§ MR. BUTCHER (York)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury whether the attention of His Majesty's Government has been called to the nature of the privilege by which on a charge of felony a peer is tried before the House of Lords, while on a charge of misdemeanour he is tried before the ordinary tribunals of the country; whether the Government have received any representations showing that any desire exists amongst any class in the community to maintain this privilege; and whether, in view of the expenditure of judicial time and public money which is involved in a trial of a peer before the House of Lords, the Government will on an early opportunity introduce a Bill to abolish this privilege.
§ THE FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
It is undoubtedly the fact that the trial of peers for felony is an expensive and cumbrous process, but it is also a process of great historic antiquity, and one which takes its origin from a principle on which, at all events, it is commonly believed the liberties of Englishmen primarily depend, namely, the right of being tried by your peers. No doubt, if these occurrences were likely to be frequent in the future, it would be necessary for some steps to be taken in order to make the proceedings less cumbrous; but as they only take place about once in two generations, I do not know that it is necessary for the House to take any immediate action in the matter.