§ Motion made and question proposed, "That the Bill be recommitted."
§ MR. MOFFATT moved the committal of the Bill pro formâ, with a view to its being recommitted with several alterations which had been suggested to him from various quarters.
§ SIR W. CLAY
thought the Bill one most important in its nature, and the House had really not yet had any discussion upon the very important principles which it contained. He felt bound to enter his protest against the hon. Member taking any further stage of the Bill at that hour (half-past Five), when it was impossible the House could enter upon any discussion of a useful nature. A large constitutional question was involved, and unless he received a pledge that an opportunity would be given for an ample discussion of the principle, he would feel it 1454 his duty to resist the further progress of the measure.
§ MR. OSBORNE
concurred in the objection, but he found the Bill as it now stood totally different, not only in its provisions, but in its title, from what it was as originally introduced. The title of the Bill now was, "a Bill to facilitate the Recovery of Debts from Persons possessing the Privileges of Parliament, and to exclude Insolvent Members from Parliament." Was it intended to convert that House into a court of law, now the Palace Court was to be done away with? Who were to practise in it—who were to be the attorneys and counsel? But there was a rumour in the town that the measure was brought in to point at a particular Member of Parliament. That was not, however, the ground of his opposition to the Bill; but if it was brought in for such a purpose it ought to be known, and the House ought not to submit to be made the tool of any hon. Gentleman who might desire to exclude certain other Members from the House.
could have hoped that the quiet and independent course which he had pursued as a Member of that House would have saved him from such a charge as that now brought against him by the hon. Member for Middlesex. It had been insinuated, if not broadly asserted, that in introducing this Bill he had been actuated by interested motives. It had boon insinuated that he was actuated by a feeling of spite or malevolence against individuals. ["No, no!"] That charge he emphatically denied. The Bill had been introduced on public grounds, and with no other feeling. The measure was simply directed against those who would make that House a sanctuary for insolvency. Such was the feeling, and the only feeling, with which he had brought in the Bill.
The SOLICITOR GENERAL
thought that the hon. Baronet the Member for the Tower Hamlets had misunderstood the object of the hon. Member for Dartmouth, in proposing the committal of the Bill pro formâ. The hon. Member's object was to have the proposed alterations printed, and recommitted.
§ MR. HENLEY
thought that the House had been rather hardly used by the hon. Member for Dartmouth. He (Mr. Henley) had taken the liberty, a week ago, of entreating the hon. Member not to press the Bill on, for he felt that the House at large had not had sufficient time to consider it. 1455 Now what had happened since? The hon. Member had forced the Bill through Committee. After the Bill had been twice altered, the hon. Member now proposed its recommittal, a course which he (Mr. Henley) thought not quite fair to the House. What the House might determine upon, he could not say; but whenever the Bill had been brought on, there was a proposal on the part of the framer of it to make alterations in it. This was a more important measure than many hon. Members might be aware of. It was impossible that the Bill could be discussed then, and he should recommend the postponement of any further proceedings upon it until after Easter.
MR. VERNON SMITH
said, he would not now express any opinion on the principle of this Bill, but they must all be agreed that the measure was a very important one, affecting as it did the privileges of the constituencies of the country. The Bill was now greatly altered, and yet the House had never had a proper opportunity for discussing it. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had not given his opinion upon it; and indeed he (Mr. Vernon Smith) did not know in whose charge the Bill now was—whether it was in the hands of the hon. Member for Dartmouth, or in those of the hon. and learned Solicitor General; but the latter now seemed to be its adopted father. The House was not now prepared to take any stage of the Bill, and he hoped that at all events its committal pro formâ would be put off to some other day.
The SOLICITOR GENERAL
said, that the Bill was not his Bill at all, although he had been ready to lend the hon. Member for Dartmouth the benefit of his assistance with regard to it. It was now proposed to commit the Bill pro formâ, to have it reprinted, that the House might know what the Bill really was; but he would recommend the hon. Gentleman to have the Bill again fully discussed in Committee after being reprinted.
§ MR. S. WORTLEY
said, the course originally proposed by the hon. Member for Dartmouth, namely, to introduce these Amendments, and then call upon the House to proceed with the Committee without further consideration, was exceedingly objectionable. But if, as he understood the suggestion of his hon. and learned Friend (the Solicitor General), it was now to be committed pro formâ, merely to have the Amendments suggested introduced, and 1456 the Bill, having been reprinted, was then to be committed and pass through Committee, there certainly could be no objection to that course.
§ MR. ROUNDELL PALMER
said, this Bill was a very important one, and called for by the present state of public feeling in the constituencies. The first petition which he had had the honour to present from the important constituency which he represented (Plymouth), was against allowing Members of this House to evade the payment of their creditors in a manner which was open to no other class of the community; and he believed the hon. Member for Liverpool had presented a similar petition from that port. It had been alleged that this Bill was directed against an individual Member of this House; but it was most unwarrantable to insinuate that any of those who had supported this measure had been influenced by any personal motive of the kind.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
said, his right hon. Friend the Member for Northampton had wished him to state his opinion on this Bill. He could only state that he thought its object a very good object, and one that he believed the House would wish to see effected. But it appeared to him that there were very great difficulties in the way of doing so; and it would be a dangerous thing if a Bill went up to the House of Lords in a shape which would not meet their Lordships' support, and which they would not have the power to amend. It was his opinion that unless a Bill went up there in such a shape as to have some chance of passing, it had better not go up at all. But with regard to the present measure, his opinion of it would depend upon the shape into which the Bill should ultimately be put; and if it did not meet with his approbation, he would state his opinion on the third reading.
§ MR. ANSTEY
said, the petition alluded to by the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth, prayed the House to take steps to enforce the payment of their creditors by Members of Parliament—an object about which not one word was said in the Bill now before the House. He (Mr. Anstey) had himself heard the rumour alluded to, that this Bill was pointed at a particular Member of this House, and had heard it, not from the enemies of this Bill, but from its supporters; and the rumour was one that had gained a considerable degree of credence. The hon. Member for Dartmouth had, however, contradicted 1457 it very satisfactorily as far as he was individually concerned. He (Mr. Anstey) was prepared to divide the House upon the question for going into Committee pro formâ; but unless some other opponents of the measure concurred with him in wishing to do so, he would not press for a division.
said, the Bill contained two important measures rolled into one. It professed to make Members of Parliament pay their debts; and, secundo, to do something else to them after the law had had its practice upon them. There was something unfortunate in the title—there was something colourable in it. If any alteration in the law were suggested, having the effect of compelling Members to pay their debts, he did not think there were six Gentlemen in that House who would object to it, or display any sympathy for those who would be affected by it; but if the question was whether an additional and unconstitutional penalty should be incurred, that was a different question. He thought there were good reasons for not proceeding precipitately with the Bill.
§ MR. SPEAKER
recommended the hon. Member for Dartmouth to withdraw his Bill, and introduce an entirely new one, with all the amendments which he wished to make incorporated with it, as the present Bill had undergone so much alteration, and encountered so much opposition.
said, that, with the greatest deference to the suggestion of Mr. Speaker, he felt himself somewhat at 1458 a loss how to proceed. He had a strong conviction that if that suggestion were followed, the Bill would be lost entirely for this Session; for experience proved to him that a Bill brought in by a private Member after Easter had not the smallest chance of being carried through. After some little delay, the hon. Gentleman, however, said, that, contrary to his own opinion, he would bow to the Speaker's suggestion, and take the earliest opportunity of introducing another Bill.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill withdrawn.