HC Deb 24 July 1855 vol 139 cc1348-53

[Progress, 9th July], Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.


said, as they had only an hour to proceed with the Limited Liability Bill, he thought it would be more convenient to those hon. Members who might wish to discuss its provisions if he were to postpone the Committee till Thursday. He would, therefore, propose that the Bill be committed on Thursday, at 12 o'clock.


said, he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would fix Thursday morning as the positive time for bringing on the subject, as he and other hon. Members had other important engagements which would make it very inconvenient for them to attend the House at that hour with an uncertainty of the discussion coming on.


said, he must also express a hope that hon. Members would not be unnecessarily brought down to the House, but that the discussion would be positively fixed for Thursday.


said, he exceedingly regretted that the business of the House should interfere with the private convenience of hon. Members, but Government could not command or control those things, and he hoped that a sense of public duty would reconcile hon. Members to accommodate themselves to that portion of time which the public interest rendered necessary to be appropriated to the business of the nation. He certainly had had no idea that the Motion for the postponement of the Tenants' Improvement Compensation Bill would have taken up so much time as it had done; however, there was one objection which could not be urged on the present occasion; it could not be said that due notice was not given of the intention of the Government to proceed with the Partnership Bill on Thursday next.


said, he wished to ask the Government whether they were quite certain that the House of Lords would receive those measures after the Resolution they had adopted—viz., that no Bill would be read a second time in the Upper House after that day.


said, there was not a single clause in either of the Bills to which some hon. Member or other did not object. The whole of the Report of the Commissioners was against the Bills; practical experience was against them—honesty was against them. ["No, no!"] He was prepared to put before the Committee a case, founded on the experience of other countries in such matters, which could hardly fail to induce it to pause. He entreated the noble Lord at the head of the Government to postpone the Bills till next Session, especially as it was impossible that they could pass at that late period.


said, he hoped the noble Lord would not take counsel from a declared enemy of the Bills.


said, that although he made an unsuccessful appeal to the Government last night, after the experience of that morning he felt bound to renew it. A Bill had been withdrawn that morning because the House of Lords had determined that they would not take the second reading of any Bill which was not of an urgent character after that day, and what prospect was there of passing the Bills now under consideration during the present Session? Several most important Amendments were upon the paper—specially he would refer to those of the hon. Member for Belfast, and it was most important that they should be fully and considerately discussed. It was impossible that that could be done if the Bill was to go to the other House in sufficient time; while, on the other hand, if the Bill was not intended to pass, there could be no use in proceeding with it.


said, he hoped the noble Lord would put off the consideration of both the Bills—the Partnership Bill and the Limited Liability Bill. They both, emanated from the Board of Trade, the heads of which knew nothing about trade. Those Bills would introduce a system of trades' unions, which would be most dangerous to the public and of no benefit whatever to the parties themselves. He must deny that the system had worked well in America. It had, on the contrary, acted prejudicially to the real interests of the community.


said, he would put it to the noble Lord at the head of the Government whether there was any practical good in persisting in going on with the Committee. No man could say that there was a chance of the Bill passing the House of Lords. The subject was one of very great importance, and he himself saw his way to very lengthened discussions. The noble Lord would be taking up one or two days with the discussion on the measure without any probability of passing it, and, moreover, the discussion it would be subjected to would be damaging to it.


said, he had considered the Bills attentively, and he regarded them as being a very great improvement in the commercial law of the country. He also believed that they were in unison with the opinions of a great majority of the Members of that House; at all events, he was quite convinced that they were much desired by a great majority of the country. He conceived that there was ample time for a calm discussion of their provisions, and that on Thursday hon. Members might well discuss both the principles and details of the two measures. As to whether the House of Lords would relax its rules for the purpose of passing the Bills in question, that, he considered, would depend upon the majority by which the Bills might be carried in that House. He could only say that should the House, after full discussion, consider the measures to be deserving of their authority, that would be the beat way of carrying them through the other House of Parliament.


