§ Lord Mulgrave,
pursuant to notice, brought forward his motion for erasing from the book which purported to contain the standing Orders of the house, the Order, No. 30, which empowered any individual peer to move the house to go into a committee when he wished to speak upon a question more than twice, or with a view to enlarge the freedom of debate. His lordship did not well know whether he should dwell upon the regulation as a standing order of the house, or merely as an admonition or remembrance, in which light it seemed to be considered by the noble lord on the woolsack. But in whatever point of view it might be regarded, he could not but look upon it as a standing order of the house, and as such he should touch upon the various reasons which should induce the house to discontinue it. He had therefore to represent the abuse of such an order as pregnant with the most pernicious consequences. It was not only incompatible with the dignity of the house, and the impartiality and solemnity of their proceedings, but it also went to infringe the privileges of the house, by rendering nugatory the interposition, in the case of such committees, of proxies or 614 protests. It would preclude every opportunity which any but great and powerful debaters could avail themselves of to engross the whole discussion of any question, however important, by continually resorting to the expedient of moving for a committee, under the cover of this Standing Order.—Besides, what a powerful and dangerous engine might it not prove in the hands of a despotic government, or of a turbulent and factious opposition, who, by protracting any discussion that might involve the most important affair, must throw almost insuperable obstacles and embarrassments in the way of public business. He should not insist on the slighter inconvenience which at enforcement of such an order might frequently produce, but the arguments he had already advanced against its being longer continued were, in his mind, fully sufficient to justify him in now moving, that the said Order be vacated. In addition to these very objectionable considerations, it clashed with, and even rendered nugatory, an important standing order of the house, No. 19, which prohibits any noble lord from speaking twice in the same debate. It could not be called a standing order, for all these required two days notice, even for their suspension. The present, from its essential nature and effect, admitted of no such previous proceeding. He could see no adequate reason which could possibly be advanced for continuing such an order on the book. Therefore, with such impressions of it on his mind, he felt it incumbent on him to propose, "that the said order be vacated."—On the question being put;
The Earl of Carnarvon
rose, and contended the noble lord was totally mistaken, as to the effects of the order. It did not refer to the raising a committee for the purposes mentioned by the noble lord; but merely to afford a greater latitude to the freedom of debate. The objection, with respect to the proxies and protests, did not apply, as all questions were ultimately decided by a house, wherein these could freely be given. There was never an improper use made of the order; and it was incumbent on those who urged propositions, tending to cramp the freedom of debate, to prove that such an order had produced specific inconveniences: deeming of the order as he did, he should certainly vote for its continuance.
The Lord Chancellor
was of opinion, that, upon the whole, the order in question admitted of serious objections; and many of 615 those advanced by his noble friend were, he thought, well founded. It could not, however, be considered as a standing order. It was, to speak strictly, a remembrance; from the time of its being enacted, which was in 1626, to the present, it had, he believed, been but twice acted upon. This in some degree shewed its inutility; its possible injurious effects were obvious. He agreed that questions must be ultimately decided by the house; but still the order or memento should not he suffered to stand, at least without some material alteration or amendment, as the very circumstance of resolving the house into a committee through it, may be productive of mischievous consequences, as therein the sense of a decided and great majority of the house (proxies not being admissible) may be counteracted.
§ Lord Grenville
was for retaining an order from which no practical inconvenience had resulted since its adoption in the year 1626. It appeared that it had only been enforced three times; 1st, when an attempt was made to deprive some members of that house of their seats by introducing a bill, requiring certain qualifications; 2dly, when it was thought fit to propose that certain words introduced into a protest should be expunged; and, lastly, when certain questions were moved to be submitted to the judges, in the case of Mr. Justice Fox. In all these cases the enforcement of the order appeared to his lordship highly proper.
§ Lord Harrowby
argued generally in favour of the leading observations of the noble secretary of state. He was answered by
§ Lord Hawkesbury
argued briefly against the continuance of the order. His grounds were the more prominent positions of his noble colleague.
§ Earl Spencer ,
who was not inclined to speak even once upon the present question, were it not for some points he heard advanced that evening, observed, that the order existed an interval, not greatly short of 200 years, and no inconvenience had been proved to result from it. With respect to the appellation of "remembrance," such was the general head given to all the orders in the book, and he denied that it clashed with the order No. 19, as peers were usually suffered to speak in explanation of any point they had before advanced, which could not be considered as speaking twice.
The Lord Chancellor
quitted the wool sack, and was apparently about to propose 616 something in the way of amendment, when, being apprised of its being in some degree informal, in that state of the proceeding, by one of their lordships, he sat down. The question was then put, and the house divided—For the motion, including 15 proxies, 29—Against it, including 8 proxies, 22—Majority for vacating the Order, 7.—Adjourned.