§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
, in moving that the Bill be new read the second time, said:—My Lords, the object of this Bill is to remedy some of the evils to which I ventured casually to draw the attention of your Lordships some nights ago. The evils in question are patent and well-known, and neither proof nor description of them will be required by any of your Lordships who have had experience of a late period of the Session in this House. It is notorious that a large part of the business which occupies this House has been brought forward at a late period of the Session, when not only Members of the House, but all who have any work in it, are quite exhausted, when the temperature is wholly unfavourable to any exertion, when a great number of Members of both Houses have left town, and when obviously nothing but the most perfunctory consideration can be given to any subjects submitted to your attention. Now, I do not, as has sometimes been represented, complain of it as though it were an injury inflicted on us by the House of Commons. It is not, indeed, a question of where Bills originate. It may be very right that a large number of Bills should originate in the other House, and we know that a certain class of them must, according to the usage of Parliament, originate there. Moreover, in the case of any Bill brought forward by a Department, the head of which sits in the House of Commons, it is only natural that he should wish to introduce them himself, and to make his own speech in explanation of his own measure, instead of handing over his work to some one else. The amount of business originating here will always, therefore, depend on the precise Offices which are held by the Ministers sitting in this House, and this, I apprehend, is a state of things which no legislation 589 can alter. I do not then complain of the House of Commons: what I complain of is that we are not taking steps to remedy an evil which arises out of the very nature of things. We have five months in which to pass a large amount of legislation through the two Houses of Parliament, and those five months are utterly insufficient for the purpose as matters are now managed. It is true that for many centuries the time proved sufficient; but you have twice altered the constitution of the House of Commons, and on both occasions you have largely increased the power of the House, thus drawing within its view a large number of subjects which previously were left to be dealt with by the Executive Government; while you have increased the number of those who are anxious to establish their right to the position which they hold by showing their constituents that they take an active and intelligent part in the conduct of Public Business. The result is that the number of subjects brought before the House of Commons has been constantly increasing, and the desire to speak on those subjects has been increasing at the same time; while the time allotted for disposing of the business of the country has remained unaltered. Some people say it is the pheasants; but I should rather say, less cynically, it is the love of the gentlemen of this country for the festivities and amusements belonging to Christmas which forbids the meeting of Parliament for any real business at an earlier period than February. The conditions of temperature forbid our sitting later than the beginning of August, or, for any useful purpose, than the end of July, and the result is that the time at the disposal of Parliament remains exactly where it was, while the business, from the causes to which I have adverted, has increased in a geometrical ratio, and will increase still further. Under these circumstances I invite your Lordships to consider whether there is any reason in the Constitution or in common sense for allowing this shortness of time to make absolutely futile three-fourths or seven-eighths of the labours of Parliament during any ordinary Session. Owing to a rule of the Constitution—the origin of which nobody can discover, and of which it is impossible to say more than that we find it here—if when August comes your la- 590 bours have not advanced beyond a certain point, those labours must be abandoned as far as legislation is concerned. All that you have done goes for nothing. If a Bill has been considered in great detail by a Select Committee, the Committee must sit and go through the details again; if it had to face a powerful opposition, all that opposition must be faced again. All the works, all the debates, all the enormous labour which attends the passing of any change, however small, in the laws which govern us must be gone through again, in order to reach the goal which you had nearly reached when the Prorogation arrived. Now is there in the nature of things any reason for this practice? Does it commend itself to any man's common sense? Do we act in this manner in any other department of life? Supposing you made it a rule to give up writing letters at a certain hour, would you throw all unfinished ones into the fire, or begin next morning at the point where you left off? Is there any body of men, in any kind of business, that adopt what I must call this senseless practice, that whatever you have not finished by a certain time you must begin again next year? I have never heard any reason for such a rule. There is nothing but the bare inert weight of unmeaning custom to justify a principle which wastes so much of the labour and utility of Parliament. By the present Bill, then, I ask your Lordships to take a step to remedy this obstruction—I ask you to recognize the physical fact that there is not sufficient time within five months for the completion of the business which the two Houses have to perform, and to allow either House, under proper precautions, to begin next year at the point where it left off the year before. It has been said that the Prerogative of the Crown would be injuriously affected if the Crown could not terminate all Bills before Parliament by a Prorogation. Against that objection I have guarded by a clause which makes the Assent of the Crown necessary to the resumption of proceedings on a Bill at the point which it had reached at the close of the preceding-Session. It has also been said that either House might feel jealous of the exercise of the power thus given by the other House. I have guarded against that by making the ultimate consent of the other House necessary after such proceedings 591 have been resumed and brought to a conclusion. The Bill, therefore, not only guards against any infringement of any part of the Constitution, but against any possible jealousy that the power it gives might excite as between the two Houses. I hold, indeed, that it is a Bill for the relief not of one House, but of both Houses. I have often seen Bills in the House of Commons which had been sent down by your Lordships discussed at the end of the Session by a mere tail, including, if I may be allowed to use the term, the Members of Her Majesty's Government. I remember hearing the present Prime Minister say—he was then in Opposition—that at the end of the Session the Government were able to pass anything, and that is strictly the fact; for the House of Commons, like the House of Lords, is then so exhausted and thin that the Government of the day can force through any measure, being by the attendance of its Members practically master of the decisions of the House. It would surely be a great relief to the House of Commons if, when early in August some Bill came down to them, they could suspend proceedings to the following year, and if in those early days of the Session, when the Members of the House of Commons like your Lordships have little to do, they could resume those proceedings. The truth is that even of the time we have before us we make the most wretched and uneconomical use. Even the House of Commons is open to this reproach—that they crowd all their business into May, June, and July; February, March, and to some extent, April also, not being thoroughly employed. Again and again have I seen night after night wasted in February because business was not ready; whereas they might have been devoted to Bills put aside in the previous Session for want of time. I venture, then, to urge this Bill earnestly on your Lordships' attention, because I hold it to be a remedy for the evil, and because I think it of the first importance that the evil should be remedied, and that this House should be brought into a state of thorough efficiency, without any step being taken that can excite jealousy or ill-will between the two Houses. It appears to me, moreover, that it will tend to remove one great reproach which is cast upon our system of Government. Of late years people have doubted 592 whether Parliamentary Government, as at present conducted, is adequate in its vigour and rapidity to the constantly occurring exigencies of such a nation as this, and there is no doubt that the power of delay, or rather the involuntary pressure which drives all parties towards delay, has been excessive of recent years. There is subject after subject calling for the consideration of the Legislature; laws known by every party to require investigation and alteration, which the mere vis inertiœ of Parliament prevents us from undertaking. I do not say that for Bills of the first magnitude—Bills like the Reform Act of 1867, or like that which is now pending in another House—such a power as I propose to give by this Bill is needed, or would be rigidly exercised, for Bills as to which great public excitement exists would probably always be disposed of in a single Session. Nor do I say that for a considerable number of very small Bills, which under any other system of Government would be disposed of by Orders in Council and are matters fairly within the discretion of the several Departments, this power is necessary. There are however a vast number of intermediate Bills—legislation of the second order as I may call it—of which I may take the Bankruptcy Bill as a fair type, which are stopped year after year, and the delays in which are a perfect disgrace and scandal to Parliament. Those Bills do not in general excite any great party opposition, but they are thrust aside and crushed in the hot conflict of parties, and thus fail to come to fruit in legislation precisely for want of some such power as this Bill proposes. I earnestly hope, therefore, that your Lordships will accept it, and will help me in carrying it, so that we may make this much needed reform in the practice of our proceedings.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Marquess of Salisbury.)
