§ The Order of the Day for resuming the Adjourned Debate on this subject having been read,
§ Lord Althorp
said, he would read the Motion as originally proposed, which was, "That this House do meet every day, except Saturday, at twelve o'clock at noon, for private business and petitions, and do continue to sit until three o'clock, unless the business be sooner disposed of. That when such business has been disposed of, if before three o'clock, or at three o'clock precisely, notwithstanding there may be business under discussion, Mr. Speaker do adjourn the House till a quarter before five o'clock, and leave the Chair without putting any question for adjournment. That business thus interrupted be taken up again on the next sitting day, as an adjourned debate, in preference to other business of the same kind. That if a House be not formed before one o'clock for the sitting between twelve and three o'clock, Mr. Speaker do then take the Chair, and count the House; and if forty Members be not present, do adjourn the House till a quarter before five o'clock; and in like manner, when the House is to meet at a quarter before five, pursuant to adjournment, if the House be not formed before five o'clock, the Speaker do then take the Chair, and count the House, and if forty Members be not present, do adjourn the House till twelve o'clock the next day, unless such day be Saturday, in which case Mr. Speaker do adjourn the House to Monday at twelve o'clock. That when a House is formed at five o'clock, pursuant to adjournment, the House will immediately proceed to the business of the day set down in the Order Book. That Committees have power to sit from ten o'clock in the forenoon until five o'clock in the afternoon, and have leave to sit during the sitting of the House. That a Select Committee be appointed at the commencement of each Session, to which shall be referred all petitions presented to the House, with the exception of such as complain of undue returns, or relate to 1005 private bills; and that such Committee do classify the same, and prepare abstracts of the same in such form and manner as shall appear to them best suited to convey to the House all requisite information respecting their contents, and do report the same from time to time to the House; and that such reports do, in all cases, set forth the number of signatures to each petition. And that such Committee have power to direct the printing, in extenso, of such petitions, or of such parts of petitions as shall appear to require it." He expected that much convenience would result from the new arrangement, but if it should prove otherwise, as it was only an experiment, the House might review their decision. He anticipated that a considerable reduction of the expense of printing petitions would result from the appointment of a Committee, to which all petitions would be referred. He was aware, however, that this was a delicate subject to deal with, for many petitioners thought they were not respectfully treated unless their petitions were printed.
§ Sir Robert Peel
wished the noble Lord would state, for the information of the House, what he meant to do with respect to election petitions? As the law of election now stood, the first proceeding of the House on the days fixed for balloting for Election Committees was that ballot itself. If the same rule was to be applicable under the proposed new arrangement, Election Committees must be chosen at one o'clock, and if 100 Members were not present then, the House must adjourn, and that day would be lost for all the purposes of public business. He put it to the noble Lord whether he could expect the attendance of 100 Members at twelve o'clock? But if sufficient Members did assemble by one o'clock to go to a ballot, the whole of the time would be consumed between one and three o'clock, and no opportunity would be afforded of presenting petitions.
§ Lord Althorp
did not mean the plan to apply to days on which Election Committees were to be selected. Those days must necessarily be exceptions.
