§ Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [20th March], "That Sir James Graham be one other Member of the said Committee."
§ Question again proposed; debate resumed.
§ SIR J. PAKINGTON
called the attention of the House to the constitution of the Committee with respect to filling up the vacancies. It was painful to raise questions of an individual kind; but his hon. and gallant Friend behind him the Member for North Essex had given notice of his intention to move two changes in the Committee list, and he (Sir J. Pakington) considered that there was ample ground for that Motion, and he should vote for it if his hon. and gallant Friend pressed a division. The right hon. Member for Manchester must admit that a Committee upon such an important Bill should be so constituted as to give no ground of objection. It was a measure to effect great changes, and would require serious consideration; and he appealed to the House if the decision of the Committee, whether it came back in the form of an altered Bill, 1222 or of a report, would not be entitled to more or less weight, according to the constitution of the Committee? The first element in its composition should be the competency of the parties, and, in addition to Members of the Government, it should have consisted of gentlemen of long experience as magistrates, and of lawyers, who would be influenced by their professional habits. He did not disparage any hon. Gentleman by merely saying that his life had not been passed in the discharge of magisterial duties, or that he was not a professional lawyer; but a great blot in the constitution of the Committee was, the want of professional gentlemen, and of gentlemen accustomed to act as magistrates. He did not wish to complain of the Government; but, looking to the circumstances under which this measure had been brought in, the House had a right to expect that the Committee should be so constituted as to give weight to its decision. But if the Bill went upstairs to the Committee now proposed, the decision would not have that necessary weight. He would suggest that, instead of going through the names seriatim, the whole list should be withdrawn, and the Committee remodelled.
§ MR. M. GIBSON
said, that his object had been to get a fair and impartial Committee, and he thought he had accomplished that object by the nomination as it stood. There were county Members and chairmen of quarter-sessions upon the Committee. But the question now was the withdrawal of the name of Sir James Graham; and he then proposed to go through the rest of the names, and move their appointment.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Cobden, Lord Brooke, Mr. Littleton, and Sir J. Duckworth, were nominated other Members of the said Committee.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Kershaw be one other Member of the said Committee."
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that the object of the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North Essex was not a party object, and defended his proposition.
§ MAJOR BERESFORD
said, that although he saw by the state of the House what would be the result of a division, he was determined to persevere. His objection to the Committee was a fair and proper one, and he represented the sentiments of a large body of country gentlemen whom he had consulted, and who declared 1223 their belief that this was an unfair Committee in every way, the majority of opinions being on one side. He was, therefore, resolved to divide the House. If the Committee was constituted as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester proposed, the country gentlemen would feel that their wishes and opinions had been slighted, and the decision, by a small and paltry majority, would have no weight with the country. Every one would know what value to set upon it. He made this statement in the face of a tyrant majority, though a small one, which bad, somehow or other, been kept in the thin state of the House. There were two Gentlemen on the Committee who were connected with the county of Lancaster. He (Major Beresford) had been accused of a want of geographical knowledge, but he was not so geographically ignorant as not to know that part of the borough of Stockport was in Cheshire, although the remainder was in Lancashire.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the name of "Mr. Kershaw," and insert the name of "the Earl of March," instead thereof.
§ MR. SPOONER
moved that, in consideration of the then thin state of the House, the debate be adjourned. The Committee, as it then stood, would have no weight with the country.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the debate be now adjourned."
§ MR. HEYWOOD
said, it often happened that debates went on at that hour in as thin a House as that was.
§ MR. AGLIONBY
said, the hon. and gallant Officer had, no doubt, a strong feeling upon this question, and had a perfect right to oppose this Committee, but it was rather extraordinary he should allude to this thin state of the House, caused by the absence of his own Friends. But when the hon. and gallant Member insinuated that hon. Members on his (Mr. Ag-lionby's) side of the House were pledged to get a majority in that Committee, he answered for himself, and he believed for the other Members around him, that they were present in the ordinary performance of their duty, in going through the public business set down upon the Votes of the evening. What ground had the hon. Member for North Warwickshire for saying that the decision of the Committee would have no weight? Were hon. Gentlemen on the other side to be alone the judges of what the opinion of the country 1224 would be? It might be asserted, with equal force, that the decision of the Committee would be received with entire confidence. He should support the list as it stood.
