hesitate in dealing with the subject by means of local registers, which might disgust the officials of the societies and break them up altogether. The right hon. Gentleman had made a concession with regard to local registers which considerably altered the nature of the Bill. Had he persevered in his original intention, and if the House had thought it was not too late to proceed with the Bill, he should have voted against the second reading. In introducing the Bill the right hon. Gentleman used words which, though not intended to bear the signification, did suggest that there were to be a considerable body of assistant Registrars, which he said would undoubtedly lead to considerable expense; and, therefore, the House was justified in believing that he intended to create separate local registration officers in every county throughout England, Ireland, and Scotland. If that had been his intention, he ventured to say the effect would have been most disastrous on the prudence and self-reliance which it was the duty of that House to inculcate in the people. The right hon. Gentleman had also made another concession, for he had undoubtedly removed a considerable amount of popular anxiety by the change he proposed to introduce into the Bill with respect to burial societies. The proposal with regard to the compulsory abolition of childrens' insurances gave rise to much ill-feeling, especially in the North of England, where such insurances were very general, and it would have been felt to be a very great hardship upon many working men and women who had been in the habit of providing out of their savings for such a contingency. He believed that the provisions of the 65th clause, which would remain in the Bill, would be amply sufficient, if the Bill should be passed that Session, to secure the result at which the right hon. Gentleman aimed in preventing cases of child-murder, if there were any. The Report of the Commission was very far from confirming the reports which had been made in the newspapers, and sometimes in the House, in regard to those child-murders; and it ought not, he thought to go forth that it was the opinion of the House that it had been established before the Commission that those cases of child-murder had occurred. He still doubted whether the House was in a position to deal satisfactorily with the whole question at present, but after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman and the conciliatory spirit he had shown with respect to suggested Amendements, he felt that he could not press the Motion of which he had given Notice."That it is impossible, looking to the state of Public Business, that the House should give, this year, that amount of time to the complicated question of the relations between the great Friendly Societies and the State which the importance of the subject deserves,"
said, he quite concurred in much which had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken. The question under discussion was one of the utmost importance, affecting as it did, directly and indirectly, 8,000,000 of people and a sum of money still larger, amounting to £11,000,000. On so large a scale, indeed, were the affairs of those societies conducted that a single society, the Manchester Unity—a well-managed society—found, on investigating its accounts, that it was no less than £1,000,000 behindhand. If, therefore, anything could be done to place those societies on a better footing, it was the duty of that House to do it, and the Government which effected the object would deserve the thanks of the community. But when he had said that much, he had said everything that could be set forth on the right side of the question. It was now four years since the Registrar of Friendly Societies died, and the appointment of his successor lay with him (Mr. Lowe), and he came to the conclusion that as things then stood, the registry, which was meant as a benefit to those societies, had become a very serious injury, for the reason that it inspired the public with a confidence in the society which there was nothing in the mere fact of a registry to justify. In that view, the late Government, at his (Mr. Lowe's) instigation, introduced a Bill which, if it had passed, would have placed them in the hands of the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies, and have in that way broken all connection between them and the Government, and have thus taken from them that sense of carefulness and security with which that connection had inspired them. It had, however, in consequence of objections received from the societies themselves, been deemed better to refer the matter to a Commission, which had taken great pains to consider the subject, and of whose proceedings the present Bill was the result. There was, he might add, a great distinction between the societies now in existence and those which might here-after be formed, and the present Bill might deal exceedingly well with one part of the subject, though not with another. The treatment of the two branches must, indeed, necessarily be different. What, for example, was the state of things which the Commission disclosed? He regretted to say, excellent as were the objects of the societies, their accounts were, according to the report of the Commission, of the most unsatisfactory character. It was grievous to think that so much good intention had led persons into a condition so disastrous. In the first place, the principle of registration itself had broken down, and it was stated that the country swarmed with unregistered societies which had no legal power of suing or acting in any way, and which were absolutely unqualified to discharge in any way the duties which they took upon themselves. That, alone, represented a most serious evil. Then, it was said that the accounts of the societies were exceedingly ill-kept, and, in many cases, unintelligible; that the law which required valuation was not complied with; and that in those cases in which there was valuation, it was made by persons not properly versed in the business, or who did not properly discharge their duties. There was also, he believed, in most eases, no audit; and, worst of all, those societies which were founded for provident purposes were, it appeared, founded on principles so utterly inadequate that they were perfectly unable sometimes to secure to the poor the benefits which they were meant to confer. That was the picture he gathered from the Report of the Commission; and anything more melancholy, more deplorable, or calling more loudly on Parliament for a remedy, he could hardly conceive. Well, then, that being so, what were the remedies which the present Bill proposed to provide? Why, he must say, that they were utterly inadequate, and really amounted to nothing at all, or perhaps to worse than nothing, for he could not help thinking that such provisions as it contained, instead of tending to amend, would rather tend to make worse the existing state of things. It was, for instance, most important that there should be a correct valuation; but the Bill, while it would render necessary the expense of having a body of valuators, did not provide that the valuation should be made by persons in whom the public would have confidence. The same remark applied to the furnishing of accounts, and while there were to be auditors, the Government did not venture to say to the societies that they should employ those auditors. And that was all that was done by the Bill to remedy the evils to which he referred, for as regarded registration, all existing societies had already been registered, and did not require re-registering. The whole matter, therefore, came to this—that those societies were to be loft in the perilous, and, in many cases, in a more deplorable state than that in which they found them, and that nothing was to be done to protect the weaker and less intelligent societies against persons of more intelligence on whom they relied. Indeed, their case was likely to be made much worse, because one of the peculiarities of Government interference was that Government could not meddle in private affairs without giving rise to the suspicion of being ready to do a great deal more than it would be justified in doing. He thought, therefore, the Government should never attempt to touch these matters, unless it was prepared to exercise sufficient power to justify the expectations formed of it. There were many things which might be suggested to be done; for instance, the audits, forms of account, and tables of which he had spoken might be made compulsory instead of optional. He could not say that he was able to censure the right hon. Baronet the Chancellor of the Exchequer for not attempting to do that; but this he did say, that if the right hon. Baronet