§ EARL GRANVILLE
My Lords, before entering upon the subject of the Bill proposed by the noble Marquess, who has already earned the gratitude of the House for the earnestness with which he applies himself to everything that can improve the order and value of our proceedings, I may, perhaps, be allowed, to say one or two words to show that I am not totally unworthy to speak 593 on the subject itself. Your Lordships will remember that, during the somewhat irregular conversation a few nights ago to which the noble Marquess has alluded, he himself, and other noble Lords opposite were good enough to express in courteous terms their confidence in my endeavours to further the wishes of the House in this respect. My noble Friend on the cross-Benches (Earl Grey)—impatient, probably, of such, unmerited compliments—jumped up and denounced me to the House as the individual princicipally responsible for the mischief and delay which exist. I do not know whether any of your Lordships ever saw an old play in which one actor says to another, "Let me treat you as a friend—come and join the family dinner." The other actor, alarmed, says, "Nay, don't treat me as a friend, for I like good living." Now, I always have a little of that feeling when I get into a political difference with one of my own personal friends. But at the same time I admit I would rather be attacked every day by my noble Friend than lose a jot of that friendship which I value so much. My noble Friend could not, of course, have meant that I was the original cause of a grievance which, as we know, has been complained of for more than sixty-five years; and, indeed, I find, from an analysis made by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) that the evil existed to such an extent that the year before I entered this House 132 Bills were passed, of which only twenty-three originated here, 109 in the House of Commons, and, of the 132 Bills, no less than sixty-three, or one-half of the whole number, were submitted to your Lordships in the last six weeks of the Session. But what I understand my noble Friend complained of was this, of my having moved, as the organ of the Government, the suspension of a Standing Order, proposed by the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees, which prevented the second reading of Bills after a certain period of the Session. Now, all I can say in my justification is that every year when that Motion was renewed, I used almost the same words as Lord Aberdeen had made use of on a previous occasion, when he protested against the supposition that any Government could possibly consent to a perfectly strict interpretation of such a Resolution. I do not deny 594 that, if we adopt Resolutions, we ought to adhere to them, and that we should therefore be very careful what we adopt; but I cannot think that if a different course had been taken on the occasion in question, it would really have been to the advantage of the House. My noble Friend (Earl Grey) referred to a Bill which he thought at the time, and still thinks, was bad. Now, I will not enter into its merits or demerits, but it was one which it is quite clear he was anxious to destroy by any weapon that came to his hand. Rightly or wrongly, that Bill was desired by a very large portion of the mercantile community, and I am afraid that it would have been thought by the public that there was something like a "strike" on our part if we had refused to apply our minds to legislation at that particular moment, when, whatever you do, a great press of legislation is sure to occur. This would apply to the noble Marquess's warning that if any Government brought up measures at too late a period he should make use of every form of the House to obstruct them. That form of proceeding has been had recourse to before now, very often with success, but never with success in the long run. The House would, at last, revolt against it, and public opinion would be almost sure to think of us, as an eminent divine once said of some people, that "they appeared to take as much pains to be damned as would have worked out the salvation of their souls." If for several evenings we were to devote our attention to obstructing a Bill, people would think that time might as well have been employed in amending either the substance or the form of it. I am glad to find that the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) has turned his attention to a different mode of dealing with the question. No Bill could have less of a party character than this. A similar Bill was introduced by the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) some twenty years ago. It was opposed by Lord Brougham, Lord Campbell, and the noble Chairman of Committees (Lord Redesdale); but it was strongly supported by Lord Lansdowne, and was sent down to the House of Commons, where it was supported by Earl Russell. There happened to be a Committee sitting at the time on the despatch of Public Business, composed of my noble Friend then Lord, 595 John Russell, Sir Robert Peel, Sir James Graham, Mr. Disraeli, Mr. Cobden, Mr. Hume, and other gentlemen representing different shades of opinion. They examined three witnesses, one of them being the noble Lord who at that time was Speaker of the House of Commons (Viscount Eversley), and also—although I am almost afraid of mentioning it before the noble Marquess—the "intelligent foreigner;" and, after going through that process, without giving any reason, and apparently without any division, they agreed not to recommend the Bill to the adoption of the House of Commons. The noble Marquess has stated very clearly the reasons which tell in favour of this proposal, and, if he adopts the course which I shall venture to suggest, it will be unnecessary for me to state what appear to me to be some objections to it. It is quite clear that the objections which actuated that Committee are likely to have the same weight now with the House of Commons if we send the measure down to be considered by them in a similar manner, and I would recommend the House to give a second reading to the Bill, after which Her Majesty's Government should pledge themselves to appoint a Joint Committee of both Houses with regard to the distribution of business between them. I need not trouble your Lordships with the precedents for appointing a Joint Committee, as a few years ago that course was taken with regard to schemes for railway communication in the metropolis, the precedents I then stated being considered conclusive. We had a preliminary meeting; whether it had the effect of smoothing matters I do not know, but the businesslike way in which the Committee went through what they had in hand was quite remarkable. There was not the slightest feeling of jealousy on the part of Members of either House; the decisions, after a good deal of discussion, were unanimous except on one point, on which a division arose accidentally, apparently on purpose to show that, on the one hand, there was no party spirit, and, on the other, no esprit de corps as regarded the two Houses, and no reference to party—two Peers voting on one side, and two on another, as also an equal number of Commoners—one of each being a Conservative, and the other a Liberal. I should recommend, if such a Joint Com- 596 mittee be appointed, that this Bill be referred to it, but not this Bill alone. The noble Earl (Earl Russell), with his great Parliamentary experience, made a suggestion the other night as to the termination of the financial year which might fitly be referred to it, as also a subject which was brought forward at the time of the discussion of the former Bill,—namely, a scheme for preventing the slipslop wording of Acts of Parliament, of which the public and legal authorities have so much right to complain. Her Majesty's Government, partly with a view to economy, but also with a view to efficiency, have already created a Department, at the head of which is a gentleman meriting the confidence both of the late and the present Government—Mr.Thring—so that all Government Bills may go through the same hands and may be accurately and consistently worded. I think that in Committee some suggestion might be made as to the use of such a Department, in connection possibly with officers of both Houses, so as to exercise some little check and give some advice on the phraseology of Bills. There is another point of more importance to which I prefer alluding only in the most indirect way. It is one which certainly would not properly emanate from this House, but I know than many eminent Members of the House of Commons have a very strong feeling that the straining of some of their privileges is of no use whatever in a constitutional point of view, and is inconvenient, not only to the public and to your Lordships, but also to that House. I should hope that in such a Committee some proposition on that subject might be made which would come more gracefully from Members of the other House than from Members of this. This is the course I venture to suggest; and if it is agreeable to your Lordships I shall make it my duty, in communication with the head of the Government in the other House, to move for the appointment of a Committee of the character I have described.