said, that he had gathered from all sides of the House, both from those who were friendly and those who were hostile to the measure, one opinion in which they all appeared to concur—namely, that it was impossible to secure for this measure due discussion at that period of the Session. The noble Lord had said he could not assure the passing of the Bill through the House of Lords; but that it would depend upon the majority with which it passed that House. The House of Lords had adopted a strong measure which experience had suggested, and he wished to know what reason they had to expect that the House of Lords would be disposed to relax that rule in the present instance? But he considered this to be a question which touched the dignity of the House of Commons itself. It was not fair to discuss, morning after morning and evening after evening, Bills like the Scotch Education Bill, which there was no possible chance of being passed into law. If the House wished to maintain its own position, it should not allow its time to be spent in the discussion of measures which it had reason to believe would not eventually be passed.


said, his notion of consulting the dignity and character of the House of Commons was totally distinct from that of the right hon. Gentleman, who appeared to think that the House of Commons should be guided in its discussion of measures according to the probability of their being entertained or rejected by the House of Lords. That was a doctrine which he could not adopt. No doubt the rule which had been adopted by the House of Lords was a good one. It was founded on the fact that the House of Commons had been in the habit of sending up to that House a great number of Bills at a late period of the Session; but that reason did not apply in the present instance. There was not such a flood of measures going up to the House of Lords as would make it necessary for their Lordships to apply the rule to the present measures. Reference had been made to the number of notices of Amendments, but it was a remarkable fact that not one of those Amendments had reference to the principle of the Bill. He believed that the country was very anxious that the Bills should pass, and he therefore hoped the House would enter fully into the discussion of them on Thursday next.


said, he must express his astonishment that the Government should have brought forward Bills in the face of the Report of a Committee which was decidedly against any such measures.


said, that if the opinion put forward by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Gladstone) were correct, hon. Members ought at once to proceed to their several homes. The principle of the measures had, he believed, been generally admitted, and the Amendments to be proposed were merely verbal.


said, the Amendment of the hon. Member for Belfast was a most important one. It was not probable that the law Lords would relax the rule of their Lordships' House in favour of those measures.


said, he thought that the House would put itself in a ridiculous position if it deferred to a rule made by the House of Lords. Hon. Members must know very well that a Bill of much importance was passed last year by that House, although the day fixed for taking second readings had passed. Whether the House of Lords would relax its rule or not was a matter for the noble Lord at the head of the Government to consider; he ought to know better than that House could what was the chance of the success of the Bill elsewhere. For his own part, he (Mr. Bright) could only say that wherever he went he met with the most earnest inquiries with regard to the passing of the Bills. There could be no doubt but that the people generally—with the exception perhaps of a few capitalists, who found that they got on very well under the present system—believed that the present state of the law was unjust in principle, and injurious in practice in its effect upon trade, and that they looked with anxiety for its speedy alteration. Under such circumstances, he should advise the noble Lord—it was not often he advised him—to stand upon his resolution of going on with the Bill on Thursday. He believed that the Bishops were not adverse to the Bill—and hence he could not but think that Government pressure might easily pass the Bill through the other House.


said, he agreed with the hon. Member for Manchester, that, whenever the opinion of the country was earnestly expressed for a change in the law, it would be unfitting in that House to regulate its proceedings by any rule which the House of Lords might have laid down. It should, however, be remembered what the Resolution of the House of Lords was. It was a qualified rule, and embodied in it words to the effect that they would not read a Bill a second time unless under peculiar circumstances and in case of emergency. Now he (Lord Palmerston) thought that if any measure would be entitled to the benefit of this exception it would be such a measure as the present. He should therefore take the sense of the House as to proceeding with the Bill on Thursday next.


said, he had consulted the opinions of several persons, and had ascertained that, in their opinion, the first Bill would be a dead letter, and that the second would be one for legalising schemes of fraud.

Motion made and Question put, "That the Chairman do report progress."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 89; Noes 41: Majority 48.

House resumed, Committee report progress; to sit again on Thursday at Twelve o'clock.

Notice taken, that Forty Members were not present; House counted; and Forty Members not being present,

The House was adjourned at ten minutes after Six o'clock.