§ [ADJOURNED DEBATE.] [THIRTY-FIRST NIGHT.]
Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [27th November],
That two Standing Committees be appointed for the consideration of all Bills relating to Law and Courts of Justice, and to Trade, Shipping, and Manufactures, which may be committed to them respectively."—(Mr. Gladstone.)
And which Amendment was,
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "it is not expedient to consider the matter of the proposed Resolution at this period of the Session,"—(Sir S. Assheton Cross,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the word 'two' stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.296
said, he thought the House was entitled to hear some further explanation of the Resolution the Prime Minister had brought before them. The most deadly enemies of the Resolution could not have pulled it to pieces more effectively than two hon. Gentlemen sitting on the other side—the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. W. Fowler) and the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood). The right hon. Member for Bradford (Mr. W. E. Forster) summed up the whole of his argument in defence of the Resolution in a word by saying that they ought to pass it because it was an experiment. The right hon. Gentleman must have forgotten that the House had been engaged for the last five weeks in experimenting, and trying to revolutionize the Procedure of the House. But the experiment of that evening, when 40 Members were sufficient to enable the adjournment of the House to be moved, would prove to Her Majesty's Government that the changes made would not be so satisfactory to them as they thought. Last night the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board had entirely broken down in his attempt to answer the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin. He honestly thought that every Member of the House, if left to himself, would be glad to end this Session, of which he, for one, was heartily sick and tired. A strong argument in favour of the Amendment was afforded by the remarks of the Prime Minister, who, during the last two or three weeks, had been constantly calling for the attention of the very small attendance of Members at the debates on the Procedure Resolutions. He thought the right hon. Gentleman spoke the truth when he said these Grand Committees would "multiply the voices of the House." The speechifying in the Committees would tend to increase the amount of talk in the House itself, for hon. Members who had been defeated upstairs would renew their opposition on the third reading stage, and would thus initiate an additional debate. The Resolution provided that all Bills relating to law or trade should be referred to one of the Standing Committees; but, as the President of the Board of Trade had pointed out, there was a saving clause—"Unless the House shouldother- 297 wise order." But what did those words mean, and how was the House to order it? While the Government were asking the House to reduce the number of the stages of a Bill, they were really by these words introducing a new stage, because a proposal to refer a measure to a Standing Committee might be met by a Motion that it should be referred to a Committee of the Whole House, and thereupon a debate would arise. Having regard to the fact that there were now several Parties in the House, he thought that the Committee of Selection would have great difficulty in deciding on the composition of the Committee. One of the effects of the Government proposal would be that the veto which the House possessed on the proceedings of Committees upstairs would be much more frequently applied than heretofore. In his opinion, the duties to be imposed on the Chairmen of those Committees were so onerous that they would have to be appointed as officers of the House, and receive a remuneration. The proposal of the Government was a mistake, and before any great lapse of time it would, he believed, break down. He hoped the Amendment of his right hon. Friend would be carried.