§ Sir Robert Peel
said, the abandonment of the plan on Ballot-days made a material alteration in the proposition of the noble Lord, and certainly avoided one great difficulty that must have arisen from its adoption. The noble Lord proposed that if a House were not made at one o'clock the Speaker was to adjourn until five; 1006 but would not that be inconvenient, not only to the Speaker, but to hon. Members themselves? Again, the noble Lord said, that it would often occur that a House was not made at twelve o'clock, and that, therefore, it would be expedient that the Speaker should wait till one o'clock. If this were to be the case, would it not be better to appoint the latter hour as the period of meeting? By waiting an hour just so much time would be thrown away. Again, the noble Lord would please to recollect that if a Member was present at prayers, he was entitled, by the courtesy of the House, to retain his place for the evening. This regulation was of considerable importance to those hon. Members who intended to lake part in the debate of the evening; but, by the new regulation of the noble Lord, to entitle them to their places, it would be necessary that they should be here at twelve or one o'clock to prayers. The noble Lord said, that there were several matters of arrangement for after-consideration: why not, then, postpone this alteration until he had considered them? The convenience of all the Members should be consulted in a matter of this kind, which was not the case in the proposition of the noble Lord. He should like also to know what was to be done with a debate that was not concluded at the prescribed hour? [Lord Althorp: to cease, and be adjourned to the next day.] He doubted the policy of that arrangement—and whether it would be found to work at all. They were now about to commence the ballots for Election Committees; and there were no less than forty election petitions to be disposed of. At least two days in each week must be reserved for the ballots; and on those days, according to the noble Lord, his plan was not applicable. It would be infinitely better then, in his opinion, to postpone this arrangement until after the election petitions were disposed of, than to press it at present. Again, the interval between three and five, would be found extremely inconvenient. He did not suppose that there would be a numerous attendance of Members at the presentation of petitions; but if there should be, the House was to separate at three; and it would be hardly possible to get Members together at five in sufficient number to commence public business. The interval was either too long or too short; it might do very well for those who resided in the vicinity of the House, but it 1007 would never do for those who lived at a distance. It would hold out an inducement to go home, and it would be impossible to get Members back to the House in a couple of hours. The best plan would be, that the House should meet earlier, and continue sitting until the business of the night had been got through. He preferred the plan of the Committee of last year to this plan; although he knew that there were objections to that. The Chairman of Ways and Means, it must be recollected, presided when some of the most important business of the country was transacted. The House, then, might meet at three o'clock under his presidency; and by this arrangement, great relief would be afforded to the Speaker. He was sure that he need not say, that the experience which the Chairman of Ways and Means had of the rules of the House, would enable him to preserve order, and see that the business was proceeded with, with regularity. It was on these grounds that he should prefer the suggestions of the Committee of last year, to the plan proposed by the noble Lord.
§ Colonel Davies
concurred with the right hon. Baronet. He saw great objection to the House meeting at twelve. Many Members lived at such a distance that they could not be expected to come at that hour. He saw no objection to Mr. Bernal taking the Chair at three. Indeed as the most important votes were taken—namely, the votes on supplies—when he was Chairman, he could see no reason why he should not sit as Chairman on private business and petitions.
Sir Thomas Freemantle
wished the House rather to adopt his plan of meeting at three o'clock, and devoting from that time till half-past five to the consideration of private business and petitions. His plan, according to the notice he had given, was this—" That this House do meet every day, except Saturday, at three o'clock in the afternoon, for private business, reception of persons bringing returns, bringing up reports of Committees, motions for papers (to which there is no opposition), swearing of Members, and other formal business; and for the ballot of election Committees, on such days as are appointed for taking election petitions into consideration, which will, as usual, take precedence of other business. After which, that the House do resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, for 1008 the reception of public petitions; the Chairman of the Committees of Ways and Means to take the Chair, and that the names of Members be called over in the order in which they are set down in the list of petitions; that, at half-past five o'clock, or as soon after as the petition then under consideration be disposed of, Mr. Speaker do take the Chair, and proceed with the business set down in the order-book; that whenever objection shall be taken to the granting of any return, the Member moving for it be required to give notice for a subsequent day, and place his Motion among the notices in the order-book." The plan of meeting at twelve o'clock would be most inconvenient. Hon. Members would then have no opportunity of considering and answering the letters which they received upon public business. The House would, besides, suffer from the want of the presence of the Ministers; for though the noble Lord opposite said, he would attend at one o'clock, that would not be sufficient, for the noble Lord, to whose courtesy and attention all the House were much indebted, could not possibly undertake to answer questions put with respect to other branches of the Government. He objected, also, to the plan, because it would make the House sit while Committees up-stairs were sitting. Now, those Committees were often composed of the most important Members of the House, who would not like to be absent on discussion of any importance taking place, and who yet could not be in two places at once. If a division came on, they must hasten from the Committee-rooms to divide on a question of which they had not heard a word, or else they would be liable to be suspected of having been absent from their duty.
