§ MR. TORRENS
said, that towards the end of last Session he brought forward a Motion similar to the one he now intended to propose, and the late Chairman of Committees then stated as an objection to it the increased expenditure it might cast on persons appearing before Private Bill Committees, but promised that, during the recess, he would consult with parties interested in such Bills on the subject, holding out an expectation that he would this Session agree to some such proposition. The late Chairman of Committees had now left that House, and he had not had the opportunity of seeing that hon. Gentleman since last Session. He would not now have ventured to propose this Motion had not many experienced Members of the House, well versed in the practice of Private Bill Committees, fully concurred in the advisability of the Resolution being brought forward. Under the present system, the Members of a Private Bill Committee had no opportunity of seeing the petitions of parties until they assembled in the Committee-room; then, on applying to the clerk, he could have it handed over to him engrossed in a cumbrous form on a parchment almost as large as the table before which he sat. If he perused it he must do so at a time when perhaps counsel was speaking, or some witness giving important evidence. To obviate this inconvenience, he would propose that the petitions connected with Private Bills should be sent to the Members of Private Bill Committees two days before the assembling of each Committee; and he would also propose that the Private Bills themselves should be forwarded to the Members of the Committee two days previous to the assembling of each Committee. He thought it would be an improvement if a copy of each petition were delivered along with the Bill in the manner he proposed. Members of Committees might 114 thereby have an opportunity of considering what they were to adjudicate on, and of comparing the statements in the petition with the promoters' Bill. The Chairman of Committees objected last Session to this on the ground of the increased expense it would occasion; but he had since ascertained by inquiries that fifty copies of a petition taking up four pages could be printed in the type used for printing the Votes and Proceedings of the House at a cost of less than 28s., and that 250 copies would cost considerably under £2 10s. The despatch of business before Private Bill Committees would obviously be facilitated by the adoption of his suggestion; and he begged, therefore, to move a new Standing Order to the effect—That on every Private Bill, to be considered by a Committee of this House, all Petitions presented against such Bills be printed at the expense of the Petitioners, and Copies of those Petitions, as well as a Copy of the Bill to be considered, be delivered to each Member of the Committee not less than two days previous to its assembling."—(Mr. Torrens.)
§ COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
said, he believed this proposition was a very reasonable one, but at the same time thought it must involve a considerable increase of expense to the parties appearing before these Committees. He had seen the Motion on the paper only within the last few hours, and had not had an opportunity of taking the opinion of persons interested on that point. Perhaps, therefore, the hon. Member would be kind enough to postpone the Motion for a day or two.
§ MR. TORRENS
said, he should be happy to act upon the suggestion of the hon. Member for North Lancashire; but, having already ascertained that the expense that would result from the adoption of his proposal would be so very trifling, he thought the House would gain nothing by further inquiry.
§ COLONEL WILSON PATTEN
said, that taking the hon. Member's word on that point, he would acquiesce in his Motion.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
thought it desirable that the suggestion of the hon. Member for North Lancashire should be acted upon by the proposer of the present Motion. He (Mr. Milner Gibson) had a strong impression that Mr. Massey, the late Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, had some objection to the 115 alteration now proposed, but he could not positively say. He, however, hoped the hon. Member would postpone his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Standing Order 195 read, and amended.