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who advocated instead the appointment of a Select Committee to consider whether the workmen's grievance could not be met by a system of insurance. Several speeches were made against the Bill; some arguing that it went too far and would make the employers' liability too heavy to be borne; others, on the part of the workmen, contending that it did not go far enough, and that no amendment of the law would be satisfactory which did not abolish the doctrine of common employment. But no division was taken upon the second reading. The Bill was committed pro forma on June 4th, in order that amendments of detail might be introduced. No time was found for its consideration in Committee till July 6th. When it reappeared, it was entirely rewritten, though the principles of the compromise remained unaltered. Meantime, also, as in the case of the Hares and Rabbits Bill, the subject had been most thoroughly discussed outside Parliament, the two extreme views to which we have referred finding able advocates, and many able advocates also appearing in support of the view that the law of liability should be left as it was, and that a system of insurance should be devised, under which employers should largely contribute to a fund designed to afford compensation for injuries to workmen. The opposition from the side of the workmen was not pressed in Committee. Mr. Macdonald had given notice of an amendment ou going into Committee, to the effect that the doctrine of common employment should be abolished, but he withdrew it. But the opposition from the side of the employers, who were asked to make the concession, was naturally urged with greater warmth. The general principle of the Bill was again put on its defence by Mr. Knowles, who renewed his motion for a Select Committee. The defence was undertaken by Mr. Chamberlain, who made ample admission of the difficulty and delicacy of the subject, and the magnitude of the interests involved, and Mr. Knowles's motion was rejected by 259 to 130. The Bill was thereafter laid aside till the Compensation for Disturbance Bill was got out of the way, but the discussion was resumed with additional vigour in August. Mr. Gladstone had promised that if any well-considered scheme of insurance were submitted to the Government in Committee, with a view to being embodied in the Bill, it should have their best attention. But in the end the Bill was passed, after protracted debate, without any such addition. The House of Lords struck out a sub-section, but it was restored by the Commons, and finally agreed to.
The discussion on the Burials Bill was for the most part confined to the Lords- where it was introduced early in the Session, on May 27——and to the press. Like the other important measures of the session, it was a compromise, and as such was attacked on both sides. Its central provision was that a burial in churchyard or graveyard might take place " at the option of the person having the charge of or being responsible for the same, either without any religious service or with such Christian and orderly service at the grave as such person shall think fit; and any person or persons who shall be thereunto invited, or be authorised by the person having the charge of or being responsible for such burial, may conduct such service or take part in any religious act thereat. At the same time also the Bill proposed a measure of relief to the clergy, relieving them from the obligation to read the Burial Service over any sectary for whom it might be demanded. The exclusion of services that were not Christian was attacked as maintaining unnecessarily a shred of intolerance. A protest against it came from an unexpected quarter ; The Liberation Society prepared a memorial demanding the removal of this limitation from the Bill. In the debate on the second reading of the Bill, Lord Derby also objected to the word Christian, on the ground that it was not capable of definition for legal purposes, and might lead to litigation on a subject which it would be disagreeable to have argued in a court of law. The opposition to the measure on the part of those who objected to the admission of Dissenters to churchyards was led by the Bishop of Lincoln and Lord Cranbrook, and followed familiar lines. Dissenters would not be satisfied with admission to the churchyards; they would next demand admission to the churches, Bishop Wordsworth said. “Does any one of your Lordships imagine,” Lord Cranbrook asked, “that by this Bill you are about to terminate a controversy ?” The second reading of the Bill was carried by 126 to 101. It was passed through Committee on the 15th, with the addition of an amendment to the effect that the concession to Dissenters should not apply where there was an unconsecrated burial-ground in the parish. The Lord Chancellor also attempted to define Christian service as including “every religious service used by any church, denomination, or person professing to be Christian.”
