§ Lord Wharncliffe
wished to ask whether the noble Lord at the head of his Majesty's Government had any objection to lay before their Lordships a protest made by one of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the state of Municipal Corporations, against the Report of his brother Commissioners. He was perfectly willing to admit, that it would be extremely inconvenient to have each Commissioner allowed to make a separate Report; but he thought if one Commissioner dissented from those with whom he was appointed to act, Parliament should not be deprived of the benefit of his opinion. He did not then wish to say anything of the merits or demerits of the measure which was introduced on the subject of Corporate Reform into the other House of Parliament; and still less desirous was he to state any opinion adverse to the question of Corporate Reform. He was quite willing to state, that great Reform was necessary in Municipal Corporations; and the only difference which existed between him and the noble Lords opposite, was as to the mode in which that Reform was to be effected. Parliament had a perfect right, however, to require that all the important evidence laid before the Commissioners should be submitted to their jurisdiction, in order that they might determine whether the conclusions drawn from facts deposed, were just and well 681 founded. He must say, that the protest which had been some time since sent in by Sir Francis Palgrave, had gone far to substantiate the charge which had been brought against the Commissioners, viz.:—that their Report was not drawn up on fair grounds; but, on the contrary, was marked by party views, and a predetermination to view the subject in a certain light which suited their own purpose. Mr. Hogg also, the Commissioner to whose opinions he (Lord Wharncliffe) had now called their Lordships' attention, had sent in a paper, in the shape of a protest, to the Secretary of the Home Department, which would not be received by the noble Lord in that shape, but which contained this Commissioner's reasons for refusing to accede to the Report which had been returned by the other Commissioners. He thought it most desirable that their Lordships should be made acquainted with the contents of this document; and he therefore wished to know whether the noble Lord opposite had any objection that the correspondence which had taken place between Mr. Hogg and the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and also the paper which Mr. Hogg sent in the shape of a protest, should be produced.
§ Viscount Melbourne
conceived that the noble Lord had fully answered his own question; for he admitted, that if each Member of a Commission were suffered to send in a separate Report, there would be no end to such proceedings, and no advantage could be derived from the appointment of a Commission to inquire into any subject. But then the noble Lord had said, that if this paper of Mr. Hogg's were not received as a Report, it might nevertheless be sanctioned as a protest. Why, if it were not right that it should be received as a Report, it followed as a matter of course that it ought not to be received as a protest, which was a mere change of its name. [Lord Wharncliffe: Then why receive the protest of Sir Francis Palgrave?] That protest was erroneously received at the time the measure on Corporate Reform was in course of preparation, and formed no ground for the reception of the paper from Mr. Hogg. He apprehended, however, that no disposition whatever to stifle Mr. Hogg's Report would be displayed; and he was sure, if the noble Lord was anxious to obtain the information contained in that Report, that the Gentleman from whom it proceeded would be most willing to communicate it. The noble Lord might, there- 682 fore, enjoy the full benefit of the Report, and introduce it to the close and immediate attention of their Lordships, by embodying it in his speech on the question of Municipal Reform, when the Bill relating to that question was brought up for discussion in that House.
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
said, that nothing was more common than for a Member or Members of a Commission to enter a protest against the Report on which the majority of their brother Commissioners might have decided. This was done in reference to a question which had come under their Lordships' notice that night:—he alluded to the subject of the Scotch Universities. Commissioners had been appointed to inquire into the state of learning in those Universities, and some of them had returned a Report, which was accompanied by a protest from others. He was convinced that the same course might be pursued in the present case consistently with precedent and with advantage to the public service; and he was the more convinced of the expediency and justice of having Mr. Hogg's protest received, because he thought that Parliament would have lost much valuable information on the question of which it treated, if the protest of Sir Francis Palgrave had not been made and admitted.
§ Lord Ashburton
said, that the only question in the present case appeared to him to be whether Mr. Hogg was a fit person to be placed on this Commission; and as it seemed to be acknowledged that he was, his opinions were, he thought, exactly those which it was necessary that their Lordships should be made acquainted with. When he stated that protests were frequently the means of conveying the most useful information to Parliament, he felt it his duty to allude to the very valuable Reports of the Common Law Commissioners, a comparison of which with the protest appended to it, had alone enabled him to make up his mind on a most important question—the Bill of Non-imprisonment for Debt, which had been introduced into the other House of Parliament.
§ Lord Wharncliffe
observed, that Mr. Hogg complained that he had not been allowed a fair opportunity of stating his opinions on the subject of Municipal Corporations. If Mr. Hogg had a right to complain that he was hardly treated, he thought Parliament was justified in saying that they were still more hardly treated, by being deprived of such valuable information as that contained in this Gentleman's 683 protest. Mr. Hogg had also said, that he sent in Reports with respect to Liverpool and other places, which were not printed. The noble Lord had no objection, he presumed, to the production of the correspondence which had passed between Mr. Hogg and the Secretary of State.
§ The Earl of Harrowby
did not consider the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, justified in rejecting the protest of Mr. Hogg. From what had been already stated, their Lordships were aware that it was a very common practice to make such protests; and if this were not so, such a practice ought, in his opinion, to be encouraged. If the Report of the majority were in every case to be taken as the result of the deliberations of any set of Commissioners, the most unfair conclusions might be arrived at; for that majority might have been decided by a single Commissioner, and the opinions of all the dissentients, which it might be most important to hear, would thus be shut out from the consideration of Parliament. The case was different with a Committee of that or the other House of Parliament, the minority of the Members of which had the opportunity of stating, in their places, the grounds on which they might feel it their duty to differ from the statements made in a Report agreed to by the majority. Such Commissioners as Mr. Hogg, however, had no such opportunity, and their opinions were completely shut out by those of the majority. He trusted, then, that some mode would be devised by which the important information contained in the protest of Mr. Hogg should be laid before Parliament.
§ Viscount Melbourne
did not think that it was attaching any undue importance to a Report to have it decided upon by a majority of Commissioners, as those only who assented to it affixed their names to the document. This proceeding did not, however, put Parliament in possession of the grounds on which the assent of those who refused to sign the Report was withheld. As it was far from his intention that any information which could be properly afforded should not be laid before their Lordships, he should take care to see his noble Friend the Secretary of the Home Department on the subject, before Monday, and determine on what course to pursue with a view of meeting the wishes expressed by some of their Lordships.
The Bishop of Exeter
recollected a re- 684 markable precedent for the adoption of the course proposed to be taken with respect to Mr. Hogg's protest. It was the Report of the Commissioners on National Education in Ireland, three of whom decided on a Report which the two other Members of the Commission dissented from. To the Report, however, was subjoined the protest of the dissentients. Subject dropped.