said, that before the House divided he was anxious to say a few words in order to explain why he intended to vote for the Amendment which his right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Lancashire (Sir B. Assheton Cross) had moved. When his right hon. Friend first moved the Amendment he confessed that he felt a strong dislike to it. He quite recognized that the Resolutions in reference to Standing Committees were of a very important character. He had thought, whether rightly or wrongly, at all events sincerely—that the previous Resolutions proposed by the Prime Minister greatly abridged the privileges of Members of that House, and therefore he had accepted them with extreme reluctance. The present Resolutions were certainly not of that character; they were of a different class, and nobody could say that the plan was one which greatly detracted from the responsibility or security of Members of that House. Therefore, as the House had spent so many days in discussing the previous Resolutions, he had been most anxious that the Prime Minister should have an opportunity of submitting to 298 the consideration of the House the Resolutions of the Government in regard to Standing Committees. He had been prepared, and he still was prepared, to give a fair and candid consideration to the plan of the Government, and for that reason he was reluctant to attempt to out short a discussion by such a Motion as that which had been moved by his right hon. Friend; but he felt bound in candour to say that during the course of this debate it had become perfectly plain to him, and it must be perfectly plain to the majority of the House, that the Government had not got any well-digested plan at all; and, although the House must proceed to consider these Resolutions, what they ought to consider was not the plan of the Government, but whether the House in an exhausted state, at the fag end of the Session, should create for itself a plan for carrying out the idea which the Prime Minister had laid before them. He did not think that was a position in which the House ought to be placed. It was quite clear that they should have to go on and discuss in detail the scheme of the Prime Minister. He had no wish to detain the House now by attempting to discuss matters of detail; but if the House would indulge him, he would just give two examples in order to explain what he meant when he said that the plan of Her Majesty's Government was not digested at all. The first illustration he wished to give was that there was no plan whatever proposed by the Government for the election of these Standing Committees. Nothing could be more crude or unsatisfactory than the proposal that they should be nominated by the Committee of Selection. He would not speak about the Private Bill Committees, because the appointment of Private Bill Committees was, no doubt, perfectly satisfactory; it was a sort of general body, appointed by the Committee of Selection to the general satisfaction of those who appeared before it. But for the appointment of Committees like these Standing Committees, the Committee of Selection possessed no qualifications whatever. The House did not even trust the Committee of Selection to appoint its Select Committees. The Committee of Selection was sometimes allowed to nominate one or two Members of a Select Committee when that Select Committee met for private inte- 299 rests; but when a Select Committee was appointed to deal with purely public questions, no one dreamt of vesting the appointment of the Committee in the Committee of Selection. Well, the mode of appointing Select Committees in that House was most unsatisfactory; and the reason why the House acquiesced was that they—the Select Committees—had no important functions to discharge. He thought it was the late Mr. Disraeli who said that Select Committees were an elaborate mode of finding out what everybody knew. They had no power to legislate in that House; and when it came to a question of the appointment of these Standing Committees, which were to exercise a great and appreciable influence upon the legislation of the country, no one would contend that the appointment of such Committees should be made by the Committee of Selection. The Committee of Selection, as his noble Friend the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) said, really represented the Front Benches on each side of the House. He did not mean to undervalue the Front Benches, and he never did; but one thing that would be certainly carried out in the appointment of these Standing Committees, as it was now proposed to be made, was the elimination of every single Member who had what was called independence of opinion, regard only being had, as the qualification of a Member to serve upon them, to whether he was likely to give a steady vote for the Party to which he belonged. They on that side of the House denounced the tyranny of force, but on that side of the House they had means quite as effective for the coercion of any recalcitrant Member; but they disliked anything like the coercion of independence of thought as strongly as they disliked the influence brought to bear in that direction by certain Caucuses throughout the country. He was, therefore, quite certain that if Standing Committees were appointed by the Committee of Selection, or by a selection from both sides of the House, or by any other means of that kind, the result would be to eliminate from these Standing Committees all those Gentlemen on both sides of the House who had distinguished themselves in their debates by anything like independence of thought. Whether that would conduce to the shortening of debates when a 300 Bill left the Standing Committee he would leave hon. Members to judge. Those who found themselves excluded by their character and qualifications from serving on the Standing Committees would