§ House in Committee.
§ LORD BROUGHAM said, that as he had no desire to delay the progress of the Bill, he would postpone the Amendment of which he had given notice until the bringing up of the report.
§ LORD CAMPBELL suggested that the Amendment could come on when the third reading was moved.
§ LORD BROUGHAM said, that the suggestion of his noble and learned Friend would meet his views. His objection extended to the preamble of the Bill also. The preamble set forth that, "whereas it was expedient;" it did not add that it was just or necessary, but merely expedient—to do what would be a great injustice; and in that expediency he, for one, could not concur.
§ LORD REDESDALE said, that the noble and learned Lord ought to be cautious in imputing motives to the supporters of the measure. He ought to recollect that the principle of enacting ex post facto laws was by no means a new principle in legislation.
§ LORD CAMPBELL said, that the present Bill was not like former ex post facto enactments, or like any measure that ever passed through Parliament. This Bill differed from all others, inasmuch as it was intended to shut out inquiry into abuses, and to aid sitting Members in retaining their seats without having their elections examined into.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE denied that the Bill was a job, and thought that noble Lords ought to be cautious in casting such an imputation on a measure which had received the support of a great majority of the other branch of the Legislature. He begged to remind the House that the jobs might be on the other side. For his own part, he knew nothing what- 449 ever of the Bill until he was asked to move the second reading by his right hon. Friend who had charge of it in the other House of Parliament.
§ After a few words from Lords BROUGHAM, MONTEAGLE, and the LORD CHANCELLOR,
§ Bill in Committee. House resumed. On question that the Bill be reported,
LORD BROUGHAM moved the Amendment, of which he had given notice, namely—
That nothing in this Act contained shall be of force, by way of retrospective or ex post facto law, to affect any vested interest, or decide any question now depending before any court or in either House of Parliament.
§ The House divided:—Contents 21; Non-contents 16: Majority 5.
§ LORD MONTEAGLE complained of the course which had been pursued by the noble and learned Lord in taking a division at that stage of the Bill. He said that the intimation which had been given by the noble and learned Lord was, that be would not move the Amendment, and go to a division that night. The consequence was, that several noble Lords had gone away, who, had they expected a division, would have waited and voted for the Bill, and against the Amendment. But the noble and learned Lord seemed to have given a whisper to the noble Chairman, and then a division was called for. He asked the noble Lords who belonged to Her Majesty's Government, and who had united their votes with that of the noble and learned Lord, if surprises of that kind were to be permitted, how the public business was to be carried on? It was a practice of a most novel nature, and one which was inconvenient to all parties. He, therefore, gave notice that on to-morrow night he should, not by surprise, but by regular and due notice, move that the House upon the third reading of the Bill do disagree with the Amendment.
§ LORD BROUGHAM never in his life saw a more extraordinary instance of total forgetfulness of what had passed than had just been evinced by the noble Lord. That he (Lord Brougham) had said that he would take the division upon the third reading, he did not deny. The suggestion had been made to him by his noble and learned Friend (the Lord Chancellor), and he had at once acquiesced. But whether the debate took place upon the report or upon the third reading could not matter to the noble Lord opposite; and there would have been this inconvenience attending its being taken 450 upon the third reading, that it would have to be reported; and the report could not have been received upon the same day that the Amendment had been introduced in Committee. The only question really had been the taking or the not taking the debate in Committee, and not one word had been said of the division; and it was in accordance with a whisper across the table from his noble and learned Friend (the Lord Chancellor), who said that it would be better to take the debate upon the report, that he had acted. Anything more unfounded than the charge of its having been done by surprise, or of the House having been taken by surprise, he never heard.
§ The EARL of MALMESBURY said, that he had gone to his noble and learned Friend (Lord Brougham) at an early period of the evening, and asked him was he going to divide upon his Amendment? to which his noble Friend replied, "I have no intention of the sort—I only wish to record my opinion." He (the Earl of Malmesbury) thought there would be no division, in consequence; and he told his Friends who had come down for the purpose of supporting the Bill, and whom he had been asked to desire to attend, that they might resume whatever other occupations they might find more amusing than sitting there.
§ LORD BROUGHAM had only to give the most complete, stringent, and peremptory denial to that statement of the noble Earl. ["Order!"] He was not to be called to order for denying a statement such as that. He had a right to deny it, and to assert the fact. He never heard the noble Earl say such a thing, or ask him if he meant to take a division. He (Lord Brougham) was asked by the noble Earl if he meant to debate the question that night; and he said he had no intention of doing any such thing, as he merely proposed the Amendment in order to give his opinion. If he had refused to divide, he would not have done so. But he merely declined to debate the question; and as to his having called for a division, he had done no such thing. He said nothing one way or the other. Some noble Lord on the other side, when the Lord Chancellor said, "The Contents have it," said, ''The Non-contents have it," and called for a division; but he gave the most positive, unhesitating, and peremptory denial to the statement of the noble Earl. There was no question put to him about dividing upon the Amendment. 451 The question never arose on dividing, only on debating. The noble Earl might have used the word "division," or "divide;" but he (Lord Brougham) never heard him say so. He thought the question was only whether he meant to debate it.
§ The EARL of MALMESBURY, in explanation, said, the circumstances were these. He had been desired to solicit the attendance of Peers who approved of the Bill, not to solicit their attendance merely to support it; but he had been asked by several Peers to give them intimation as to the time at which it was brought on; but he did not make what was called "a whip" for the occasion; and when he was asked by several of those Peers whether there would be a division, he, notwithstanding what had been said by his noble and learned Friend, certainly did ask him if he meant to go to a division.
§ LORD BROUGHAM: Did the noble Earl hear me say "I won't divide?"
§ The EARL of MALMESBURY: When I asked the noble and learned Lord was he going to divide, he said, "I have no intention of doing so."
§ LORD BROUGHAM: Yes; I said, "I have no intention of doing so," meaning of debating the question; thinking that that was the question which the noble Earl had asked me. The noble Earl could not screw himself up to say, that I said I would not divide. The noble Earl now says, that Peers often ask him to give them intimation as to when Bills are coming on, and that that was all he did upon this occasion. But what he said in his first speech was this, and it is what every one present heard him say, and what I will swear to—not that he was asked to tell when certain business was coming on, but he said, "I was asked to desire Peers to attend who approved of the Bill." Is it meant by that to tell your Lordships that all the noble Earl did was to go about and say to Peers, "Have you considered this Bill, and do you approve of it? And if you do, pray come down and support it." Or rather, as I apprehend, that they were asked generally to come down upon this Bill, I won't say to vote for it, if they approve, but to support it, not merely to come down in case they should approve or disapprove of it. Asking a man to support a thing if he approves is nonsense, and it is an offence, for any one must be supposed to support what he approves.
§ The EARL of MALMESBURY and 452 EARL GREY rose together, but the latter noble Earl requested the former to give way, and proceeded to say, that he could not help thinking that, after what had already passed, the conversation ought not to proceed further. The further consideration of the Bill and the Amendment should stand over until to-morrow evening. But he should say one word in explanation. His (Earl Grey's) vote that evening had been given in favour of the Amendment, in consequence of his noble Friend (Lord Monteagle) not having accepted what he (Earl Grey) thought was a very fair proposal. And his vote to-morrow night would depend upon the promoters of the Bill acceding or not to a fair Amendment.