§ LORD REDESDALE
said, he did not think the country suffered from the want of sufficient legislation, for, on the whole, he thought it had rather too much than too little. One of the great evils which the country suffered from was the want of proper preparation of the Bills submitted to Parliament. There were very few, properly drawn, which found any 597 difficulty in getting through Parliament. He could mention an instance of the value of such preparation. Up to 1845 there had been no general legislation respecting railways; but the railway mania then commencing, and it being evident that a great deal of business would come before Parliament, the Government of the day thought it their duty to bring forward general Bills to be applied to all railways. Accordingly, on the 6th of February—two days after the opening of the Session—the Companies Clauses Bill, the Lands Clauses Bill, and the Railways Clauses Bill for England and Scotland were introduced, each containing from 150 to 160 clauses, and, notwithstanding their voluminous character, they received the Royal Assent on the 8th of May. A few short supplementary Bills on points which they did not touch had since been necessary, but he believed not a single clause in those elaborate Acts had been repealed. This showed how business could be got through when it was properly prepared; but, unfortunately, important Bills were hardly thought of till the Session had actually commenced, when draftsmen were very much employed, and being very imperfectly drawn they required so much consideration and amendment that frequently there was not sufficient time to carry them through. Now, he feared that the operation of the present Bill would rather tend to promote the careless drawing and late introduction of Bills, and he should be glad if both Houses would agree not to give a second reading to Bills containing a given number of clauses unless, with the exception of certain specified Bills, they were introduced during the first month of the Session. Measures ought to be prepared before Parliament met and be introduced early, so that an opinion might be formed upon them, and good legislation would then be facilitated. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) had justly said that his proposal would not be applicable to strong party Bills; and he (Lord Redesdale) could conceive nothing more mischievous than that such Bills, failing to pass one Session, should be resumed by the other House the following Session. Something might be said in favour of the plan as regarded a particular class of Bills; but he could not see why—taking the Bankruptcy Bill as an example—the noble Lord on the 598 Woolsack should not introduce here a similar Bill to that to be submitted to the Commons, and why their Lordships should not discuss it in detail. They would not improbably get through the measure before it reached Committee in the House of Commons; and being sent down to the Commons it might be taken up there and sent back to this House with Amendments at a later period of the Session. If the Bill had advanced so far in Committee that it was not expedient to send it down to the Commons, all its details would have been considered by their Lordships early in the Session, without waiting for the passage of the Bill through the other House. His plan seemed to him more desirable than resuming the consideration of a Bill which had not been passed in the previous Session. He had a strong constitutional objection too, to the principle of determining the proceedings of Parliament by statute. Everything now proposed could be effected by Standing Orders, which had the advantage of being much more easily altered; and at this very time the House were about to experience the inconvenience of the other course, for there were certain conditions as to Railway Bills imposed by an Act of last Session, some of which the companies might not have entirely fulfilled, the result of which would be that however trivial the omission they would be obliged to reject the Bills; whereas had the conditions been Standing Orders, they might have been dealt with in a more satisfactory way. He hoped, therefore, the Committee, if appointed, would consider the expediency of proceeding by Standing Orders rather than by Act of Parliament. The noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) proposed that the Assent of the Crown should be necessary to the resumption of Bills; but it would be most unconstitutional to require that assent to proceedings in Parliament before the Bill went to the Sovereign for assent. At the same time it was no doubt just that power should be given to the Crown to stop a Bill by prorogation. If both Houses adopted a rule allowing a Member to move the suspension of the Standing Orders in the case of a Bill which had been introduced at a proper time and had received full discussion in the preceding Session, so as to take it up at the third reading or at the report, the object desired by the noble 599 Marquess would be attained, and the only discussion necessary would be on the suspension of the Standing Orders; while this manner of proceeding would be in accordance with the forms and privileges of Parliament. He might remind their Lordships that the Bill of Lord Derby was referred by the Commons to a Committee then sitting, which had been appointed to consider the best mode of promoting the dispatch of Business in that House, who reported that they did not think it advisable to recommend it for adoption by the House. On that Committee were Lord John Russell, Sir Robert Peel, Sir George Grey, Sir James Graham, Mr. Hume, Mr. Disraeli, Sir Robert Inglis, Mr. Bernal, Mr. Cobden, Mr. Henley, Mr. Denison, and other distinguished Members, and at one of their meetings they adopted a recommendation that, in order to facilitate legislation, the House of Commons should not insist on its privileges in respect of any Bill or clause brought down from this House whereby tolls, rates, or duties were authorized, imposed, or regulated, provided such duties were levied by local authorities, or for local purposes, and were not applied to the public service. Unfortunately, however, that Resolution was rescinded at a subsequent sitting. Such a relaxation of the privileges of the House of Commons would have facilitated business, and would not have prejudiced the full jurisdiction justly claimed by that House over the taxation of the country, for local rates come within quite a different category. He should be glad if so reasonable a proposal were again made, but he agreed with the noble Earl (Earl Granville) that it would emanate more gracefully from Members of the House of Commons than from any of their Lordships. Having stated the objections which he entertained to this Bill he should content himself by saying "Not content" to the" second reading.
THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, my apology for offering any observations to your Lordships after the remarks of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville), may, perhaps, be found in the fact that, although my Parliamentary recollection does not go so far back as sixty-five years, the period mentioned by the noble Earl, twenty-one years have elapsed since I introduced a Bill in substance identical, and in most of its provisions similar with the measure, now before the House. I 600 regret that my noble Friend (the Marquess of Salisbury) has encountered from the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees the same opposition which I encountered on that occasion; but I trust that, notwithstanding the weight to be attached to the authority of the noble Lord, the House has not altered its opinion in the course of a generation, and that it still regards the evil in question as one deserving of some remedy, and that it will sanction the Bill of my noble Friend. The noble Marquess has pointed out that the increase of Parliamentary Business has greatly aggravated an evil which was at that time felt so keenly. My noble Friend (Lord Redesdale) was himself so convinced of the evil that he himself, a few years ago, came forward with a remedy; and the remedy he proposed was an addition to the Standing Orders, to the effect that this House would not take into consideration any Bills which were sent up from the other House of Parliament after a certain date, except in cases of real urgency. That proposition was one which, had it been adhered to, would, to a certain extent, have diminished the evil. But what occurred? I think in the very Session in which it was agreed to the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) moved that a certain Bill brought up late in July was one of urgency, and required to be immediately considered; he moved the suspension of the Standing Order in respect of that measure, and the Order was suspended. My noble Friend the Chairman of Committees has urged that to proceed by Standing Orders with reference to the Business of the House is preferable to legislation, because Standing Orders can be suspended in case of necessity. Now that is the very objection I take to proceeding by Standing Orders. Your Lordships are aware that while at the beginning of the Session you have scarcely any business, towards the close of it, in the month of July, when the House is thin and everybody is going out of town, you are inundated by a flood of Bills sent up from the House of Commons. That evil is admitted on all hands; and it is also admitted that at that period of the Session Her Majesty's Government, whatever party is in power, have practically an absolute control over all the business introduced into this House. If, therefore, a Bill which may have met a well-founded opposition in 601 the House of Commons, but has passed that House, should come up to your Lordships in the latter part of July, the Government have every facility for pressing it through the House; but in doing so—in exercising their discretion for that purpose—they inevitably lower the character of this House, expose it to the charge of passing important measures without adequate consideration, and degrade it into a mere registry of the acts of the House of Commons. And this is the case not only with measures in which your Lordships may be reasonably supposed to take a special interest; but it is so often with regard to measures which have no political character at all. The other House may have devoted three or four months to the careful consideration of a measure quite irrespective of party; it comes up to your Lordships towards the end of July; it consists, perhaps, of a great many clauses, some of them of a very important character. But you have no time to consider them. And what is your present alternative? You must either reject them, and so throw on the House of Commons the labour and duty of considering them all over again in the ensuing Session, or of passing them without having subjected them to a careful inquiry and consideration. That difficulty this Bill seeks to avoid; but my noble Friend the Chairman of Committees says that the tendency of the Bill will be to increase hasty legislation. Now, it seems to me that the effect of the Bill would be exactly the reverse. It would prevent hasty legislation, and would relieve us from the alternative of passing a Bill without Amendment and without proper deliberation, or of rejecting it altogether, and so rendering futile the labours of a whole Session in the House of Commons. How my noble Friend can say that a provision which will enable us to take up a Bill at any stage, or to consider it with reference to debates that were begun in another Session—to take it up at a time when we would otherwise have no business at all, and therefore when we are able to give it a careful and deliberate consideration—how he can say that that will encourage hasty legislation I cannot understand. My noble Friend also says that if Bills were proposed before the opening of the Session, and if no elaborate Bills were allowed to be brought in after a certain date, measures would be 602 properly considered, and there would be no need of subsequent Amendments. He instanced cases with which he is very conversant, the Companies Clauses and other Acts, which he says were so carefully drawn that they have required no Amendment. With all respect, however, for my noble Friend, I think there is not one of those Bills which has not been repeatedly amended; and, though I do not deny the desirability of Bills being carefully worded, I do not see how you can enforce that provision upon this or the other House, or how you can prevent any individual Member from introducing Bills at any period of the Session. My noble Friend asks why both Houses should not proceed pari passû with a measure—take the Bankruptcy Bill, for instance, which is about to be introduced in the House of Commons. But, however carefully such a Bill may have been drawn, how can you prevent Members either in this or in the other House of Parliament, from moving Amendments, and that clauses involving points of great legal importance and difficulty may be introduced without reference to the other clauses? It is this in fact that leads to so much confusion now, for, when you come to interpret them, lawyers say it is impossible that the House of Commons could have meant the same thing in two clauses of a Bill when they use different language in each; while the fact is, that, practically, they did mean the same thing, only they did not calculate the effect of alterations in one part of the Bill upon other parts. But suppose the same Bill were introduced by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack into this House—can your Lordships imagine a greater hotch-potch than would be produced if we were to be employed amending clauses that were struck out in the Commons, while we struck out a clause that was amended there; and at last the two Bills would be interchanged, and we might have two Bills of 250 clauses each, mutually contradicting each other. Of all devices for increasing the complications of carrying Bills through Parliament, I think my noble Friend's device is one which is the least likely to produce anything but confusion. As to proceeding by Standing Orders rather than by legislation, we see how easily the former are suspended, so that the immovability of the latter, which my noble Friend looks upon as a disadvan- 603 tage, I regard as a decided advantage. Standing Orders are suspended at the caprice of the House, and the instance mentioned by my noble Friend of a Resolution being carried one day and rescinded on another, shows the disadvantage of proceeding in that way. I understood the noble Earl opposite, (Earl Granville), in acceding to the second reading of the Bill, to do so on the understanding that it should be referred, with a variety of other subjects, to a Joint Committee of both Houses. If the noble Earl proposes that this Bill be referred to a Committee of the two Houses impartially chosen—as no doubt it would be—and numbering among its members men whose opinion is entitled to authority, and if the Committee be confined to the consideration of the objects of this Bill, the little experience that I have had of such Joint Committees would certainly induce me to place great reliance and credit upon the Resolutions at which they might arrive. But if the noble Earl proposes to refer to that Joint Committee not only the Bill of my noble Friend, but a variety of other matters embracing such topics as the privileges of the House, and the course of proceeding with regard to other departments of business, I fear that my noble Friend the noble Marquess will find the support given him by the noble Earl opposite to be of a very fallacious character, and the probable result will be that his Bill will be swamped, and my noble Friend will get in