revenge themselves by expressing their opinion upon every measure which was returned to the House; and he did not think the Government would be able oven to try the experiment of the appointment of Standing Committees until they had devised and laid before the House some means by which Standing Committees, when appointed, would be really representative of the House itself. A Committee, upon which not only a legitimate Opposition, but even what might be called an illegitimate Opposition, composed of Members sitting below the Gangway, and even in regard to which the Radical Party might be placed in a large minority, would not be a Committee that would secure the confidence of the House; and he would advise the Government, before they proceeded further with the Resolutions, to consider and lay before the House some well-digested scheme by which these Standing Committees would be made more thoroughly representative. He was not saying this in order to cast any blame upon the Prime Minister. Of course, the Prime Minister could not attend to all these matters of detail. The right hon. Gentleman formed an idea, but nothing more than an idea. But he wondered why the Prime Minister did not ask the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Dodson) to work out the details of the scheme. It was quite evident that the right hon. Gentleman had never thought about the scheme at all, and that the scheme in the right hon. Gentleman's mind was as crude and as general as it was in the mind of the Prime Minister. It was rightly so in the case of the Prime Minister, because it was not to be expected that, with his numerous avocations, he could condescend to enter upon these details; but the case was very different with the President of the Local Government Board. It would greatly assist the House if the right hon. Gentleman would prepare, in a proper form, the details of the scheme, so that they might be fully explained to the House. There was another thing he desired to call the attention of the 301 House to—namely, the mode or principle on which Bills were to be delegated to the Standing Committees. There, again, the Government were just as much at sea as any hon. Member. They had no scheme to explain, and therefore they could not explain it. The definition of the terms "law" and "trade" was as crude, and vague, and general as any definition could possibly be. The Government could not even themselves specify what Bills they were going to refer to these Standing Committees, nor could they tell whether a particular Bill was to go or not. They had been asked if Bills would be referred to the Standing Committee simply by a vote of the House, and they did not know whether that was to be so or not. It seemed to him, therefore, that with the vague definition the House now had it would be necessary for the House in every case to resolve that a Bill should be referred to a Grand Committee. He knew that was not the language of the Resolution; but the language of the Resolution would have to be altered, or else it was quite plain that they would have the extraordinary anomaly of having Bills which excited the greatest amount of passion and interest in the country referred to a Committee upstairs. To give only one instance, what would the House say to a Bill for the abolition of capital punishment going upstairs? That was clearly a law Bill; but were they going to have such a Bill referred to a Select Committee upstairs? If not, how was it to be intercepted? How was a Bill of that kind, which naturally fell within the definition given in the Resolution, when the House did not intend it to be referred to a Select Committee upstairs—how was it to be intercepted? They did not know when the Bill was to be referred; they did not know by whom it was to be referred; they did not know how it was to be referred; and on all those important particulars the Government had not yet formed any scheme which they were able to lay before the House. For these reasons he must say that he had reluctantly come to the conclusion that the wisest course the House could now pursue, reluctant as he was to disappoint the Prime Minister in carrying out this scheme, was to postpone the consideration of the remaining Resolutions until the Government scheme was in a more workable shape. Of course, 302 he would find himself in a minority, and he could not hope to prevail against the majority of the House; but he should be perfectly content to give effect to his views in the Division Lobby, and he, for one, would feel it his duty, if his right hon. Friend went to a division, to record his vote in favour of the Amendment.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Sir, I will only stand for a very short time between the House and the division which I think it is anxious to take; but I wish to say a few words upon this subject. I am not prepared to absent to the view taken by the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir R. Assheton Cross) and his Friends, that it is not expedient to discuss this question at the present moment. No doubt, hon. Members are anxious to see this extraordinary Session come to an end; but there is another anxiety we also have, and that is that the House should be placed in a position next Session to be able to tackle the work that will be placed upon it in a satisfactory manner, and that it may not have to begin the Session with further debates upon Procedure. Therefore, for my part, I am anxious that this matter, even at the expense of great personal sacrifices to many Members, should be thrashed out as far as it is possible to do so during this Session. We have been told—and I accept that view—that this is an experimental measure, and I think there are a great many Members who will vote in favour of the measure on the ground that it is an experiment only—an important experiment—and an experiment