§ Mr. W. Williams
said, that there were some of these Orders so much at variance with the proceedings of the House, that he was of opinion a select committee ought to be appointed for the purpose of revising them. When the House laid down rules for its mode of proceeding, the proceedings ought to be in accordance with the rules laid down, but the contrary was the practice, and, in fact, the rules were set at nought, although passed annually by a solemn vote of the House at the commencement of each Session. To prove this to be the case, he would mention one or two instances. He would first take one of the resolutions, which commenced by stating,That no Peer of this realm hath any right to give his vote in the election of any Member to serve in Parliament.He would not now discuss the right of a Peer to vote at the election of any Member of that House—he would not enter into that question; but as the House established this Standing Order solemnly by a vote, it ought to have both the means and the disposition of enforcing the rules thereby established. But how, really, did the matter stand? He believed that there was no statute or common law in this country which forbade a Peer to vote in the election of a Member to serve in the House of Commons. He believed, if any Peer were to claim his right, in virtue of a proper qualification, to be placed upon the registry of voters, no revising barrister would refuse to admit his right and to allow the claim. Now, suppose a Peer was thus placed on the registry, he then had the right by law to vote; no individual at the poll was permitted to question his right. He had seen in one of the newspapers, that a Peer publicly stated he would act in direct opposition to the Standing Order, and would assert his right to vote at an election; he did not 156 know whether that Peer had carried his threatened intention into effect or not, but, supposing he had, he begged to ask how the House was to enforce its own Standing Order? Under what statute or what branch of the common law could it be enforced? The law gave the House no power to enforce it, and therefore it must resort to its own powers. But what would be the position of any hon. Member who should rise in his place and make a motion that the Peer had been guilty of a breach of the privileges of the House, that he therefore be called to the bar, and be committed to Newgate or the Queen's Prison, for violating the orders of the House? The noble Lord the Member for the city of London, and the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury, would be the first to stand up and condemn such a motion, and vet both the noble Lord and the right hon. Baronet were great sticklers for the privileges of the House, and had sustained them in a very manly manner; but in a case like that he had mentioned, they would abandon the attempt to enforce this Standing Order. That being so, then he (Mr. W. Williams) contended such an Order ought not to be voted, as it was only calculated to bring the authority of the House into ridicule and contempt, because it was an Order the House had neither the power nor the disposition to enforce. He would now take another Standing Order, which ran thus:—That it is a high infringement of the liberties and privileges of the Commons of the United Kingdom for any Lord of Parliament or other Peer or Prelate to concern himself in the election of Members to serve for the Commons in Parliament.How, he begged to inquire, could this rule be enforced? It had not been enforced, though in 1836 it was notorious—nay, it had been proved before a committee, that the Members of the House of Peers, with scarcely a single exception, had exercised all the powers they possessed in virtue of their property or office to influence the election of Members of the House of Commons. It was perfectly well known that Peers had driven their tenants and dependents to the poll to vote, not according to the opinions of those tenants and dependents, but according to the political interest of each Peer, and if the tenants refused to obey Ids dictates they incurred his severe displeasure, and were visited by removal from their situations, or dismissal from their farms. What was the Chandos 157 clause in the Reform Bill for but to carry out powers which this Standing Order denied to Peers? He repeated, therefore, that as the House could not enforce these rules they ought not to be annually voted, and a committee ought to be appointed to take the whole of them into consideration; if so, a great many would be expunged as being wholly inapplicable to the objects for which they were passed. Before leaving this latter point, he must remark that it was very well known that Peers of the realm openly, and without disguise, subscribed vast sums of money—not thousands, but tens of thousands, for the purpose of buying and corrupting the electors to vote for their own political partizans. He ventured to say, there was not a Gentleman on the Treasury bench who could not point out Peers who had subscribed to the funds of the Carlton Club, and be was equally certain that Gentlemen on his own side of the House could point out Peers of their party who had done the same. Before he sat down, he would tithe another Standing Order, of which an hon. Gentleman near him (Mr. Christie) had given notice of his intention to move the rescinding. He understood the hon. Member did not mean to bring forward that motion to-night, and therefore he (Mr. W. Williams) would just advert to it. The Standing Order was in these terms,—That the Sergeant-at-Arms attending this House do, from time to time, take into his custody any stranger or strangers that he shall see, or be informed of to be, in the House or gallery while the House or any committee of the whole House is sitting; and that no person so taken into custody be discharged out of custody without the special order of the House.Such was the Order, but what the practice? Why, one of the privileges of every Member of the House was to violate that rule every day; it was an acknowledged privilege of each Member to give an order for the introduction of a stranger into the gallery. Then, again, it was the Speaker's privilege to give as many orders for Mr. Speaker's gallery as it would contain; that privilege the right hon. Gentleman in the Chair had resigned for the use of Members, who could introduce their friends, by placing their names upon the list in the secretary's room. Again, the Sergeant-at-Arms, the very officer who was called upon by this Order to take all strangers into custody, granted permission, with the utmost courtesy and civility, to Members to 158 introduce their friends as vacancies in the gallery took place. How, then, could the House allow this rule, so openly violated, to remain among its Standing Orders? He thought he had, in the few observations he had made, shown to the House that its Orders could not be enforced in some instances, and that in others there was neither the power nor the inclination to enforce them. On these grounds he urged their removal from the rules and regulations of the House, which would make their proceedings more respected out of doors, and at the same time do away with the anomaly of making Orders which it was intended to break.