§ MAJOR BERESFORD
replied that it was somewhat extraordinary to object to two Members for Sussex, when there were three for Suffolk, and two for Lancashire.
§ MR. FREWEN
believed that there had been great trouble in constituting the Committee, and that many Gentlemen of great practical experience, when requested to serve, had declined. He had been asked by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester to serve, and he would give the question the best attention he was able, for his constituents felt very warmly on the matter. What the Committee would have to do was to alter the Bill as much as possible to suit the different circumstances of different counties; and of which there was a great variety. In Lincolnshire there were three distinct commissions of peace, and Suffolk also had customs peculiar to itself in regard to the rates and expenditure; and the Committee would have no little difficulty in framing the Bill to meet these varying cases. However, if it was the wish of the House that the noble Earl the Member for West Sussex should serve, he (Mr. Frewen) was willing to resign in favour of the noble Lord.
§ MR. FOX MAULE
hoped the hon. Member for North Warwickshire would not press his Motion for adjournment, for there were sufficient Members present to debate the question, and it would be but fair to go into it. But at the same time he hoped that hon. Members would not go into the old debate again. With respect to the composition of the Committee, his right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester had taken every means to make it a fair one, and he thought that the country gentlemen of England, acting as magistrates, were better judges of these matters by themselves than the lawyers; and of that body of gentlemen he would say that if he thought this measure tended to undervalue them, he would be the first to vote against it. But he did not think that such was its tendency, while it would satisfy the ratepapers that the rates were properly disposed of, and would, he be 1225 lieved, do much in the present state of the country to allay the feeling existing upon that subject. But what he had risen for was merely to ask the hon. Member for North Warwickshire to withdraw his Motion for the adjournment of the debate.
§ SIR J. PAKINGTON
did not think it advisable to press the Motion to a division. He had felt much pain in the course he had been obliged to take in reference to the nomination of this Committee, but still he thought the Government were not free from responsibility in the matter; and when he saw a Committee constituted as this was, he did not hesitate to enter his protest against such a constitution. His opinion was more and more fortified that this change ought not to have been left in the hands of a private Member of Parliament, but if undertaken at all, should have been undertaken on the responsibility of the Government. He suggested, however, to his hon. Friend the Member for North Warwickshire to withdraw his Motion for the adjournment of the debate. He was extremely sorry the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester had not acceded to the opinion expressed on his (Sir J. Pakington's) side of the House. The constitution of the Committee would certainly be forced upon them, but he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that none but those whose views were the same as his own would approve of it.
§ SIR G. PECHELL
expressed his satisfaction at the constitution of the Committee, and particularly at the circumstance of one of the hon. Members for Sussex being upon it. In his hands the inhabitants of Brighton would be safe. They complained, with great justice, of a system which compelled them to contribute enormous sums to the county without having the slightest control over their application. He hoped, therefore, that the hon. Member would not withdraw his name.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
repeated his conviction that the Committee would not carry any weight with it as proposed to be constituted. Names had been suggested to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester, and if he would not avail himself of the facilities thus opened to him, the responsibility of a one-sided selection would rest upon him alone. He hoped the Motion for the adjournment of the debate would be withdrawn. He had to complain before of so few Members being in their places on his side of the House, and he 1226 complained of it now; but the fact of their absence would not justify the postponement of a decision that he could not but lament.
§ SIR H. WILLOUGHBY
suggested that the names of the Earl of March and Mr. Deedes should be added to the Committee. The absence of lawyers had been remarked, and he could not but observe that, if some experienced members of the profession were not added, it would be a Committee in doctum.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 37; Noes 11: Majority 26.
§ Mr. Kershaw to be one other member of the said Committee.
§ Mr. Cornewall Lewis, Mr. Frewen, Mr. Wrightson, Lord Rendlesham, Viscount Barrington, and Mr. Osborne, were nominated other Members of the said Committee. Power to send for persons, papers, and records. Five to be the quorum.
§ The House adjourned at half after Eight o'clock.