lieu of it a Standing Order which will be at all times liable to suspension at the caprice of the Minister. While I thus support the principle and the main provisions of the Bill—if I might venture to make a suggestion to the noble Marquess—I would refer to one or two of the provisions of the Bill. I trust I should be the last to bring in question any of the Prerogatives of the Crown, but I own I do not understand what is the object of that provision that the consent of the Crown is to be necessary—not for the introduction, but for the resumption of a Bill at the former stage. The consent of the Crown is not required to be given before the Bill is introduced into the House of Commons; and if the Bill did not require the consent of the Crown on its first introduction, why should that consent be required for its resumption in 604 the next Session? and why should the consent of the one House be required to the resumption of a Bill by the other House when it is clear that that consent has been given when the Bill was passed by the House in which it originated? Then my noble Friend proposes that the progress of the Bill should depend on a Motion agreed to in both Houses, that it is expedient that the consideration of the Bill should be resumed. I do not understand the object of that. It is enough to place the Bill at that exact stage of proceeding where it would have been if its consideration had been continued in the former Session. There may be some technical reason for this—I confess I do not see it—that at a certain stage, even in the Session of its introduction, it is competent to discharge the Order for its consideration, and therefore it may be desirable to require the consent of both Houses for its resumption. But I think the Government may be hardly treated by the operation of this provision. We all know that at the close of a Session the Government has the control of the business in this House, and that the passage of Bills is entirely in its hands. Now if this measure passed this might happen—Objections are, perhaps, taken to the Bill, and the Government say that the objections are fair and reasonable, and that they will not, therefore, exercise the power they possess and force the Bill through the House, but that they will consent to its being adjourned for consideration to another Session. I think it would not be treating the Government with good faith if, at the commencement of the following Session, the Opposition in this or the other House of Parliament, when the House is full and the Government have not the same control, were to turn round and say, "We won't allow this Bill to be taken up; we won't take it into consideration again." I think that would be doing an injustice, and would lead the Government to exercise their power of pushing on or opposing the measure at the end of the previous Session of Parliament, if they could not rely upon its being taken into fair and deliberate consideration on the re-assembling of Parliament. There is only one other point. It is not made quite clear in what position the Bill, at the completion of its stages, should be sent back to the House in which it originated. My 605 noble Friend does not distinctly say that it should be taken up in the same form as an amended Bill, but I think this should be distinctly understood. I certainly agree that when the Bill is sent down to the House of Commons it should not be necessary to go through the various stages as with a new Bill, but that it should be treated as an amended Bill. But the effect of that would be that, if no Amendments were made in this House, the Commons would be precluded from making any Amendments. Now it would, in my opinion, be highly desirable that on such a Bill going back to the House of Commons, even though this House has made no Amendments, yet the other House should have the opportunity of re-considering its details, and even of moving Amendments, in their own Bill. I think this would be perfectly fair. They may have neglected some details, and it is right they should have the opportunity of correction. But, subject to these observations, I cannot but think that the principle of this Bill is beneficial, and notwithstanding the remarks of the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees, I do not think it will tend to encourage hasty legislation. I think the measure will have the effect of giving both Houses of Parliament a full opportunity of examining the Bills that come before them, and that it will relieve this House from the painful alternative of either absolutely rejecting a Bill or of passing it without examination. I think, too, that it will promote beneficial legislation by supplying to your Lordships' House ample materials for discussion at the commencement of the Session. I am glad to hear that it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to oppose the second reading of the Bill, but I must confess that I heard with some anxiety and alarm of the additional matter which the noble Earl opposite proposes to submit to the consideration of the Committee.
§ EARL RUSSELL
said, he perfectly remembered the Committee of the House of Commons to which the noble Earl had referred. He could not remember all the arguments that were used, but he remembered that he was in favour of the Bill introduced by the noble Earl as a useful piece of legislation. But there were two Members of that Committee—Sir Robert Peel, whose opinion of course always carried with it great authority, 606 and Mr. Goulburn, who was not only highly respected, but who had peculiar knowledge of the usages and proceedings of Parliament, and who was therefore listened to with great respect on all questions of that kind—Sir Robert Peel and Mr. Goulburn opposed the Bill, and gave the Committee such arguments against it that it was rejected. He considered the Bill of the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Salisbury) was founded upon that Bill, and that it would materially improve arid facilitate the work of legislation. There was one point in which he certainly agreed with the noble Earl who had just sat down. Supposing a Bill had passed through one House of Parliament, and Amendments were made to it in the other House, when the amended Bill was sent back to the House in which it originated, according to the usages of Parliament no clause could be touched unless Amendments had been made upon that clause. But when, after a year's delay, the Bill had been resumed and sent back to the other House with perhaps considerable alterations, it might perhaps seem to a majority of the other House that further alterations were very desirable. The House, therefore, ought to have the power not only of altering any clauses that had been amended, but of amending their own Bill as originally agreed to. He only desired to make one other remark, and that was in reference to the proposal made by his noble Friend relating to the subjects to be considered by the Joint Committee. If they were told that his noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies, or any other Member of the Government, was prepared to submit any proposals to the Committee on those subjects, he should be inclined to give his support to his noble Friend's suggestion; but if, on the contrary, his noble Friend had no proposals on which the Government had agreed to suggest, and if the only object was to fish from the various Members for hints or advice which might be useful in that case, he certainly agreed in the opinion that such a course would involve a great waste of time. His consent, therefore, to that course, or rather his vote, would entirely depend upon his noble Friend informing him whether the Government were prepared to make any proposals which they had agreed to for the consideration of the Committee. He need only say that he should wish to see 607 this Bill proceeded with as soon as possible in their Lordships' House, and sent down to the other House of Parliament.
§ LORD CAIRNS