§ Colonel Wyndham
said, his observation had relation to a statement made by the hon. Member for Coventry. He could not sit still and hear such statements thrown out against the landed aristocracy as that they brought their tenants and dependants to the poll, and enforced from them a particular line of conduct, contrary to their feelings and ideas. He denied most emphatically such to be now the case, whatever it might have been fifty years ago.
§ Mr. Christie
observed with regard to the notice he had given, and which had been alluded to by the hon. Member for Coventry, that he begged to state, that after giving, the notice he found, on consulting with friends better able to judge of such a matter than himself, that it would be inconvenient to make the motion to which the notice related on bringing up the report. Of late years, on two occasions similar objections had been made to those parts of the Orders which were now objected to. On both occasions the Sessional Orders had been postponed, and the debate taken upon a day fixed for that purpose. After the notice which he had given he did not know exactly what course to pursue. He should be disposed to fix an early day for going into the subject, if the hon. Baronet opposite would consent to such an arrangement.
§ Several of the Orders were then agreed to.
§ Mr. W. Williams
, in reference to the Order against bribery, said, that if the hon. Baronet would refer to the act very recently passed on the same subject, he would find that there was not the least necessity for continuing any such Order.
§ Sir G. Clerk
said, the act did not cover all the cases of bribery, which might be 159 brought within the operation of the Order.
§ Sir G. Clerk
said, that the subject had frequently been under the consideration of the House. It had been brought forward in the year 1839, again in 1840, and again in 1842 by the hon. Member for Birmingham; but that was done, though the House had agreed to the present Order on the second day of the Session. The hon. Member, as he understood, intended to propose that a select committee be appointed; and surely the passing of the Order at present before the House would not interfere with the adoption of such a course.
§ Mr. Christie
observed, that the only advantage which could accrue from postponing the consideration of the Order would be, that by such a course he would secure an opportunity of bringing the subject under the consideration of the House—an opportunity which he might not otherwise have it in his power to secure; however, he would give notice and take his chance for getting the matter debated.
§ On the Order being read that Orders of the Day should take precedence of Notices of Motions on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays,
§ Mr. W. Williams
said, that he wished this Order to be postponed, as he understood that it would be attended with inconvenience to go into a discussion of the subject now. Under the present system a number of Orders were placed on the list for each order-day, and it was hardly possible to tell which would be brought forward. He was anxious that the Orders on Government days should be taken in rotation, as they were on Wednesday, instead of being selected without any apparent reason. He was anxious to make some observations on the bills which were repeatedly on the order-book last Session, and he was brought down five different days, and was kept waiting all the evenings in expectation of their coming on; but other business was disposed of. If a register were made of the Orders, and they were taken on Government nights in rotation, a Member could form a tolerably accurate notion of the business likely to be brought forward. He trusted, that her Majesty's Ministers would not object to this plan.
§ Sir R. Peel
thought, that there was always a general disposition on the part of the Government, as well as of private Members, to take the business of the House in a manner the best adapted for general convenience. He thought, that a general understanding of this nature was much better than any rule that they could adopt. If the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman was adopted it would often be attended with considerable inconvenience, and more especially on supply nights. The best course he conceived was, that the Government should always give notice for Government days of the business they intended to bring forward. The hon. Member complained that he had been brought down to the House on five several occasions, in expectation of certain business coming on, whereas other matter was discussed on each occasion. Now he did not think the hon. Member had any great ground of complaint, for at least, he had the satisfaction of being edified by hearing the discussions on other subjects.
§ The remaining Orders were agreed to.