THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
having proposed that the Common Law Procedure Bill should be taken at a morning sitting,
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, it did not appear to him (Mr. Disraeli) that it was either convenient or necessary at this early period of the Session to have recourse to morning sittings. He observed several Bills on the paper fixed for a morning sitting, without any arrangement having been made on the subject. If they were to have morning sittings, he thought that the House should have them only after due deliberation. It was not, in his opinion, advisable to make so great a change in their mode of conducting business without a general notice being given, and a decision by the House being come to. The objections to morning sittings he had already urged—they were familiar to all. The House in the first place was debarred by a morning sitting of the presence of a great many gentlemen whose opinions would be of advantage to its deliberation. Now he had a great opinion of the gentlemen of the long robe, whose assistance was especially valuable on Committees. They, however, could not attend such sittings. Neither could the members of other professions, nor merchants. If they analysed the elements of that House, they would find that about one-sixth of the Members must necessarily be taken away if they had morn- 226 ing sittings. In addition to those, they would be deprived of several eminent Members who would be employed upon Committees. Another objection to a morning sitting was this, it was quite evident to all—whether they were members of professions or gentlemen at large, whose professions could not be distinctly defined, that if they had morning sittings they would come to the evening sittings with exhausted energies. He was sure that they all felt, when they had morning sittings, that their evening sittings were never of a satisfactory nature. He did not pretend to say that there might not be a state of public business, or a period of the Session, that might render those sittings highly expedient, and indeed necessary; but he would put it to the House whether the state of public business at present was such as to render a recourse to morning sittings a necessity? On the contrary, he believed that there never was a period when it was less imperative. The Government had certainly introduced a number of important measures this year; but they thought it better not to proceed with them, or circumstances had arrested them in their course. The only important measure left to them was the one they had been discussing, and from their experience this evening it was not likely that any impediments would be thrown in its course. He could not see, under the circumstances, at so early a period as the month of June, any necessity whatever for having recourse to a system against which there were so many objections. There were many reasons which rendered it desirable that the Session of the House of Commons should not be curtailed at present. When a country like ours had embarked in a war, it was a great advantage that the House of Commons should be sitting. If disasters should occur, the House of Commons would be ready to sustain and to encourage the Ministers. On the contrary, if we should have triumphs, the House of Commons would be prepared to sympathise with the Government. There might be occasions when there would be neither disasters nor triumphs. In such a case the House of Commons would stimulate any lack of spirit that might be evinced. He should not press this point, if it were a month later—if it were the month of July or August. It was, however, he considered, rather unreasonable, when there was no great pressure of business, to have recourse to a system which would deprive 227 the House of the presence of many valuable Members, and which, by exacting so much exertion from them generally in the early part of the day, called upon them again to come together at night, with exhausted energies, for the purpose of performing business which, under the circumstances, must necessarily be discharged in an unsatisfactory manner. He therefore opposed the proposition to fix this Bill, No. 6 on the paper, for a morning sitting. He hoped that the Government would not put him to the disagreeable task of opposing the Government on matters relating to the management of the public business; but he thought that the noble Lord the President of the Council ought to give the House the benefit of his opinion upon the subject. The noble Lord may fix some period at which morning sittings might be necessary; but he (Mr. Disraeli) hoped that upon his high authority he would not justify a recourse to a measure both unnecessary and inconvenient, and which would, as he had before stated, deprive their deliberations of the presence of a great many eminent Members.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, that the right hon. Gentleman appeared very much opposed to morning sittings, but he certainly did not carry his professions into practice when he was the leader of the Government in that House in 1852. He (Lord J. Russell) found that in that year morning sittings were begun as early as the 31st of May. No doubt, as the right hon. Gentleman had stated, there were inconveniencies attending morning sittings, but it must be remembered that there was a balance of inconvenience. If the right hon. Gentleman was not willing to consent to morning sittings until the month of August, a great portion of the Members of that House, distinguished or undistinguished, would be absent, and there would be a very small number of Members present to perform the duty, either morning or evening, of getting through the legislative business of the House. He must say that now they had arrived at the middle of June he thought it desirable that they should have morning sittings, during which they might consider, in Committee, some important Bills. There were several Bills of great importance, and which could not cause any party excitement, waiting for consideration, and which, unless they resorted to morning sittings, could not be discussed until the end of July or the beginning of August. He would suggest 228 that the House should at twelve o'clock on Thursday se'nnight to consider the Common Law Procedure Bill. There were, however, several other Bills with respect to which he thought it desirable that there should be morning sittings. One of them was under the charge of his right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate, who wished at twelve o'clock to-morrow to proceed with that measure. There was also another measure of considerable importance, which the hon. Member for Dorsetshire (Mr. Ker Seymer) wished to bring forward at a morning sitting. There were, besides, Bills with regard to Scotland and Deland, and also with reference to the Mercantile Marine, which, he thought, might be discussed without inconvenience at early sittings of the House. He would, therefore, propose that the Committee on the Common Law Procedure Bill should be taken on Thursday se'nnight at twelve o'clock.
§ MR. DISRAELI
said, the noble Lord had reminded him that there had been moving sittings at the end of May during the Session in which he (Mr. Disraeli) had had the honour of acting as leader of the House. But the morning sittings had been taken at that early period during that Session in consequence of the desire manifested by the noble Lord and his party that there should be, at as early a time as possible, a dissolution of Parliament. He should have thought that that would have been the last precedent to which the noble Lord would have appealed in favour of morning sittings.
§ MR. MALINS
said, that the Common Law Procedure Bill was a measure which would introduce most important legal changes; and as he believed that it could not be adequately considered by the House at a sitting from which lawyers must be absent, he trusted that the noble Lord would not fix it for a morning sitting. He must express a similar hope with respect to the Mortmain Bill.
THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
said, that he despaired of being able to obtain a proper consideration of the technical details of the Criminal Law Procedure Bill at an evening sitting; and as the measure was unquestionably one of extreme importance in a legal point of view, he trusted that his hon. and learned Friends in that House would be prepared to make any sacrifice that might be necessary for the purpose of enabling them to give one day to its consideration.
§ COLONEL BLAIR
said, he hoped that the Valuation (Scotland) Bill would not be taken as the first measure at the morning sitting to-morrow, as it was one of such importance to Scotch Members that it was very desirable they should all be able to assist at its discussion.
§ THE LORD ADVOCATE
said, he was afraid he could not give the assurance which the hon. and gallant Member sought to obtain. It was because the Valuation (Scotland) Bill was an important measure that he had thought proper to reserve its consideration for a morning sitting.
§ MR. WALPOLE
said, that with regard to what had fallen from his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General as to members of the legal profession making some sacrifice to be present at the discussion of a measure of great importance to the profession, it ought to be remembered that the first duty of a lawyer was towards his client, and the administration of justice ought not to be stopped on account of his absence. With regard to morning sittings generally, he believed that the prolonged attendance of hon. Members from twelve o'clock in the day to one or two o'clock next morning was prejudicial to good legislation.
§ Committee deferred till Thursday, 29th June, at Twelve o'clock.