was not prepared to go further than merely offering optional auditors, forms of accounts, and tables, it was a great pity that he should have brought forward any Bill upon the subject, because he could do nothing but mislead the public into thinking that some change was really taking place, and further inducing these societies to put off the only safe thing, a thorough ransacking of their affairs. He did not blame the Government for not doing more; what he blamed them for was, that they had done so much, and thus raised expectations which it was impossible for them to satisfy. They might have been advised to take the whole business into their hands, as they had taken that of the savings banks, and to enter into competition with the friendly societies; but the Commissioners had reported against that course, and he could not say that the Government were wrong in declining to adopt it, considering the difficulties with which they would continually have to contend. But there was another reason against that course of proceeding. People now joined these friendly societies without considering that they had another friendly society which was formed for them by the Government—namely, that of the Poor Law. But if the Government was to carry on two systems at the same time, one providing for old age by means of small payments from those who were to be benefited, the other by gratuitous assistance, who could doubt that the same feelings which had attached themselves to the Poor Law system would also come to be attached to Government friendly societies, and that the result would be either that it would undermine the whole system of friendly societies, or that the Government sick fund would become discredited, and would be regarded as a sort of Poor Law relief? What he most admired in these friendly societies was that they were really more ennobling and honourable than they seemed; for to find the people independent enough to pinch and save in their best days in order that they might not have to receive benefit from the Poor Law when old was a noble trait that ought never to be lost sight of. He came to the conclusion, therefore, that neither the plan proposed in the Bill nor a system of Government sick relief was likely to succeed or ought to be attempted. The result was, then, that they should leave these institutions to go on as they were doing, and to manage things in their own way. As had been described the other day in an article in The Times, they would go on as long as they could, and when they were called on to pay, they would pay to the best of their ability, and the only thing remaining for any Government was to give help whenever any of them set about remedying their own defects in the spirit shown by the Manchester Unity. For that reason, therefore, he was convinced the Bill could only add to the mischief already existing, and therefore he most earnestly hoped that the Government, unless they could really see their way to satisfy all the hopes they had excited, would not attempt to press it. He passed now to the new societies, and there they were to have a new system of registration; in other words, they were to have some 50 persons who were to perform the duty of Registrars all through the country. He did not know what the expense would be, but if it would do any good he should not grudge it. What would be the effect of registration? The effect of the registration, as defined by the Bill, was that "it should not be taken to imply that the rules of the society were legal, or that the society was established on a sound basis." People inferred from registration exactly what the Bill said it should not imply, and the inference therefore was, that instead of increasing and spreading the present system, the registration should be taken out of the hands of the present Department and placed under some other body, which should be as far as possible removed from the Government, and thus remove the notion that the Government was responsible for the legality or soundness of an undertaking which was registered. People inferred also that the rules when deposited with the Registrar must be legal, and it was most desirable that that link should be broken and the matter placed in other hands. He would suggest that, as in the case of joint-stock companies, an Act should be passed saying what might be the rules of the societies, and in that way there would be a much greater chance of securing uniformity of rules. He would not leave the rules merely to the approbation of the Registrar, but some body should be appointed who should decline to accept them, unless they were in accordance with the Act. In the same way, wherever a thing was to be provided by the rules, he thought that it should be provided by statute. It resulted very clearly from his observations that the matter was not at this moment ripe for legislation. They could not hope as things stood to make satisfactory progress, because after all it was not so much the future societies as the present that were of most importance in the consideration of this matter, and for them the Bill did little or nothing. The Government must do at least as much as would justify the confidence they were creating, and, failing that, they had better do nothing at all. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not proceed with the Bill this Session. Indeed, he did not doubt that he would be content to let it rest for another year, unless, indeed, he was prepared to make some suggestion which would enable the House at once to put an end to, or to alleviate to a very great degree, the growing evils which now injured these most valuable friendly institutions.
hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be in too great a hurry to press the Bill. Having had some experience in establishing these societies, he had come to the conclusion that three things were necessary to found and sustain a successful society. The first requisite was registration, without which a society had no legal status; the second was that its rules and tables should be examined and certified by a competent actuary; and the third was an efficient and a regular system of audit. In regard to registration, the Government gave some help; but in regard to the other two requisites, it afforded no assistance whatever. The solution of the difficulty lay in determining how far the certificate of the actuary and a regular audit might be made as necessary to the existence of a society, as registration was under the existing law, and it was a most difficult question to solve. Parliament had been placed in possession of a valuable Report on the subject, for which they were much indebted to those who had prepared it; but that Paper had not been yet sufficiently read and circulated, especially as upon it fresh legislation must be founded. Therefore, he asked that more time might be given to weigh the different clauses of which such a measure ought to be composed. What was meant by the words "other infirmity?" There were questions also concerning annuities, endowments, rate of interest, and other matters of the same kind, which required the fullest consideration and discussion. He had no desire to impede legislation, and his reason for asking for delay was, that such legislation might be rendered more perfect. A very much better feeling was growing up among working men with reference to these societies, which were now managed by intelligent artizans, who thoroughly understood the necessary calculations.
believed that many of these societies were founded on rules which were very unsatisfactory, and the consequence was that few of them were solvent; and, therefore, if Parliament hastily interfered with ill-considered legislation, it would do far more mischief than it could possibly do good. The circumstances of the rules being registered under an Act of Parliament led people to suppose they were correct; but, for his own part, he believed that even the most flourishing and the best conducted of these institutions were either insolvent or in a most dangerous condition, which was likely to lead to insolvency. Under these circumstances, he entreated the right hon. Gentleman to give the House time to consider this important subject, which, he believed, hardly 10 Gentlemen in that House understood. His opinion was, that the House could not really and properly legislate on the subject without full inquiry into the whole matter, and he therefore hoped the right hon. Gentleman would submit the matter to a carefully chosen Select Committee, which might frame rules for the guidance of these societies. He further hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not prosecute the subject this Session, but that he would be prepared to proceed with it next year.