of which we are bound to consider the full scope—an experiment to be tried on important Bills, which doubtless interest great classes in this country, and, therefore, an experiment that we must look fully in the face before we assent to it; but, nevertheless, an experiment which it will be possible to reverse if it should not be found to be expedient. I am not prepared to assent to the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman opposite; but, on the other hand, I think we should do our duty if we endeavour to see the full scope of this experiment, and I am sure that the Government will be disposed to give as full explanations of its principle as it is in their power to do, because we cannot conceal from ourselves that the experiment is based upon novel principles; and I think that this debate 303 may have one important effect—namely, that of giving a certain guide to the Committee of Selection to determine them as to the kind of idea which the House entertains with regard to the composition of the Grand Committees which are to be appointed. Now, it appears to me that there are three principles on which a selection might take place—three possible principles. I should exclude some of them as impracticable; but still I think it is right that they should be stated. One principle would be the principle of nationality; another principle would be the principle of experts; and the third principle, I think, would be this—that these Grand Committees should be as clearly as possible reflections of the House of Commons; and I do not hesitate to say that I trust the determination of the Government, and the determination of the Committee of Selection, if to that body should be confided the most important and difficult task of appointing these Committees—I trust the principle which will mainly guide the selection will be the principle of constituting these Committees, so that they shall be, as far as possible, a miniature of the House of Commons itself. I exclude the idea of these Committees being composed upon the principle of nationalities. I see that there are many Amendments placed upon the Paper which seem to indicate that, in the opinion of some Members of this House, it would be desirable so to develop this system as to have Scotch Committees, Irish Committees, and Welsh Committees to deal with questions relating to those nationalities. Now, I should consider that a most dangerous development of the present system; and if I thought that that was in the mind of a majority of this House—if I had reason to believe that it was in the mind of the Government—I should vote against this experiment, because I should consider that it was leading us into a dangerous development. I understand from the language of the Prime Minister that such an idea is not in the mind of Her Majesty's Government, and that what is in the mind of Her Majesty's Government is simply a division of labour. I gather from the speech of my right hon. Friend the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Dodson) that, on the whole, the view of the Government leans to the idea that these Grand Committees are, as far as possible, 304 to be reflections of the House. Now, I do not conceal my opinion that I should be afraid of those Committees being constituted on the principle of men with special interests having a special claim to be appointed upon them. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister did speak of a special interest taken by Members in certain classes of subjects. I will remind the House that there are three considerations which are to be borne in mind by the Committee of Selection, as these Resolutions are drawn—namely, the classes of subjects, the composition of this House, and the qualifications of Members. I trust that the main point—that the main consideration which will guide the Committee of Selection, will be the composition of this House, and that they will think less of the qualification of Members, and less of the classes of subjects to be referred to these Committees, because I am not afraid to express my strongest conviction that nothing would be more dangerous than to confide the consideration of a certain class of subjects to a Grand Committee composed of men strongly interested in those subjects. It is a plausible, and in some respects it sounds a common-sense view, that you are to confide the consideration of subjects to men specially interested in those subjects. [Mr. JOHN BRIGHT: Not pecuniarily interested.] I quite agree with my right hon. Friend that pecuniary interest in a subject should never be considered; but I think that an intellectual, or any other interest taken in a particular subject, might have some weight. However, I would say this, with the greatest possible conviction—that if I wished to introduce a great reform, either in trade, or in law, or in any other department, I should have much greater confidence in appealing to the general sense of the House than to any particular Committee constituted from classes. [Cheers.] Hon. Members opposite cheer; but they will see that my point is not that we shall not delegate these powers, because if we can delegate these powers to a Grand Committee, fairly representing the House, I am entirely in favour of the Government view; and it will be seen that in the criticisms I am making I mean to lay down this proposition in the strongest possible terms. I sympathize with the Government in their efforts to delegate these powers; I sympathize with their efforts to facilitate 305 the labours of the House; but I am anxious that it should be done in such a manner that the labours of the House will be performed by Grand Committees precisely on the same principles and in the same manner as if those labours were performed by the House itself. And now let us consider for a moment, if the House will allow me to follow up this