HC Deb 04 August 1857 vol 147 cc1010-20

Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [3rd August], "That Viscount Palmerston be one of the Members of the said Committee."

Question again proposed.

Debate resumed.

Question put, and agreed to

Sir GEORGE GREY, Mr. DISRAELI, Mr. WALPOLE, Sir JOHN PAKINGTON, nominated other Members of the said Committee.

Upon the name of Lord John Russell being read,


said, he rose to propose the substitution of another name for that of Sir John Pakington.


called the hon. Member to order. The name of Sir John Pakington was passed, and they were now on the name of Lord John Russell.


suggested, with great submission to the hon. and learned Gentleman, that the name was not put to the House.


The usual practice is to read the names, and if no objection is taken as they pass, they are considered to be accepted by the House. The hon. and learned Gentleman is perfectly correct. Sir John Pakington's name is passed. The question now before the House is that Lord John Russell be a Member of the Committee.

Lord JOHN RUSSELL, Sir JAMES GRAHAM, Mr. GLADSTONE, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL, Mr. SOLICITOR GENERAL, nominated other Members of the said Committee.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Sir Frederic Thesiger be one other Member of the said Committee."


said, he did not know whether he ought to say he regretted being compelled to leave London to-morrow for one of the circuits, so that he should not be able to attend the Committee. He should be away the remainder of the week, and therefore he trusted he should be excused. He hoped the noble Lord the Member for the City of London would consent to the substitution of his noble Friend the Member for North Leicestershire (Lord John Manners). He was certainly ashamed to have omitted the name among those included in his notice; but he would give notice to add his noble Friend's name to-morrow.


said, that he regretted that the hon. and learned Gentleman could not attend, and under the circumstances had no objection to the substitution suggested.


said, he wished to know whether notice was necessary for the substitution of one name for another.


As I understand, the hon. and learned Member for Stamford is unable himself to serve, and the proposal is to give notice of the name of another hon. Gentleman to stand in his place to-morrow.

Question put, and negatived.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Sir Fitzroy Kelly be one other Member of the said Committee."


said, it was with no invidious feeling that he proposed to omit the name of his hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Suffolk, and to substitute that of the hon. Member for West Gloucestershire, (Mr. Rolt). His object was to make the Committee more fair than as it was originally framed.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the name of "Sir Fitzroy Kelly," and insert the name of "Mr. Rolt" instead thereof.


remarked, that he wished to ask whether this was not killing a bird twice over. They had passed a Resolution that all the members of the Long Robe should be members of the Committee. The hon. and learned Member for West Gloucestershire was a member of the Long Robe. It was proposed to substitute one member of the Long Robe for another, although both would still be members of the Committee, and that seemed to him to be occupying the time of the House to no purpose.


said, he would not object to the proposal. He understood Sir Fitzroy Kelly would be unable to attend, but if he were able he would have the right to attend; although his name was not inserted. With regard to the notice of the hon. and learned Member for Stamford to insert four names and omit four proposed to be nominated, he had already stated that he should not object to the substitution of Mr. Rolt for Sir Fitzroy Kelly. His noble Friend the Member for Middlesex (Lord Robert Grosvenor), was not anxious to be upon the Committee, and he was willing to substitute either of the three other names of which notice had been given, but he could not consent to omit the names of Lord Stanley and Mr. Dillwyn, who took a great interest in the subject.

Question, "That the name of Sir Fitzroy Kelly stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.

Question, "That the name of Mr. Rolt be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Mr. ROLT nominated one other member of the said Committee.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Lord Stanley be one other Member of the said Committee."


said, it would be useless, after the statement of the noble Lord, to attempt to omit the name of Lord Stanley. As the noble Lord had expressed his determination only to give up two names, he did not think that he ought further to persevere in attempting to make alterations in the Committee.