said, he was very glad to learn that his right hon. Friend did not propose to press that part of the Bill which prevented the insurance of children's lives, and that he intended to regulate the amount of insurance. He wished to make a few remarks, however, on the Bill generally. The matter was of such vast importance that it was difficult not to be somewhat uneasy lest, while regulating these societies, they should make the Government responsible. At present all responsibility on the part of the Government was denied; but yet the way in which reports had to be referred to the Registrar, and the rules to be registered, produced such an impression upon the people that they really believed the Government was responsible. That was the substance of what the Commissioners said on the subject, and the question arose, whether the Bill would do anything to lessen that feeling, or whether it would do the reverse? It appeared to do the reverse; because it created an army of Registrars, and intrusted them with great powers. Among other things, they were to draw up tables of insurance. That was a most critical and important duty, because it was a matter in which a very slight percentage might make a great difference. Tables which might be sound in a district where the death-rate ranged from 16 to 20, would be unsound where it ranged from 25 to 35. How far would the issuing of these tables induce the people to believe that the Government was responsible? This was no easy matter to determine. Again, an accusation was made which was absolutely horrible in itself, and what foundation there was for it ought to be definitively ascertained by a Commission, armed with the fullest powers; it was that children were systematically insured with the object of getting rid of them by neglect or by bad treatment, and so obtaining the insurance money. It was his belief that the contrary would be established; because, 20 years ago, he was a Member of a Committee which sat on the subject of Friendly Societies, and which informally entered on this question on the suggestion of the then Attorney General, who gave the names of witnesses whose evidence it was supposed would establish the allegations that were made. The witnesses were examined, and, so far from confirming, negatived the charges. Three or four years afterwards Lord Palmerston, who was then Home Secretary, stated in that House that children were commonly made away with; but the assertion was denied, and, if any evidence could have been obtained, Lord Palmerston was not the man to hold his hand. No doubt, children were neglected, and had anodynes given to them with injudicious kindness; but he was sorry the Commissioners adopted the sensational statement of a coroner as to children being wilfully overlain, because mothers and nurses, with no evil intention, took children into bed in order to allay the irritation of teething by warmth, and it was difficult to avoid overlaying them. But, if the practice did not prevail to the extent supposed, the women of England ought to be freed from this cruel aspersion. The Registration Returns showed a steady diminution in the death-rate of infants under the age of three years, and it would be wise to obtain special Returns from the parts of the country where infant mortality was supposed to be the largest. When he came down to the House he was unaware of the changes which were to be made in the Bill, and the impression upon his mind was that the Government were proceeding upon the principle of "hanging first and trying afterwards." The Government came to the decision not that there should be inquiry, but that people should be prevented from doing that which they desired to do. He was glad now to find that that principle was not to be proceeded with, and he thought that it would have been wiser if the whole question had been left to stand over till another year.
said, that with regard to insurances of infant life, he thought the Government had proposed, not to take away from the working man the means of providing for the possible expense of burying his child, which would be most unjust, and not the less unjust because it conveyed a charge against a class, which it would be almost impossible to substantiate; but—and he thought wisely—to remove the temptation to bad conduct by reducing the sum to be obtained in such cases; for there was no doubt that some persons, not parents, who were entrusted with infant life required most carefully looking after. The general tone of the discussion that evening seemed to prove that it would be almost impossible that the Bill should become law that year. The period of the Session was late; the question was a most difficult and detailed one; the Bill had not been long before the public; and nothing could be more disadvantageous than to give to the large body of persons connected with those societies, the impression that there had been hurried legislation. On the other hand the care taken in preparing and introducing that Bill, and allowing it to be considered during the Recess would render it much easier to deal with the subject next year, and of course the Government would not then be pledged to the details of the present measure. Although, therefore, they might not be able to legislate upon it this Session, he hoped the Government would not give up the matter, for he took rather a more hopeful view than his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of London. He (Mr. Forster) saw the dangers which his right hon. Friend had so clearly described; but they must consider the facts with which they had to deal. There existed a very great and most laudable desire on the part of the working people to do without the Poor Law; they competed with the Poor Law, and disliked coming upon the rates more than they used to do. They were anxious to save, especially upon a safe principle. If statistics could be obtained on that point, he believed it would be found that in regard to providence, the working class could hold their own with any other class excepting men of business. They could hold their own with the professional class, and, perhaps, even with the landed class, in respect to the amount they saved, especially having regard to the difficulties and temptations which beset them. For want of knowledge and information, however, they conducted their saving in many cases upon unwise and unsafe principles. The House, therefore, ought to be certain that it could do nothing to help them, before it determined to leave them in their present condition. Many of those Societies would acknowledge that they were in an unsafe position. Many years ago, before he was a Member of that House, he took a great interest on that subject in his neighbourhood, and then the Odd Follow Societies were in a much worse state than they were now. Many men had put the savings of a life in Societies which were in this position—that without young men constantly joining they must fail. The Odd Fellows, themselves, however, had the real facts brought before them, and they were not afraid to say—"If we go on upon our present principles we shall be insolvent, and therefore we must try to get upon a sounder footing." Other associations ought to be able by means of a levy to do the same, and no doubt, they would be able to do so when called upon. When the Societies faced their difficulties with such courage and prudence the House need not despair of the future. Then came the question—could they do good by further legislation? They must take care to avoid misleading the Members of those Societies, and he was not sure that the details of this Bill sufficiently guarded against that evil. On the card of membership there might be a printed statement showing unmistakably what was guaranteed and what was not. Then he thought the Government was right in giving actuarial information; and the furnishing of sound tables, which could be produced by the best knowledge in the country for almost any condition in life, was a step which the Government might take with safety. That would be a great boon to the working class, and it would have the effect of gradually weeding out the worst Societies. All that, of course, would have to be done with the greatest possible caution, so as not to give the members the notion that the Government had guaranteed what it really had not guaranteed. Those difficulties might be better met if the matter stood over for the year, and the Government would bring in a measure early next Session. Although they had had a Commission, he was not at all clear that it would not be desirable to send the Bill which might be introduced next year to a Select Committee not with the view of collecting further evidence, but to get the assistance of those hon. Members who knew most about the subject, in discussing the details of every clause with a degree of care which was unattainable in that House. A Select Committee could not, of course, sit during the present Session, but if his right hon. Friend withdrew the Bill now, with the view of re-introducing it next Session, he hoped he would consider very carefully which classes of society he would include in its operation. His own opinion was strongly in favour of excluding trades unions, for he saw no advantage in mixing them up with friendly societies.
said, he must congratulate the right hon. Baronet on the able manner in which he proposed to deal with a very large and very complicated question, and for endeavouring to consolidate the laws affecting friendly societies by repealing eight of the number. He believed that those societies were desirous of such legislation as would clearly define their position, and were willing to assent to any regulations and restrictions which Parliament might impose upon them with the view of affording protection to the weak and helpless, and in order to satisfy the public that their business was conducted upon sound principles. At the same time, they viewed with considerable apprehension certain provisions contained in the Bill. First of all, they viewed with apprehension the proposal of having a Chief Registrar with almost unlimited power. They were indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for explaining that he proposed to limit and define the power of the Chief Registrar, and he would suggest that they should have three Registrars—one for England, one for Scotland, and one for Ireland—and that the certificate of either of the three should be valid in the United Kingdom. Another objection which friendly societies had to the Bill was the multiplication of officials. Some of those societies were splendid examples of the forethought and self-denial of the better members of the working classes, who had organized them without the aid of Government; and with that self-reliance and love of independence which characterized the people of this country, they were naturally jealous of any undue interference on the part of Government, and looked upon the appointment of a large number of officials as likely to lead to harassing and needless interference, which would prevent the expansion of existing societies and the establishment of new ones. He did not think it wise for any Government to do for the people what they could do better for themselves. The limit of interference should be the protection of the helpless, and therefore he trusted that the duty of deputy Registrars would be simply confined to giving such information as might be necessary in connection with those societies. He now came to the third provision in the Bill, which had excited more interest than any other part—namely, the 65th clause—by which it was proposed to exclude from the benefits of insurance, infants under three years of age. In introducing this Bill, the right hon. Gentleman said—
This was a most alarming statement, and he agreed with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) that if there was the slightest foundation for that statement, the most searching investigation should take place. He had carefully examined the Report of the Royal Commissioners, and was glad to say that the evidence contained in that Report did not, in his opinion, warrant the conclusion arrived at by the right hon. Baronet. Doubtless, cases occurred where cruel or careless mothers might shorten infant life, just as adult life might be shortened by culpable neglect; but he did not believe that friendly societies were the cause of the excessive mortality referred to. The Royal Commissioners showed that for every 100 children in this country that died under one year of age, 38 died from one to two years of age; whereas, in eight of the largest towns in England, for every 100 that died under one year of age, 50 died from one to two years of age. The reason assigned in the Report was as follows—"The insurance of infants, it was believed, led to great carleessness, and it was shown that where these burial societies existed, the mortality of infant life was lamentably in excess of what it was elsewhere. They proposed, therefore, not to permit the insurance of infants below three years of age."