train of thought—let us consider for a moment, if the great shipping questions initiated by Mr. Plimsoll had been committed to a Grand Committee for consideration, whether he would have been able to carry those reforms. I doubt whether it would have been possible. When you wish to reform the law, to reform commerce, to reform any great industry or any trade in regard to which there are great interests concerned, it is necessary to maintain a general interest in the House in the particular subjects. It is necessary that the general opinion—the strong tide of opinion—of this House should be kept strongly at work in order to check the views that might be taken by those specially interested in particular subjects. In a word, I may say that I am strongly against the composition of Grand Committees on the principle of any large number of "experts," as they are called, being placed upon them. An hon. Member yesterday evening denied that there were experts in this House. Well, I think that cannot be the view that will be taken by the House in general, or, if so, it is only a dispute in regard to the meaning of the term. Everybody knows what is meant when we speak of a Committee of Experts. Another phrase may be taken—those specially connected, with any particular industry or any particular trade; and I maintain that it would be dangerous to place them on any Committee in such numbers as that they should give a general decision with regard to the clauses of a Bill committed to their care. And here, I think, I may point out a danger against which I trust the Committee of Selection will guard, if these important duties are conferred upon them. They will find themselves in a great difficulty and in a great dilemma. They will have strong pressure brought to bear upon them to put upon a Grand Committee connected with trade the Representatives of almost every constituency connected with trade and manufactures. If they give way to that pressure, 306 no doubt they will have a Grand Committee on which those interested will be so largely represented that there would be a fear of the general feeling of the House—that broad opinion, to which I wish a final appeal to be made upon all these questions—being insufficiently represented. On the other hand, if they do not put on a sufficient number of those who are interested, it is just possible that complaints may be made by individual Members and by their constituents that they are not upon the Grand Committee. That is the difficulty with which it will be necessary to deal, and which we must face in the experiment we wish to undertake. Hon. Members opposite have objected very much to the view that these Committees should be generally based upon the principle of the composition of the House. I understand that while hon. Members opposite object to the preponderance of experts upon these Committees, as I do—for I share the opinion that any preponderance of experts on these Committees would be a great mistake—I find that hon. Members also object to this House being represented on the Grand Committees in its natural proportions.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Yes; it has been urged over and over again, and urged, I think, by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for the University of Dublin (Mr. Gibson), that it would be an invasion of the practice of the House. That was also urged by the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill).
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Then I beg the noble Lord's pardon; but it certainly has been urged in almost every speech made upon the question on the other side of the House, that it would be wrong to depart from the principle that there should be only a majority of 1 upon a Select Committee. The argument was raised in this way—that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had, from the year 1868 downwards, attempted to change the old practice of the House that a Select Committee should be so composed that the majority should only be a majority of 1 upon such Committees.
§ MR. GOSCHEN
Yes; that was the former practice; but I confess it appears to me that when a Bill is referred to a Committee, the Select Committee should not be composed on the principle of only having a majority of 1 in favour of the Government of the day, no matter in what proportion the majority of the House itself may be in reference to the minority. I object to these Grand Committees being composed on the principle that there should only be a majority of 1 on each Committee, while there is a majority of three-fifths or two-fifths in the House itself. I consider that much harm has been done in past years, whatever Government has been in power, through adopting the principle of nominating Select Committees in that way. It has been a distinct disadvantage to the majority of the day, especially when it is taken into account that the Chairman of the Committee, who is always named from the majority, cannot vote; and it has happened, over and over again, that a Select Committee appointed to consider a Government Bill has found itself in this position, that the minority of the House were actually in a majority upon the Committee. If any accident happened so as to prevent one single Member of the majority attending the Committee, then the result has been that the minority have practically become the majority. Then, if this plan of Standing Committees is to be tried, it appears to me that one of the principles on which we ought to stand is this. These Committees are to be, as far as possible, the reflection of the House at large. The noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord Randolph Churchill) made some strong disparaging observations with regard to the Committee of Selection. It appears to me that the Committee of Selection has done its difficult work with admirable tact during