It was late in the session before the Burials Bill came before the House of Commons-the second reading was taken on August 12—and it was generally supposed that the Government would drop it, more particularly seeing that a large section of their supporters objected to the maintenance of any restriction upon burial ceremonies. It was not expected that the Commons would agree willingly to this restriction, much less to the limitation upon the principle of the Bill introduced by the Lords. But late in August, on the 28th, the Bill, under the charge of Mr. Osborne Morgan, was proposed for Committee, and carried through that stage at a single sitting, after an animated debate. The Lords’ limitation that the Bill should not apply where there was an unconsecrated burial-ground in the parish was struck out by a majority of 157 to 72. The limitation to Christian services was the subject of a warm discussion, and though it was defended by Mr. Bright-on the ground that some concession should be made to the feelings of hostility to the measure honestly felt by so many clergymen of the Established Church—it was carried only by a majority of 3.
The Customs and Inland Revenue Act, the Ground Game Act, the Employers' Liability Act, and the Burials Act, were the chief achievements of the Government in domestic legislation, and along with the Bradlaugh difficulty and various phases of the Irish difficulty, the measures against which the main efforts of the Opposition were directed. But there were less prominently contested Bills passed of considerable scope and importance. One of the most prominent of these was a material supplement to the Elementary Education Acts, explained to the House of Lords by Lord Spencer, and read a second time without opposition on July 5.
In troducing no new principle, this Bill caused little opposition and consequently attracted little attention, although it affected the education and employment of some six millions of children in the rural districts. The Education Act of 1876 left the framing of byelaws as to half-timers, and exemption from attendance at school after passing certain standards, to local machinery of a somewhat clumsy and expensive kind. Before the School Attendance Committee could make byelaws on these points they had to receive a requisition from the parish, and a very large proportion of parishes had let the matter slip, and done nothing. Lord Spencer proposed to enable the Committee to dispense with this requisition, and to provide farther that, if they did not frame byelaws before the close of the current year, the Education Department should frame byelaws for them. The Bill also proposed to regulate certain matters in which there had been collision between the Education Acts and the Factory and Workshops Acts.
Another educational measure, explained by Lord Spencer on July 9-a Bill for the Advancement of Secondary Education in Scotland—was not so fortunate. A Commission had been appointed in 1878 to deal with educational endowments in Scotland without compulsory powers; but it was intimated at the time that, unless the institutions affected took action, a compulsory measure would be introduced. Very few of the institutions had taken action; only a sixth or seventh part of the endowments available had been dealt with. It was proposed that the new Commission should deal with the remainder, but the institutions commanded sufficient local influence to be able to defeat the Bill. It passed the Lords, but such was the pressure of business in the Commons that the Government could not get it through except as unopposed business. A Scotch member gave, and refused to withdraw, notice of opposition, and it was choked off.
At one time the Government were put upon the defence of the Fourth Schedule of the new Education Code, allowing grants for certain extra subjects. On June 18, Lord Norton moved an address to the Crown praying for the omission of this schedule from the Code, and the address was carried. The conduct of members of the late Government in supporting this proposal, although the schedule had been introduced by themselves, had been in operation since 1875, and had been favourably reported on
by the inspectors, was severely criticised. A counter-address from the Commons in support of the schedule relieved the Government from all embarrassment in maintaining the schedule.
Two useful additions to the statute book were engineered by the President of the Board of Trade, Mr. Chamberlain, a Grain Cargoes Act, and a Seamen's Wages Act. A Bill on the former subject introduced by private members was proposed for second reading on May 31. Mr. Chamberlain suggested that the subject should be referred to a Select Committee. The appointment of this Committee on June 1 gave rise to a lively discussion on the principle on which committees should be appointed. It had been the custom that the members from the Ministerial side should be in a majority of one. But a third party had now arisen, the Home Rulers. On which side were they to be reckoned in the composition of select committees ? Government claimed to have their majority of one independent of them. Sir Stafford Northcote contended that they should be reckoned as Ministerialists. To this it was replied that the practical effect of so doing would be to make the Third Party masters of the Committee. The principle asserted by the Government was carried, and the committee they appointed dealt with the question of the loading of grain cargoes with such effect and expedition that a Bill embodying their recommendations was carried before the end of the session. Mr. Chamberlain was very much complimented on the tact and energy with which he piloted the measure through committee and past its third reading, at the close of the Wednesday sitting on August 25. In the Payment of Seamen's Wages Act, a principle was carried into law with very little opposition for which Mr. Plimsoll had in vain contended in the previous Parliament. An end was put to the system of advance notes for the payment of a seaman's wages conditionally on his going to sea, by enacting that such notes should be void, and that money paid in satisfaction of any such document should not be deducted from a seaman's wages.