Now, he would call attention to this fact—that most, if not all, these societies gave half-benefit for children who died after the age of six months—that was to say, the parents insured a child for £5, and if it lived to the age of six months, the parents received £2 10s. in case the child died, and if it lived to the age of one year, they received the full amount of £5. Now, he put it to any hon. Member whether any mother who wished to get rid of her child, would keep it alive till it attained the age of one year, in order to receive the larger sum? But he would call their attention to another point—that if that was really the cause of the excessive mortality in those places, then it would follow that the same cause would produce the same effect, or nearly so, wherever burial societies existed. But when they looked at the two largest towns referred to—Liverpool and Manchester —they found that for every 100 children who died under one year of age, 58 died from one to two. On the other hand, if they looked to the two smallest towns—Blackburn and Preston—for every 100 children who died under one year of age, 40 died at from one to two years of age; and yet, he believed, there were no towns where the burial societies had a larger number of members in proportion to population than Blackburn and Preston. But the Commissioners asked them to take in contrast with these towns other towns—Macclesfield, Chorley, and Doncaster, where, for every 100 children who died under one year, 35 died at from one to two years. Now, it so happened that Chorley was a place where burial societies had large numbers of members, and a great proportion of them under three years of age. But they were told by the Commissioners that, in these three towns, the burial societies were excellently conducted. He ventured to say that they could find a score of places in England where, irrespective of the existence of burial societies, they would find the same results. But if the argument was worth anything, it showed that they should endeavour to improve these burial societies, and not do away with the insurance of infants under three years of age. He ventured to think that further inquiry into that interesting question would prove that, just in proportion as they found an excessive amount of mortality in any particular town or city, so they would find an increase in the death-rate of all ages, and a greater proportionate increase of the death-rate from one to two years of age than under one year. But the Royal Commissioners were not content, and very properly so, with the information contained in these tables, and they determined to ask the opinion of men well qualified to give an opinion on such a subject. They requested 391 coroners and procurators-fiscal in England, Scotland, and Ireland to answer this question—"The great increase in the infant mortality of Liverpool takes place precisely within the year when infants can just come into full benefit: in the general burial societies. And we find that of the other towns referred to, all but one have large agencies of the same societies."
239 replied; and of that number 75 declined to give an opinion, 4 expressed themselves decidedly in favour of the influence of the societies, 114 said they thought the influence not unfavourable to infant life, and of the remaining 45, only 27 referred to the question of infant mortality, 12 of them saying that no cases had come under their observation upon which they could base opinions. This question received great attention from the Select Committee of 1854, and the conclusion they came to was—"Do you consider that the existence of burial societies exercises any unfavourable influence upon the mortality either of infants or adults, or tends to promote parental neglect? "
The Royal Commissioners, in their Report just issued, said—"That the instances of child murder, where the motive of the criminal has been to obtain money from a burial society, are so few as by no means to impose upon Parliament an obligation, for the sake of public morality, to legislate specially with a view to the prevention of that crime."
It was to be regretted that, having no such power, and having only the limited and imperfect information referred to, the Commissioners should have drawn from so narrow an area of observation conclusions so important, and so calculated to create a feeling of alarm in the country. He was glad that the right hon. Baronet had reconsidered the 65th clause, and that he had been able to state to the House that he proposed to provide against any possible culpable carelessness on the part of parents, and to protect children, as far as he could protect them by legislation, by fixing the amount insured at a moderate sum, not exceeding the cost of burial. With the other guards that had been introduced into the Bill, he believed that every care would be taken against these societies being abused. On the whole, reserving to himself the right to propose Amendments in Committee, he should support the Bill; but, at the same time, looking to the importance of the question, which involved so many interests, he should feel no regret if the Chancellor of the Exchequer saw his way to postpone legislation on the subject until next year."Nothing short of an inquiry, coupled with compulsory power, of obtaining evidence, and with power of indemnifying witnesses against the consequences of self-incrimination, can set the question at rest."