§ Mr. Littleton
said, that as it was agreed on all hands that something should be done towards giving the petitions of the people that decorous and attentive recetion to which they were entitled, and which, owing to the mass of private and public business, they had not received for at least the last two Sessions, the question was, whether they should meet at twelve, as proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or at three, as proposed by the hon. Baronet, Sir Thomas Freemantle. He was in favour of the noble Lord's Motion. At an average, there were not more than six or seven divisions on private business each Session, and, therefore, 1009 no great probability would arise of the House being counted out. As to Mr. Bernal taking the Chair from twelve to five, he did not object to that on account of the individual; on the contrary, he highly approved of that Gentleman's conduct. He had known him for twenty years, and could bear testimony—and all would agree with him—to the affability and attention which he invariably displayed as Chairman of Committees. At the same time, he thought it would be more satisfactory to the people that their petitions should be received when the Speaker was in the Chair. He understood—which should be taken into account—that the Speaker himself was in favour of meeting at twelve o'clock. The great objection was, that meeting at that time of the day would interfere with election Committees, but that would be almost wholly confined to the first Session of Parliament; and, besides that, it would occupy only two days in a week. Of course, if the House met at twelve o'clock in the day, it could rise much earlier at night than it was wont of late years. No physical constitution could bear the additional fatigue; as it was, the strongest were severely tried by the present sittings.
§ Mr. Goulburn
very much feared that the new arrangement would only aggravate the main source of the difficulty of presenting petitions—namely, the disposition, so much indulged in, of Members making long-winded harangues on almost every petition presented to the House. He apprehended that the inconveniences now complained of would not be remedied by the House sitting from twelve to three o'clock, and the noble Lord would have again to resort either to the ballot or to some other arrangement, to regulate the presentation of petitions. He thought it of great importance that the business of the House should be done in one continuous sitting, and that no Committees should be suffered to continue their proceedings after the Speaker took the Chair.
§ Mr. Hume
feared that no plan could be proposed which would not be open to some objections; and though the arrangement proposed by the noble Lord (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) was certainly objectionable in more than one particular, yet he was anxious to give it a trial. Hon. Members seemed to consider that they would find great difficulty in knowing how to dispose of themselves from three to 1010 five o'clock during the adjournment of the House; but that period might be passed very advantageously in dining, and he hoped the business would uniformly be brought to an end by eleven o'clock. His own opinion was, though the present was not the proper time to discuss it, that the private business ought to be transferred to some other tribunal, so as to give that House more time to attend to the general business of the country.
§ Mr. Warburton
concurred in the observations which had fallen from the hon. member for Middlesex, and he thought when the House met at twelve o'clock, it would be advisable to reduce the quorum from forty to twenty.
§ Lord Sandon
was of opinion, that it would be more convenient for the House to meet at a quarter to one o'clock, instead of twelve o'clock. He was willing to give his assent to the plan proposed as an experimental measure.
§ Mr. Buckingham
hoped that the House would excuse him, though a new Member, if he ventured to propose a plan which he thought would be found to combine the various suggestions which had been made by different Gentlemen. He should propose
"That this House do meet every day, except Saturday, at two o'clock, for Private Business, receiving Returns, Reports of Committees, Notices of Motions, and other formal proceedings.
"That, at four o'clock precisely, such business be suspended until the following day at two; and that from four to six be exclusively devoted to the presentation and reception of petitions of a public nature, in the order in which the names of Members are entered on the Petition List.
"That, at six o'clock precisely, such business be suspended until the following day at four, to be taken up at the point at which it left off; and that, at six, the House do proceed to the business of the day, in the succession in which it is set down in the Order Book.
"That, at twelve o'clock precisely, if the discussion should proceed so far, the House do adjourn; but that to prevent as far as possible any abrupt break in the proceedings of the House, it be a standing rule, that no new subject of debate be originated or introduced after eleven o'clock, though the debate then carrying on may be proceeded with until twelve.
"That, for the relief of the Speaker, his 1011 presence be dispensed with in the sitting from (bur to six, during which period the Chair be filled by the Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means; but that the Speaker do preside over the Private Business, from two till four, and again over the Public Business, from six till twelve o'clock.