Question put, and agreed to.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That Mr. Horsman be one of the Members of the said Committee."


said, he rose to protest against the mode of proceeding in the appointment of this Committee. Mr. Speaker having ruled that he was out of order, he, of course, bowed to the right lion. Gentleman's authority, but he did contend that a name ought not to be passed without time being given to hon. Members to rise and state objections. It was his intention to move the omission of the name of the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington), and the substitution of that of his hon. Friend the Member for Devonshire(Sir John Buller) whose straight-forward and consistent course upon the question qualified him for a place on the Committee. No time was allowed for discussion. The minority was borne down by the majority. The Committee was named in defiance of all opposition, and it was quite clear that the whole thing was conducted in a manner which made it a complete farce.


said, he did not pretend by any assertion of his to give strength to any decision which Mr. Speaker might have made, founded no doubt upon proper information with respect to the rules of the House. At the same time, after what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman, he felt bound to say that during the whole course of his parliamentary experience he had always observed that the course Mr. Speaker had pursued to-night had been invariably pursued—namely, that when a Committee was named Mr. Speaker did not put the question separately on each name one after the other, but read the names, and any hon. Member who wished to object to any name felt it his duty to attend to what was going on, and not to be talking to his neighbours, but to rise in his place when the name was read to which he objected. He thought that no hon. Member was entitled to find fault with the course Mr. Speaker had pursued. The names were read by Mr. Speaker with perfect deliberation, and any hon. Member who paid attention to what was passing might have got up and made objection before another name was read.


said, that he wished it to be particularly and distinctly understood that it was only that morning that he knew that it was to be proposed that his name was to be substituted for that of another on the Committee, but if his hon. and learned Friend (Sir F. Thesiger) had persevered in his intention and had proposed him, he certainly should not have objected to serve, because he had reason to believe that the House had power to insist on the services of any Member on a Committee to which he had been appointed; but he should have stated that he did not at all concur in the propriety of appointing this Committee. In his opinion, a committee of twenty-five Members assisted by all the hon. Members who were also Gentlemen of the Long Robe, was of a size equivalent to nothing less than a Committee of the whole House. Then there was this objection, that although members of the Long Robe might attend, they were not necessitated to do so, the result of which would be that sometimes they would attend and sometimes not; and if they did not attend it would be falsely presumed that any Report of the Committee was concurred in by all the hon. and learned Gentlemen who were Members of the House. It was his intention, had there been any division, to have voted against every name, irrespective of whose it might be, in order to show in the strongest possible manner his disapproval of the appointment of the Committee. However, as his hon. and learned Friend did not wish to carry out his intention of substituting his (Lord Hotham's) name for that of any other Member, he had nothing more to say, except to repeat that he strongly disapproved of the appointment of the Committee.


said, he was of opinion that the question at issue could not be solved without a reference to the 1 & 2 Vict., and he therefore begged to ask the noble Lord the Member for the City whether the Committee was to be confined to the 5 & 6 Will. IV., or whether it was to be allowed to examine other statutes bearing upon the subject?


replied, that the principal object of the Committee would be to consider the provisions of 5 & 6 Will. IV. It might be necessary to refer to some other statutes, but there did not seem to be any occasion at present for renewing the inquiry conducted by Sir W. Page Wood's Committee. He did not say, however, that it might not be advisable at some future time to institute such an investigation. He might state that he would have assented to the name of the noble Lord (Lord Hotham) as one of the Committee if the hon. and learned Member for Stamford (Sir F. Thesiger) had proposed it, or he would have proposed it himself but for the disinclination to serve expressed by the noble Lord. The noble Lord seemed to think that the course now proposed was an unusual one. If the noble Lord would look at the Journals of the House he would see that it had been the constant practice to appoint Committees upon all matters touching the proceedings and privileges of the House.