I am sure your Lordships are very much indebted to my noble Friend who has proposed this Bill, both for the earnest manner in which he has addressed himself to the task of improving the arrangement of Business in this House, and also for the very practical manner in which he has brought the whole process of our proceedings to the test of his measure. I do not rise to say a word on the principle of the Bill. I entirely concur in it, and in thinking that its adoption would be attended with those great advantages which have been referred to by noble Lords who have spoken much, more effectively on the subject than I am able to do. But I rise to say that I think the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville) takes too gloomy a view of the prospects of a Bill of this kind if your Lordships should think fit to pass it and send it down to the other House of Parliament. It is quite true that in 1848 a Bill to improve the arrangement of our proceedings was sent down from this House, and did not receive the approbation of the other House. But what is the history of that measure? That Bill was proposed to your Lordships' House, and having been read a second, time in your Lordships' House, was referred to a Select Committee and carefully considered by that Committee before it was read a third time and sent down to the House of Commons, where a Select Committee on Public Business happened to be at that time sitting. It was referred to that Committee; but I find that the Order of Reference bore date the 11th of August, 1848. I think, when I mention that date, the fact that the Bill did not pass through the other House will not surprise your Lordships. It would have been morally impossible that before the close of the Session it could have received the attention which, no doubt, it otherwise would have received. It reached the Committee; but the Committee did not feel warranted in recommending it to the adoption of the House. Passing from the general merits of the Bill, which I think are very great, I hope my noble Friend will allow me to make one or two suggestions as to matters of detail which have already to some extent been alluded to by some of your 608 Lordships. I think if my noble Friend will only consider the point, he will be of opinion that the first qualification he has imposed upon the resumption of proceedings in either House is altogether unnecessary—I mean that of obtaining the consent of the Crown. I quite concur with my noble Friend the Chairman of Committees that we ought to be careful in introducing, if not necessary and proper, the consent of the Crown as a condition preliminary to our legislation. If the Bill be one which requires the consent of the Crown to be signified—that is, if the Bill be one which touches the Rights and Prerogatives of the Crown—then it is, of course, not only necessary that the consent of the Crown should be given in the first instance, but further I think in such a case the consent of the Crown given one year ought not to dispense with the necessity of obtaining it twelve months afterwards when Progress with the Bill is resumed; because it may well be that, in the interim, circumstances may have occurred which would induce the Advisers of the Crown not to recommend that such assent should be given to the measure. Therefore, my Lords, in that case it would be very fair to make the consent of the Crown a necessary condition. The other matter of detail to which I wish to refer is this I quite agree with what fell from the noble Earl who spoke below the Gangway at the other side (Earl Russell) that we should be very careful, not merely for the sake of the House of Commons, but for our own sake, that if a Bill is to be resumed in a second Session, and is to be sent back to the House from which it was passed in the previous Session, that House, although it may not have the right to decide upon the principle of the Bill, which it has already accepted on the second reading, must have the right to amend it in detail, and not merely to deal with those Amendments which may have been made in the other House of Parliament; because it is not only possible, but it is extremely probable, that the lapse of a twelvemonth may have so altered the state of things with reference to the Bill that the House which had originated the measure may desire in many respects to alter it. As regards the progress of the present Bill, the noble Earl (Earl Granville) has recommended that it should be read a second time and then referred to a Joint 609 Committee of the two Houses of Parliament. We should, however, be very careful to understand that if this Bill is to be referred to a Joint Committee of the two Houses it is not to be referred to them with the view of having the details settled for your Lordships' House by a Joint Committee of the two Houses. We must reserve to ourselves the right of settling in a Committee of this House the details of the Bill as one to be adopted by your Lordships' House. It would not be desirable to have that work done by a Joint Committee which might sit in secret. In the next place, we must be very careful to understand what are the subjects with which the Joint Committee is to deal. The noble Earl opposite (Earl Russell) mentioned this a few nights since that he thought an improvement might be effected in the proceedings of the other House if a change were made in the time at which the Estimates are laid upon the table, and in the time at which the Budget is produced. Now, my Lords, I do not believe the other House will allow a Joint Committee of the two Houses to discuss that subject; but, my Lords, further than that, I maintain that questions of that kind are questions for the Executive Government, and not questions for the Houses of Parliament. It is for the Executive Government to say the time at which they will lay the Estimates on the table, and at which they will close the financial year, and make the financial statement that follows upon the close of it. Therefore I think that instead of facilitating the adoption of the principle of this Bill, we should be delaying it by referring points of that kind to the consideration of a Joint Committee. Next, as regards the wording of Acts of Parliament, a Joint Committee of the two Houses might occupy twelve months in discussing this subject. I do not believe that any question would open a wider field of discussion, or would produce greater differences of opinion. The Committee would be asked to deal with the subject of a Minister of Justice, of a department for directing the framing of Bills, and cognate subjects of the kind. Indeed, I cannot conceive any subject on which a greater difference of opinion would be likely to arise. The Executive Government are, after all, the great manufacturers of Bills; and, as we have 610 heard, the Government have, on their own responsibility, organized a department for drafting and preparing Bills under Mr. Thring, than whom there is no one more competent. I am glad of that; and I must say that I think it would be delaying any chances of a measure such as the Bill before us if we were to refer to the Joint Committee a consideration of those other subjects. Then the noble Earl suggests that perhaps the House of Commons will waive, or at all events not insist on, their privileges in respect of taxing clauses in Bills not directly connected with the financial arrangements of the country. I should be glad that the House of Commons should do as the noble Earl suggests; but I am sure that the House of Commons is not going to submit that question to a Joint Committee, in which the Members of that House might be outvoted on a matter relating to their own privileges. My Lords, the result is this—that there would be nothing to refer to the Joint Committee but the question of the principle of the present Bill. Now, I must say that I think there is a great deal in what fell from my noble Friend the Chairman of the Committees as to the possibility of this and the other House of Parliament effecting by Standing Orders what is proposed to be done by this Bill; and I will tell you what, in my opinion, the advantages of that course would be. If you pass an Act of Parliament regulating the Business of the two Houses, then, no matter how much one of the two Houses may upon experience find any part of the arrangement to be, and however much it may desire to retreat from that part of the arrangement, it is unable to do so without obtaining the consent of both Houses of Parliament; whereas, if each House proceeds by Standing Orders, then either House, which on experience does not approve of the arrangement, is able to rescind its Standing Orders, and there is an end of the arrangement altogether. As to the objection that there is a temptation to suspend Standing Orders, I would observe that there is a difference in this respect between "restrictive" and "enabling" Standing Orders. There is a temptation to suspend the former; but no such temptation exists in the case of the latter. Therefore, my Lords, the practical question—What shall be done with this Bill?—I venture to be hope will be 611 solved in this way. If the noble Earl (Earl Granville), on communicating with his Colleagues, were in a position to say that the Government adopted entirely the principle of this Bill, but that they desired to have a Joint Committee of the two Houses, in order that the Joint Committee might say whether they would assent to the principle, and whether the principle should have effect given to it through the medium of a Bill or the medium of Standing Orders, and if the operations of the Joint Committee should be confined to that purpose, and that only, I think that would be a very good way of dealing with the further progress of the question. But if that is not the view of the noble Earl, then I should say, in reference to such a proposal, that it is very much better for my noble Friend to proceed in Committee of the Whole House with the Bill which he has brought forward.
