Mr. G. W. Wood moved the reappointment of a
Select committee, to whom shall be referred all petitions presented to the House, with the exception of such as complain of undue returns, or relate to private bills and that such committee do classify and prepare abstracts of the same, in such form and manner as shall appear to them best suited to convey to the House all requisite information respecting their contents and do report the same from time to time to the House; and that such reports do in all cases set forth the number of signatures to each petition:—And that such committee have power to direct the printing in extenso of such petitions, or of such parts of petitions, as shall appear to require it:—And that such committee have power to report their observations thereupon to the House.
The hon. Member moved that the following Members constitute the committee:
Mr. George William Wood, Sir Robert Harry Inglis, Mr. Edward Buller, Mr. Brotherton, Mr. Owen Stanley, Mr. Pusey, Mr, Charles Howard, Mr. Villiers Stuart, Captain Jones, Viscount Duncan, Earl of Arundel and Surrey, Mr. Buckley, Lord Courtenay, Mr, William Hamilton, and Mr. Cripps.
said, he attached, perhaps, more importance to this committee than many hon. Members might do, and he therefore wished to express his regret to see upon the proposed committee the names of several Gentlemen who he believed would not give their attendance, several who were on the committee last 311 year, and never came near it once. As a general rule, indeed, he believed that committees appointed by private Members were entitled to very little confidence. A committee of this importance ought not to be composed with a view to the conciliation of purely party feelings. Some person ought to be placed there in whom the people at large felt confidence. He wished to see a better system adopted, in the place of the slovenly one that now prevailed. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would not press his motion at present, but reconsider it, and bring it forward on some future evening.
§ Mr. Wallace
considered the committee as of no importance at all. The people had no confidence in the manner in which their petitions were treated, and he for one cared nothing about how the committee was composed. They ought to resort to the practice that was formerly customary, of discussing petitions on presentation; until that was done it was impossible the people should take any interest in the matter. Nor aught they. He had made a motion last year to return to the ancient practice, but the majority by which he had been defeated was so large that he felt unwilling to revive the motion, though he had at the time given notice that he would do so in the course of the present Session. He would not, however, let the matter drop, but would apply for some committee that should enquire whether some plan might not be suggested that would give Members a greater latitude than they now enjoyed. He frequently availed himself of his privilege of taking strangers to the gallery, and when he did so, he never failed to direct their attention to the manner in which the petitions of the people were crammed into the big bag, and he could very well sympathize with the disgust which people felt and expressed in seeing the petitions dealt with in that manner. For his own part, he cared so little about the construction of this committee, that if his hon. Friend were to divide the House on the subject, he would not take the trouble of dividing with him.
§ Mr. G. W. Wood
regretted to find that the proposed list had not given satisfaction to the hon. Member for Coventry. There was certainly one omission which he (Mr. Wood) was sorry for, but he could assure the House it was the result of mere inadvertency. He had really believed the name of the hon. Member for Coventry 312 had been upon the list, and it was certainly his wish that it should stand there. He was surprised, however, that the hon. Gentleman should have spoken with so much severity of the committee. The hon. Gentleman was constant in his attendance on the committee last year, and never complained then of the manner in which the business was transacted there.
§ Mr. G. W. Wood moved that the name of the hon. Member for Coventry be added to the committee.