said, it was very much to the credit of the English people that they were pre-eminent among European nations in their support of friendly societies, considering the small amount of support that was given to them by the State. Ever since the time of Mr. Pitt they had been casting about for the best means of giving them encouragement, and what was the result? It was universally admitted that the present action of the State was unsatisfactory, and that the State could not stand still in reference to the question, but must either recede from the position it had taken up, and leave the societies to take care of themselves, or go a very great deal further than it had at present proceeded. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of London at one time laid it down that the State should go back and do nothing for friendly societies except register their names; but he afterwards maintained before the Friendly Society Commissioners that the State should establish minimum tables, and that no Society should be registered which did not adopt rates in excess of those in the tables. There were many objections to this proposal, among which might be reckoned the departure from the principle laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, because it was asking the State to go further in the direction of interference than it had ever done before. It seemed to show that the right hon. Gentleman had abandoned his idea of the State doing nothing; and, as the necessity for some action was almost admitted, it only remained to make it clear what that action should be. If anyone looked back into the history of these institutions, he would find that when first the working classes became conscious of the advantages they could obtain by combination for these purposes, they rushed into them with the blindest zeal and confidence, and thus became the dupes of others who intended, he would not say to defraud them, but to use them for their own selfish purposes. The result was, that there was scarcely a village which had not known the existence of a friendly society that had broken down. Two or three agencies contributed since that time to produce a sounder state of things. First patronage established county friendly societies, which, as a class, alone came out of the recent ordeal satisfactorily; but the time had gone by for patronage, and the classes for whose especial benefit they were established did not join them. Next the affiliated orders introduced sounder principles of management, especially by recognizing the necessity for areas sufficiently large to give average results; but it was a lamentable fact, after all, that one of the best of them— the Odd Fellows—owed more than a million of money; and he knew, from what the Commissioners had stated, that, speaking of the affiliated orders as a whole—a body embracing about a million members—the average funds of the great bulk of the branches were totally inadequate to meet their liabilities. Then, again, the local burial societies laid "no claim to actuarial solvency," while the larger burial societies, about whose financial position he had perhaps better say nothing, were described as presenting "untrustworthy accounts, credited in an unsatisfactory manner." With regard to others the precise state of things could not be ascertained. In these circumstances it was high time that something should be done. Was Parliament to delay for ever, and year after year to allow new members to come into rotten societies without stamping them with its condemnation, or taking care, at least, that men should no longer join them in ignorance of their position? Among the causes which had led to the downfall of these societies might be mentioned—first, ruinous competition, for the founding of a village club was sure to be followed by the starting of an opposition club offering greater benefits, and the resulting competition ended in the ruin of both; a second cause of failure was the insufficiency of the rates; and a third, and most important one, was the way in which members had allowed the rules of the societies to be systematically disregarded. He knew one large society that had not had a general meeting of its members or committee for nine years, without objection being raised by one of its many thousand members; and at present no man knew what its condition was. Nothing was more distressing than the helplessness of anyone who wished to know, for the sake of himself or others, what society was "safe." The Government, he ventured to think, ought to be asked to do for the societies of the poor what it did for the societies of the rich. No hon. Member going to an insurance office was allowed to be in absolute ignorance as to the financial position of the society, Parliament having required of each such society that it should publish its accounts, and show its position by its balance-sheet. Surely there was nothing unreasonable in asking that the societies of the poor should also be asked to publish their accounts, and he would insist on a regular periodical valuation of the societies' property, of which many of them were at present afraid, knowing that actuarial examination would have a discouraging effect on people about to join them—indeed, it would have the very deterrent consequence it ought to have. The principle of the Bill was the provision of means to enforce improvement. The present registration had failed, and the time had come for local machinery to instruct people in the principles on which these societies ought to be managed, and to prosecute when the law was not complied with. The Bill did not go far enough; it was too much of a permissive Bill; he should like to substitute in some of its clauses the word "shall" for the cowardly word "may." He should like to see a public auditor appointed with power to report on the condition of any society on the application of the members. In this matter delay might be ruinous; it must involve disaster; and if he stood alone he would urge upon the Government to press forward some portion of their Bill and try to pass it this Session. But the feeling of the House was clearly against any such course. Many valuable suggestions had been thrown out in the course of the debate, and with the object of enabling the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider them for a short time he would move the adjournment of the debate.
Motion made and Question proposed, "That the Debate be now adjourned." ( Mr. Edward Stanhope.)
said, he also wished to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer on bringing forward the Bill, but joined with other hon. Members who had spoken in asking him to defer proceeding with it. He quite agreed with the hon. Member who had just sat down that the question was one deserving the utmost and immediate attention; but it was a subject so great in itself that any hasty legislation, he felt assured, would be a great deal worse than delay for another year, in order to ascertain the feeling of the body of the people upon it. Reference had been made to the Reports of the Royal Commission. Many of the large societies had not even seen those Reports at all, and it would be only just that they should see the Reports before any Bill passed, and that they should have an opportunity of forming an opinion carefully upon the recommendations. He asked delay upon another ground. Certain charges had been made in the Reports respecting infant mortality. Those charges were so grave that the House and the country ought to know more about them, and they ought to be ferreted out to the very bottom. If they should turn out to be in any way well founded, he considered that no provision in the Bill was stringent enough to meet them. There was one matter which had not been referred to—namely, the largo sums taken for collection. Having some knowledge of this question, he could affirm that a large amount of the savings of the people was wasted for purposes entirely different from those for which the money was contributed and should be applied. It was extremely desirable to give a spur to the people's providence and economy; and he looked forward to the time when, by the action of well-regulated benefit societies, the country would be able to do away with a Poor Law altogether; for if a twentieth part of the income of the prosperous public were taken from them to-day to support the poor, the time might come when all the income of the provident portion of the people might be applied to the support of the improvident. He, for one, looked with detestation upon a Poor Law as the thin edge of Communism, and for these reasons, and desiring to see a Bill passed that would encourage habits of providence among the people, he would venture to join in the request for delay.
said, it was desirable not to lose sight, in the consideration of this question, of the great difference which existed between friendly societies proper and burial and insurance societies. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer should see his way to pass any portion of the Bill, it would be necessary to keep that distinction clearly in view. It might be that much had been discovered with regard to burial societies; but he apprehended that whatever legislation was required in reference to those bodies, friendly societies, strictly and properly so-called, would be infinitely better if loft to their own domestic, personal, and economic regulations than they could be if interfered with too largely by Government. There was no guarantee whatever in the Commissioners' Reports upon which it would be safe to presuppose—much more unsafe would it be to act upon the supposition—that there was any great increase of mortality arising from the burial societies. He did not believe there was any ground for the somewhat unwarrantable, he had almost said libellous, statement sometimes advanced out of this House, that among the children of the members of burial societies there was an amount of mortality greater than might be expected among a class of people who dwelt in close and unhealthy places. Crowded dwellings did, and always would, produce disease and death, more especially when situated in the lower localities of our large cities and towns. With respect to the debt of the Odd Fellows, it was perfectly true that some years ago there was a deficit of £1,000,000, but it would be a mistake to suppose that the society was therefore insolvent. There might have been a time when that society owed £1,000,000 if then called upon to wind up, but it was perfectly able to go on meeting its engagements. The members, however, had since been continually making up the deficit. As regarded the tables of annuities it might be that, as had been said, it was a silent method of getting the thin edge of the wedge into the matter, and so handing the societies over to Government, which he should strongly deprecate. Anything tending to centralize a society would, so far as economy was concerned, be a very great evil, and he therefore hoped that the Government dealing with the subject, would as far as possible leave the internal regulation and economy of these societies in the hands of the societies themselves, as the less they interfered the better it would be. Although a great improvement had taken place lately, he desired that searching inquiry might be made into the affairs, at any rate of the smaller burial societies, with a view, if possible, to the separating of the legislative requisites, to meet alike their wants and the wants of friendly societies properly so named.