a large number of years. It has had a very difficult task to perform, and I regret to find there is a tendency on the part of the noble Lord, and of other Members of the House, to increase the difficulties, not of their political opponents only, but of the authorities of the House. I think it is a pity, considering the great difficulties under which Parliament is labouring, that any attempt should be 308 made to increase them by endeavouring to throw discredit upon such bodies as the Committee of Selection, who have such heavy and responsible duties committed to their charge, and who endeavour to discharge them with conscientious impartiality. I admit the immense difficulty which will be cast upon the Committee of Selection. I admit that their duties will be far greater than those they have had to perform hitherto, and for this reason—that hitherto they have had to impose a duty upon Members, whereas now they may have to confer a privilege upon them. They will have to settle who is to serve on these Grand Committees, and a more difficult task could never be confided to any body of men. Then I believe that by a frank discussion of the situation, while we are engaged on the matter, we shall facilitate the task which the Committee of Selection may ultimately have to perform. No doubt, other Members may take a different view from that which I take, and say that it is mainly to men conversant with particular subjects that the Committee of Selection ought to look; and I will make this admission—that they ought to see that upon those Grand Committees they place the strongest experts that exist in this House in regard to particular subjects. But, if I may venture to suggest, they should look rather to the strength of the men than to the number of the men, because I believe it is not by putting on these Committees a large number of specialists that we should arrive at the result we wish to attain. My right hon. Friend at the head of the Government spoke yesterday of a division of labour, and how by a division of labour we ought to be able to obtain greater results. I admit the advantages of a division of labour; but as my right hon. Friend spoke of the increased work which in the country has been performed by the division of labour, I wish to say that that division of labour has, in regard to many trades, had one disadvantage, and that is of creating a class of specialists fit to perform the particular class of work placed upon them by the division of labour, but incompetent to address themselves to the work as a whole. The result has been that the persons engaged in a particular trade have become too special. The right hon. Gentleman will excuse me if I point to a danger which 309 may attend the selection of these Committees. It is not through specialists that we are to attempt to deal with the question. We must attempt the composition of a Committee as far as possible in regard to the subjects referred to it, but with a representation of all classes in this House upon it. I hope I have justified the remark that I made at the beginning of these few observations, that I am anxious not to increase the great difficulties of the Government in endeavouring to deal with the arrears of work; but, at the same time, it appeared to me that it was right we should realize to ourselves some of the leading principles involved in this delegation of power, and not lose ourselves in the consideration of difficult objections which I trust may be overcome. It is easy enough to cite a number of objections in detail to any plan. Many of the objections in this case, when I heard them, I will honestly say, made a considerable impression upon my mind, and when I listened I wondered how it was possible to overcome them. But when I think of the difficulty of the present state of things, when I perceive the difficulty of applying ourselves to our work, I am not without a hope that we may be able to overcome those difficulties of detail, and that the greater sacrifices that are demanded of men of business, of lawyers, and of many other classes by these Grand Committees will be met with the same readiness which men in public life in this country so often display in the discharge of public duties. Then, in regard to the duties confided to them, I think we shall be able to overcome these difficulties. We should, however, commit a great error, in the delegation of our power, were we to act on a false principle and forget the Representatives of the constituencies of this country. I will never admit that great interests of a varied character are to be determined by specialists, or any limited number of men; and we should take care that all classes, and the Representatives of all interests, have a voice in determining the legislation which is to affect any one class. In nearly all the discussions which have taken place on this subject, in nearly all the speeches which have been delivered, one fact has become prominent and apparent—namely, that we cannot separate the interests of this 310 country in this fashion, where all are so united; and it is difficult to draw the line and say where the interests of agriculture overlap those of trade—where law begins or where trade begins. It is necessary for the country that there should be an amalgamation of interests; and, for my part, I have always protested against the idea that the interests of classes are separate and antagonistic. I believe the interests of classes all overlap and depend on each other; and, therefore, whatever may result from these proposals, I trust that all of the interests of this country may be taken into consideration in dealing with any special interests, and that the House of Commons will retain, as I believe it ought to retain, the full power and full opportunity of discussing every question and every law which affects any single class of the community.