My Lords, I approve of the object of the Bill now before the House, because I believe that great advantage would result from the adoption of some system by which Bills might be resumed in a new Session of Parliament at the stage at which they arrived at the end of the previous Session. At the same time I must admit there is great force in the argument used by the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns) that it is objectionable to attempt, by means of legislation, to interfere with the course of proceeding in either House of Parliament. When this question was the subject of discussion on a former occasion, Lord Truro expressed a strong opinion against the adoption of any proposal to regulate the mode of procedure in either House by legislation. There is also much force in the objection of the noble and learned Lord to send this Bill to a Joint Committee of both Houses to be considered with a number of other subjects. I agree with my noble Friend (Earl Russell) that a Committee of this sort, if it is intended to devise some new arrangements to facilitate the transaction of business, is not likely to lead to any useful result. If it is to deal with recommendations to be suggested by Her Majesty's Government the case would of course be altogether altered; still I doubt whether the best way of dealing with such suggestions would be to refer them to a Joint Committee. I do not know how far the House of Com- 612 mons would be willing to place the power of regulating their own mode of procedure in the hands of a Joint Committee. At the same time I am convinced that the present mode of procedure might be greatly improved, and stands in great need of being so, and if a Joint Committee be appointed to consider this question I hope they will not content themselves with recommending some such arrangement as that proposed by this Bill, but will look more deeply into the whole question, and consider whether in addition to this some more extensive improvement might not be made in the whole machinery of legislation. No one who has paid attention to the course of Public Business in either House during the last few year's can fail to be sensible of the truth of what has been stated by the noble Marquess, that Parliament has become less and less able to deal satisfactorily with the vast mass of legislation which comes before it. There are a number of subjects of the highest importance which, for sheer want of time, fail to receive the consideration and despatch at the hands of Parliament to which they are entitled. There are notoriously many points in our law which require speedy improvement which are postponed from year to year and from Session to Session because there is not, under existing arrangements, time for their being properly attended to. In my opinion this press of business has become so great an evil that I am persuaded that in some mode or other, whether by means of a Joint Committee, such as is now proposed, or55 by some more deliberate method of inquiry, it is absolutely necessary to re-consider the whole machinery of our legislation; and I am convinced that a great deal may be done by the improvement of that machinery. The noble Lord has said very truly that much depends upon the manner in which Bills are prepared before they are brought before Parliament, and I do not think that our existing arrangements in that respect are at all satisfactory. But I must also submit to your Lordships that after Bills have been brought into Parliament our mode of dealing with them is most defective. They are read a second time and then they go before a Committee of the Whole House. Any one who knows what a difficult task it is to frame an Act of Parliament in such 613 a manner that it stall clearly and accurately express the intentions of the Legislature, must see that if a Bill has been ever so carefully drawn up in the first instance, when the wording of the clauses comes to be discussed in a Committee of the Whole House, when Amendments are made in them, and new clauses are introduced, it is impossible that these can be properly considered by so numerous a body, with their bearing on the rest of the Bill and on the existing law. A Committee of the Whole House is not only utterly unfit to deal with the details of a Bill, but, in doing so, wastes much valuable time, and thus stops the work of necessary legislation. I am sure my noble Friend (Lord Russell) must, like myself, have a lively recollection of the many weary hours we sat on the Treasury Bench in the House of Commons in carrying through Committee some of the important measures proposed by Lord Melbourne's Government. In Bills which had been drawn up with the best professional assistance, it was common to hear Members proposing verbal Amendments, to which, at a moment's notice, and without an opportunity of deliberately considering their effect on other clauses of the Bill, it was difficult to perceive the objections, and thus Amendments which afterwards proved highly inconvenient were sometimes made with very little consideration. After we had been toiling from five until nine or ten o'clock in the evening, Gentlemen who had been much more agreeably engaged, and who were ignorant of what had occurred in the early part of the evening, used to come down to the House, take part in the discussion upon the Bills, and propose Amendments which were utterly inconsistent with what had been previously done. I even remember it to have happened that one of our own Colleagues had come down at a late hour and jumped up most gallantly to help us in defending some clause from an injudicious Amendment which had been pressed upon us, but unfortunately he did so upon grounds totally opposed to those upon which we ourselves had taken in his absence. From practical experience, therefore, I believe that a Committee of the Whole House is utterly incompetent to discharge the duties imposed upon it. The result of our present system of legislation is that, when a Bill has become law it is found 614 to be so full of inconsistencies and blunders, and so difficult to understand that the time of our Judges and our courts of law is wasted in endeavouring to reconcile one inconsistent clause with another, and to put some rational meaning upon the aw lwe have made. It often happens, too, that while the early clauses in a Bill are discussed at unnecessary length, those in the latter part of a long Bill, which are not brought before the House until it is tired of the subject, are hurried through with scarcely any consideration whatever. In the early period of our Parliamentary history, I believe, the Houses of Parliament never attempted, as they now do, to deal with the technical task of putting an intended new law into words. At that time the substance of a measure was agreed to by the Houses of Parliament, but the manner in which that substance was to be worked out was left to be decided by the Judges. I do not desire to see these matters mixed up with the consideration of the present Bill, but I do hope that in some mode or other Parliament will consider whether it cannot improve its machinery of legislation. It is impossible our Acts of Parliament can be correctly drawn under the present system; but Parliament might depute to other persons what I may call the mechanical and technical task of settling the legal phraseology by which its objects are to be accomplished, without abandoning its proper control over the substance of legislation. Some such reform is urgently wanted to improve and expedite the process of legislation.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
One or two of the points suggested by your Lordships in this discussion appear to me of considerable importance apart from the measure itself which has been proposed. I desire, however, to say a few words on two points only. I do hope that if a Joint Committee of the Members of both Houses be constituted in the manner which has been proposed, they will not fail to secure for the future the due framing of Bills which are to become the law of the land. It has been said by my noble and learned Friend (Lord Cairns) that it is the business of the Government to see that the Bills which they bring forward are properly drawn and presented in a fit and proper manner. That, no doubt, is so; but my noble and learned Friend cannot forget 615 that in the other House of Parliament there are many Members who, whatever the nature of the measure under consideration, think they can improve the wording of the Bill. Bills of magnitude, such as those dealing with the question of bankruptcy, the amendment of the mercantile law, or other measures which affect great classes of the country, are necessarily divided into a great number of clauses; and upon a Bill of perhaps 400 or 500 clauses, I will not say the interference, but the intervention of Members immediately occurs, who fancy that they can improve the wording of each particular section. The consequence is that when these Bills ultimately reach the Judges numberless provisions are so inconsistent with each, other that it becomes a matter of great difficulty to give effect to the intentions of the Legislature, or frequently to discover what the intention really was. Now, if the Joint Committee, the constitution of which had been suggested, could be induced to recommend that the Houses of Parliament should concur in confiding to officers of their joint selection the task and duty of revising Bills with respect merely to their wording—but not as to other matters—before they received the Royal Assent, you will be taking one of the very best steps which has been taken for many years to promote an intelligible system of legislation. And, more than this, by appointing gentlemen of such ability as you ought to command, an easy means will be provided of digesting each Session the different Acts of Parliament which are passed, and of bringing their provisions into accord. Instead of having 160 new statutes passed every year, by applying to them some degree of method and classification, the mass of legislation presented to Parliament might be reduced by one-fourth or one-third of its present amount. After the discussion which the Bill has received I need not