"That to save the time of the House, and afford an equal opportunity to all Members to take a part in the discussion of general questions, the following rules be observed:—1st. That on the day preceding the discussion of any question appearing on the Order Book of the House, Members intending to speak on such questions, do enter their names, as is at present done in the Petition List, and that such Members be called on in succession, in the order in which their names appear, giving them precedence over persons whose names are not so entered; thus introducing regularity in place of the present practice often or twenty persons rising at the same time:—2nd. That no Member be allowed to speak longer than twenty minutes on any one subject in the same evening, nor more than once, excepting only the introducer of a Bill or Motion, who shall have permission to speak twice—once on the introduction of the subject, and again at the close of the debate in reply; and be allowed thirty minutes on each occasion:—3rd. That, in the presentation of petitions, no Member be allowed to speak more than once on any Petition, and then for ten minutes only—except in case of opposition being made to its reception, or contradiction to its statements; in which case he be allowed to speak a second time, and be limited to ten minutes for his reply:—4th. That in rising to order, or speaking in explanation, five minutes be the utmost time allowed to each Member so addressing himself to the House.
"That, at the expiration of the several periods limited as above, the Member in succession shall have the right to claim a hearing from the Chair: but in the event of the Member speaking, not being interrupted by such claim, he may, by the indulgence of the House, and the courtesy of those who are to follow him, but not of right, be permitted to proceed."
Sir Matthew White Ridley
said, that if Members would endeavour to compress their observations as much as possible, a great point would be gained towards facilitating 1012 the progress of the business of the House; but his own experience convinced him that business would be more impeded than assisted by adopting any proposition for adjourning the House at a particular hour. He did not anticipate any great benefit from the proposed plan, though he was willing to give it a fair trial; but he feared that in consequence of the House making two separate sittings in the course of the day, the proceedings of the first sitting would not be communicated to the public as fully as was desirable.
§ Mr. C. W. Wynn
thought, that after meeting at twelve and adjourning at three o'clock, the Speaker should take the Chair at five o'clock without again counting the House. At the same time, it would rest with any hon. Member to move that the House be counted; for, he would never consent to abandon the right of any Member to count the House, and to insist upon an adjournment, when a sufficient number of Members was not present. He had listened with attention to what had fallen from his hon. friend, the member for Buckingham (Sir Thomas Freemantle), and he approved much less of the plan he proposed than of that of the noble Lord. He did not, however, think that it would be altogether fair to impose so great a tax upon the Speaker as this latter plan would impose. The interval of two hours from three to five, was not sufficient to afford him exercise and refreshment. Of course, before the Speaker could ride, it would be necessary for him to change his dress; and this would be necessary again on his return, and in that would be absorbed a very considerable portion of the two hours. At the same time, as the Speaker, in that fair and candid manner which he manifested on all occasions, had stated that he was prepared to sacrifice his own comfort to the public service, it would be improper for him to make any further objection. With respect to the proposal to receive petitions in a Committee of the whole House, he had to observe, that this was a custom in bygone times; and he saw no objection to its being revived. Formerly, a Grand Committee sat in the House every day; and if this were the case now, for the presentation of petitions, the attendance of the Speaker could be dispensed with. The great difficulty under which the House at present laboured had resulted, partly from the great increase of business, and partly from the great length 1013 to which all debates in the House extended. In consequence of the publication of the debates, Members were anxious that their constituents should see that they took part in the discussion; and the consequence was, that hon. Gentlemen delivered arguments that had been urged by former speakers, not regarding what had been previously stated, provided they had the opportunity of delivering their sentiments. Another cause of the delay of business was, the practice of adjourning debates, which had led to the greatest inconvenience. The practice was of very recent growth, and when he first came into Parliament, debates were seldom or never adjourned; but the House used to sit out the discussion. He recollected, in 1795, a question unexpectedly arose relative to the abatement of an impeachment; and this occasioned an adjournment of the debate, which lasted three days. And he remembered full well, that the oldest Members of the House spoke of that as a circumstance unprecedented. Undoubtedly, long sittings produced much bodily fatigue; but, at the same time, they compelled Members to condense their observations, and prevented useless repetitions. This custom, therefore, occasioned a considerable saving of time. He thought that the House should, if possible, get rid of the habit of adjourning debates, and take only one discussion on each stage of a measure. When he first came into the House, the debates on petitions were confined to the respectability or number of the petitions, and a debate on the subject of the petition never took place; that was reserved for the period at which the question was regularly brought under the consideration of the House. At present, it was not uncommon for Members to speak five or six times on a subject, on presenting petitions; and afterwards, to take an active part in the discussion of the general question. He thought, therefore, it was advisable to separate the private business and petitions from the public business. One hour was amply sufficient for private business. He would not object to try the plan of the noble Lord, although he was not sanguine that it would work well. He would make one other observation. The noble Lord had taken an exception respecting election petitions. Now, it was well known, that on the trial of an election petition, a member of the Committee could not leave the room; and it might be of consequence that 1014 he should be in the House to make observations on any petition or private bill. This was a difficulty, which, he was afraid, the noble Lord had not taken into consideration.