§ MR. SCLATER-BOOTH
said, the right hon. Gentleman had given some excellent advice to the Members of the Committee of Selection, and he regretted he did not see more than one of that body present. He had only seen one in his place since this discussion began. The right hon. Gentleman had made some useful and instructive observations, with many of which he was disposed to agree; and his (Mr. Sclater-Booth's) complaint was that they did not find on the Notice Paper any materials which would enable them to come to a conclusion as to what these Committees would be, or how they would work. Apparently it was left to the Committee of Selection to find it out in the best way they could. Then, again, they hardly knew how far they had got Committees of Selection upon which they could depend—that was to say, to what extent the House could rely that the Committees of Selection would not be themselves tampered with. As the functions of these bodies grew, was the House to rest assured that the numbers on the Committees or their complexion would not be altered? They knew what a Committee of Selection was now, but they did not know what it might be under new manipulation. The Grand Committees, if they were ever to be tried, ought to be tried on a different principle to those laid down in the Resolution. Each Committee ought to be a minor form of a Committee of the Whole House; but the Committee of the Whole House should 311 be left to form panels for themselves to serve like Committees on Private Bills. In order to enable the House to do this the whole of the definition of the Bills in the Resolution ought to be struck out, in accordance with his (Mr. Sclater-Booth's) Amendment standing on the Paper. If the Committee of the Whole House were to form two panels of 60 or 80 Members, without reference to the Bills to be referred to them, there would be a chance of substantial Committees being formed, and there would be no pressure whatever on the part of hon. Members to be put on this or that Committee, because no one would know until the time came for them to sit what Bills were going to be referred to them. He wished to refer to some other faults in the plan of the Government which led him to believe that it had not been sufficiently thought out. In answer to the President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Dodson), he would say it seemed to him that the Government had given no thought whatever to the mode in which the plan was to be worked. As it stood on the Paper the proposal was that certain Bills should be referred to the Grand Committees; but the Grand Committee was not to be constructed for the Bill. The Bill was to be referred to the Grand Committee after the latter had been constituted. Was, then, the promoter of a Bill to have no voice in its consideration in Committee—was he not to be on the Committee? It was not even provided that the President of the Board of Trade, when he brought forward a Bill, should be on the Committee to whom it was referred. At present, when a Public Bill was referred to a Select Committee, the Minister in charge of it was appointed Chairman; but no provision was made for that in the Resolution. No doubt, it was intended that Members of the Government should be on the Standing Committees, but Members of the Government would have little time to devote to such work; in fact, he hardly knew how this scheme could work without causing Ministers to neglect their Departmental duties. It was true that though there were "immense masses" of work to be done there was great power in the House to do it; but he was afraid the great "mass" of work in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman was the 35 measures they had heard so much of as the 312 reforms to be proposed for the gratification, he would not say of the country, but of the Liberal Party. No doubt, there were great masses of work to be done; but to his mind this work was of a more unobtrusive character than that referred to by the right hon. Gentleman—namely, private legislation—matters connected with Town Improvement, Police, Sanitary Regulations, and Finance. These were matters pressing on the House, but to which the House was little disposed to give consideration. If Members of the Government, and others who ought to be considering important private legislation, were on these Grand Committees, the enormous and growing interests of the country would suffer by the establishment of the Grand Committees. It appeared to him that if the Committee of Selection was to mark out 80 Members each for two of these Standing Committees, Private Business would be starved still more than it was at present. As the Resolution stood, the House could not adopt it unless it was prepared to sit another fortnight to construct a scheme, word by word, and line by line, out of the very general and sketchy material on the Paper. Unless the House was prepared to do this, it would be well to decide to enlarge the Committees to which Public Bills were from time to time referred, and to postpone the Resolution. Unless they were prepared to devote a great deal more time to this matter than they had yet given it, it seemed to him that they were only aiming at something that was in the abstract and not in the concrete. The Government did not give them the assistance in the matter they were entitled to expect, if, at this period of the Session, on a subject so important, they only gave them this shadowy and vague Resolution.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 133; Noes 77: Majority 56.—(Div. List, No. 400.)
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ Debate arising;
§ Debate adjourned till To-morrow.
§ House adjourned at a quarter before One o'clock.