detain your Lordships with any general observations; but I must make one remark upon an observation which has fallen from the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees. He told your Lordships that there is no difficulty in passing a Bill through the Legislature rapidly and promptly, provided it be carefully prepared and properly worded; and he gave, as an illustration, the Lands Clauses, 616 the Railway Clauses, and the Companies Clauses Consolidation Acts. My Lords, I am unfortunately old enough to remember the very commencement of those clauses, from the time, I may say, when they were in their cradle. I am not going to inflict their history upon your Lordships; but I will shortly state that these clauses originally came from other Acts, being inserted in every Bill by the noble Earl (the Earl of Shaftesbury), who preceded the noble Lord in his Office of Chairman of Committees. They were called "Lord Shaftesbury's Clauses," and were inserted totidem verbis in every Bill, until it was found that, accidentally, differences had grown up in the copies of the clauses which were so inserted, and accordingly, to correct this error and with a view to future uniformity, it became necessary to embody these clauses in two or three general Acts. These clauses consequently had been nursed into existence for fourteen or fifteen years, and after that long minority they undoubtedly took a perfect shape under the care of the noble Chairman of Committees; and owing to the care and promptness which he exhibited, it was not likely that any clauses of a similar kind would experience much difficulty in passing into law. But the case is very different with any general measure of the character to which I have referred. The unfortunate Bankruptcy Bill has been introduced in the House of Commons by the Attorney General of one Government; in the next year it has again been introduced in the House of Commons by the Attorney General of another Government; in the following year it was introduced into this House by one of my noble and learned Friends (Lord Cairns). But I find that, whether introduced into the House of Commons or this House, that Bill has never had the good fortune to be passed into law, owing mainly, I believe, to the numerous clauses which it contains. If, however, we were to adopt the suggestion which has been made, and were to begin the discussion of the measure simultaneously in both Houses, many disagreeable consequences must follow—as, indeed, has been already pointed out. I apprehend that the wish of the noble Lord (the Marquess of Salisbury) is to economize and not to fill up time; but I can hardly conceive anything less likely to economize and utilize our time than 617 our embarking on a discussion of the Bill simultaneously with the House of Commons. There are at least five points in the Bill each of such a character that; any material change in one of these must necessitate a change throughout a great many clauses of the Bill. We might come to a conclusion in this House upon one of these leading points which would be opposed to that arrived at in the House of Commons, and the result would be that the labour of one or other of the Houses would be completely thrown away. I can imagine no greater waste of time than that your Lordships should be discussing the points of a Bill. on the assumption that they still remain in it, when perhaps the other House may I have already struck them out. I trust that when this Joint Committee is appointed, it will not be thought unreasonable that one point at least to be brought under their consideration should be the propriety of having the wording of our Bills supervised before they ultimately pass through both Houses.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I have no reason to be otherwise than grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in the discussion for the manner in which they have dealt with and discussed the Bill. There are only two points upon which it will be necessary for me to say a few words. In the main I agree with the Amendments which have been suggested by my two noble Friends (the Earl of Derby and Lord Cairns). The precautions with respect to the Prerogative of the Crown and the assent of the other House of Parliament were introduced by me because I was told that jealousies would be created unless I did so. I, therefore, introduced those provisions, not because I liked them, but to disarm opposition to a Bill which I valued; and I shall be very glad to find that the principle of the Bill in its more simple form is likely to be adopted. I also agree with my noble Friend that it would be a very good arrangement, when the Bill goes back to the originating House, that power should exist to amend the Bill right through, and not merely those portions touched by the other House. With regard to a Joint Committee, the experience which we all possess of these inquiries must convince us that it is a dangerous thing to refe any measure you have a value for to a tribunal of the kind. There is such a 618 tendency in Committees invariably to wander into all sorts of complex subjects, their efforts are so borne down by the excess of their own zeal, that before their inquiry has come to a conclusion, the facts which occasioned it are well-nigh lost sight of. That is my fear in the present case; but I am quite aware of the great importance of conciliating opinion and disarming objections in the other House of Parliament. If we could induce a certain number of the Members to meet us and dismiss the matter quietly there would be, I think, a great chance that we should induce them to take a favourable view of the principle of this Bill. I can only, therefore, trust—as we are all willing to do—to the good faith of the noble Earl opposite (Earl Granville), that he makes this proposition for the purpose of getting the question settled, and not for the purpose of delay. With that understanding—which I am sure the noble Earl will not hesitate to enter into—I shall be glad to assent to the reference of the Bill to a Joint Committee. Upon the point of form, I do not know how far we are competent to refer the Bill to a Joint Committee, or to anything but a Committee of our own House, though we are at perfect liberty to suspend the Bill until a Joint Committee of both Houses has reported upon it. Probably that would be the most suitable course to adopt. Of course, if I saw that the deliberations of the Committee were being pursued to an extraordinary length, or that there was no sign of their coming to a conclusion, I should in that case seek to have the Bill re called and proceeded with in the ordinary course. But, subject to that observation, I believe the course suggested is a very proper method of dealing with the subject.
I hope there will be no misunderstanding as to the proposition I made. It is entirely for the noble Marquess to consider whether his proposal for a Joint Committee will be likely to facilitate the progress of the Bill or not. There will be no opposition to it from me in this House, but I have been informed by Lord Eversley, who has been obliged to leave the House, that the noble Marquess is under a misconception as to what occurred in the other House. The Bill was carefully considered by the Committee of the other House, but it was thought better to re- 619 port simply against it in order to avoid any points of controversy between the two Houses. The Bill was, however, thoroughly discussed in the Committee upon its merits before that Report was agreed to. I suggested a Joint Committee to the noble Marquess, because there has already been a discussion on the despatch of Public Business in this House. It was admitted on both sides that there are evils to be corrected, and I think it would be advantageous if those evils were considered by persons of experience in both Houses. If this Bill were the only matter for consideration, I could hardly ask the House of Commons to propose so great a machinery as a Joint Committee to consider it. I can assure the noble Marquess that in making this proposal, and in serving on the Committee, if I should be appointed, I shall not have the slightest wish to lengthen its deliberations one minute longer than is necessary. I am grateful to my noble Friend (Lord Russell) for the advice he has given me, and if I go into the Committee I shall have some policy of my own as to what is to be done there. If, however, we are to have a Joint Committee, we ought not to lay down any cut-and-dried principles as to the course we shall pursue. That is the only means by which we can arrive at anything like a unanimous conclusion on the different points to be submitted to the Committee.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
I think it most desirable to accept the proposal of the noble Earl opposite, and to refer the Bill to a Joint Committee of both Houses. Upon that Joint Committee persons of weight and influence in both Houses might serve, and facilities would be obtained for passing this measure. On the other hand, there might be danger to the Bill itself if all the various subjects mentioned by my noble Friend opposite—subjects so weighty, so considerable in extent and in numbers—were included in the Reference. The result might be that the Committee might defer reporting until the close of the Session. Supposing that both the Bill and the other important subjects were referred to the Joint Committee, an Instruction might be added that the Committee should, in the first instance, report on the Bill, and then the Joint Committee might determine the consideration of the other matters of the greatest importance. In this way it might be possible to find 620 the means of reconciling the views of both sides of the House.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
If there is a Joint Committee there must be a general reference of all the subjects to it.
§ Motion agreed to; Bill read 2a accordingly, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House on Thursday next.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
said, he would fix the Committee on the Bill for that day week, and he supposed the noble Earl opposite would arrange for the Joint Committee.