§ Lord Morpeth
expressed a hope that the proposed arrangement of his noble friend would have the effect of keeping apart from each other, the discussion of subjects that were not naturally connected, and that they would not have upon petitions a series of observations upon matters totally distinct. He hoped the House would agree to the Motion then before them, and give the plan of his noble friend a fair trial.
could not thus permit the petitions of the people to be, as it were, thrown into a refuse corner—for that, in effect, would be the operation of the noble Lord's plan; it was, in fact, a way rather of getting rid of the petitions than of discussing them. Another objection to the proposed alteration arose, in his opinion, from this—that it was now proposed that twenty Members should constitute a House. In his opinion, forty were too few to form a quorum of a body so numerous as the House of Commons; and he was sure, there was no one, who took the trouble to reflect for a moment on the subject, who would not agree with him, that even 100 would not be too large a quorum, constituted as the House now was; for the time had passed away when the House was made up of the nominees of borough-owners, who only took care to be present at those divisions in which their nominors were interested. The people now had considerable influence in that House, and, accordingly, there had been since the assembling of the Reformed Parliament a very full and constant attendance; and he felt quite assured, that if 100 were made to constitute the quorum, it would be au alteration attended with no inconvenience, and calculated to produce very advantageous results. It had been said, that the habits of society had materially changed of late years, and that those habits greatly interfered with the change in question; he admitted, that there had been a very great change in the habits of society; but, on the other hand, he was prepared to assert, that that change did by no means require that they should run counter to everything like reason and common sense; indeed, it was his opinion, that the change in the habits of society 1015 were rather favourable than otherwise to the rational practice of doing business by day-light, for the change referred to mainly consisted in the circumstance of the dinner hour becoming gradually later and later, till it was now approaching towards eight o'clock. Now, if the business were conducted in the day-time, the hour of dinner would not be at all interfered with. Let them at once come to real business hours, and no longer encroach upon those which ought to be devoted to repose and relaxation. He had looked into the Journals on this subject, and found, that on the 17th of May, 1614, the House met at seven o'clock in the morning, and began business at eight o'clock, and no business was done after twelve o'clock in the day; and, by an order of the House in 1641, it was declared, that every Member who was not in attendance at eight o'clock in the morning, forfeited 1s., and those who were absent a whole day, 5s., which money the Sergeant was to gather in. The very first day that candles were ever lighted in that House was one memorable in the annals of Parliament—it was the day on which the Monarch (Charles 1st) came down to that House, and, seating himself in the Speaker's Chair, gave orders for the arrest of the five Members. He did not think that, from that ominous period to the present, the business of the nation had been better done by candle-light. Later down than the times he had mentioned the House rose at twelve. Why? Because that was the hour of dinner. When the dinner hour was advanced, as was stated by Lord Clarendon, to one o'clock, the House rose at one. The dinner hour was now protracted to eight; why not rise at that hour? If the House met at ten in the morning, and continued to sit till eight or nine at night, it might then get through the business without any great fatigue. Dinner and its concomitants were but bad stimulants for an effective discharge of parliamentary duties, though they might have the effect of stimulating hon. Members to continue the debate longer than was consistent with health, or with the true interests of the constituent body. Why should not the same course be taken with the public business as was pursued in transacting all the other business of the kingdom? All the Law Courts were open during the day, and closed with the night, and why should it be impracticable to legislate by day-light? He again would 1016 press upon the attention of the House, that they were the only deliberative body in the world, who transacted business at night. He was aware that it would not do to sit ten hours every day, but three days in the week under that arrangement, would be sufficient for the real business of the country. It seemed, by what every one had said, that the public business in that House could not be carried on any longer under the system which was at present adopted; and, though he would not make any specific motion in support of his own views, he would beg to suggest that the matter be referred to a Committee, to inquire into the possibility of making arrangements to meet at an early hour in the day, and discontinuing the present practice of sitting at night.
