HC Deb 11 August 1836 vol 35 cc1125-7

The discussion was here interrupted by messengers from the Lords, announcing their Lordships' assent to a Free Conference on the Municipal Corporation Act.

Conference held, and other business suspended till the result was reported.

Lord John Russell

reported, that the managers had met the Lords at the Free Conference, which was managed on the part of the Lords by the Earl of Ripon; that they acquainted the Lords that the Commons agree to the amendment in press 4, line 28; that they insist upon their disagreement to the amendments in press 5, line 25, and in press 6, line 17, and upon their disagreement to clause (L); and that they agree to the amendment made by the Lords in the amendment made by the Commons to clause (Z). That the Commons greatly regret that they are unable to agree to all the amendments made by the Lords; that they insist on their disagreement to the amendments made by the Lords in press 5, line 25, and press 6, line 17, because it does not seem reasonable, when the means of popular election are at hand, to refer to chance the nomination not only of the mayor, but likewise, as a necessary consequence, of the body of aldermen, who will remain in office for the period of three and six years.

That the Commons insist on their disagreement to clause (L); that they consider that amendment of far greater importance than the former; that they fear that by giving any assent to it they might countenance the belief, that they were prepared to continue in the members of the late corporations a trust which, in too many instances, has been misused; that the inconvenience of leaving the direction of these charitable trusts to the Lord Chancellor might be obviated, in the opinion of the Commons, by expressly giving to the Lord Chancellor the nomination of trustees to be appointed under the Great Seal for a single year; that the Commons are unwilling to believe that the Lords attach so much importance to this clause as to consider its insertion in this Bill absolutely essential; that the Commons, therefore, hope that the Lords will recede from the amendments to which the House of Commons have disagreed. That, thereupon, the Earl of Ripon acquainted the managers that, as one who had been deputed by the Lords to meet the House of Commons in conference upon the present occasion, he begged, on their part, to assure the managers, on the part of the Commons, that they felt it to be their duty, and should discharge that duty most conformably to the wishes of the House of Lords, by giving most respectful attention to the suggestions and representations which had been made to them on the part of the House of Commons, feeling most anxious, whatever difference of opinion may exist upon occasions in which the two Houses may be called upon to meet together in free Conference, to do all in their power to promote the public interests and sound legislation by maintaining that harmony, good understanding, and mutual respect, which has always characterised the intercourse of the two Houses of Parliament. That, with these feelings, it would be their duty to represent to the House of Lords the statement which had been made to them, in order that they may receive from that House their final instructions as to the decision to which they will come. That, thereupon, the managers delivered the Bill and amendments to their Lordships.

Mr. Hume

presumed that it was competent to any hon. Member, although not a manager, to make a few observations on what had taken place. He had always understood that, at a free Conference between the two Houses, the question in dispute was argued, so that, if possible, the differences of opinion between the two Houses might be reconciled. With that expectation he had attended this Conference, but found no difference between the proceedings and those of ordinary Conferences; except that at the latter a written paper was delivered by the managers of the House of Lords, instead of the parole communication which the noble Lord had just reported at the Bar. Of the two modes of proceeding he certainly thought the usual one the better; for in that there was an authentic instrument that might justly be made the subject of discussion. He certainly could not boast of any experience on the subject; but if this Free Conference had been conducted according to precedent, he thought it was very desirable to appoint a Committee, to consider by what means a better arrangement might be substituted. He regretted that what had occurred had not been productive of the beneficial results which he had expected from it; but the fact was that it was a mere farce.

Lord John Russell

could not consent to the appointment of such a Committee as that proposed by his hon. Friend; because, if his hon. Friend would inspect the journals of the House, he would obtain as much information with respect to the nature of these conferences as could be obtained by the researches of any Committee. It was the practice in former days in free conferences for both the managers for the Commons and the managers for the Lords to express their opinions with reference to the matter in dispute. But at the same time it was always in the power of the managers for both Houses to break off the conference whenever they thought fit. For instance, at a free conference in April, 1740, after the managers for the House of Commons had stated their reasons, the managers for the House of Lords stated, that not having received instructions from the House, they could not take upon themselves to represent what the answer of the House would be. Now what had been done in 1740 was in effect what had been done that day. Aware of the circumstance, he (Lord J. Russell) had thought it better not to enter into the merits of the question in debate; for if he had done so, it would have been in the power of the managers of the House of Lords to avoid making any reply. It was always in their power to say, "We will acquaint the House of Lords with your reasons, and when we are further instructed, we will communicate our answer." He had acted according to precedent, and in such cases he considered it advisable always to conform to precedent.

Subject dropped.