, as a Member of the Royal Commission, expressed a hope that the Government would give the House further time to consider the subject, which affected the interests of 4,000,000 members and 32,000 societies in England and Wales. He felt that the Reports on which the Bill was founded had been too recently issued and too imperfectly read, to enable them wisely, discreetly, and carefully to deal with the subject by legislation that Session. He very much doubted whether the Report of the Commissioners had been read to the end, but it was there stated that there was a supplementary Report; for while eight Commissioners signed the full Report, four Commissioners, and among them a most distinguished Member of the present Government, had signed another Report differing on one of the most vital principles of the Bill—namely, that of discretionary registration. He, therefore, ventured to think more time should be given for the consideration of this matter. It might well be left till next Session, in order to enable hon. Members to consult their constituents regarding it.
objected to being called upon to vote for the second reading of this Bill without having had a fair opportunity of reading the Reports on which it was founded. The Bill took away from people the construction and carrying on of their own societies, and for these reasons, therefore—the shortness of time allowed them to peruse the Report, the uncertainty and the difficulty of the subject—he urged upon the right hon. Gentleman the expediency of giving hon. Members the Recess in which to consult their constituents upon this most important subject. He had felt it to be necessary to send down the Reports to the secretaries of the different societies in the borough which he represented, and it was too much to expect that they could be dealt with in so short a time as had elapsed since their publication. He would beg the Government distinctly to state how they meant to deal with cattle assurance societies. The difficulties attending the proof of pleuro-pneumonia, and the insufficiency of the Government compensation for the rinderpest had, in his (Mr. Hubbard's) district, induced the farmers to take the matter entirely into their own hands. Did the Government intend to guarantee the existing friendly societies; if not, had the new registration a deeper meaning than the old? The Report told the country that the poor law was still the best friendly society—" You put nothing in, and take a good deal out." He thought the Government would do well to consider how far they could not change the whole system of the poor law, and make thrift, and not destitution alone, the object of help, before they touched the friendly societies at all.
said, the friendly societies throughout the country were expecting legislation, but they would be astonished if, before they had a fair opportunity of considering the Report of the Royal Commission, an Act were passed based on that Report. One great advantage of postponing the Bill until next Session would be that the circulation of the Report would act as a means of educating the members of these societies and preparing them for the legislation that was necessary. The House must remember that they could not deal with these societies as they could with factories, for they were mere voluntary associations, and might any day collapse. He did not doubt that many of these societies were sound, and placed on a legitimate basis, while others were not; but, under all the circumstances of the case, he considered that more time should be given for discussion in the country before they proceeded with any legislation.
said, that according to his knowledge, there was a great desire in the country to have a more perfect acquaintance with the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman. He would point out that it was a great mistake to suppose that these societies were managed by ignorant men. That was not so, for the managers of friendly societies had a great suspicion of patronage from without, and an intense dislike for an excess of legislative regulation; but they had no objection to see a well-considered measure pass, and if the matter were allowed to stand over, they would be able to add much to the stock of information already existing upon the subject. What was wanted was a simple Bill which would enable the friendly societies to proceed more efficiently in their competition with the relieving officers and the Poor Laws. No doubt the evidence taken by the Royal Commission had opened the eyes of many persons connected with these societies as to the financial position of them; but he thought that if time were given to them, and they were not checked by any undue threats, their recuperative power would enable them to put their affairs in a sound financial position. Permissive legislation would but give a false security, and undo the good the Chancellor of the Exchequer desired to effect. He, however, considered that no legislation could satisfactorily take place till next Session.
said, he had received representations from different societies imploring the right hon. Gentleman not to force on the Bill, and raising objections to at least 13 clauses. His own impression was, that the Bill was either too large or too small. He also thought it would be well to postpone legislation until further time had been given to the country to consider the whole of a very important and difficult question.
was pleased with the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman proposed to make in the clause relating to children under three years of age. He also agreed in the wisdom of the suggestion that it would be better to reprint the measure, in order that those interested in it might have an opportunity of deliberating upon the proposal.
said, that it was for the interest of the sound societies that legislation should be cautious and not hasty. If the Bill should be postponed till next Session, it could be well considered by all persons interested during the Recess, and if that should be done, Parliament would be able to make more rapid progress with legislation next Session.
thanked the hon. Member for Mid Lincolnshire (Mr. Stanhope) for his able and interesting speech, and also for having proposed a Motion and so enabled him (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to make a few observations at the present stage of the Bill. He made a few observations on the second reading of the Bill in anticipation of the Amendment placed on the Paper, but not moved, by the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke). He was somewhat surprised that the hon. Baronet had not asked the opinion of the House upon his proposal, the view expressed in which had been supported by all the speakers in the course of the debate. The line taken by hon. Members not only did not surprise him, but was entirely in accordance with his own feelings on the subject. During the time he had spent in studying this question, he had learnt to take a very great interest in it, and also to appreciate its difficult complexion and the importance of not attempting to legislate upon it without carrying the sense and the conviction of the country with them. It was not so much in the excellence of the rules under which these societies were managed as in the spirit with which they had been worked that he saw their chief merit. Many people had been induced to join them, and he should therefore think it a very great misfortune if by precipitate legislation the people were led to think that the management of them had been taken out of their hands and placed in those of Government officials, and that they had been legislated for irrespective of their convictions. But, feeling that, he could not regret the course which the Government had taken, for after looking at the mass of evidence upon the subject in the Library, which, by its very extensiveness, might deter many people from an attentive study, all they wished was sharply and clearly to draw the attention of the country and the House to the points requiring amendment, in order that no time might be lost in legislating upon them. Having succeeded in doing that, they were perfectly willing now to take the second reading of the Bill and then to commit it pro formâ, in order that it might be reprinted with the Amendments which had resulted from the discussion that had already taken place. The Bill in its amended form could then go into the country, together with the Report of the Commissioners and the evidence upon which it was based, in order that early in next Session they might be able to consider a carefully-considered measure, which would settle the whole question in a manner satisfactory to all concerned. He would now say a few words upon one or two important points; and, first, upon the question of the insurance of children, and infant mortality. He entirely repudiated such language as had been held by the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. Wheelhouse) who spoke of the provisions on this subject as a libel on the working classes. Let it be borne in mind that the very imputation which was said to be cast on the working classes by this Bill was already cast by law upon the richer classes. If his hon. Friend were to go into an insurance office and propose to insure