§ MR. ESTCOURT
, in moving that Select Committees have leave to sit during the sitting of the House to-day, observed that a question was yesterday raised as to whether it would be the duty of a Member appointed upon a Committee to attend the House or the Committee when their sittings happened to be concurrent. He considered that the first duty of a Member was to attend to the interests of his constituents in the House; and if any Member of a Committee stated to such Committee that he was desirous of attending the House with the bonâ fide intention of taking part in a debate, it would clearly be the duty of the Committee to adjourn. Such adjournments, however, would subject the parties engaged in the prosecution of private Bills to con- 1212 siderable expense and inconvenience; and he was sure that, unless in a case of great importance, no hon. Member would request the adjournment of a Committee. He must add, that this was merely his own opinion, and that it was, of course, for the House to decide upon the question.
§ LORD G. SOMERSET
agreed with the hon. Gentleman that the paramount duty of hon. Members was to attend the proceedings of the House.
§ SIR G. GREY
said, the Order made by the House from time to time as to Wednesdays was simply this—not that Committees should sit, but that they should have permission to sit during the sitting of the House. If the five members of a Committee were aware that a debate of importance was coming on, and if they felt it their paramount duty to their constituents and to the public to be present at such debate, it was competent to them to adjourn the Committee and to attend the House. If the majority should deem it their duty to continue the sitting of the Committee, the other one or two Members might absent themselves; and the House had provided that the Committee might still continue its sitting. The absence of those Members would, however, be reported to the House, and they would be called upon for an explanation. If it had appeared that they had attended the House, even if they had not taken part in the debate—for he considered that many hon. Members most efficiently discharged their duty by listening to the debates, as he thought the House would admit—in his opinion their absence from the Committee should be thought excusable.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, that during the early part of the Session the House was deprived of the services of a great number of hon. Members who formed the Committee on Petitions for Private Bills, and who might, in his opinion, be employed much more advantageously for the public interests. No less than forty-two members were appointed to investigate these petitions; they frequently sat five hours a day for four or five days in the week; and if it happened—as was sometimes the case from the pressure of their other duties, and the severe labour required from them on that Committee—that a quorum was not present, great expense and inconvenience were occasioned by the detention of witnesses in town. He considered that this subject deserved attention, with a view to relieve hon. Members from the performance of 1213 duties which, in his opinion, were inferior to those they ought to be called upon to discharge.
§ SIR J. C. HOBHOUSE
thought, that some general rule ought to be laid down with regard to the sitting of Committees, as well for the convenience of the public as of the House. He was Chairman of a Committee to which a group of Scotch railways had been referred, and which had adjourned over to-day. There were many witnesses from various parts of Scotland waiting to be examined before that Committee; and yesterday there were no less than ten counsel present, and, for aught he knew, twice as many agents. He mentioned this fact to show the enormous expense incurred every day, whether the Committee did or did not sit. He had seen on the Notice Paper for to-day two measures in which his constituents took very great interest; but as he was Chairman of the Committee, it could not sit in his absence, and as he was naturally anxious to attend the House, the only course they could take was (although he regretted the necessity of the step) to adjourn the Committee until to-morrow. He considered that it should not he left to the Committees to determine whether they would or would not sit on Wednesdays, but that some invariable rule should be laid down on the subject.
§ MR. M. GIBSON
expressed his concurrence in the views of the right hon. Member for Nottingham (Sir J. C. Hobhouse). It appeared to him that the only remedy for the difficulties which had been referred to would be to preclude Committees from sitting concurrently with the House. The hon. Member for Salford (Mr. Brotherton) had suggested to him, that if both the Committees and the House sat on Wednesdays, the Committees should sit from eight to twelve o'clock in the morning. That hon. Gentleman was himself prepared to comply with such a regulation, and to attend Committees from eight o'clock to twelve on Wednesdays. His hon. Friends the Members for Manchester (Mr. M. Philips) and Durham (Mr. Bright) were naturally anxious to be present at the discussion of so important a measure as the Factories Bill; but they were unwilling to adjourn the Committees on which they served, because by so doing they would subject the parties concerned in the Bills submitted to them to an expense of 200l. or 300l. He considered, therefore, that it would be necessary either to adopt the suggestion of the hon. 1214 Member for Salford, or to give up the Wednesday sittings.
§ Motion agreed to.