§ Mr. Ewart
corroborated the opinion of the hon. member for Dublin, that the public business of legislation was at present carried on at too late an hour, and too much under the inspiration of good dinners, and their accompaniments, to be productive of that benefit to the nation which, from its importance, it ought to be.
§ Mr. Richards
observed, that it was totally impossible that the House of Commons, constituted as it at present was, chiefly of men engaged in the active pursuits of life, should be able to devote a larger portion of the day to the public business than it was proposed by the resolution before the House to do. Any change in the hours of doing business would deprive them of the presence and assistance of lawyers, merchants, and other men of business.
§ Mr. Robinson
said, that the objections which were made to the early meeting of the House in future for the purpose of receiving petitions, on the ground of not sufficiently considering those petitions, were not well founded, because it was well known that the petitions received full consideration when the subject of them came before the House in the form of a legislative enactment. It would, he thought, be desirable to separate the petitions from the general business of the House. He did not see why petitions might not be received in a grand Committee of the House. It would, he thought, be difficult to get forty Members to make a House at twelve in the day.
§ Lord Althorp
observed, that some misapprehension existed as to the mode in which a House would be in future made 1017 under the resolution which he had proposed. He meant it to be settled that, in future, a House should be formed if there were twenty Members present, unless any person present should think proper to notice that there were not forty Members, in which case the Speaker should count the numbers present, and if forty were not there, they should adjourn till five o'clock. Should there be no motion to count the House, and the petitions and private business be got through, then the House should meet at five, and the Speaker should take the Chair without being under the necessity of counting in forty Members. The hon. and learned member for Dublin had suggested that they should meet early in the day, and had asked what objection there was to this plan, which, as he said, was followed by the law courts and public offices? But the case of the Parliament differed from that of any other public body; for their sittings were carried on uninterruptedly for a period of five, six, and seven months, and, unless Members had no other business to attend to, it would be impossible for them to devote the whole day, for so long a space of time, uninterruptedl to the business of legislation.
§ Mr. Robinson
further observed, that they could not expect that the whole day should be devoted to the business of Parliament, seeing that the House was not made up solely of men of fortune and leisure.
§ Sir Robert Harry Inglis
thought the plan impracticable. In the course of the next month there would be a daily claim upon the time of no less than 300 Members, for the purpose of considering election petitions, and in Committees on public and private Bills; and how, he should like to know, could the Members who were thus occupied, find opportunities of attending in the House between one and three o'clock for the purpose either of presenting petitions, or of opposing them, when they were imperatively called upon to attend in their respective Committees, under the penalty of a fine for omitting to do so?
§ Mr. Cobbett
thought that the great object of the propositions was a tendency, a premeditated tendency, to abridge the right of petition. It was admitted by all that they could not go on as at present—Parliament was giving way, the Church was giving way, the forms of that House 1018 were changed, and yet men constantly cried out against all change. The grand Committee of Grievances was gone—the grand Committee of Justice was done away with—how, then, could the complaints of the grievances of the people be heard except by their petitions? That those grievances had increased they had evidence in the fact that the petitions of the people had increased from 800 to 5,000 or 6,000, and the grievances were just in the same proportion; yet the people showed an unexampled patience. He should, to-morrow, give notice of a call of the House for Friday, when he should show that the people of this country were the most patient people in the world. If the plan of the noble lord were adopted, and the House met at twelve o'clock in the day, no one would attend to hear the petitions of the people, and the Speaker would have to preside over empty benches. It was proposed by one party to classify the petitions, and then to see which should be printed, and then, perhaps, it would come that none of them would be printed. The petitions of the people ought to be received with the greater attention, as it was well known that a vast majority of them had no voice in sending Members to that House. He and his hon. colleague were sent there by 1,100 electors of Oldham; but who was to represent the 50,000 or 60,000 inhabitants of that town and its neighbourhood, and how were their complaints to be heard, except by petition? He could not but look upon this plan as a premeditated intention to defeat the petitions of the people; and, if he stood alone, he would take the sense of the House on the Motion.