the life of one of his children he would not be allowed to do so, because he would not have an insurable interest in it. An exceptional privilege was given to members of friendly societies in this respect; and now, whereas this privilege which the working classes had was exceptional, and in some cases had led to frightful calamities, the Government proposed to restrict, but not to take it away altogether. It was all nonsense to talk of libel on the working classes. It was well known there was no such idea in the minds of those who made the proposal, nor was it intended to suggest that the working classes were not as fond of their children as parents in the upper classes. But there were many cases in which children were exposed to great danger, not by the action of their parents, but of persons who had interested motives. Investigations into baby farming and other matters of that kind showed that such dangers were real. If hon. Gentlemen would look at the tables of the Registrar General, they would see that whereas in the Kingdom generally mortality in the first year of life was, from various causes, much greater than in the second and third, in those towns where the great collecting burial societies carried on their business, the reverse was the case; and the mortality in the second and third years, by which time benefits on insured lives became payable, largely exceeded the mortality in the first year. When one found that children were insured in two or three societies, in some cases to the amount of £18 and more, and then noticed these remarkable statements, one could not help suspecting that an evil existed which required to be remedied. Well, though the Government had put into their Bill clauses prohibiting the insurance of children under three years, he was prepared to admit that the injury which might be done to innocent people was so considerable that they should try to find out some other means to secure the end in view. He hoped that by limiting the amount and by precautions to prevent double insurance they might meet the evil. But he could assure the House the evil was one which was not to be lightly passed over. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) found fault with the Bill in what seemed to be a rather hesitating manner, alleging that the present system was unsatisfactory, and that it would be very desirable that Government should no longer be thought responsible for its results. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the Government had better stand out of the way and leave the societies altogether alone, but he rather shrunk from boldly stating that conclusion. On the other hand, if the Government would not do that, the right hon. Gentleman thought they should go further and enforce the regulations of the societies. Several other Gentlemen, and even the hon. Member for Maidstone (Sir Sydney Waterlow), to whose assistance the Commission was so deeply indebted, referred to a difference of opinion among the Commissioners themselves as to whether the Government should not go further and attempt to prescribe certain rules which would promote the greater efficiency of the societies. The House would probably find, on consideration, that the middle course proposed by the Government was the safest and best. He was surprised to hear so high an authority as the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuek) say—" Don't let the House touch these matters, because the societies are in a state of insolvency." That was approximating the state of mind of the gentleman who said not long ago—"I don't care what happens, so it does not happen to me." There seemed to be a feeling in some quarters that as long as the Government kept out of responsibility it did not matter what the societies did. But that was not the view of the Government. He was very much struck by what had been stated by the right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster), who said that some time ago he had occasion to look into the affairs of the Manchester Unity, and then he would not have liked to recommend that society as he was now prepared to do. He presumed the right hon. Gentleman was referring to a time when the Manchester Unity was kept outside the pale of the law, and not recognized on account of the jealousy which prevailed of what were called secret societies. But he was sure the great improvement in those societies dated from the time when they were brought within the pale of the law. God forbid that the Government should take the work out of the hands of these societies, and make it compulsory on them to use the tables or other machinery which they would be well disposed to use if they found them suitable. But, then, the Government wished to place these tables at the service of the societies. Mr. Radcliffe had been the chief agent in improving the Manchester Unity, and in inducing it to take up sound principles of insurance, and he had given it tables, by which it would by-and-by, he believed, work itself into a state of complete solvency. But other societies were not disposed to take up the tables of the Manchester Unity without reference to their own condition, because the tables which might suit one society might not suit another. He attached much more importance to the periodical valuation. It was all very well for a society to adopt the tables recommended by the Government; but unless their proceedings were watched they might be going altogether wrong. The object of periodical valuation was, as boys said at school, "to prove your sum." He was quite aware that the best societies employed auditors of the highest ability and character to look at their accounts; but it was also true that in a large number of cases the audit was a mere delusion. In order to remedy this state of things it was necessary, first, to provide forms of accounts, the use of which should be compulsory, and which would show the real condition of the society, and in the second place to secure that auditors should be appointed whose statements could be relied upon. Well, the principle of the Bill was that they should afford the societies throughout the country the means of getting the assistance which they required. He desired that the means of registration should be brought nearer to hand than London, so that persons might easily obtain in their own district any information they might require with regard to the societies. If that was done, it might be hoped that, with the growing intelligence of the people and the advice of persons interested in the welfare of the working classes, there would be a great improvement and reform effected in these societies. He shrank from giving any assurances which might seem to imply that the Government could do what they had never done and could not do. What, however, he thought they ought to do was to assist the societies, and at the same time to give the public the means of ascertaining what the societies were doing. He hoped his hon. Friend would withdraw his Motion for the adjournment of the debate, as no advantage could be derived if it was pressed. He proposed that the Bill should now be read a second time, and at an early day they might go into Committee on it pro formâ, in order that he might have the opportunity of inserting certain Amendments which he considered necessary.
said, he was glad that the Government did not intend to press the measure. Many of the provisions, so far as they affected Ireland, were pernicious. It was sought to reserve the decision of many points to the officials in London, and even in some cases the jurisdiction of the Irish Law Courts was ousted. Friendly societies in England had already done much harm in Ireland, and this Bill should contain a clause that no English society should be allowed to be registered in Ireland, unless it possessed property in that country, or unless means were provided for prosecuting claims against the society without coming over to England. If the precaution was not taken of remedying this oversight, great hardship and expense would be inflicted upon poor people in Ireland.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Main Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read a second time, and committed for Monday next.
Valuation (Ireland) Act Amendment Bill—Bill, 134
( Mr. William Henry Smith, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach.)
Order for Second Reading read.
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, said, that among other objects, it proposed to give power to increase the salaries of the officers of the Valuation Department, and to provide for a more satisfactory distribution of the charge for revising the valuation over the Irish counties. At present, there was no power to give any officer of the Civil Service in Ireland more than 20s. a-day. In accordance with the recommendation of the Committee which sat last year in Dublin it was proposed to raise the salaries of some of these officers to an amount exceeding 20s. per day. The result of the measure would be to effect a saving of £2,500 a-year to the counties interested, and at the same time it would tend to secure increased efficiency and a better and more successful administration of the law than at present existed. In conclusion, he would move the second reading of the Bill.