The Postmaster-General, Mr. Fawcett, bad also the charge of two valuable but unsensational measures, the Savings Bank Bill, and the Post-office Money Orders Bill. The first was explained by Mr. Gladstone upon its second reading on June 18, but was left in Mr. Fawcett's charge when it reached its later stages at the close of the session. The immediate cause of the Bill was the fact that there had been an accumulating deficiency in connection with the Savings Bank system, which had reached the sum of more than three and a half millions. This had been for some time a concealed portion of the National Debt, but Sir Stafford Northcote had taken the step of taking the interest upon the deficiency as a separate vote. Mr. Gladstone now proposed to provide for the extinction of the deficiency by the creation of terminable annuities, and for the stoppage of the annual loss by a small reduction in the rate of interest—from 34 to 3 per cent. These were the main objects of the Bill, but it contained two minor proposals—one to raise
the limit of total deposits from 2001. to 3001., and the limit of annual deposits from 301. to 1001.; and the other to throw open the public funds through the Savings Banks to investors of sums of 101. The first of these proposals was objected to on the ground that it would interfere with private banking enterprise. But the objection was not sustained and the Bill became law.
The object of the Money Orders Act was to reduce the charge for orders and facilitate their currency. The cost of orders for sums under 10s. had hitherto been 2d. For notes of 18. the charge was now to be įd.; for notes up to 108., ld.; and for notes up to 1l., 2d.; and the transmission of the notes was made less cumbrous. A snall experimental reform was also introduced by Mr. Fawcett at the Post Office, in connection with the Savings Bank. It was provided that forms containing twelve spaces each could be obtained at the Post Office, and when a penny stamp had been affixed in each space the form might be put in the Savings Bank, and an account opened in the name of the depositor. Certain counties were selected in which this experiment for the encouragement of petty thrift might be tried.
There was not much time available in the course of the session for legislation at the instance of private members. The most important Bill of this class introduced was Mr. Ashton Dilke's Hours of Polling Bill, the second reading of which was carried without a division on June 2. Both the Government and the Opposition reserved the right to move amendments in Committee; but Sir W. Harcourt promised the Bill hearty support on behalf of the Government, and on the part of the Opposition the chief amendment hinted at was one by Mr. Gorst, to the effect that it should be applied to counties as well as to boroughs. The rejection of the Bill, on the ground that it would increase the risks of rioting and intimidation, was moved by Mr. Mark Stewart, but was not persisted in.
Not the least significant act of the session was the passing of Sir Wilfrid Lawson's local option resolution, on June 18, by 229 to 203. But the significance of this resolution, as appeared from the debates, was not that a majority of the House was in favour of the Permissive Bill; it only expressed a general conviction that the existing licensing laws did not work creditably, and that something should be done to amend them. Mr. Gladstone did not profess to be able to see his way more clearly to a practicable reform than when the subject was before Parliament in March; and not being able to recommend any such scheme to the House, he declined to vote for the resolution, not because he considered the present system all that it should be, but because he objected to Parliament's passing abstract resolutions without any practical proposal in view.
Perhaps the greatest surprise of the session, not connected with the Bradlaugh incident, was the vote of the House in favour of Mr. Briggs's resolution condemning the proposal to erect a monument to the late Prince Louis Napoleon in Westminster Abbey.