HC Deb 11 May 1825 vol 13 cc563-5
Sir G. Clerk

having brought up the report of the Leith Docks Bill,

Mr. Kennedy

objected to the measure, as being uncalled for in its present state. He was not, however, indisposed to entertain a compromise on the subject.

Mr. Abercromby

strongly condemned a practice, too prevalent in private committees; namely, that gentlemen should conceive themselves qualified to decide on the right of parties, without listening either to the counsel employed, or the evidence adduced on the respective subjects. Such a practice, as it affected members of that House, was scandalous, and as it regarded the interests of the persons whose rights were under the deliberation of the committee, was fraught with gross injustice.

Mr. Brougham

agreed with his hon. and learned friend in reprobating the practice of voting in committees up stairs, without attending to the evidence requisite to form a correct opinion of the merits of the case. He did not wish to use harsh expressions; but he must designate such a practice as careless; aye, and even corrupt too [hear, hear!]. The fact being indisputable, it was high time that the opinion of the House should so decidedly stigmatise such scandalous conduct of private committees, as to terminate a mode of proceeding so disgraceful to the House, and so unjust to the public.

Sir G. Clerk

agreed with the hon. and learned gentleman; and he thought also, that nothing could be more improper than for honourable members to come down to the House and indulge in general reflections upon a subject, with the facts of which they were not fully acquainted. The members of the committee in question had been pretty regular in their attendance. At the final division, there were twenty-five in favour of the bill, and five against it.

Sir R. Fergusson

said, that some of the members of this committee were gentlemen from the sister kingdom; others from the centre of England, who had no knowledge of the sea-ports, nor the interests connected with them. Of these gentlemen fourteen or fifteen came into the committee-room just before the division, and voted without having heard the evidence. It was, in his opinion, as unfair a committee as he had ever known.

Mr. Wynn

thought that every person acquainted with any unfair practices did their duty in coming to the House and openly stating them. There could be no doubt that the House had the power, when it saw reason for doing so, to send back a report to another committee. In the present instance, however, it appeared that the majority of the gentlemen who had voted had heard the evidence. He therefore saw no reason why such a course should now be adopted. He thought that members for Ireland were as competent as any others to decide upon a question of policy, like that of the bill before the House.

Sir J. Marjoribanks

said, he could assure the House, that there was no jobbing in the committee; if there were, he might be considered the chief jobber, as he had a great property embarked in the Leith Dock.

Mr. J. P. Grant,

as one of the committee, thanked his hon. and learned friend for his notice of the subject, not merely in reference to this particular case, but as it regarded the general regulation of private committees; the abuses in which imperatively required some effectual alteration.

Mr. Croker

said, that from the fact of the committee having adjourned for two days, in order to obtain the attendance of a member of the committee who was opposed to the bill, and that of many of the members having heard the whole of the evidence, the report before the House was freed from the imputation which had been attempted to be cast upon it.

Mr. Stuart Wortley

said, he was glad that this subject had been brought before the House. The prevalence of such practices could only be checked by an appeal to the feelings of hon. gentlemen; and there was no method of making that appeal more effective than by a statement of the facts to the House.

The report was then agreed to.