Motion made, and question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—( Mr. William Henry Smith.)
objected to the clause which gave power to the Commissioners at the end of seven years to make such alterations in the sums specified in the Schedules as they might think proper, and hoped it would be struck out of the Bill.
said, he thought the Bill ought not to be passed without some criticism, because he considered that the gentlemen whose salaries it was proposed to increase already received the largest amount of pay for the least amount of work of any public servants in Ireland. The total payment made for what was called the revision of valuation in 1867 was £22,000 a-year, and its cost was enormously in excess of the value of the work done, and the valuation itself was not real, valid, or bonâ fide. As an instance, he complained that while for the valuation of the City of Dublin there was only a sum of £200 entered in the Schedule, for the revision of the small county of Sligo a sum of £210 was entered. He could not see how the Bill could promote economy, and although he should not oppose the second reading, yet he hoped that the Schedule of the expenses to be incurred would be revised.
thought the House need not feel much alarm at that small increase of expenditure. The three Civil Service Commissioners who were under the Control of the Treasury had investigated the circumstances, and he had the most perfect confidence that if they recommended an increase of salaries it must be imperatively called for. The Bill was a decided improvement in the direction of doing justice to excellent officers, and of lightening the expense of the work done in the counties which were benefited.
protested against the principle which took from the local bodies in Ireland all control over local taxation, and transferred it to a central Department in Dublin as monstrous and unjustifiable. If the Bill went into Committee, would the Chief Secretary for Ireland introduce Amendments for the protection of the local bodies?
said, he was surprised at the opposition made by the Irish Members. The principle of the Bill was, that instead of asking the Irish local authorities to contribute as they now did, £10,400 a-year, the Government asked them to contribute £8,000 a-year, and they would take upon themselves the additional burden. He thought the Bill would prove a boon to the community in Ireland and tend to increase what was much required, the salaries of the officers in the Irish Civil Service. The increase of salary asked for on behalf of the staff engaged on this survey was not more than fair, and he believed the House could not be unwilling to grant it. He hoped the Amendment would not be pressed.
said, the Bill might be said to have sprung from an agitation got up within the last few years with a view of improving the condition of the Irish Civil servants. If there were one office more than another which required great improvement in the remuneration received by the Civil servants there, it was the Valuation Department. The Bill gave no more than a fair increase of salaries to the Civil servants in Ireland, and he hoped it would meet with the approval of the House.
said, he was not aware that any objection had been made by any Irish Member to the proposed addition to these salaries. The complaint was that the staff employed was too large. He objected also to the control of the matter being taken away from the grand jury.
Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday.
Wedlock Elementary Education Bill—Bill 151
Lords Second Reading
Order for Second Reading read.
, in moving that the Bill be now read the second time, in favour of which he presented a Petition from the Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Councilmen of Wenlock, said, that the area of the borough was 30,200 acres, and that it extended 17 miles as the crow flies. It contained 17 parishes, in which the provision for elementary education was sufficient according to the Elementary Education Bill. A few gentlemen in the borough, however, were anxious for the establishment of a school board, but the general feeling of the borough was against it. This Bill had come down from the Lords, and its object was to exempt the borough from the operation of the general Act on education, and permit each parish of which it was composed to elect a school board if it felt so disposed. He hoped the measure would receive the assent of the House, for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) had admitted it was an exceptional case. He would move the second reading.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—( General Forester.)
, in moving the rejection of the Bill, said, he regretted, as the Colleague of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, to have to submit to the House that no case had been made out for the application of exceptional legislation in the case of this borough. The Bill was not one that would meet with general approval by the inhabitants, for this was a ease where a strong feeling existed in favour of compulsory education, and it was a case where compulsion ought to be extended by establishing a school board not for any particular parish, but for the whole borough. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford introduced his Bill, his hon. and gallant Colleague (General Forester) desired to have Wenlock excepted from the provisions of the Act as regarded boroughs; and that was the object of this Bill. If a school board were elected for each parish in the borough, and there were 13 parishes in the borough, they could not work together with the same efficiency as if they had only one board, and he contended that one would not be so expensive as 13. He admitted that some of the parishes were a considerable distance from the centre, but he did not see how some of these small parishes could bear the expense of a separate school board, and the result would be that the educational machinery would be a failure in very many instances. There was no case made out for such legislation, and on that ground he must oppose the second reading
Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "now," and at the end of the Question to add the words "upon this day three months."—( Mr. Alexander Brown.)
Question proposed, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
said, his hon. Friend had changed his mind, he was very sorry to hear, for he was sure he had not changed it for the better, and he could add that the people of the borough as a whole remained in favour of the Bill introduced by his hon. and gallant Friend. The district did not want a single school board, and it was a district to which that system would be quite inapplicable. The great bulk of the district consisted of rural parishes, and the feeling in it was in favour, not of school boards, but of being allowed to act as other rural districts were permitted to do. Out of 13 parishes in the borough, 12 objected to the introduction of a school board.
said, the Bill was one of considerable importance. In opposing it he did not wish to argue the question whether there should be general compulsion for the Kingdom, or whether school boards were preferable to voluntary schools. The ground on which he opposed the Bill, and begged the Vice President of the Council to pause before giving his assent to it was, because he believed that if it were passed, a considerable blow would be struck at the working of the Act of 1870—a blow which he felt sure the Government would not wish to strike at that measure. Nothing in that Act was more debated than the area of rating and the school district, and the conclusion was come to, after a great deal of discussion, that in municipal, as distinguished from Parliamentary boroughs, the municipal borough area should be the area of the school district, and in other cases the parish. He thought there ought to be the strongest possible care and most complete unity of feeling on the part of the inhabitants of a place before the House adopted any exceptional legislation. There was not that unanimous opinion in this case, and he hoped the noble Lord (Viscount Sandon) would consider before he supported the Bill. If they once began to make a change on account of the wishes of a portion of the constituency of any borough, as proposed by the Bill, they could not stop at Wenlock, and he did not see how they could avoid bringing about a change throughout the whole Kingdom.
said, he must decline to discuss the grave matter opened up by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. A. H. Brown) as to compulsion; but if he thought there was the slightest danger of the Bill changing the principle of the Act of 1870, he would not give it his support. But the case of Wenlock was a very curious one, being that of a group of villages connected with several distinct towns, and when he found that the Mayor and Corporation supported the measure now under consideration, he thought it a strong point in its favour. There were, however, some Amendments which it was proposed to insert in Committee, very much in the sense of what the hon. Member himself would have proposed; but as for the case itself, believing it to be unique and one of great singularity, that could not in any way be quoted as a precedent, he thought it right to give his consent to the second reading.
regretted very much that the noble Lord had given his assent to the Bill, believing that the case was anything but unique. It looked very like a job, and he was afraid there was a Whig nobleman at the bottom of it. Like the borough which he had the honour to represent the wealthiest portion of the inhabitants lived outside the municipal borough, and, like Wenlock in the present instance, would avoid any school rates whatever. He thought it was setting a bad precedent, and hoped the House would reject the second reading of the Bill.
assured the hon. Member that he was mistaken in supposing that any of the wealthy people of Wenlock wished to relieve themselves from contributions in support of the schools. He would also remind him that the Mayor and Common Council of the borough of Wenlock were in favour of the Bill.
The House divided:—Ayes 141; Noes 57; Majority 84.
Main Question put, and agreed to.
Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday.
House adjourned at Twelve o'clock.