observed, that he thought that the hon. and learned member for Stamford (Sir F. Thesiger) was right in making no further attempt to amend the constitution of the Committed, because it was obvious that, as now proposed to be constituted, the Committee must be a packed one. It might be said, indeed, that the inequality would be rectified by the proposal to include, in a general category at the end, all the gentlemen of the long robe who were Members of the House. That proposal amounted to nothing definite; for what was the fact? The House had never ascertained what was the exact definition of the term "Gentleman of the Long Robe," and had no evidence that hon. and learned Gentlemen were willing to serve; at all events, there could be no obligation upon them personally, derived from an expression of opinion on the part of the House, that they should be present at the meetings of the Committee; and even if they were willing to attend he saw no provision made for their being informed of the meetings or the proceedings of the Committee, or furnished with copies of the evidence. But more than this. They might come in helter-skelter as they could, having heard probably only part of the evidence, and being ignorant of the previous proceedings of the Committee, to give their votes upon imperfect information. The noble Lord the Member for the City had stated that precedents might be found in the Journals of the House for Committees of an analogous nature, including in their composition it was scarcely known whom under a general category. Very true; but it was also a fact that the ancient methods of proceeding with respect to the seats of Members gave rise to such abuses and threw so much discredit upon those who employed them, that at the instance of the noble Lord himself the House had deliberately adopted new and improved regulations. Now, however, the noble Lord—that great and ardent reformer—was actually proposing to revert to the practices of the ages of which he had taught the country to consider those of Parliamentary darkness, upon the escape from which he had so often congratulated the House, and which he had condemned both by speech and vote. It was impossible that the House could believe in the fairness or have any respect for the decision of a Committee constituted in opposition to the whole modern practice of Parliament. What was the object for which the Committee was to be appointed? It was to supersede the authority of the courts of justice, and by an infraction of the law to enable the noble Lord to seat Baron Rothschild as his colleague in the representation of the City of London. What had been the proceeding of the House with respect to the operation of the Act which constituted and named the Election Committees from year to year. They had constituted impartial tribunals to guard the purity of election, and his hon. Friend (Mr. Bentinck) protested most wisely against the appointment of this Committee in such a manner as would deprive it of the respect of the House. The present was so unusual a proceeding that he could not help expressing his surprise that the noble Lord, who had hitherto stood in the foremost rank as a reformer, should have proposed a Committee thus constituted. But it was in accordance with the whole course he had pursued in relation to the Bill he had introduced into the House, for every step taken upon the Jewish question since the rejection of the Oaths Bill in another place during the present Session had been irregular and objectionable. Take the Oaths Bill


said, he rose to order. The general question involved in the appointment of the Committee had been decided by the House, and the hon. Gentleman was not entitled to go back upon it. There was a particular name before the House, and to the question that Mr. Horsman be appointed a Member of the Committee the hon. Gentleman was bound to confine his observations.


maintained that the name before the House touched the general question at issue, for the hon. Member whom it was now proposed to place upon the Committee constituted himself the Chairman—or rather the Speaker —of a little Parliament in Palace-yard, intended to overawe and intimidate the Legislature. He held such conduct constituted no special qualification for his appointment to this Committee. He protested against the proceeding of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), who did not venture to interrupt the noble Lord the Member for the East Riding (Lord Hotham), or the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, when they were speaking upon the general question, and he trusted that the House would discountenance interruptions which were obviously dictated by a feeling of uneasiness at the pertinence, not by the irrelevance of his observations. All the proceedings connected with the subject of this Committee had been of a most extraordinary character, that it touched the constitution of the House, and he had a right to advert to it. There was already a second Bill before the House for the purpose of effecting what it was the object of the Motion for the Committee to effect. In the first place, when the Oaths Bill was introduced, the noble Viscount at the head of the Government recommended Baron Rothschild, who was the object of all these proceedings, to the consideration of the House, because he was a contractor for a loan. That had not formerly been considered a special qualification for a seat in Parliament. Such was the first example of their departure from the rules and precedents established by Parliament. Take the next. The Oaths Bill was sent to another place, but it did not pass into a law, and immediately a meeting of certain hon. Members of the House of Commons was held in the Palace-yard for the avowed purpose of reconsidering the decision of the Legislature; but the irregularity did not end even here. The noble Lord the Member for the City introduced a second Bill upon the same subject, and in doing so he violated the Standing Orders of the House, which required that matters touching religion should be submitted in Committee of the whole House. Perhaps the last step was the most outrageous of all, for the noble Lord now proposed a Committee to consider the Acts bearing upon the question, and, instead of constituting it in the ordinary way, he asked the House, in defiance of the precedents which he had himself established, to revert to practices which had been condemned both by Parliament and the country, in order to nominate a Committee so loosely constructed, that even the Members of it would be unable to speculate confidently upon the course of its proceedings.