§ Lord Althorp
repelled the imputation that it was intended by the proposed arrangement to defeat the right of petition; on the contrary, it had for its object the giving a more ample time for the consideration of such petitions. As to the classifying of petitions, so far from intending to conceal the grievances of the people, it was to place them more prominently before the House. They were much more likely by that method to receive the attention which, he admitted, they deserved, than by the present method, because at present the petitions were, from want of classification, very often disregarded, owing to the irregular manner in which they came before the House. The hon. Member also 1019 did not seem to know that the practice of printing petitions was altogether of modern origin, and he certainly did not see the necessity for continuing to add to the public expense by printing petitions over and over again, in which the same grievances were complained of, in the identical phrases used in other petitions. The tone of the hon. Member's observations, perhaps, might call for some further remarks, but he should content himself with the explanation he had given of his views in proposing the resolution before the House. His proposal, instead of abridging the time allotted to the reception and consideration of petitions, would extend it, for at present the public business began usually at five, and thus not quite an hour was given to them, whilst, by his plan, they would be received from a quarter-past one to three o'clock, au extension of nearly an hour. If the plan of the hon. Member for Dublin were adopted, it was one which personally to him could not but prove very convenient, for he should have three days in the week, and every evening to devote to official business; he should, in consequence of the change, feel himself in a situation much better than at present; but he greatly doubted whether such a change would prove convenient to the House, or promote the despatch of business. He also doubted that, during debates in the day time, they could command such a full attendance of Members in the House; for though they might be in attendance within the buildings adjacent, they would spend the whole morning up stairs writing their letters. He would admit that the same objection might be applied to part of his plan—that of sitting at twelve to receive petitions; but it would apply to it in a less degree than to the transaction of the general business of the House at the same period. He would not say, that the plan he proposed would remove all the inconveniences complained of, but it would remove many of them. There would, he hoped, be a great advantage gained by having the House sitting from a quarter-past twelve to three, and the new regulation as to speaking on petitions would be a great saving of time. He submitted the plan as an experiment; if it should not succeed, he would cheerfully consent to change it for any other that should be considered more practicable. Notwithstanding all the objections which had been urged, he 1020 did feel it to be his duty to press the Resolutions modified in the way he had mentioned. It was quite clear that some alteration must be made, and they had better try this plan as an experiment.
§ Mr. Warburton
suggested, that, in any case, when there was not a quorum at twelve o'clock, it should not prevent their doing business at five, should a sufficient number of Members attend at that hour.
The two next Resolutions proposed by the noble Lord were also agreed to.
On the proposition "That if a House be not formed before one o'clock for the sitting between twelve o'clock and three o'clock, Mr. Speaker do then take the Chair, and count the House, and if forty Members be not present, do adjourn the House till a quarter before five o'clock; and, in like manner, when the House is to meet at a quarter before five o'clock, pursuant to adjournment, if the House be not formed before a quarter past five o'clock, the Speaker do then take the Chair, and count the House, and if twenty Members be not present, do adjourn the House till twelve o'clock the next day, unless such day be Saturday, in which case Mr. Speaker do adjourn the House to Monday, at twelve o'clock."
§ The House divided on Lord Althorp's first Resolution: Ayes 133; Noes 14—Majority 119.
§ Lord Althorp
said, he had altered his Resolution, and made the time a quarter past five o'clock, which, in the proposition, as printed, stood for five o'clock; and he proposed that the number of Members required to be present should consist of twenty, instead of forty.
Sir Thomas Freemantle
objected to the departure from the old-established custom, and proposed as an Amendment to the modified proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the number forty be restored, as in the printed proposition.
§ Lord Althorp
said, it had stood in the proposition originally, as the hon. Baronet now suggested, but the objects to be gained by the change he had introduced were of great importance for the despatch of business; and if it were resisted, he should feel it his duty to divide the House upon it.
§ Mr. C. W. Wynn
said, that he was of the opinion of the hon. Baronet.
A Division took place on Sir Thomas Freemantle's Amendment—Ayes 37; Noes 98: Majority 61.
1021 It was then proposed that a Select Committee be appointed, to which all Petitions should be referred, and on which should devolve the task of classifying the same; which Committee should have the direction of the printing of such petitions, either in part or in whole.—Agreed to.
House to meet on Wednesday next, at twelve o'clock, pursuant to the Resolution agreed to.