Question put, and agreed to.

Mr. HENLEY, Mr. ROEBUCK, Mr. MALINS, Mr. HEADLAM, Mr. ATTORNEY GENERAL for Ireland, the LORD ADVOCATE, Mr. DILLWYN, nominated other Members of the said Committee.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That Mr. Napier be one other Member of the said Committee."


said, that if the object simply was to ascertain the legal construction of an Act of Parliament, he would be glad to serve on the Committee. However, whatever the decision of that Committee might be, the construction of the Act of Parliament must be left to the ordinary tribunals of the country, and no Resolution which the House might come to could withdraw the matter from the jurisdiction of those tribunals. The Act to which the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Mr. Bowyer) had referred was considered by a Select Committee of which he (Mr. Napier) had been a Member, and a distinction was clearly drawn between the matter contained in an oath and the manner of its administration. With the matter they could not deal by a Resolution, although they might with the manner of administration.

Mr. NAPIER, Lord ROBERT GOSVENOR, Mr. WHITESIDE, and Mr. COBBETT, nominated other Members of the said Committee:—Power to send for persons, papers, and records.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That three be the quorum of the said Committee."

Question put and agreed to.


observed that he thought the noble Lord could not be in earnest in proposing three to be a quorum of a Committee, comprising upwards of 100 Members. Such a proposition would be even worse than the constitution of the Committee itself, which was made up at the rate of ten on one side to one on the other.


said, it was a mistake to have proposed three. He intended to suggest that five should be a quorum.

Motion by leave withdrawn.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That five be the quorum of the said Committee."


said, he considered that number to be equally objectionable. The ordinary number of members of a Committee, of whom five were a quorum, was fifteen. As the noble Lord had appointed twenty-five Members upon the Committee, with a roving addition of about ninety others, he ought certainly to have followed the usual practice, and made one-third of the nominated men necessary to form a quorum. He should move that nine should form a quorum.

Amendment proposed, to leave out the word "five," and insert the word "nine" instead thereof.


said, he had no objection to the right hon. Gentleman's proposition.


said, that he wished to know when the Committee was to assemble. After the course that had been taken it must be apparent to the country that this was a packed Committee. The only way of obtaining anything like a satisfactory decision from such a Committee would be the attendance of a large number of the legal members, but at the present moment many of those hon. and learned Gentlemen were absent from town upon circuit, and would continue to be so for some time. He thought, therefore, that the Committee should not meet until the assizes were over.


said, he thought it desirable that the Committee should meet as speedily as possible, but of course he should wish to consult some of the other Members and the Attorney General before fixing the precise time. He considered he had taken the fairest possible course, for, in other cases, where hon. Members had taken a certain view of an Act of Parliament, they had introduced Resolutions confirming their views, but he had only moved for a Committee to inquire into the accuracy of the view he suggested.


remarked that he felt bound to move that the sitting of the Committee should be deferred for a month.

Question, "That the word 'five' stand part of the Question," put, and negatived.

Question, "That the word 'nine' be there inserted," put, and agreed to.

Main question, as amended, put, and agreed to.

Ordered, That Nine be the quorum of the said Committee.


said, he wished to know whether he was too late to move that the sitting of the Committee be postponed until that day month.


asked whether it was competent for a Member to make such a Motion without giving previous notice?